May 152010
 

(This was written for myself after my first full bout as a skater.  It means a lot to me.)

I have bruises. Substantial bruises. Bruises of some substance. They are located on both my right and my left upper arms. The right arm is by far the most artistically done, bruises seemingly watercolored on my arm with deep blues, greens, a bit of stipled red, violet. Dotted on like a series of swirling islands covering nearly my entire upper arm from shoulder to elbow. The left arm may be less magnificent overall, but what it lacks in grandeur, it makes up for in location and creativity. A brilliant purple and green bruises is located on the underside of the arm and curls around the outside. It’s shaped as if someone had tightened a rope around my flesh and tightened it. I cannot fail to mention the massive, unholy yellow bruise on the ball of my shoulder.

I show off my bruises. They have a life of their own, while they are with me. They are an ice breaker, so I can talk about how I got them with people I don’t know. My coworkers look at me differently, not necessarily because I am bruised (often women are bruised), but because I grin and I am proud that I am bruised. I know It’s not common for a woman to show off her bruises-usually, they are kept hidden, a dirty secret, considered ugly. Not mine. I earned mine and I am proud. I have a pride about me as I marvel at how my body reacts to stimulus, blooming with color and pain. Nothing in my life could have prepared me for loving my bruises or loving the pain they bring. I am a roller derby girl. Sometimes, when I am feeling saucy, I refer to myself as a roller derby queen, which is a completely unearned title, since I am a new derby girl. I am only 5 months in and it has been a rollicking ride. I thought it would be something I would just do-roller derby, I mean-like a softball league or a sand volleyball team. You know, you just show up for games and the random practice. I thought I could compartmentalize it into my life to fulfill my exercise need and my companionship need. Sweating my ass off? Check. Female bonding about non-work, non-family stuff? Double check. It didn’t happen that way. It didn’t play out like that at all. This shit infiltrated my life.

The women on this team literally force you out of complacency and involve you. When there are bout production issues and we need to go get another cooler of ice for the away team’s water cooler, you bet your ass they are pushing some girl out the door to go get it. Feeling like you should quit during the 45 minutes of intense endurance skating? There’s a senior skater there singling you out to work harder. Need tickets sold? Need to find a team sponsor? Sell ads for the bout program? These things have to be done because we are not owned nor are we coached by an Other, an outsider- male or female. We are always reminded that if we want to roller derby, we have to do it: participate, help, create, donate or step up and fucking lead! Normally, I reject being pushed. You push me and I push back. The other Derbies (an affectionate term for roller derby girls) pushed me to challenge myself-to take myself to task and be responsible for being happy and proud of who I am on the team. They urged me from a place of female support and sisterly love that, I am saddened to say, has been absent all my life. They encouraged the individual, unique, square-peg part of me that doesn’t fit into any of the round-hole roles of that I play-wife, mother, coworker. And I push back, mirroring this fantastic support and love for my derby family. My derby family and I, we’ll all be having a great time, whether at practice, an afterparty, a bout, fundraiser, or jersey making party and we’ll look each at the others-the student, the hairdresser, engineer, phlebotomist, the mom, grandma, 18 year old, the 40 year old, the lawyer, the waitress the accountant-and we’ll wonder, with a pang, “What if I hadn’t found this?” What if I hadn’t seen these girls at the Whip It premiere? What if I hadn’t met that girl skating on the levy in her hot pants and fishnets, or come across the Red Stick Roller Derby website? Who would I be today? Clearly not me. Certainly not the wonderful me that I am now.

These women, they are helping me to become a version of myself that is galvanized; a more concentrated, incited version of myself that I wasn’t sure existed. I have chosen to be this galvanized version of Kayla Aylward who has transformed into the balls-out blocker Ms. Kittie Fantastik. I choose everyday when I put on my skates and pads. When I go one hundred percent during endurance-not ninty, one hundred percent!-even though my legs are trembling with exhaustion. I choose to be the me that is Ms. Kittie when I religiously check our team forum to be up on what I need to do for derby. I choose to be myself. The best version of myself. When I put myself out there to practice hitting and blocking and especially jamming, even though I am reasonably sure I will look like an idiot and fall and generally be terrible. On faith I do these things, so that I can continue to grow and revolutionize myself.

At the bout this past Saturday, (my first, by the way)I got my beautiful sleeves of bruises. I probably got them from being hit by Rock Bottom, or Heidi Volatile or especially Tricky La Rouge, not from me hitting them. I’m ok with that. My bruises are an outward sign that I’m in the game, taking the hits and giving ‘em when I get a chance. I’m not coasting, I’m not compartmentalizing, I am working my ass off for something that I don’t even know what the end product will be-if there will even be one. There are few things in my life that I have simply approached on faith. Derby is my most unexpected experience with faith. Faith is that thing you can’t see, but you know it’s there, you just know. That’s what I see when I see my bruises and grin. Faith. Faith that from now on, I will always be in the game, mixing it up.

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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! 

 
 

   

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True Love

 Posted by at 8:00 am  4 Responses »
Apr 242010
 

RSRD *hearts* MRV

I am a woman. I am a woman who has friends. I LOVE that I can say that. Logically speaking, it would be easy for me to have friends who are women , since we have this basic gender thing in common. Similarly, logic would hold that when I was a girl, I would have friends who were girls as well. Well, clearly our world is not always logical. As a girl, teenager, and finally a young woman, I failed miserably at obtaining and maintaining girl friends. As a child, there were a small handful of neighborhood girls I was friends with, each in their own time. I was never surrounded by the gaggle of girls I saw swarming some of the more popular girls. Rather, my friend and I would tromp around outside and see what the neighborhood boys were getting into. Eventually, my friend would find more popular friends and I was left to tromp after the neighborhood boys myself. As a teenager, this scenario didn’t change much. It went from tromping outside to exploring neighboring towns in our cars. Always had more guy friends than girls. I filled up that need for a good girl friend with an aggressive swagger that actually probably scared away any potential BFFs. I found myself in college working full time and going to school full time, always had my head down trying to make the right choices to get school paid for and money saved, that I missed that college experience. In a way, I have mourned this perpetual absence of “the friend experience” for a long time now. I would get terribly envious when my classmates or coworkers would talk about recent trips they took with friends or concerts they saw. As the years passed and I married my spouse and we started a family, I had even fewer opportunities to meet people and make lasting friendships.  Most of the other wives and mothers I would meet  at work or through my husband’s friends already had huge and complex social lives with girls they had known since infancy-or so it felt. I was a lonely lonely duck.

That is, until my current best friends came into my life. (Of course it’s roller derby. It’s ALWAYS roller derby !!) I had a great conversation with one of my good friends Tank Goodness about why I am so in love with being around not only my teammates, but most roller derby players. Her thought was that we are a ragtag bunch of girls who never made friends with girls growing up and we somehow made it through childhood and adolescence and crazily enough, we found each other. I had to agree with her. Sometimes I feel like it is out of sheer luck that we all found each other. Of course there are plenty of derbies who were the queen bees of their respective schools, childhoods. And more power to you, we learn how to be great girlfriends from you. Thank you. But I want to wax poetic and relax into the idea that these women I have met are like a comfortable, down -filled chair that envelopes me when I wasn’t aware I was weary. We wrap our arms around each other and offer love and support even when we don’t know what’s wrong. Interestingly, sometimes my teammates will ask what’s wrong, but usually they don’t-they just offer their attention and support where it is needed, a reason is not necessary.

my true loves, my team

It’s wild to me because I have only be in derby since October and I have made the best friends I have ever had in my life with some of these girls….and with all the others, I can’t wait to get to know them better. Check out our Facebook statuses and you will see what I mean. My Facebook wall is littered with affirmations of all different sorts from my team. Platonic exclamations of love such as “You did awesome tonight!“ and “I need some Kittie Fantastik!!!“ rock my world and fill my heart to brimming. Truly, this is the amazing thing about roller derby-or maybe it’s just my team!-the very open, supportive, affectionate, loving women here are all willing to embrace you, who you are, and who you want to be. In this day and age of cattiness, bullies, queen bees, and all-around toxic-ness, I found dozens of BFFs in the most aggressive, physical sport for women. Who says we are scary bitches?

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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.

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Apr 102010
 
Hi, I am Ms Kittie Fantastik and I am a derby girl. It sounds like an AA introduction-and maybe it should, cause I am head-over-heels addicted to roller derby. I am consumed to the point of personal destruction by all things derby and it’s a good thing, cause I am a rookie blocker for The Red Stick Capital Offenders of Red Stick Roller Derby.
I have not always been this positive about what or who I am.

Just 10 months ago, I was a disgruntled wife and mother from Normal, IL, just moved to Baton Rouge, LA with a lot of anger and no self esteem. The past 24 months of sacrificing myself for the good of the family made me boil with rage, but left me with shame when I realized that my family is not enough. Can never be enough-I need myself, too. I never thought I could crawl out of that dark dank endless feeling of nothing. Consumed with domesticity and alienated from other women because of my low self-esteem, I had no friends. I was alone with my husband, who loves me, but does not seem to always know me-especially when I sometimes don’t know myself. For awhile, I would actively try out different lives-I would try different hobbies, jobs, hairstyles-you name it, I tried it all and hoped I would feel that spark of recognition.

It was just 5 months ago that I timidly found my way to a Tuesday night derby practice and I was stunned to see a glimmer of myself that was true. It was like I recognized these 40 other women with the same or similar misfit histories. These women are somehow completely different than me, but the same. We are alike in our quest for authentic individuality. I first laced up my skates for practice 5 months ago, and it has been a worthwhile uphill battle every since.

J, my husband, doesn’t yet know what to think about derby. He is cautiously resentful of it since it keeps me away from him and Immy, my 2 year old daughter. In theory, derby sounds like a good idea to him since it is a sport and it keeps me active, but because I am so consumed by it, he is weary. I imagine it is because he is unsure how and why a woman would want to be passionate about anything outside the domestic sphere. For example, he fully supports my love of cooking and declares it a “good“ hobby, but my love of fishnets and spanky pants is a little suspect to him. However, even he can’t deny that roller derby satisfies both of our goals: I get to hit some bitches and be myself and he reaps the benefits of after-practice endorphines in the form of delicious, athletic sex. However, it’s an ongoing process to convince him that I am a better person now that I have found something where I get to be someone else for a couple of hours a week. Or maybe not someone else, maybe someone or something more essentially me….and that is the biggest challenge, the most exhausting thing of all.

Of course It’s impossible to argue this with him because there are no words for the wonderfulness that is roller derby. Literally, there may be no words to describe the unique and outright physical bonds that result from roller derby-they are so starkly different than anything I have ever experienced. My response to my husband’s inability to understand the epic-ness of roller derby? Draft him to be a ref. Then maybe he will see.

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