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.

Share
Apr 302011
 

This is not going to be a happyhappyjoyjoy post. It’s not going to make you feel all warm and fuzzy about the wonderous sport we all know and love and it’s not going to lead you to some revelation about yourself or derby.

This is a look at how I was (and probably still am) a total n00b.

For those of you who are slightly to moderately internet-dyslexic, according to “Lord Emperor” of urbandictionary.com, a n00b is “A[sic] inexperienced and/or ignorant or unskilled person.”

Ok, so anyone entering into derby would be considered a n00b, in a way. I remember when I first heard of derby I thought it was for badasses. And I don’t mean like, sassy women who “tell it like it is” or something, but women who were so amazingly confident in themselves that they didn’t HAVE to tell anyone how it was because it didn’t change the TRUTH of it all. “It,” as it was, existed with or without the telling of it. Women so amazingly confident in themselves and the other women they surrounded themselves with that they all got along amazingly because of this unspoken truth.

Right, so you see how I was n00bish, huh? Yeah.

So right off the bat, I saw how wrong I was. The women I skate with are amazing, make no mistake about that, but I made the mistake of buying into this mythical derby ideal that doesn’t fucking exist. Granted, my derby family is different than all of my “normal” friends and family and that’s why I love them. They love me because I’m not “normal” either. How can normal exist in derby anyway? It takes a special kind of girl to wake up in the morning and say, “Today’s a good day to get my ass handed to me in the rink.” And you always love your teammates for putting you there and making you stronger for it.

But we’ve already covered this, haven’t we? trACDC did a rock-solid job on the taboo involved in your derby family. But what about other teams? What about other leagues?

So you see, I learned early-on that I had a misguided idea of what a derby girl is, but I still assumed that other teams filled with similar-minded women could still uphold that sense of comaraderie I’d always heard about. If you’ve skated in even a single bout, you know exactly what I’m talking about: both teams skate their asses off, knock each other into next week, then party together like they’re long lost sorority sisters or something. I assumed every bout was like this since derby has always seemed like a left-of-center sorority to me. Fucked up chicks who are sisters because we’ve all taken the same beatings, bruises, broken bones, and rink rash. It connects us in a way that is unbreakable, right?

Until you meet the one team that doesn’t operate that way. A team that doesn’t adhere to this supposed code and plays, well, however the hell they want. And that’s ok. It’s the real world and we’re all big girls, so we can pull our glitter-panties up and be big girls about it. It doesn’t take away from the fact that unsportswomanlike conduct still pisses you off.  

See to me, that sense of interleague comaraderie is an important part of what derby is. And yeah, maybe that’s why I’m still a n00b, but if that’s the case, then I’m ok with that. I want to be friends with the other team (after the bout, of course). I want to be able to go up to the tiny girl who somehow managed to put me on my ass and say, “DAMN. That was awesome,” and I want her to be able to do the same thing. What I don’t want is to wonder if I’m going to have to defend myself from a fight-happy derby girl at the afterparty. I don’t want to wonder if one of their fans are going to jump me when I leave the bout. That’s not what derby is about.

I don’t know, I think my biggest rant here is that once you’re a “derby girl,” you sort of start assuming a lot of things about a lot of people. You assume that someone else who has earned the same title respects the sport as much as you do. You assume that she has also worked her ass off like you did and that she wants to play as fair as she can – like you do. We assume the best in all of these women because we want them to assume the same is true about us. The thing is – assumptions are for assholes because you can’t assume anything about anyone because we are not all cut from the same cloth, ya dig?

So yeah, I’m still learning. I’m still discovering the idiosyncracies of the women on my own team while also trying to figure out how to navigate the testy waters of other teams. I wouldn’t trade anything I’ve learned/bruised/broken in derby because, like every other experience in my life, it’s shaping who I’m becoming…. and I kinda’like that girl.

Share
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.

Share
Mar 112011
 

I know I owe you guys another installment of Sex and Roller Derby.  And I promise it’s still on the horizon.  But remember how I warned you I might come up with something more important to say?  Last night, when Moxie posted about the oft-contentious topic of derby dress, I realized I DID in fact have something to say.  Because what I wear to derby matters to me.  It matters A LOT.  Because I’ve been worrying about my clothes for way too long already.

I had my first conflict over clothing when I was about 10 years old.

I'm the one in pink. I am 6 here. I am already developing hips and thighs.

I’m one of those kids who developed really early – earlier than is strictly reasonable.  I was full height by age 9 or 10, already sporting breasts and hips and an ass that, for an elementary schooler, could only be referred to as “epic.”  Whenever I mention this aspect of my childhood in mixed company, my male friends say, “That must’ve been awesome!”  Girls know better, though.  When I mention being the first kid on the playground with a C-cup, girls cringe silently or offer commiserating stories of their own.  Because girls know that being sexualized early is rife with complications.

All of a sudden, my uniform shorts looked a lot different than everyone else’s.  The baggy fabric was hugging me so tightly that preventing panty-line became a daily challenge.  My new bra (like actual bra; no training for these tits) was absurdly visible through the sheer fabric of our Peter-Pan-collar innocent-schoolgirl shirts.  Boys popped my straps on the playground.  They asked me if I’d be willing to show them my tits.  Up until that point, I don’t think I’d ever even heard the word “tits,” much less some of the other super-creatively-gross euphemisms they’d come up with.  I had no idea what they were so interested in.  As far as I could tell, I wasn’t any different than I’d been the year before.  I was the same mousy, quiet girl I’d always been.  Now, all of a sudden, the other kids were paying attention to me.  But the attention didn’t feel good.  It felt strange and awkward, unfounded somehow in anything I could comprehend.

I’m not saying I didn’t know what sex was; my dad is a scientist, and as such he always made sure I had a scientific explanation of the world around me.  But understanding the mechanics of sex does nothing to help you analyze the skeezy feeling you get when the class bully unhooks your bra during math, or tries to bounce a penny off your ass whenever you bend over.  Those feelings have nothing to do with making babies, nor with the “mutual respect and affection” that you’ve been taught are supposed to accompany human sexuality.  (Yeah, I know.  ”Mutual respect and affection” is kind of high-faluting language to use on a kid.  But you’ve never met my dad.)

My mother and I began to have near-constant conflicts about my clothes.  While school days were taken up with required uniforms, my weekends had always been a long string of shorts and tank tops.  Now, suddenly, I found my mother trying to convince me to “layer.”  She took me to Dillards in search of jeans to replace my well-loved outdoor shorts.  Whenever I tried to ask her why I couldn’t just wear my old clothes, she would hem and haw, telling me only that “those clothes just don’t look right on you anymore.”  When I got a little older and babydoll dresses with spaghetti straps got popular, I had to continually insist that wearing a t-shirt underneath the dress kind of hurt the look.  The same held true for wearing biking shorts underneath a skirt.  My mother didn’t breathe again until I got into grunge and started wearing figure-masking flannel shirts and overalls.

It took me years to understand why clothes that looked so cute and fun on my friends somehow looked slutty on me.  Things started to even out a little as I got older and my peers began catching up to me.  My body didn’t stand out quite as much outside an elementary school classroom.  But the weird feeling that there was something wrong or immoral about my shape never quite left me.  My breasts and hips were intruders that made my life confusing and complicated, that asked people to read my body separately from my personality.  They had their own grammar, sent their own private message to the world.  And I hated them.

By the time I hit my senior year of high school, I was a full-blown anorexic.  I had dropped from around 130 lbs (about what I weigh now, for those who know me) to 100.  My freshman year of college the numbers climbed lower, first to the lower 90s and then, after a bout with stomach flu, the lower 80s.  I bottomed out at around 82 lbs before I finally got some help and started the slow crawl back to normal.  And although I can’t guarantee a causal relationship, I can’t help but think that my early experience with T&A helped push me over the edge.  If I could just lose a little more weight, just a few more pounds, maybe my hips would disappear.  Maybe my breasts would dissolve and never return.  Maybe I could live a life where the clothes I draped myself in didn’t matter so much.  Maybe I wouldn’t look like a slut.

Me, parodying "sexy", at the 2010 Running of the Rollerbulls in New Orleans

I had to begin dealing with my body dysmorphia in order to get healthy again.  I had to learn that food is good and starvation is bad, that my body is my friend, yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda.  But it wasn’t until I joined derby that I really became friends with my body again.  I learned that giant asses are tools of power, that tits can be used in strategic positional blocking, and that thunder thighs help me get low and gain stability.  So when I dress for practice, I wear outfits that highlight my most valuable assets.  As Moxie mentioned in her post yesterday, derbies have long been proud of their hot pants and fishnets and low-cut tops.  But they’ve also been criticized for them, taken to task for not dressing like “serious athletes.”  So when I don my hot pants, I’m sending an important message to the world.  I’m saying “fuck you” to all the people who made me feel ashamed, who tried to teach me that asses and tits and hips were nothing but sex tools.  I’m reminding myself and my audience that women’s bodies – no matter their shape – are powerful.  I am proud, not ashamed.

So if the world wants to keep staring at our hot pants and telling us we’re nothing but sex kittens, that’s their own damn fault.  I know better.  I know that my body – while sexy – can do a lot of other things besides fuck.  And until the world learns that women have a right to display their bodies however they choose, without judgment, I’m going to keep skating – hot pants and all.

Share
Feb 232011
 

geared upSo, I’m new here.

Well, I’m new all around. But I’d really like to start making my mark in the wonderful world of derby. Or rather, I’d like the wonderful world of derby to start making a mark on me.

But let’s be honest for a second here. Derby has already started making a mark on me. In fact, it did the first time I saw a derby bout. Enough of a mark that I decided that derby was something I needed to get into, regardless of the fact that I was out of shape and that I’m a socially awkward and shy person. So I did. And I’m never going to look back.

I must admit, roller derby is not something I ever thought I’d be interested in. It’s certainly not something I ever thought I’d be involved with. After all, I’m not exactly the type of girl that would ever be seen in fishnets or hot pants. I don’t really do the “girly” thing, and I admit my first (incorrect) impression of derby was that it was a sport for girly girls. Yet here I am, two bouts in, anxiously awaiting the next time I strap on my skates, counting the seconds until I can leave my heart out on the flat track.

I’ve been involved with sports my whole life but I can honestly say that roller derby is the most physically and mentally demanding sport I’ve ever done. And there has not been a single second that I’ve regretted joining the league. The rewards I reap make it completely worth all the pain. Plus, because of this sport, I’ve been introduced to the most wonderful group of people I could have ever hoped to meet. These girls feel like family to me. No, scratch that, they ARE family.

When I entered the skating rink as fresh meat back in October, I was completely terrified. I’m not really good with social situations or engaging new people in conversation. Typically, I’m the kind of person that hides in a corner and fades into the background. Thankfully I was welcomed almost immediately. I was even invited out for post-practice drinks. I’ve never felt so accepted before. And I’ve never felt so sure that I made the right decision than I did after that first practice. Sure, it hurt. And I didn’t know if I’d be physically up to the challenge since I’d be mostly sedentary for ten years. But I knew I wanted to be a part of this. I wasn’t going to give up. I decided the first night that there was nothing I wanted more than to be a member of Red Stick Roller Derby. Now, just a few months later, here I am. And I couldn’t be more proud of myself.

lead jammer

There have been a few moments in my life that I have considered the proudest I’ve ever felt. Now I believe the proudest moment of my life so far is the first time I skated up to the jammer line in my very first bout. I get that feeling of pride every time I skate up to the jammer line. That’s a feeling I want to hold on to.

Becoming a member of the derby team was like a dream come true, even though it was a dream I never knew I had. Derby is the best thing I’ve ever done with my life, hands down. Thanks to derby I finally feel like I really belong somewhere. Even though it’s not easy (I’ve suffered a few minor injuries so far), it’s worth it. No matter how difficult it gets, I’ll never let myself give up. Because I am a derby girl. And nothing is going to stop me from being a derby girl.

Share