Monday, February 3, 2014

Roller Derby and What it Means to Me.

I am sure I will have many many posts about roller Derby on my blog, so I thought I should start with my story.    

 I love my life. It is filled with more richness, love and joy than I could have ever imagined. I have two beautiful children, and an amazing husband. I am fortunate enough to be self-employed and I work from home doing something I really love. I am consider myself to be an athlete and I’m healthier and happier than I have ever been, and I really feel like my life gets better every day. So what has been the most pivotal event of my life so far? While getting married, having children, and starting my own business were all momentous, I contribute all of those happenings to one even bigger event… deciding to play roller derby.

     In 2005 I was 22ish and I moved from Savannah back to my hometown, Albuquerque. I needed to end long relationship and be back in the revitalizing sunshine of the southwest. I reconnected with a childhood friend through a social networking site and she was part of a group that was starting a Roller
Derby league, Duke City Derby (now Duke City Roller Derby). I didn’t really know what Roller Derby was, but I loved roller-skating, and was excited when she told me about Duke City Derby’s first exhibition bout on October 22nd   2005.  The teams in the exhibition season were Dead Man’s Curves and Big House Brawlers. The bout was held in a bar that was once a roller skating rink.  There was a slightly raised wooden area in the center of the building that was surrounded by seating and looked a little like a death trap, and that is where my friend and the founders of Duke City Roller derby skated that day. I fell in love with Roller Derby before the first whistle blew. The skaters had cute, sexy uniforms, like pleated jailhouse skirts and short zip front mechanics dresses paired with fishnets and knee socks. There were girls with all body types, from all walks of life, and just watching them play felt empowering. Skaters had funny, cleaver names and numbers and some had larger than life personas. There was a penalty box with a dominatrix scolding players as they served their time and even a catfight. The spectacle was so amazing, and so cool that I was intimidated, but I knew I had to be a part of what was happening.

       By the time the second exhibition bout was held on December 10th 2005 I was not only involved, but drafted to the Big House Brawlers team. I had never been a very athletic girl, and I was overweight. I was on the swim team off and on when I was a girl and played basketball for a few years, but never really thrived at any of the sports I tried, and always thought I was just not the active type. Now I realize I was just not playing the right sports. It is kind of funny to think back and wonder why I ever tried playing basketball, as an adult I stand at 5’2” and was always shorter than my peers as a child. I’m not sure if I have ever made a basket in my life.

   I started by attending an open skate at the roller rink here that was then called Roller King. I remember being worried I was not cool enough for all the awesome women in derby, but everyone was friendly and welcoming.  They had special deal on Sunday nights that allowed a group of 5 admission for only $10, so we would meet and get in groups of 5 to get the deal. When I first started, I could stand up and propel myself on skates, but that was about it. I was pretty terrible, but I would go every Sunday and just skate for the full two hours, and eventually I got better. We also practiced at a small covered area we called “The Pavilion”.  The track we mapped out was half the size of a current regulation flat track… maybe even smaller.  We practiced falling, whipping, skating and hitting, and sometimes we would scrimmage. There was a minimum skills test we had to pass in order to bout and be drafted; there were about ten skills we were tested on, and I did my skills test with old skates I bought from the thrift store. One of my wheels actually fell off in the middle of my skills test and I had to finish it with borrowed skates! I have taken the skills test three times since then, twice after my first daughter(when she was born I lived in Portland and I had to retake it again when I returned to Albuquerque) and once after my second daughter. The skills test now has four pages of skills and a long written portion ensuring that skaters understand the rules.

     The Day after the skills test, I remember my first pair of skates arriving. I had shipped them to my new boyfriend’s house since I worked during the day and my apartment was in a sketchy part of town. I was so excited when he called to tell me they arrived.   The smell of new skates is really something else (and is much better than the smell of old skates). I imagine the sensation I experienced when I opened the box to be similar to the euphoria a car fanatic gets test driving a Ferrari.

     Within a few months of playing roller derby I went from a flabby 200 pounds down to a dense, lean 145 to 150 lbs. In addition, I feel like my entire identity changed, in a positive way. I went from wanting to be invisible to loving my body and feeling like living was less of a task, and more of an adventure! It was really exciting and fun to be part of such a diverse and interesting group of women, and it was priceless to learn that I was not the uncoordinated slob I always thought I was. Now I get to see new skaters join and go through their own transformation, and it makes me so happy to see the positive effect derby has on so many women.

    My first bout was the second game in Duke City Derby’s exhibition season, and remembering it now is evoking goose bumps. I was so nervous I felt sick, and I still get that nervous before games. I had spent longer getting ready for the bout then I spent pampering myself before my senior prom. My team got together and did visualization with one of the skaters mothers before the bout. At that time we had three 20 minute periods and in our league we played 4 on 4 for home bouts. Now the game is played with each team fielding five players. By the third period of that first bout a lot of my team had suffered injuries, and I had to play the entire third period without taking a break, which was equally exhausting and excellent!

        Before the 2005 ended, I went with Duke City Derby’s Munecas Muertas to our first travel game against Sin City’s Neanderdolls. They demolished us, winning by over 100 points. I remember feeling so broken after that bout, but still having a great time with them at the after party where I very randomly kissed a stranger and tried a Bacon Martini made with bacon infused vodka. The next day the Neanderdolls were kind enough to lead a practice and give us some tips on how we could become better. At a later date we played them and won, and Trish the Dish- who had helped us after that first bout- jokingly commented that maybe they had taught us a little too well.

    After the exhibition season the league restructured into three teams. As a league we decided on new themes. The themes were sexy spies, robots, and mad scientists. Somehow the mad scientist theme was changed to a post-apocalyptic theme, and the three teams were named Derby Intelligence Agency, Ho-Bots, and Doomsdames. I was a Doomsdame and my team was undefeated for first several seasons.

    During my second season a referee named Adam who went by Fowl Play started with duke city derby. He had been friends for twenty years with one of the founding members, the ref Fair Game, and that was how he was introduced to Roller Derby. While he was profoundly attractive, I was in a relationship and did not really pay much attention to him for almost a year, and actually thought he and another skater’s husband were the same person for quite a while.  I ended the relationship I had been in, and around the same time started to notice that Fowl Play was not only a very diplomatic ref and a kind person, but also exceedingly attractive to me. He was not really the type of man I am usually attracted to, and despite the confidence that roller derby gave me, I thought he was too good for me. Fortunately, I was wrong. I invited him to come to an art show I was having, and that lead to our first date. We went to a nice restaurant and then I went back to his place to see the knives he hand forges and have a margarita. After sharing a bottle of wine at the restaurant and an excessively strong margarita I spent the night there. I have spent very few nights without him since.

        In November of 2008 Adam was laid off right before thanksgiving. By February, we were making plans to move, and before the end of February we found out that I was pregnant. We packed up our belongings and stored them at my dad’s shop while we decided what to do. We spent a lot of time camping, visiting his parents in Michigan, and my mom in Savannah. In April he was hired by a company in Portland. We drove from Michigan back to Albuquerque to get our things. From there we headed on to Portland stopping in Las Vegas along the way to elope. Everything was wonderful, but looking back I wish someone dressed as Elvis had performed the ceremony.

    After my first daughter, Autumn was born I stopped working, and started selling crafts on etsy. I started playing roller derby again as soon as my doctor said it was safe, approximately 8 weeks after my C-section. It was very difficult to come back after having a baby, I gained a lot of weight during pregnancy that I eventually learned was due to a glucose intolerance and my body was completely different. I could not do what I had been able to do before I had my daughter and am still working on losing the weight I gained during the two pregnancies. I now need to lose 70-80 pounds. I only spent a few months skating in Portland with the Rose City Rollers before I became homesick and needed to come back to Albuquerque. There is a reason people refer to this place as the land of entrapment, and I am definitely a desert flower.

    When we came back to Albuquerque I worked at my dad’s shop for a while, which was really nice because I could bring my daughter with me, and she got to spend a lot of time with her grandfather. I taught myself how to screen-print and started selling tshirts on etsy too. My business, Caustic Threads far exceeded my expectations and within a year I had to choose between my job and my business. While I really enjoyed working with my dad it was a pretty easy decision to make. It is so much fun to spend every day designing, dying and printing tshirts. Most of my top selling items are Roller Derby themed.

       I had another daughter in 2011. I considered retiring from roller derby, but I love playing roller derby so much that within the first few months of my pregnancy I already missed so much about it.  My husband no longer Refs, and often wishes he did not have to share me with roller derby, as it is very time consuming. As I mentioned, I have several pounds to lose, but I still consider myself to be an athlete and quite fit. I am careful to eat a clean diet that gives my body the proper fuel that allows me to play the best I can. I cross train and skate several days a week. I feel like I am healthier than I have ever been, and if I had never started playing roller derby I would probably still be sedentary and eating all of the unhealthy packaged food-like-product that I ate before I played. I have had periods of burn out, and am coming off a long break that I needed to remember how important the sport is to me, but it seems to always be part of my life. 

         Roller derby has changed dramatically since I started in 2005, the rules are different, the sport is worldwide and the skill of the skaters is greater.  Some changes have been easier to adapt to than others. Over the years, I have changed with the sport. I have gained confidence, health, and happiness and that has allowed me to create a life that I absolutely love. I don’t know if I can say that roller derby has saved my soul, and I am not going to go into a theological tangent, but roller derby has changed my life and I can’t imagine my life without it.

Here are some Awesome Derby Items I found on etsy:

This awesome needle point is actually from a tanted skater in  my league, Swaaron Marie .

These toe stop covers can be purchased here: 

And this cute skirt can be found here:

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