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-
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.
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.