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.