Coma Splice

May 142011
 

Let me begin by saying that we’re not going to cover wheels here. I know, I know. There’s nothing I’d like more than to spill my guts about wheel hardness/softness/grippiness… etc. I’m not going to talk about it mainly because wheels deserve a post all their own but also because I have relatively limited knowledge about the diversity of wheels. Granted, I know more than freshmeat, but I’d rather let a vet really do justice to the all-powerful DERBY WHEEL. (Yes. All in caps because wheels deserve it.)

Same thing goes for skates, but I’ll go on the record with my setup – Riedell Vixens with 88A Radar Flatouts and 93A Atom Jukes. I dare you to try that combo and not have multiple feetgasms. Truth.

 

Anyway, let’s talk about the other part of Derby Gear. The things that draw some women to the sport and then the things that eventually keep them there.

THE DRAW

 

Fucking fishnet. Hell yes. I’ll be honest and say that the look of derby was attractive to me. The dichotomy of badass motherfucking women in clothes that told an entirely different story oddly fascinated me. I know a lot of people have problems with the scantily-clad nature of the sport, that it’s a “sexification” of female athletes (and we are athletes), but then again not all teams wear skin-tight, ripped midriffs with cheek-accentuating panties that say “EAT IT.” Honestly, if I had the ass for that, I’d be totally onboard. Another part of me really loves the stream-lined uniforms of teams like Gotham City or Philly’s Broadstreet Butchers. Either way, “accessorizing” seems to be a really important part of the draw to derby. Even if your team has a strict uniform at bouts, practices are an entirely different story. I can’t count how many times someone’s come to practice with new knee-high glitter socks and everyone shat their panties. New, unique fishnet? Cause for a celebration! Cute derby shirt with clever quip? TIME FOR A SHOPPING TRIP.

 You pick a name and then adorn yourself with the clothes that help define that name… in the beginning, that is. I almost bankrupted myself on fishnet and knee-high socks in the first two months. But once you’ve emptied all of your drawers of the clothes from your “former life” and refilled them with nothing but DERBY, you come to the realization that it’s not the clothes that make the name – it’s the skater. Sure, dressing up is fun and there’s nothing prettier than upper thigh rinkrash in the shape of big diamonds, but once you’ve tested all of the different types of accessories, you streamline. You find what you like, what’s comfortable, and what (possibly) helps make you a better skater.

In the beginning, I wore fishnet, thick knee-high socks, derby panties under shorts (and then REAL panties under them), and any one of a thousand derby-related shirts I’d bought. I also started with the same gear any girl probably starts with – cheap shit from Academy. I had no idea what Killer 187′s were. I didn’t know what Protec or Triple 8 was. I thought, “Hmm. I’ll need to keep from breaking my ass and face open, so I’ll just get this $25 package that includes everything I need.”

Yeah. Well $25 gear is….. $25 protection. The first practice, I tried to do a Tomahawk and did something so weird to my knee that there probably isn’t a name for the move. THE FIRST PRACTICE. Welcome to Lameville, I’m the Mayor – Lamey McLamerson. I showed up to the next practice even though I couldn’t skate because I didn’t want my team to think, “Oh great. Another lame-ass new chick who can’t handle it.” So I got back in there and upgraded.

 

THE KEEP

 

Feisty Psyche

My wonderful, fantastically-giving friend Feisty Psyche (Broadstreet Butchers) sent me an old set of her Killers. LOVE. I still have knee trouble, but doing the Rockstar on Killers is like floating on fucking clouds. The kneepads I had before were like spoons taped to your knees – not much coverage. She also sent me some Riedell skates that ended up being too small, but don’t you just love how giving the women of derby can be?

I have a Triple 8 helmet and am currently upgrading my elbow pads andwrist guards. My old man (Sofa King Bad) uses Protec, which is what I’ll probably go with. I can’t stress enough how important getting good, solid gear is. Three weeks ago, I almost broke my wrist in a bout because the spoon tore out of my right (and cheap) wristguard right before I went down.

Back of fingers? MEET FOREARM.

As for the clothes - I now  wear thin, black leggings cut off at the knee, ankle socks, and bout panties. For a top, I wear a black/white wifebeater. Why? Because it was fucking hot wearing all of that other shit. And while I still love the look of fishnet, I prefer the leggings because of the way I do my crossovers. Let me keep it real by saying I’m not a pixie blocker. I’m a buxom, red-blooded BLOCKER and my crossovers became smoother because of the leggings. Does everyone have that issue? Probably not, but I’ve found my comfort-clothes and I’m sticking with them.

Ok, so the moral of the story is – flash and glitter might be what draws women to derby, but it’s the comfort and safety (funny enough) that keep them there, because believe me – there would BE no Coma Splice if my gear hadn’t evolved with my skating.

Share
May 072011
 

There comes a day in every little girl’s life where she stops basing her belief in men on her daddy. Now whether that’s a fall from grace or a boost up from the gutter kind of situation, we all eventually figure out that our dads aren’t the be-all, end-all of what makes a man.

I’m lucky. I happened to have a crazy-awesome dad. He always taught me to be strong and be an individual, even if that meant I was going to be labeled as a weirdo in my adolescence. He helped me believe in myself and, mostly, my intelligence, while my mom helped me fit in on the outside.

Somehow, I never could reconcile the awesomeness of my dad with the men I dated. I never understood this (still don’t) since I had a good childhood and he would always talk about how a man is supposed to treat a woman. In the past, I always picked the losers, the assholes, the I’ll-give-you-a-reason-to-cry guys.

So I stopped dating. From 2002 until I started derby (September 2010), I’d dated two guys. They were polar opposites, but my last relationship lasted right up until I joined my team. trACDC talked about how derby helped end her relationship, but that wasn’t the case with Trey. And unlike Raven von Kaos’ marital bliss, derby really didn’t help things either.  It was a long distance relationship that had lasted a year and a half with no chance of lessening that 200 mile gap (his decision).

Freshly single, I joined my team with no intentions of dating. I didn’t hate men, contrary to popular belief of what a “feminist” is. I LOVE men, in fact. I think it’s adorable how they try their best to do something incredibly nice for you and mess it up, but it’s still such a wonderful gesture that the good intentions and the “mess up” are kind of the best parts. I love their hands and the silent strength that lies there. I love the way they smell after being outside and doing “manly” things and I love the smile that slips out when they’re trying their best to keep their “serious business” face.

I love all these things particularly in our head ref, Sofa King Bad.

So now you know. I am one of those people who somehow managed to embroil the most personal, intimate part of their lives and tangle it up in one of the most important parts of who they are. And opinions are mixed, ya know? I’m sure half of all derby-ites would say dating in derby is a horrible idea. I know the other half would say, “Fuck it. Do what you want. It makes you happy.” I tend to side with the second camp.

I’m not going to say dating in derby is an easy thing. Some days it’s fucking hard, but dating itself is pretty fucking hard.

Sometimes my relationship with Josh (Sofa King Bad) invigorates my love of and relationship with derby. At practice, he’s beside me, pushing me and testing my limits. At home, he listens to my derby-related rants and frustrations and acts as my logical sounding-board. He’s an amazing ref and so even if I wanted to, he wouldn’t let me just not know the rules. Really committing to a derby team is also a lifestyle change. You dedicate so much of your time and heart to something that keeps you from home or on the road 4 days a week which really limits the amount of time you have to find someone much less KEEP someone, so I can’t even imagine how people do it when they’re with someone not involved with their team.

Other days, it aggravates me to no end. When I’m having an off day at practice, I don’t need him there pushing me because I KNOW I’m sucking ass. At home, he doesn’t always agree with my frustrations (or doesn’t see the logic in it) or is probably tired of hearing it. I’m always afraid of that line I know I’m perilously walking because I’m terrified that I’m going to fall and falling might mean I lose one of two important things in my life: if I fall to the left of that tightrope , I lose him. If I fall to the right, I lose derby.

Now that’s all wonderfully melodramatic and I know life doesn’t really work that way. I also know that if something ever happened between him and I, we both care about each other enough to not be assholes.

Yes these are our pads. Pro: Pad partner. Con: Mega Funk!

There are pros and cons all over the board, though. When it comes to bouts, I like the fact that I have to distance myself from him. I don’t need to wonder what he’s doing, where he’s going, is he watching me? Did he see that awesome hit?!? I need to focus on myself and my team. On the other hand, I do wish he could be part of the crowd and maybe (probably) the only person focused on me. It’s silly, I know. But we are all multifaceted, right? I can be conflicted.

Even as a part of the whole team, dating within your team/league can be a perilous journey. No one actively voiced any concerns or objections about us being together, although I know there was some behind-the-scenes issues I was never directly confronted with. But I also know couples from other teams aren’t as lucky. On CDD, we get tend to get over things pretty quickly, which is a quality I love about them.

Derby Halloween party pre-"official on facebook."

Last night, I asked Josh if he could think of any pros and cons about dating in derby. He said it was great to have someone to talk about something you’re passionate about who actually knows what you mean when you say, “Can you believe she kept chasing the jammer down even though she was way over 20 feet away from the pack and CLEARLY out of play?!?” And yeah, that’s an awesome thing about dating someone so involved in what you love.

An obvious con would be to have dated multiple girls on the team, which he has (sorta!) done. When he became a ref over a year ago, it was because a girl he was already on the team. Months and months (and did I say months?) after they broke up, I joined and he and I eventually started dating, but there were never any issues. I love his ex! She’s an awesome skater, badass booty blocker, and is one of my favorites on the team.

Ok, so all in all, there are clear benefits and disadvantages to dating in derby, but that’s life. You can make a pros and cons list for everything on the PLANET, but I’m not quite that OCD, so I’ll go with my gut on this one. Yes, some days are rainbows and sunshine shooting out of my ass and some days I want to sic a pack of wild wolves on him, but he’s mine and I love him and one of my favorite things about him is that he shares the passion of derby with me.

Oh, and what does my dad think? Ha. My dad thinks he’s pretty cool. :]

After our season opener in March.

Share
Apr 302011
 

This is not going to be a happyhappyjoyjoy post. It’s not going to make you feel all warm and fuzzy about the wonderous sport we all know and love and it’s not going to lead you to some revelation about yourself or derby.

This is a look at how I was (and probably still am) a total n00b.

For those of you who are slightly to moderately internet-dyslexic, according to “Lord Emperor” of urbandictionary.com, a n00b is “A[sic] inexperienced and/or ignorant or unskilled person.”

Ok, so anyone entering into derby would be considered a n00b, in a way. I remember when I first heard of derby I thought it was for badasses. And I don’t mean like, sassy women who “tell it like it is” or something, but women who were so amazingly confident in themselves that they didn’t HAVE to tell anyone how it was because it didn’t change the TRUTH of it all. “It,” as it was, existed with or without the telling of it. Women so amazingly confident in themselves and the other women they surrounded themselves with that they all got along amazingly because of this unspoken truth.

Right, so you see how I was n00bish, huh? Yeah.

So right off the bat, I saw how wrong I was. The women I skate with are amazing, make no mistake about that, but I made the mistake of buying into this mythical derby ideal that doesn’t fucking exist. Granted, my derby family is different than all of my “normal” friends and family and that’s why I love them. They love me because I’m not “normal” either. How can normal exist in derby anyway? It takes a special kind of girl to wake up in the morning and say, “Today’s a good day to get my ass handed to me in the rink.” And you always love your teammates for putting you there and making you stronger for it.

But we’ve already covered this, haven’t we? trACDC did a rock-solid job on the taboo involved in your derby family. But what about other teams? What about other leagues?

So you see, I learned early-on that I had a misguided idea of what a derby girl is, but I still assumed that other teams filled with similar-minded women could still uphold that sense of comaraderie I’d always heard about. If you’ve skated in even a single bout, you know exactly what I’m talking about: both teams skate their asses off, knock each other into next week, then party together like they’re long lost sorority sisters or something. I assumed every bout was like this since derby has always seemed like a left-of-center sorority to me. Fucked up chicks who are sisters because we’ve all taken the same beatings, bruises, broken bones, and rink rash. It connects us in a way that is unbreakable, right?

Until you meet the one team that doesn’t operate that way. A team that doesn’t adhere to this supposed code and plays, well, however the hell they want. And that’s ok. It’s the real world and we’re all big girls, so we can pull our glitter-panties up and be big girls about it. It doesn’t take away from the fact that unsportswomanlike conduct still pisses you off.  

See to me, that sense of interleague comaraderie is an important part of what derby is. And yeah, maybe that’s why I’m still a n00b, but if that’s the case, then I’m ok with that. I want to be friends with the other team (after the bout, of course). I want to be able to go up to the tiny girl who somehow managed to put me on my ass and say, “DAMN. That was awesome,” and I want her to be able to do the same thing. What I don’t want is to wonder if I’m going to have to defend myself from a fight-happy derby girl at the afterparty. I don’t want to wonder if one of their fans are going to jump me when I leave the bout. That’s not what derby is about.

I don’t know, I think my biggest rant here is that once you’re a “derby girl,” you sort of start assuming a lot of things about a lot of people. You assume that someone else who has earned the same title respects the sport as much as you do. You assume that she has also worked her ass off like you did and that she wants to play as fair as she can – like you do. We assume the best in all of these women because we want them to assume the same is true about us. The thing is – assumptions are for assholes because you can’t assume anything about anyone because we are not all cut from the same cloth, ya dig?

So yeah, I’m still learning. I’m still discovering the idiosyncracies of the women on my own team while also trying to figure out how to navigate the testy waters of other teams. I wouldn’t trade anything I’ve learned/bruised/broken in derby because, like every other experience in my life, it’s shaping who I’m becoming…. and I kinda’like that girl.

Share
Apr 272011
 

As a beauty queen, no one ever told me it was ok to stop smiling; it kind of goes against everything you’re taught. In fact, they said, “DON’T STOP SMILING” and I smiled bigger. My face was 75% teeth and lips. It was never ok to get angry, to feel like the world was going to implode if you didn’t open your mouth and scream.

In high school, I was a beauty queen. I was captain of the cheerleading squad, president of the science club, track star, and a model student. Everything I tried – I WAS GOOD AT. Everything. I was hyper-involved in my school and my community. My mom was hyper-involved with me, so she had a hand in everything I did.

When I graduated and went to college, I was obviously going to be a winner at everything and get trophies for awesomeness in whatever I did. Well no one tells you when you’re the star of a tiny town that you won’t be the star of anything when you leave. That’s why people don’t leave, I think. That’s why I’m back, I guess- nine years, a drop-out (and subsequent trip back to college), a baby, an abusive ex, and a derby-name later.

Hi. I’m Coma Splice, blocker for the Cenla Derby Dames. I’m not the best skater on my team. I’m not the best blocker on my team. But you know, nine years after “The Fall,” I’m ok with that. I’m the best skater and blocker I can be right now and every day I’m working to be the best at being my derby alter-ego. I’m also an English teacher at my old high school and the mother of a mischievous 5 year old girl. I’m multi-faceted and am just now learning how to deal with that. I’ve always been one thing, at one time or another. In high school, I was the All American. After that, I was the College Girl. After I dropped out the first time, I met my ex, got pregnant, and became The Mom.

After I had Emma, it was hard to reconcile motherhood with every other part of my life. Growing up on the proverbial buckle of the bible belt, you’re like… pre-engineered to have this southern thing driving you. I don’t know if anyone else from the south feels that way, but to me, there’s this weight of propriety that we all are supposed to subscribe to and honestly, derby is and was my answer to that.

My mother always told me, “Once you have a child, a mother gives up every other part of her life in service to God and to that child,” which is probably why I never wanted kids. Once I had Emma, though, I had no problem with that. I gave up everything I was, at the time, and dedicated my soul to her. To make a long story short, my dad had to move me out of my home while Emma’s dad was at work. It was a horrible situation and after trying to keep my dysfunctional family together for so long, I decided it was better to raise her alone as opposed to raising her to think it was ok for a man to treat her the way her dad treated me.

So I left. I ran. I got my shit together. I went back to school. I graduated with a degree in English. I got a grown-up job. And with my first big-girl paycheck, I bought a pair of skates. I went to my first derby practice that day and never looked back. I knew I wouldn’t. Derby represented everything I’d been needing as an adult. After high school, there’s really no legitimate way to be aggressive and competitive as a woman.

I mean, really. I’m not the type to go bargain shopping for designer purses. And that’s not knocking the women who are fucking FABULOUS at that. There’s just no way I could tell the difference between a Coach bag or Louis Vitton (see?? I can’t even spell it right!). Derby was my chance to excel at something again and to BE everything I couldn’t be at work or with my family. My mother hates the fact that I’m on a derby team. Every change I’ve made in my life, she’s blamed on derby to some degree. She told me the other day, “You’re so different than who you used to be. This derby thing has just…. changed you!” And really, the only thing derby has changed about me is the fact that it’s given me the balls to do what I want.

I have gauges. I dye my hair. I take time away from my child to feel like a HUMAN, to be multi-faceted and whole and incomplete at the same time. I cultivate relationships and write and play music and just fucking LIVE. And Emma is a witness to most of this because the most important thing I learned from my mother and from derby is that every girl should grow up knowing you don’t HAVE to be perfect; you don’t have to smile all of the time. And that sometimes, it’s ok to open your mouth and just fucking scream.

Share