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.

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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.

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