May 302011

A couple of weeks ago The Flaming Lips came to town.  When tickets had gone on sale two months prior, I swiped up three right away- One for me, one for Sybil Action and one for the Duke of Triumph- Sybil’s husband.
I had ulterior motives, you see. I was bound and determined to pop the question to my best friend.

I hatched this one plan of contacting the band. In my mind’s eye, I could visualize Wayne Coyne delivering a heartfelt monologue halfway through the show- all about friendship and love and roller derby.

I’d be backstage, all dressed up in a giant rabbit costume, or in my derby gear (or both) and just when the band’s front man invited Sybil up on stage, I would come out with a ring, bend down on one knee and Sybil would tearily nod yes. Cue massive applause and cheers. The Duke tosses his head back and gales of laughter issue forth and the three of us merrily skip and giggle and cavort on stage with the band…but I procrastinated and forgot to email the band.
And…that was really the only plotting and planning I had done- Go to a show, have some famous guy talk up what a great lady Sybil is, stick a Cubic Zirconium piece of jewelry on her hand and call it a day.

But really- what’s the point of doing all that if I haven’t delved into the reason WHY I consider her my derby wife?
As you may or may not know- a derby wife is pretty much a girl that reminds you of all the things that you ever liked in another person. They’ve got your back and you’ve got theirs, they’re with you through thick and thin, you are best friends and it’s as simple and as complicated as that. It’s exactly how I’ve always felt about Sybil Action. I wanted her to be my ‘DW’ probably before I even wanted to roller derby. There are boundless reasons why. I could list them out, beginning with…starting with…well, maybe I can’t list them.
I just keep thinking of moments we’ve shared, wine we’ve drunk, the laughter and the comfort, tears and joy.

I then think of all the times she’s been there to save me from doing something stupid. I’m humbled that she continues to be my friend, because there’s been a lot of stupid-saving on her part.
(Side note: I left a section or two out of my prior blogs. See, there was a part of my life that I wasn’t sure I was going to discuss, so I omitted a few things.  But I’ve decided to touch upon them, so- as Paul Harvey would say, “And now- the rest of the story”)

About four or five years ago, I was living in Florida and was in a terrible relationship. Sybil was in North Carolina and we were doing our best to call each other every once in a while and catch up. During one of our random phone chats, Sybil informed me that she was going to begin doing roller derby. This seemed completely normal to me. After all, we’d gone through our fair share of interesting activities already: stealing cars, flying planes, shooting pool, shooting guns, beauty contests, amateur strip nights, consulate meetings, crawfish boils- roller derby seemed like the next logical step. I wished her the best and asked her to keep me updated on it. We talked a little while more, promising to keep in touch- the usual long distance stuff.

Time passed. I had gotten out of my terrible relationship and as a result- landed into the most unholy warship of depressions known to man. After years of walking on eggshells, hiding injuries and being hyper-vigilant to the slightest change of behavior and/or environment- I pretty much forgot how to function as a human being.
I became withdrawn and uninterested in everything. I quit my job, stopped talking to friends- even to Sybil. I was rapidly heading towards complete breakdown.
I made a decision to move to the Midwest and live with my parents one night, when the only other choice was to cease functioning altogether.
I hated living in Missouri, but it gave me the opportunity to start healing. I got a job at a payroll company, and began therapy once my insurance kicked in. I began to settle in to my new life- trying to make myself believe that I would be content popping ‘zombie’ pills, processing payrolls for a living and playing Dominoes every Sunday with my Mom and Pops (which actually is pretty fun, come to think of it)…trying to make myself believe that I would be content popping ‘zombie pills’, processing payrolls for a living and dodging tornadoes the rest of my life.
One day though, at our company weekly meeting- a girl walked in sporting the ugliest black eye ever. My past came rushing back in the split of a second. I didn’t know if I should hide under the table or go up to her and offer her assistance in escaping. Just before I passed out from hyper-ventilating, I overheard her say, “It’s from roller derby”.
It was as if Sybil had come in the room, sat down next to me and calmed me down like she always has been able to do. That conversation we had shared so many months before came back to me, prompting me to really change my life for the better. And then there was that night dodging tornadoes that kismet once again took over and guided me towards the last five minutes of a derby bout on television. A remedial conclusion abacus started clicking in my head: Roller derby on the Dummy, Sybil plays roller derby, roller, roller, roller, derby, derby, derby (ding- conclusion!) If Sybil started doing derby, why- by Jove, I was going to do derby too!
I got back in touch with her and we picked up right where we had left off. I started making plans for my future. It took another year, but I finally made it back to Charlotte.
This past August- she introduced me to her new team- The Charlotte Speed Demons. I began helping out with non-skating duties until I was given the opportunity to join their skater training program in March.
I can’t tell you how exciting it was for me! Finally, at long last- Sybil and I would have the opportunity to participate in a team together. Our partnership on the track would be the stuff that legends are made from- the synergy we would produce would be infectious- world peace! Happy babies! Jesus and Satan sharing a beer!

The day before I started my skating career, Sybil’s most likely ended for good when her leg decided to shatter at practice.

That’s the other thing about Sybil and me- Irony is our constant companion.
That’s the whole story, so now back to The Flaming Lips show:

I had the rings in my right pocket and my digital camera in my left. All that I needed was for Duke to get the camera and the proposal to be made. I leaned over and said as quietly as I could-


Duke looked at me, features slightly askew before saying, “Nah. Why don’t you wait for another time, okay? You don’t even have rings, just enjoy the show.”
My face must have done one of those ‘crestfallen’ maneuvers, because he then said, “You do have rings, don’t you? Have you been planning on doing this all along?”
I nodded my head and he motioned for the camera. I excitedly went for the rings but Sybil reached in and gave the camera back to me.
“Take our picture, here!” So, I awkwardly began an impromptu photo session. If it wasn’t for the Duke of Triumph stepping in and grabbing the camera, I know I would have lost my courage. Sybil looked around and asked what was going on. I got down on one knee and said-

“Sybil- I tried to think of your favorite color and I didn’t know what it was. I tried to think of your favorite flower, and I couldn’t do that either. What I do know is that you are more than a color or a flower choice to me. You are more like an emotion, or a blood transfusion, and I need you in my life. Would you do me the honor of being my derby wife (I didn’t really say that. I was too nervous and wound up vomiting out something about her being crippled and lame, but that I’d take her anyways. But if I had a take two, then I definitely would’ve said that bit about the flowers and the transfusion)?”
She looked around at Duke, then at the crowd of onlookers, finally at me and laughed.

But then she again looked down at me kneeling, looking vulnerable and desperate and laughed some more.

She eventually said yes.
I think we’ll wait until next season to tie the wax-laced knot. That gives me time to pass assessments and her time to adjust to all the plates and screws she’s adopted into her leg. I’m also thinking about getting my act together, as it’s about time I start doing some of the saving once in a while.




It’s a day early, but Jenna- I love you. Happy Birthday, derby wife-to-be.

May 012010

can i marry my best friend? Yes, definitly yes.

I am the same as all new roller derby girls-I love everything about roller derby: the sport, the clothes, the people, the support from the people, the encouragement to be yourself. But one thing I LOOOOVE in particular is the concept of the derby wife. Personally, I am a little shocked that the other bloggers for Live! Derby! Girls! didn’t jump right in with a gratuitous post about derby wives. Roller derby wives are sometimes hard to explain to non-roller derby people. You know I get the Look and the lesbian question again and again.*sigh* I found this definition from the Rollercon website: 

“A derby wife is quite simply this -   

She is the one person in this whole sport of roller derby that the very instant you looked at her, you felt like you’d known her since you were a fetus. She looked just like your best friend from fifth grade, or something she did reminded you of all the things you ever liked in anyone else.
She is the first person you’d call if you ever need to get bailed out of jail. She’s the one who will be holding back your hair when you puke after drinking too much, and she won’t let anyone take your picture while doing it.
She’ll ride in the ambulance with you when you lose a tooth, break your wrist, or tear your ACL. She’ll make you laugh the whole way to the hospital, try to steal your pain medication (lovingly), and sneak your favorite food and a beer into recovery. She’ll make her actual husband understand that if he loves her, he’s gonna have to put up with you, too, no matter how many times you come over forcing him to revisit all the derby-related shows on his Tivo that you missed. She may not even be your best friend in the league or the sport, but she’d be the one you know will be the first one to back you up, even if you’re dead wrong. She’ll just tell you you’ve lost your fucking mind later in private,
possibly kick your ass alittle bit, and then be the only one who could ever talk your hotheaded ass into some reason. If you can find more than one derby wife who can meet those needs, then you are lucky indeed, but myself? I’m a one derby wife gal.”

derby marriage license

This post on the Rollercon website also notes the myth (I say myth, cause how could this not have been in existance since the dawn of roller derby?!?!?!) of how the concept of the derby wife came to be:  

 “The tradition started in November 2003, when a load of Derby Dolls went to see the first AZRD bout and the derby wife concept was born.  

 Now, see, we Derby Dolls (and I imagine/KNOW a whole lot of the rest of you out there) really like to drink. Some of us have been a little further in the barrel than others, and some of us have done so on a 6 hour van trip to Phoenix. Well, my dear friend Evil E and I initiated both the world’s most ill-advised drinking contest and what was very likely the first verified pairing of derby “wives” called as such on that very trip.    

Did I mentioned that I love this concept? As a feminist and a wife with a non-derby spouse, this idea cuts me to the bone because it is a non-sexual (usually!) relationship that you actively choose to be in with another women (typically a woman, but it can be a male too!). Derby marriage is a public announcement that you will support your wife, no matter what, through things derby related or not. For me, it is a unique spin on the heteronormative ideal relationship. Derby marriage takes the best of a legal marriage and applies it to the most wonderful sport on earth AND to your girlfriends. I love that we can openly display love, affection, and commitment! It kinda, and you can argue with me on this if you want, it kinda takes what is kept behind closed doors (or at least not discussed)- what’s considered “personal” in a traditional marriage-and displays flaunts it. How much more awesome can this get?!? PROPSAL STORIES!!! You know you love to tell your story. Be sure to leave it in the comments!!! Everyone loves a good proposal story!    

#333 is my wifey, Hanna Konda

As for my story: I have derby wives-yes that’s plural! One day after practice, it was the Tuesday before our first bout ever, two of my favorite teammates and fellow freshmeat, Sour Patch Kid and Hanna Konda (who were already married to each other-in the derby sense, of course), got down on one knee and simultaneously asked, “Will you marry us?” My little derby heart melted and I of course said yes. We jumped and hugged and got a little teary eyed. It was a beautiful moment of platonic sister love.  

 Our league, Red Stick Roller Derby has several epic pairings. I have to mention Tricky La  

the pivot, Sour Patch Kid, is my other wifey-im right next to her, helping kick ass

 Rouge and Moxie Balboa, whom I have always been jealous of their solid derby marriage-they look so happy together! There is Whatta Tuesday and Zarathrustya, who complement each other beautifully. Another unique relationship set, much like my own, is Julie Kablooie and Eve N. Better and Panda Scare. Interestingly, Panda is also married (derby wife-style) to male ref Skunk Roller. Also, several of the newer players are paired up: Madie Sans Merci and Crumble Bee, Dizz Integrator and Blitz….the list of loving supportive friendships goes on and on. It’s beautiful that we all willingly commit to each other in this way. I also find it inspiring that our team takes the uniqueness of derby to heart-we will never take any derby tradition as a hard and fast rule. To do so would go against the very essence of roller derby. So go forth and be polyamorous in your derby marriages, take a derby mistress, a derby girlfriend, break the derby mold and have a mixed (male/female) marriage, all in the name of love. What could be wrong with that! 



Apr 172010

I need this attitude

I want to talk to you about commitment. Roller derby requires, nay demands,  on-skate practices twice a week, dryland strength training on Saturdays and additional extracurricular outdoor skates/workouts in order to be the best you can be-not to mention the derby bonding of going to see other leagues play, going to movies, going to the bars. When I say that roller derby demands this, I mean that it inspires an unavoidable imperative in me to do do do as much derby as I can whenever I can. And yes, it is as obsessive as that. I know this is not a rational impulse, nor, perhaps even an appropriate one to admit to. (However, it is a very very common impulse for us derbies. You know what I‘m talking about!) So, this imperative to go forth and Derby It Up! is a wonderful thing, that is, until it creates in you a monster of guilt.   

When roller derby happened to me, I fell in so far that my husband had to grab my ankles lest I be devoured by derby and move to the roller rink. So when I started to see derby affect my family life, my ever-present search for a writing career, even my desire to be with my husband, I knew I had to do something, cause my husband’s a pretty hot piece.  My all-or-nothing personality immediately lunged me into a depression because my first thought was that I would have to quit roller derby cold turkey. But that’s not reality. Life is not all-or-nothing. So I committed to the incessant, on-

The author in All-or-Nothing mode

going argument with J, my husband, to negotiate going to practices, after parties, away bouts, and outdoor skates as opposed to cooking dinner, going to the zoo, date night, going to his Tae Kwon Do events and generally being available to my family. It is a devilish, tiring task and it often makes me feel sick that I have to work so hard to do this thing, to be Ms Kittie Fantastik. But when I do finally get to practice, all that worry and meticulous calendar work goes away and I put in 120%.  I get to just skate. I get to haul ass in 50-80-100 endurance, hit some bitches with my killer hips, try new things during our scrimmages, talk derby to all the fresh meat skaters and of course spend time with my derby wives, whom I love.  

Me and my hubbs

The easy part is talking about how I’m trying to find a balance between derby and everything else. The hard part is in the doing. My wonderful husband is aware that I often talk a big game about being more present in our family life and missing some of the extra derby events, but when it comes down to it, I falter. Missing any derby practices or events hurts me; it cuts me to the quick. I feel a guilt greater than I thought I could feel for some hobby. I feel that I am letting down my team, I feel that I am showing everyone that I am not as committed the sport or that I don’t care about the team as much as my teammates do or even that I’m not as hardcore about the “Derby Dream” as they all are. I feel that my teammates sometimes look at me and don’t see my struggle but see a woman with a controlling jerk for a husband-cause really, that’s not it. It’s easy for them (and me!) to blame him, but really, it’s not him. He is not making me do this-I have to. I find it common in this game to sport the “stick it to the man” attitude, always cocking our heads saying, “Screw you, I do what I want, you can’t hold me down, I dare you to try!“ I embraced this attitude when I because a derby girl but soon I found this attitude to be not only reminiscent of my teenage years, but also very dangerous. I have come dangerously close to destroying that which I have worked hard to create….for a game. It is important for me to remember that I chose him. I chose him of all people and I love him, he is me-the same, only completely different-and impossible, at that! And then we have Imogen, our daughter, who also is the same, only completely different. These two people are the true things of my life and I cannot let them go for anything. Even though I want to, really want to, do the selfish thing and demand that I get what I want and be left alone, I can’t do it. However, I can demand that I get to have my own hobby and my own time, but I can’t let it consume me to the exclusion of everything else. I know my teammates, my sisters, my wives love me and support me as much as they can, but there are those looks that cut me, those off-hand comments that have bite. They are really no big deal, not an issue. They are just a reminder that I get to set my priorities, no one else. Oh yeah, and I need to grow a backbone.   

So yes, I have to miss practice. But I work my ass off to be good at this game and get my attendance to where is needs to be so I can bout. You got a problem with that? Too bad, I’m really trying not to care.   

Photo Credit: Image taken from “That’s Queen Bitch to You” by Ed Polish and Darren Wotz. Ten Speed Press, 2006., personal family photos.