Moxie Balboa

My MILF poster

 Posted by at 8:00 am  4 Responses »
Apr 222011

We got our asses kicked last Saturday.

Our team lost to the Brawlers of Houston last Saturday, but still, all in all, it really was a good game. Our morale sunk in the second half, and our blockers as well as our jammers seemed exhausted and ready to roll over and die. I was looking at the clock during the last ten minutes of the game, when the Brawlers were leading us by over 100 points, and I thought, “Can’t we just call it? Do I really need to go out there again?” But we did go back out there, and even though I think I only scored two more points, I was proud of myself. I was proud of all of us. I looked over at our fellow teammates who play on our Capital Defenders team, who raised a poster with my picture on it that just said “MILF,” and thought, “Aw. I love you guys.” Even when we lose, I still love my team, and I still love being a part of this.

When I was in the shower this morning, which is where I do my best thinking, I was pondering random things and realized that derby is really the first thing in my life that I’ve ever done that’s made me proud of myself. It’s not as though I’ve never accomplished anything, but derby is the first thing I’ve ever wanted to tackle and actually followed through. I did it for me and me alone. No one wanted me to do it, no one pressured me to join the team. I decided to do it and really stuck to my guns. When I went to my first practice I wouldn’t admit to myself how badly I wanted to be a part of the team. I was afraid that my work and family commitments would prevent me from giving the time needed to follow through, or that I’d allow myself to use them to make excuses as to why I let myself quit, and I didn’t want to set myself up for heartbreak. After a couple of weeks of trying to get my rink legs, Violet Reaction came up to me and said, “I think you’re going to be a good jammer.” A jammer?! ME?! It was all I could do not to squeal and rapidly clap my hands like some kind of cheerleader. That’s all I needed to hear. I was hooked.

What about other so-called accomplishments? Aren’t I proud of anything else? I often hear people – usually old people whose kids are finally out of the house – say, “My kids are my greatest accomplishment!” Um, that’s creepy. Are children an accomplishment? That’s weird to me. What a foreign idea. I’m proud of my kids because I’m proud of them, not myself. I don’t take credit for myself if they do something well. It’s not like to you have to study and train for years and then you’re rewarded with a kid at the end, like some kind of trophy. Ew.

What about grad school? Accomplishment? Maybe. I wanted a master’s degree. I took the classes, wrote the thesis, finished, got it. It was a process, a hurdle, but it wasn’t a pump-the-air-with-my-fist kinda thing. I didn’t even go to my graduation. I endured, and now I pay student loans for a degree I don’t use. That’s done. Check.

Then there were ten years of piano lessons. Seriously – TEN YEARS. Numerous competitions, some won, some lost. It required an inhumane amount of time and the longer I stayed in it the more the pressure grew. If I won, the best feeling was the adrenaline draining from me and thinking, “Whew. Glad that’s over.” Again, no fist-pumping-yay-I-did-it feeling. Just relief. I’m glad I studied piano for as long as I did, but it was never really something I wanted for myself. I started lessons when I was six years old because my two older sisters took lessons. It’s just what my family did. At my first lesson I honestly believed that it was piano lesson, not lessons, and that you went to a teacher, she showed you how to play, and then you could do it. An hour, tops, and I thought I would be able to play the piano. Oops.

I wasn’t one of those kids who ran home from school to practice. I had friends like that – friends who had to wear braces on their wrists for carpal tunnel syndrome from over practicing because they were so dedicated. The closest I ever came to getting carpel tunnel was when my husband bought me a PlayStation for my birthday and I discovered Crash Bandicoot. Piano was good for me, I was decent at it, but I was never passionate about it. It was expected, and I delivered. Check.

But that feeling – that derby feeling – is overwhelming. I think it’s largely due to the fact that you’re part of a whole. You’re not out there by yourself. I’m not walking out on the track to jam alone. I love the tag of a jammer going out and a jammer coming on. A fellow jammer comes off the track, slips the helmet panty into my hand, we give each other a high five, and I skate up to the line. I lean over to put my toe on the line, catch Rock Bottom’s eye, she nods at me almost imperceptibly and I know she’s going to take me through. Everyone needs to shine to pull it together to make it work. There’s nothing like the “WE DID IT!” mosh pit of skaters after we win a game. We’re all jumping around and hugging and slapping each other’s helmets. It’s invigorating and makes every bruise, every hit, every minute of practice worthwhile. After every game I feel like we’ve accomplished something, and I have real pride for myself and my teammates. I did this for me, I did this for them, we did this for one another. Bottom line: whether we win or lose, we’re fucking awesome. I have passion for this. That, right there, is the accomplishment.

After our last home game I was walking back to my car to go to the after party, riding high because we played our best and won, and a complete stranger yells across the parking garage, “Hey, Moxie! Great game tonight!” I opened the door and slid into the car, leaned my head back against the seat, sighed deeply and said, “Yeah, man. Yeah it really was.”

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Apr 072011

My poor little girl (aka Worm), who I’ve already mentioned in a previous post and apparently talk about incessantly, is already experiencing a little pre-teen drama and she’s only 7-years-old. According to Worm, another girl in her gymnastics class is mean to her, telling her that she doesn’t do things right, telling her that the teacher doesn’t like her, and giving her the “stink eye.” I asked, “Is she just mean to you, or is she mean to everybody?” Worm says, “She’s mean to everybody.” Aw, man. Here it goes.

Why are there girls like this? I’m sure someone with more knowledge about child development and psychology could tell me about insecurity issues and unwitting parental mistakes that have molded this little brat into the venomous demon that she is. I can call her a venomous demon because she’s being mean to my Worm, and I have that right.

The little girl who's mean to Worm (or, at least, how I picture her)


So, in the interest of trying to help my little Worm deal with The Venomous Demon, as well as prepare myself for years of adolescent torture that no doubt the Worm will have to face eventually, I got a book recommended to me by a friend called Queen Bees and Wannabes that is all-encompassing about the crap we all have to deal with in middle school, from being bullied to finding your place in the social hierarchy, and what you can do and say (as well as NOT do and say) to help your daughter get through it. While I listen to this book during my morning commute, I can’t help but relive my past, suffering near PTSD-like flashbacks of my middle school years. When I think about those years of my life my lips curl back as though I’ve just had a shot of Wild Turkey and I develop an eye tic that lingers for a few minutes.

The author of this guide classifies pre-teens into five or six categories within the cliques they form, such as the obvious Queen Bee, the sidekick (the vice Queen Bee, really), the Banker (she keeps track of everyone and their transgressions against the Queen Bee), the Messenger (forms alliances with other cliques and conveys messages from the Queen Bee and settles disputes), and, my personal favorite and probably the category that describes my role as a 12-year-old, the Innocent Bystander. Of course, there are also Wannabes.

But, as always, my thoughts turn to derby. I can’t help but ask, do we still have cliques, even into adulthood? Do groups of girls naturally form cliques their entire lives? I think maybe we do. I don’t think it’s intentional, but I think it’s a natural result of how girls relate to one another. The difference is I don’t think as grown-ups we’re exclusive, and I don’t think we’re cliquish to point of being nasty to those outside the group. I was thinking I could form this post around the different categories of derby girls, like the author of the Queen Bee book, but as I thought about it, I couldn’t come up with any categories. Well, maybe I stretch the truth a bit – perhaps there are a few stereotypes, and there are definitely wannabes. I think we’ve all seen that. But when I tried to list five or six derby “types,” I couldn’t come up with categories. We’re all just ourselves, or in the process of discovering ourselves, and that makes us indefinable.

Derby has allowed me to grow out of my distaste for women in groups. I’ve never flocked to groups of girls. In fact, the idea of any activity involving large groups of women cooperating to achieve a goal gives me instant diarrhea. This is why I had to drop out of being a Girl Scout leader. Derby’s different – and I think it’s probably due to the fact that not many of us were Queen Bees. We were Innocent Bystanders, at best, and most likely not even that. Derby doesn’t attract Queen Bees. It attracts the opposite, really, and perhaps that’s why we all high-five each other so much: we finally realize how awesome we are.

I hope that my little Worm can make it through middle school intact and mostly unscathed, but I’m afraid that’s probably wishful thinking on my part. I’m going to try to help her through it as best I can. Adolescence was really hard on me (isn’t it hard on us all?), but I did actually make some close friends, and if I can do it, I know she can too. My hope for her is that when she’s an adult is she understands herself to know what she wants out of relationships, romantic and otherwise. It took me way too long to figure that out. When I finally did, I finally felt confident enough to be myself, let others know that I am who I am, and if they don’t like it they can go suck an egg. I had a sparkle of that before derby, but derby nurtured it and brought that attitude to the forefront. I think that if I can take my derby catharsis and convey it to the Worm early in life, maybe that’ll give her confidence when some Venomous Demon tells her she’s not good enough. She is good enough. We all are.

Mar 242011

So I got this Facebook message from a friend the other day inquiring about coming to practice . . . she wants to come to practice, but she doesn’t want to join the team. Wha? She wants a work out. She wants a place to relieve some aggression and “hit some bitches,” but, she says, she doesn’t want to “compete.” At first I was annoyed. We’re not running a health spa. Roller derby ain’t no Jazzercise class.

Then, I thought, “I’m being a hypocrite.” I’m always complaining to my co-captain, the glorious Turbo Tyke, that I hate bouting. I love practice, I roll in it like a dog in road kill, I thrive on pad stink and PowerAde, but I hate to bout. Well . . . I guess I don’t hate to bout per se . . . I just hate the waiting, the nerves, the anticipation of bouting. I fret and walk around aimlessly. I sit in the locker room, staring at the corner, and have a kind of stress-induced deafness. I look like a stroke victim drooling on myself. I feel like Eminem in “Lose Yourself”, about to throw up. Not a good feeling. But would I give it up? Absolutely NOT. Why not? Because the “after bout” feeling is incredible. Even if we lose, or, as I like to think of it, “almost winning”, it’s still awesome to relive game play with the team and commiserate and laugh about whatever crazy shit went down on the track.

Honestly, I owe it to my team to get my ass out there. Why should they invest in me and not get a return? Why do they train with me at practice if I’m not going to take what they give to me and use it? That’s just about the most selfish thing a player can do: use the team to work out, to build muscle, to enjoy some camaraderie, but help them win? Nah.

I see a lot of skaters who are the first to volunteer during drills at practice, but when it comes down to crunch time they whisper, “But I don’t like to jam . . .”

Whadda mean I have to jam?!

when we’re down to 9 players. Hey, I understand that. Before the first whistle I’m hoping for a natural disaster. But no matter if you’re lightening quick or a last resort, it’s ‘too bad, so sad’ if you’re asked to jam and you don’t want to. Sorry you were given skills you’re afraid to use, but you owe it to your teammates to do it if it’ll benefit the group. It’s the “greatest good for the greatest number” derby philosophy. I’d rather hide in my closet on bout day pretending I’d never stumbled into this sport, but after the first whistle blows and the adrenaline sets in, I’m Charlie-Sheen-crazy about getting through that pack. It’s Warlock time. I don’t want to let my team down and want to stab myself in the heart if I don’t get lead jammer.

True, sometimes my morale flags a little. I get blasé about derby or think, “Gee, if I wasn’t at practice all the time I’d know why the hell people are so enthralled about “Glee” . . .” Not a good thing for a captain to admit, but I’m sure it happens to us all. Sometimes I think, “Maybe this is my last season . . . I don’t know if I can do this anymore”, but then we have an unexpected win, or I help to run a great practice, or some complete stranger yells “GO, MOXIE!” during a bout, and I’m back in it. But what about those people who don’t bounce back? What about those people who are never in it to begin with? Can you be a half-assed player?

Can you imagine, someone comes to practice twice a week, does strength-training, helps raise money for the team, and won’t commit during a bout? Ask yourself, am I that girl? Am I the one taking not giving? Am I slacking during endurance? Skipping out on drills? Is there really a place for the half-assed? No. I’m not saying you have to be the superstar, the intimidating blocker, the roadrunner jammer, but if you’re not trying to be, then what are you? Why are you here? You’re just getting in the way of the other skaters, and they’re going to pass you by, and then eventually pass you over. To paraphrase the sage Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid (the old good one, not the new good one): “Derby yes or derby no. Derby “guess so” – SQUISH – just like grape.”

Mar 102011

As I was getting dressed for practice the other day I was rifling through the bottomless basket where I hoard all my derby clothes and noticed I perpetually pass over my crazy rainbow-hued paisley tights for plain black ones and scour for my favorite black Under Armour shorts instead of choosing the lacey almost-underwear that’s right on top of the pile. It’s easier to skate in Under Armour – that’s not a plug, it’s just the truth. I’ve got loads of Hot Topic products, don’t get me wrong, but I’m finding myself going more often to Academy for practice wear.

So, why do we do this to ourselves? Why to we feel the need to dress in costume at bouts, painting our faces and donning insane colors?

Sure, this Lady Gaga – type getup was popular when derby had its renaissance in Texas the early 2000s. It was part of the counterculture rockabilly atmosphere. They also used a penalty wheel and had public spankings. That was fine to renew interest in a fledgling sport, but is that really what derby is all about now?

I know a lot of us out there thrive on the masquerade of derby, the alter-ego aspect of the superhero name and dynamic dress, but I know a lot of us out there don’t. It’s obvious who’s who out there on the track. I think I fall somewhere in the middle. I don’t bout without RSRD eyeblack on my face. I just dig it. I’ve given up the glitter eyeliner, though. I don’t like “sticky eye” when I’m trying to focus on jamming through a pack. I think I’m less into the costume of derby than I used to be. On game day I choose my socks according to fit and thickness instead of what’s printed on them (practice, however, is balls-out as far as sock hilarity goes). Still, I also don’t bout without my black shorty-shorts with the skeleton hands on the back.

Skeleton hands make for fast jamming

There’s nothing wrong with the garish charade of derby clothes, and I don’t think less of anyone who wants to wear electric leggings or whatever, but I just question what we’re actually putting out there when we wear them.

Every post I read online on derby forums eventually returns to reiterate the athleticism of derby, the mental anguish, determination, and (borderline cruel) time commitment. Are we ever going to be taken seriously as athletes if we compete in tutus? Even Dennis Rodman became more famous for his cross-dressing than his basketball prowess. I think that’s something to consider here.

On the flip side, would we lose our fan base? If I skated out at a bout wearing uniform shorts, black skates, plain helmet, and team jersey with my phlegmatic last name printed on the back, would the fans still cheer for me? What if we were all like that? Would anyone come watch? Does this boil down to economics? We need ticket sales to play, and with no ruffle panties and double-entendres, we might be back to bouting in the parking lot. Since we rarely draw blood and don’t pull hair, do we need the crazy get-ups to draw the crowds and make them forget they’re not watching naked girls jello-wrestling?

Question for the live derby readers: every time we pull on our hot pants, are we selling out?


Worm on Wheels

 Posted by at 6:20 pm  13 Responses »
Feb 242011


Please suppress your gag reflex: this post is about how derby makes me a better mom. BUT, I’m not going to write about how awesome my kids are, or tips about how pack a mean lunch, or any other saccharine drivel about parenthood or cutesy mom shit. I’d like to think I’m better than that. If you can stomach it, read on.

When I first wanted to go out for derby, my mother-in-law’s response was, “But you’re a mother of two.” That’s a non sequitur. It’s like saying, “You can’t do derby, you’re a Gemini and you hate cilantro.” What the hell does that have to do with anything? I have two kids. Does that mean I can’t skate? Am I disqualified?

Sure, I was concerned about how my joining the team might affect my family, mainly

Worm on wheels

if my husband would feel dumped on because he had to deal with kids alone two nights a week. But it never crossed my mind that I couldn’t do something just because I had children. Children are the reason I DO things, not the reason I DON’T do things. They inspire me; they don’t hold me back.

My daughter Elizabeth (nickname: Worm) is 7-years-old – old enough to have fun with but still young enough to not find me embarrassing – and she thinks derby is incredible. She asked for quad skates last Christmas, specifying in her letter to Santa: the skates with FOUR WHEELS. She had me use sidewalk chalk on the street to mark a jammer line so I could teach her how to run off the line on her toe stops. She knows how to give a whip. She comes to dryland on Saturday morning to hang out with the derby girls and wear her pink helmet with the Sin City Skates sticker on it. But what makes me prouder than anything is that she knows I’m a part of a team. She knows I’m committed to the skaters, and that I have to go to practice and not skip out just because I’m tired. She sees me doing push-ups and tries to do them with me.

Our relationship vis á vis derby is symbiotic – I hope through skating I’m being a good role model for her, but she’s also an inspiration for me. My goal during a bout is to score points as a jammer, because I know when I get home I’ll get two questions from her: “Did you win?” and “Did you score a lot of points?” My husband just asks, “Are you hurt?” It’s more important to me that I scored some points.

Elizabeth’s schedule is demanding and I have to accommodate that: piano lessons, gymnastics, school functions, field trips. Our whole family has to juggle around those things, but she makes sacrifices too so that I can fulfill my obligations to the team. Sometimes I’m gone for a few hours on a Sunday night for a committee meeting, or I have to leave town for a day for an away game. She knows it’s not all about her, but it’s not all about me, either. It’s about us, together, and we make it work.

What am I teaching her by doing derby? That I’m part of a team, that I have to exercise and get stronger to stay part of this, that I have something I’m committed to. But she knows, too, that she comes first. And, most importantly, that while all other moms are sitting in their lawn chairs on Saturday afternoon watching their kids play outside, I’m the only one that asks to borrow her skateboard and take it for a spin.