Villainelle

Jul 272011
 

Last month, my team (The Red Stick Roller Derby Capitol Defenders) had our first official win of the season.

Actually, I’m not saying that right.  I’m making it sound formal, which is not how I feel about it at all.  If I were expressing it in a manner in line with my emotions, I ought to say something more like, We fucking WON!  We finally WON, Bitches! But either way, I guess you get the idea.  I’m excited, obviously.

 

But not as excited as Hitter, who jumped Madi, skates and all. (Photo Credit to AKoch Photography)

 

 

It’s been a hard season for us, full of injuries and absences and a constantly changing roster.  For its first 3 years, our league only had one team.  Red Stick, pure and simple.  At first, the growth of the league was too slow to truly trouble this set-up.  The girls would occasionally play an intra-league bout, but for the most part they worked on bulking up the roster of the single team, changing the line-ups slightly for each game.  And then, sometime during that 3rd year, we began to grow.  I was a part of that growth, part of the sudden influx of newbies skating around the far end of the rink with the refs, trying not too look too stupid or make too many waves.  My fresh meat class, which entered the rink for the first time in April of 2010 (I think?  Why don’t I have this written down??), was the first of several – the first set of Red Stick Ladies to receive official training before being thrown into the pack to sink or scrimmage.

Since that April, four full classes of freshies have passed their MSTs and become part of the league.  After the second of these classes, it became clear that we were finally getting big enough for two teams: an A team and a B team.  An All-Star roster (the Diables Rouges) and a roster for newer players.  It made sense; after all, the Southern region was expanding rapidly, with teams of all skill levels rising up all around us.  While the All-Stars worked on WFTDA certification by playing more advanced opponents, the newer ladies could hone their skills competing against the teams the All-Stars had played in the past, along with some of the greener teams sprouting up in the area.

Being a member of the B team hasn’t been easy.  During nearly every game this season we’ve received a thorough scrubbing, then gone on to watch our A-team sisters juke and block their way to glory, breaking past challenge after challenge to become a better unit, a better candidate for WFTDA status.

We were overcoming challenges too.  But our victories were small.  During one away game this year, we nearly cried from excitement when we managed to get beat by fewer than 100 points. It was literally the greatest thing that had ever happened.  Sometimes we could barely scrape together our thoughts when, during team pow-wow, our A-team coaches asked us what we thought had gone WELL during the bout.  “We fell down less?”  we’d venture.  Or, “We kept up with the pack!” (said with an air of surprise). Or, my personal favorite, “We seemed a little more like we knew what we were doing this time.”

So when we finally won our June bout, by over 100 points (check out THAT reversal!!), we barely knew how to react.  Mad Hitter doubled over in fits of laughter and crying, then threw herself flat onto the floor of the locker room.  C-Murda talked about whether she should laugh or cry, but then decided to shout instead.  Mauley Rinkwyld called absentee teammate TrAC/DC (who is, sadly, in Houston for the summer) and screamed into her voicemail.  I nearly suffocated A-team member Turbo Tyke with a victory hug when I caught her in the hallway between locker rooms, and I’m pretty sure I might’ve punched Jams P. Skullivan on the arm out of some weird testosterone-fueled need to seem more dude-like in my elation.  We slapped each others’ asses, hugged each other tight, and just generally effused about how excited we were to be together, to be playing, to be making progress, to be winning.

And we tempered our excitement, too, with anguish.  During the last few minutes of the game, Summer Squasher took two hard hits from two formidable blockers nearly

Summer showing her mad skills as a jammer (Photo Credit to AKoch Photography)

simultaneously and fell to the ground with what we would eventually learn was a broken tibia and a broken fibula.  By the end of the night, her husband (and our team doctor) Dr. Squasher was texting to tell us that the breaks would require surgery the next morning – a rod and a plate and some screws.  Summer’s playing was one of the highlights of the game.  As a blocker she had attacked the other team’s blockers with an efficiency and aggressiveness our humble B-team had never experienced.  And then, as a jammer in the second half, she continued her assault on the scoreboard, racking up points hopping through the pack as though she barely even had to touch the ground.  At one point during the night, I called her “Queen of the World.”  We saw her at her best, and then suddenly she was taken out.  We had won in part because of her, but she was carried away on a stretcher before we could share the elation.  And so we sent her texts, hoping she’d receive them from her hospital room.  We posted messages on her facebook wall and made plans to visit her as soon as we could.  We had TrAC, her derby wife, calling her from Houston, telling her we loved her and believed in her.  But still, we wanted her there, lying on the sweaty locker room floor next to us, taking in the excitement with her calm, steady manner.  We wanted her dancing at the after party with us, paragon of the derby belief that those who work hard deserve to play hard too.

That win was an important one for us – one that came at exactly the right moment.  The losing season had been causing our teamwork to suffer, sending us reeling in frustration and anger with each defeat.  Sometimes we lashed out at one another, and in the early days of the season we had sought hard for an answer, a scapegoat on which we could pin our disappointment.  We had worked our asses off, and losing felt like an insult to our efforts.  Surely it wasn’t our fault.  Surely outside forces were conspiring against us.  And then the big win came. After an entire season of feeling frustrated and splintered by losses, finally we found something we could agree on: winning felt good.  We liked winning.  We wanted to do it again, together.

And then, a month later, our elation went sour.

After a month of riding high on the wave of victory, we faced the same team on their home turf Saturday night.  And we lost. By 8 fucking points.

A switch-up like that is never easy.  Our win the month before had seemed so flawless and coordinated; we couldn’t understand why the same plays felt like they weren’t working, why our pairing seemed off and our packs seemed like loose collections of legs and arms rather than tight and conscious waterfalling machines.  When you’ve fought so hard for a win, only to turn around and lose to the same team a month later, you’re left with a lot of questions.  And in many ways, our reactions to the loss were as deeply varied as our reactions to the win. We wanted to scream.  We wanted to cry.  We wanted not to feel so overwhelingly failed.

And the thing about failure is that it feels so individual. When we made that win, we did it because we were together. We were a team.  All of a sudden, when we lost again, the fragile team-ocity we’d cultivated suddenly broke apart.  We needed someone to blame – and none of us wanted to be at fault.  We won together, but we wanted to believe that the loss belonged to one or two people, or – even better – one or two completely uncontrollable circumstances.  The calls were bad.  The rink was hot.  The opponent was stacked.  Surely it was anything but us.

We have one more bout, at home, on August 20th.  And I want us to win.  I want us to close out the season riding a high like the one we felt in June.  But more than that, I want us to feel like a team again.  I want us to be able to overcome the strains and cracks caused by an unexpected loss.  I want us to put it behind us, to remember that nobody’s perfect, and to remember that we need each other. I want us to be able to sacrifice our own egos for the good of the team.  Because, however things turn out, I want to walk away knowing that we protected our jammers at all costs, working seamlessly in packs, and fought our hearts out for our teammates from beginning to end, regardless of how we feel about each other off the track.

I love my Capitol Defenders, and I don’t want to see us split apart.  This is our last one of the season, girls.  Let’s prove that we belong together.

Me, Uni-Psycho, and C-Murda smiling BEFORE the big loss. Guess what? I love them just as much AFTER the loss. Go figure.

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Apr 272011
 

Ready everybody?  It’s a roller derby book review!! If y’all like this, let me know what other derby books you want to hear about.  I devour books like my dog devours the stuffing in his toys, so I’m happy to read and report back on any derby-related literature (novels, non-fiction write-ups, comics, whatever) you want to hear about.  Today’s review features Pivot, the novel by Burn City Rollers‘ own 9lb Hammer*.  You can buy the book, in paperback or electronic format, right here.  (For more of 9′s work, check out her blog!)


I want to preface my review by saying that I am a woman obsessed with change.  Not the nickels and dimes kind.  The kind where you overhaul your entire life every few years.  The kind where you throw all of your stuff in a dumpster and move across the country to a new coast.  The kind where you break up with people who love you – or people who don’t, but think they do – just so that you can do something different. The kind where the people who have mistaken you for a steady, stable individual are suddenly left standing disappointed in your dust as you run the other way.  In short, I am the sort of woman who constantly changes things in the hopes that she will also change herself.

My mother, most of my boyfriends, and several well-meaning therapists have always interpreted this need for change as a sign of self-disgust.  ”You’re just unhappy with yourself,” they’ll say.  ”You need to realize that changing your circumstances won’t change you.”  And before I joined derby, I’d started to believe that maybe they were right.  Maybe I DO hate myself, I’d thought.  I mean, I don’t FEEL like I hate myself.  But if everyone keeps saying I’m running away from myself… maybe they know something I don’t.

Clementine Byers, the narrator of Pivot, faces a similar conundrum.  A juvenile diabetic, she grows up in the shadow of a chronic condition – an aspect of herself that she cannot change, no matter how hard she tries.  Because she is powerless to change her health – because her body holds sway so thoroughly over her daily activities – she begins to feel powerless over her entire life.  She wants more than anything to CHANGE.  She believes that if she could somehow change her circumstances, she could be free to become the person she wants to be.

The crux of Clementine’s struggle is crystallized early in the novel, when she prepares herself to leave home for college and thinks to herself , ”College will change me.  I will change myself in college.”

When I read that line, I circled it.  Then I underlined it.  Then I highlighted it.  Because in those two sentences (the cadence of which is repeated several times throughout the story), Clementine (and, by proxy, 9) sums up the struggle I face whenever I change something about my life.  She is standing on a very fine line – the line between active and passive, the line between the things we do to ourselves and the things that we just let happen.  She knows she wants her life to be something different, and at first she pins her hopes passively on her surroundings.  College will change me.  Something else, something that is not me, something I cannot control – it will change me.  But in the following line she corrects herself – she acknowledges that what she REALLY wants is to be the active force.  To do.  To go.  To change herself.  And in that instant she reveals the underlying force that will eventually drive her to become derby girl Xana Doom.

No, not XanaDU. Xana DOOM.

Because the difference between a derby girl and a regular girl is that derby girls reject passivity.

Throughout the novel, Clementine faces circumstances that cause her frustration, that make her feel weak and powerless: a mysterious college boy who charms her and then disappears; a group of church kids who promise to cure her diabetes through prayer; a natural-medicine salesman who asks her to hang her hopes on pills; a mother who seems stranger and more distant each time Clem visits home.  And at first glance, it might appear as though these figures are the ones who control the direction of the narrative.  But in reality, Clem’s voice is always present underneath – confused and questioning, but nonetheless head-strong and steady.  She doesn’t always have the answers, but she DOES always know what she wants.  And ultimately it’s her desire to save herself – to refuse anyone else’s definition of salvation- that propels the story.

Through this aspect of her work, 9 has managed to distill the true essence of a derby girl.  We’re constantly hearing stories about how “roller derby saved my soul.”  I’m one of the people who says it all the time.  But what Clementine/Xana’s story makes clear is that derby girls, at their heart, are girls who save themselves.  They are girls who stand strong in the face of danger and frustration and sadness and fear.  They are the ones who control their own lives.  Every derby girl who joins a league and finds her strength is really just finding the space to express what has always already been present.  She’s always been strong; she just didn’t know it before.

When I first heard of the concept of the derby novel, I was skeptical.  I love derby, after all.  But it’s so specific.  Could it really be possible to take something so complex and individual and apply it to the universal themes of a novel?  What 9 proves in her book, though, is that books about derby are books about everything – about growing up, about finding your strength and defining yourself – about what it means to be a modern woman.  The best topical novels are ones that use their subject as a doorway into the everyday.  They navigate familiar emotional terrain through a new lens.  Clementine’s struggles are highly specific – the summers spent at a camp for diabetic kids, the late-night conversations with a Canadian pill salesman, the eventual struggle to become a derby girl.  But each of those struggles serves as a metaphor for something broader.  In the same way that we talk about derby as a microcosm of the everyday world, the derby novel contains all of the emotional ups and downs of daily life, and 9′s book is an example of the form working at its best – making the individual and specific highly relatable.  So while I recommend the book for anyone who loves derby, I also recommend it as a gateway drug for any of your friends who haven’t quite caught on yet.  If you have that one buddy who just doesn’t quite understand your obsession, hand her the book!  Because while watching a bout can show someone how invigorating the sport can be, READING about it may be the best way to understand full-force derby consumption.

*Full disclosure: 9 is my inter-league derby wife, so this might not be the world’s most impartial review.  But her writing is one of the reasons I love her!  So that should be a pretty good endorsement.

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Apr 122011
 

We need to talk, ladies.  We need to talk about roller derby and injuries.

CupQuake loves the team that gives her bruises

When we signed on to skate, getting hurt was a thing we considered possible – maybe even probable.  We’ve all seen other girls go down with broken ankles, strained knees, fucked up shoulders.  We’ve taken a knee and cringed as one of our teammates hit the floor with a thud and maybe even sometimes a crack or a pop. We’ve crouched there on the ground, wondering will she be able to get up again?  And if she does, will she still be able to play?

In derby, your body is a vital asset.  But the very same activities that help us to train and develop that asset are activities that could take us out of the game forever.  Players walk (skate?) a constant and extremely thin line between rigorous physical training and overexertion.  And, unlike in other sports, we come to the track with a variety of levels of physical conditioning and capability.  Some girls are marathon runners; others were dancers or gymnasts; others take on derby as their first major physical challenge.  So the line between exertion and injury is different for every single player, every single day. Because of this variance, our coaches and captains and trainers can’t always be expected to know the difference between “Fuck that hurt! Let’s do it again” and “Oh shit, I think I just pulled something.”  And since we can’t rely on someone else to tell us when we’ve gone too far (since “too far” is different for everyone), we have to maintain a consistent level of self-awareness; our team leaders count on us to tell them when we’ve been pushed to our limits.

The problem with this, though, is that derby is a sport that values toughness.  It values bounce-back and recovery.  One of the first things we teach fresh meat is that taking a fall is fine, as long as you can get up again.  And we all want to see ourselves as girls who never NEVER go down for good.  So when we’re faced with a choice between playing it tough or playing it safe… it’s obvious which one we’re likely to choose.  Especially when we’re new, we want everyone to know we can make a comeback.  We want our teammates to see that they can rely on us to be always ready, always present when we’re needed.  We don’t want to fucking give up – because there’s no giving up in derby.

In a way, the physical conundrum represented in derby is part of a larger conundrum that women face everyday.  Our bodies are expected to perform a multiplicity of tasks with little rest or recognition.  We give birth.  We menstruate.  We go through menopause.  We run households, carry kids on both hips, and work full-time jobs.  We play basketball and soccer; we endure heartache and heartbreak; we fall down and get up again; we fly planes; we grout floors and write masters theses.  We do everything we’re supposed to do – and more.  When we’re first starting out, we think our bodies can do anything.  But as responsibilities pile on and we collect years on our bones, we begin to learn that we’re destructible.  Bones break and tendons tear.  Hearts break too, and accidents happen.

Through all of it, we stand our ground.  But part of standing our ground is knowing when to take a pass – when to stand aside and keep ourselves – and our tough-but-delicate bodies – out of harm’s way.

The balance comes in learning that being tough has more than one definition.

Sometimes being tough is about making hard choices.  It’s about standing down when you’d rather be playing.  It’s about taking care of yourself, for the sake of your team, and for the sake of your beautiful body.

When we tell our derby sisters that they’re expected to keep going no matter what, what we’re really doing is buying into the myth that action = power and inaction = weakness.  Not so.  Sometimes it takes more skill and strength to stand down, to sit this one out.  Sometimes being part of a team means encouraging our friends to stay down, just this once.

If we can teach ourselves how to achieve that balance, we’ll be learning a lesson we can use off the track too.  When I was in graduate school, I was a do-it-yourself kind of girl.  I rarely asked for help; I always needed to be in charge and in control.  One spring, I served as chairperson (read: overworked crazy person) for our department’s graduate student conference.  I spent months preparing, driving myself insane with the workload, never asking anyone else for help.  Because I thought that’s what a good academic was supposed to do: be a lone wolf, do all the work, never ask for favors.  People began to shy away from even TRYING to help me because of my reputation for doing-it-all (read: reputation as a selfish bitch).  And so, on the day of the actual conference, after months of solo prep work, I found myself completely alone once again.  This time, though, I was alone with an ENTIRE ROOM full of furniture that needed to be rearranged before the next speaker.  Finding that all of my colleagues had taken an hour for lunch, I assumed I had only one choice: to move several large conference tables on my own.

You can see where this is going.  No matter how tough you are, if you’re 5’3″ and have scrawny arms, you’re really no match for a 20-foot conference table.  Shortly after I began my endeavor, one of the tables slipped from my grasp and fell to the floor, crushing the big toe on my left foot.

Still, I refused to give up.  Hobbling and wincing, I kept trying to slide furniture around the room until finally, FINALLY, I realized I wasn’t going to make it.  I called my boyfriend at the time and begged him to come back from lunch to help me out.  When he arrived, he stared at the mess – the fallen tables, my broken and swollen toe, the tears streaming down my face – and said, “Why didn’t you call me BEFORE you dropped a table on your foot?”

And he was right.  Of course he was right.  But it took a toe broken in 3 places to make me realize I’d taken on too much.  And in taking on too much, I had been putting my entire department at risk.  If the conference wasn’t a success – if the tables didn’t get moved, if the speaker’s room wasn’t ready, if anything else went wrong – I wasn’t the only one whose reputation would be on the line.  Rather, my entire department – all those colleagues I’d ignored and shoved aside in the months previous – would look like we couldn’t get our shit together.  I thought I was doing everyone a favor by taking on all the responsibility; but actually all I’d done was fix it so that my friends and classmates felt alienated from a conference that was supposed to belong to us ALL, not just to me.

The same is true when we play derby.  The game belongs to everyone – and none of us want to see another player so hurt that she can’t skate.  We don’t want anyone to sacrifice themselves for us.  As players, we care about the game.  But we care about each other too.

So take care of yourselves, ladies.  Remember that your team is there for you, and that someone can always step in if you need them to.  The game isn’t your responsibility alone; it’s ALL of our responsibilities – from the fresh meat to the players to the refs and NSOs.  As individuals, we’re tough.  But as a team, we’re tougher.  We help each other out – and that’s what makes us TRULY scary bitches.

 

 

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Mar 302011
 

Slimenem, Schexorcist, Madie Sans Merci, and Villainelle - different names for very different ladies

What’s your name?

That’s a complicated question for a derby girl.  Every time I meet someone new, hold out my hand for them to shake, I pause and wonder What name am I supposed to give?

My boyfriend calls me by my derby name when he’s around my derby friends.  But I doubt he’d ever use it in private.  I’ve never talked to my parents about my derby name specifically, but in the video my father took of my first public scrimmage, it’s clear that he starts calling me “Vill” halfway through, without any prompting.  When I introduce myself to fresh meat, I give them both my names; after all, they don’t have a derby name to give me yet, so I feel like I’m only greeting them on an equal playing field if I hand them my parental-given moniker.  In my home, where I live with another derby, and where other derbies can always be found hanging out, we use a hodgepodge of different epithets – I’m Vill and Villainelle and my other name too.

But I don’t have to tell you any of this.  Because you know.  It happens to you too.

Unless you’re one of the number of girls beginning to form teams that play with their legal names blazoned across their jerseys.  I didn’t know about these teams until our discussion, a few weeks ago, about derby fashion and choosing an appropriate team image.  When Moxie introduced the topic of derby dress, several commenters participated in the discussion, letting us know that their teams have eschewed all the traditional trappings of derby – including the nicknames.

In the ensuing weeks, I’ve thought about this every time I’ve had occasion to use my derby name.  But the issue finally came to a head for me when, after a bout last weekend, my boyfriend pointed out that he’d spent a good deal of time during the first half explaining my name and number to his friends.

I have one of those names that most people don’t get right away.  It’s not that it’s inherently complicated; it’s just that the things it references are highly personal and relatively obscure.  And I did begin to wonder, at first, whether it’s really worth the trouble.  After all, it could be argued that skating under an assumed name – a false identity – distances the players from the fans, and from each other.  It could be argued that as long as derby girls insist on playing under wild names, their sport will never be taken seriously in a world of sports players known by their familial nomers.

But this week, I started reading something that solidified my dedication to derby names:  9lb Hammer’s new novel.

9′s book, Pivot (go buy it here!  I’m reviewing it next week!), is the story of a girl finding freedom through her derby identity.  In the narrative, the dichotomy between the narrator’s “real name” (Clementine Byers) and her derby name (Xana Doom) is crucial to understanding her transformation.  Clementine’s journey to becoming Xana raises the question of how “true,” really, our given names are.  As Clem begins to distance herself from her mother, she finds new family with her derby team; in that sense, the name she takes on when she joins the team IS a family name – a name that signifies the creation of a new identity.  When Clementine introduces herself as “Xana,” she’s making a choice about the girl she wants to be and the life she wants to lead.  She is taking control of something that seems largely uncontrollable.

I can identify with Clementine’s transformation, and I recognized myself immediately in her.  My “real name” is suited to me in a number of ways.  It has an old-fashioned feel; it’s longish and formal-sounding.  It sounds stoic and responsible, like it might smell of roses and dish soap.  And in many ways, that’s appropriate for me – or at least for a version of me.

My derby name is different, though.  My derby name represents the things I am and the things I want to become.  It’s about identity, but it’s also about aspiration.

I was a bit uncertain when I first chose it.  I knew I loved the name, knew that it represented an appropriate sentiment.  But I wasn’t sure it would make sense to anyone.  So the first time I uttered it at practice, I mumbled it quietly.  People aren’t going to get it, I thought.  It’s not tough enough.  It doesn’t sound DERBY.

What I failed to realize at the time, though, is that there are different kinds of toughness in roller derby.

Some  of the girls in my league have names that immediately suggest their strengths as players.  Unholy Horror is, literally, a horror if you step up to jam and realize she’s sharking in the back.  Turbo Tyke is fast as fuck, and Tank Goodness plows through the pack like a (super limber) tank.

Other girls’ names suggest as much about their off-the-track personalities as their game-day personas.  TrAC/DC is always rad and ready;  Bout Love is bountifully good-natured.  Little Miss Maggot and Ocean’s Motion both adopted names that speak to their careers off-track, and Zoom Tang… well, Zoom Tang likes pussy.

But Villainelle?  Nobody even knows what the fuck it means.

The answer is that it’s a kind of poem.  Specifically, it’s a brainy, complicated form that appeared a lot in the 19th century.  You probably read villanelles in high school, although you likely don’t remember them as such.  Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” is one.  And for the Plath fans out there, “Mad Girl’s Love Song” is another.  I love both of those poems.  But neither of them has anything to do with the reasons I chose my name.

When I joined derby, I knew I wasn’t obviously tough.  I’m not a commanding physical presence.  But I AM a commanding vocal presence.  And an even more commanding written one.  I can navigate words with grace and precision.  When I stare at a blank page, I’m filled with fire and intensity – and with the settled confidence of a woman who knows exactly what she’s doing.  Even if I doubt myself momentarily, if the words don’t spill forth right away, I can rest in the knowledge that if I concentrate and focus, if I place myself in the proper mindset, I’ll eventually conquer the doubts and discover the path to the ideas inside my head.

I’m nothing like my poetic self on the track.  I get jittery and anxious; I get angry when I can’t see a path through the pack.  I lose my voice, and sometimes I lose my mind.  But when I look at the back of my jersey, when I see my name and my number (19LN, for 19 lines), I remember who I really am.  And my confidence returns.  I remind myself that even at my most frustrated, I’m in control.  All I have to do is concentrate and navigate – put my body in the places the words should go.  Manipulate my limbs the way I would a set of lines in a poem.

Derby names are important – whether we skate under our family names, sporting pride in our inherited identities, or under a name chosen to reflect our place on the track – the monikers we choose remind us who we are and what we can do.  They remind us where we belong.

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Mar 182011
 

Readers’ note: this post is part 2 in a series.  If you haven’t seen part 1 yet, please go here first.  I guarantee you will not be disappointed.  Unless you hate hilarious stories about boys losing their virginity.  In that case you might, very well, be disappointed.

Maybe dudes are better when used as chairs! (Strap-on chair design and image credit to Annika Schmidt, http://dvice.com/pics/Strap-On-Chair-Annika-Schmidt.jpg)

4.  You don’t REALLY need a dude, do you? (With apologies to my actual dude, who is awesome.  But who cannot roller skate.)

It’s no secret that derby loves ladies who love ladies.  In fact, as our own Rock Bottom has pointed out, derby is often the first safe-space available for women questioning their sexual identity. But even if you aren’t a member of the Vagine Regime, chances are that at some point in your derby life, you’ve thought to yourself, “Wow.  Girls really ARE hotter than boys.”  And they can DO pretty much anything boys can do, too.  Think about it.  Even if you’re the straightest edge in the toolbox (WTF metaphor?!?),  isn’t there something enticing about knowing that your derby wife could kick your boyfriend’s ass?  There’s often a lot more intimacy – and sweating, and panting – involved in an intense set of suicides than in the most extreme bedroom experiences.  And when you find someone who skates in the same rhythms and patterns that you do – whose style and speed are in perfect unison with yours – you may start to wonder why you stopped hanging “no boys allowed” signs on your treehouse back when you hit puberty.

Stupid puberty.

5.  Despite what we’d like to believe, sometimes you DO need 3rd-party intervention.

If you’ve never played roller derby, you probably don’t realize how many people are necessary to put on a bout; but experienced attendees have probably noticed that the players aren’t the only ones involved.  There are the multitudes of refs who call the penalties and count the points; then there are the NSOs who track those calls and make sure the stats get recorded.  That’s about 20 people, and I haven’t even COUNTED all the volunteers needed to set up the venue before-hand, take tickets at the door, and sell merchandise!  And what about the fans?  Derby wouldn’t be nearly as fun without the crowd!

We don’t usually think of our bedroom antics as public spectacle, though.  As El Toupee said in the comments of Part 1, “I just pray nothing bedroom-related requires the services of seven referees and a full contingent of NSO’s (Action and Error Tracking might prove somewhat embarrassing!).”  I laughed out loud at the comment… and then I immediately started thinking, how many people’s sex lives are REALLY 100% private? Sure, we perpetuate the idea that sex is confined to the bedroom.  But even the most private people I know require one or two friends to do post-game analysis and scorekeeping when they take on a new partner.  And when that new partner does something off-the-wall, there’s the friend you call for play analysis, the one who helps you decide whether to send them to the penalty box or eject them altogether.

Our sex lives wouldn’t be anything without our refs and NSOs.

6. Don’t forget about your teammate(s)! (Credit for this one goes to Rage in the comments on Pt 1!)

Last night I thought I was having the best scrimmage of my career.  I was playing pivot against some of our team’s heaviest hitters, and for the first time ever I realized I wasn’t scared of getting hit.  I had guts and determination.  I had skill.  And I skated my fucking heart out.  I was moving from side to side like lightning, shoving people out of bounds with only one foot on the floor, and tomahawking (successfully!) to keep the blockers on the inside line from reaching my jammer as she flew threw the center of the pack.  It was the equivalent of a double-digit orgasm night; I ended the jam exhausted but satisfied…

Until I realized that literally no one else had been having fun, or feeling good.  My teammates and I had lost track of each other throughout the jam, failing to form obvious walls at opportune times.  One of us even forgot temporarily what side she was playing for and went in for a hit on the wrong jammer.  While I had been skating around thinking I’m Queen of the Damn Rink!, everyone else had felt confused and disoriented. And it had all happened while I was wearing the pivot panty. It wasn’t my job to be the star.  It was my job to keep everyone together, to make sure my teammates knew what to do and when to do it.

It isn’t your job to be the only star in the bedroom either.  Double-digit orgasms are more fun if everyone gets to play, so unless you’re a dedicated onanist, the fact that you’re feeling awesome doesn’t mean anything if you’ve totally lost track of your partner.  At your best, you should be working in sync, paying attention to each other’s rhythms and “coming” together (ha ha! I crack myself up!).  But even at your worst, you should at least know where they are on the track.

I could keep going all day with this.  So if you’re enjoying the series, keep the comments coming (ha ha!  There’s that word again! I’m like a 12-year-old.) and I’ll put up a new piece of the series every couple of weeks.  Or until I get bored.


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