Orthodox Women Don’t Rip


I enviously watch my boys ripstiking down the street. They maneuver with fluidity and ease, wiggling their hips as expertly as any belly dancer. Longing wells up in me—if only I could do that too. It’s an old feeling, one of a child enviously watching friends having fun, but not being able to join in. Why couldn’t I do it? Mostly due to self-imposed limiting beliefs which consisted of being self-conscious, fear of failing, fear of falling and being really embarrassed. Kind of like being the kid that was left behind and who didn’t learn to read till a year later.

Going through an early midlife crisis has had me questioning many different areas of my life. It has enabled me to face my fears, embrace life and have fun. Ripstiking has therefore become a symbol of a very personal challenge. If my kids can do it and they share my DNA, I’m sure their athleticism came from someone, and that someone has to be me.

Last week, I wanted to spend time with kid 2. I asked him if he would teach me how to ripstik as he’s my most encouraging and patient child, and he would be the best bet for a slow adult learner like me. He gave me the ripstik which was the finest of the crop (with 4 to choose from), and with it tucked under my arm like a badge of pride, we marched out to the sidewalk. Now I was actually beyond my comfort zone. I was in public territory. It took me 10 attempts to climb up and get some semblance of balance while I clutched onto my 9-year-old for dear life. “Wiggle your hips,” he instructed. I managed a jerk and flew off. “Try again,” he said again…and again…and again.

I faced a lot of adversity:

The neighbor laughing her head off as I sputtered by. The 10 neighborhood kids screaming, “Go Mrs. B!!”(No pressure; they are just kids being entertained.) The cars slowing down to stare, and people asking if I’m ok when I fall. Falling and scraping my hands, falling and scraping my knees, bruising my calves and thigh. And fall I did, over and over and over. Giving up did enter my head briefly, but this was a personal war so I got back on again. Soon I started to be able to maintain my momentum for about 2-3 seconds at a time, then made it to 5, 6, 7, 10 seconds. My son told me if I practice every day for about a week or 2, I’d become amazing just like him.  I did sport one massive fall and had to get an x-ray just to make sure an arm wasn’t broken.  I only bruised the bone!  If I had broken it though, I’d be back on the stik the following day.  I can be stubborn like that, especially when I’m taking this business seriously.

I’m at day 9 now; I can balance on the stik for more than a minute. Yesterday, I took my boys to the parking lot of a synagogue down the block. It’s a very religious synagogue so I got kind of self-conscious about it. What if a member called to complain about an immodest woman gyrating her hips, balance on a stik in their parking lot? Perhaps they’d tell me I couldn’t come there again. I made a change of plan and crossed over the street to a more liberal synagogue with the best hill in its parking lot. It also sports members that are more modern and would never lodge a complaint against me being myself.

Zipping down that hill without falling, the wind whipping in my face, just high on life, full of thrill and speed, I felt exhilarated as if I had just scaled a mountain. I felt connected to this fun side of me which had been squashed down by a voice deep inside telling me that it wasn’t modest, safe or age appropriate to ripstik and that I was not coordinated enough to do so. That voice got busted. I’m a hard-core ripstik mama now! So if you see a woman grinning like a chimpanzee, ripping with her kids—or even by herself—in the Baltimore area, don’t slow down your car. Perhaps give her thumbs up. That might possibly fuel her to try something new, to maybe believe in herself, because really, there’s nothing in life stopping her except her own self-limiting beliefs.

Postscript: I was washing dishes and overheard my son boasting to a friend, “My mother can ripstik so good—she’s probably better than you.” It definitely plastered a monkey grin on my face.

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Devorah Baron is an entrepreneur and has run a prenatal 3D ultrasound business for 13 years. She is a financial counselor for Mesila of Baltimore. In the past she has been a JWE (Jewish Women Entrepreneur) leader in Baltimore and is currently a volunteer business adviser, as well as a business strategy coach.