Thursday, June 2, 2011

The strange days and wild nights of a derby wife

In honor of LGBT Families Day, I thought today would be the perfect time to explain (or at least, try to explain) the phenomenon that is Derby Wives. Because there are many, many types of families out there, and one type of family is the derby family. I am going to attempt to explain this without offending lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals or Mormons, but they all come into play here
I am not making light of the importance of speaking out for equal rights, and celebrating the members of the LGBT community who are raising kids - and certainly doing it with more style than I am. But not everyone has kids. Not everyone WANTS kids. Kids do not a family make. There are many ways to create a family, no kids required.  Roller Derby is like one big, huge, crazy disfunctional family. And you may not know this, but roller derby flies the rainbow flag. We just love rainbows. And unicorns and glitter and guyliner. In fact, I can't think of too many sports that are more LGBT-friendly than roller derby.

The basis of the derby family is, of course, the team itself. But within the team there are unions.

Derby Wives.

Some derby girls may not have kids, but they do have wives. And roller derby families are like the Mormons of the sports world in that players have multiple wives, and spread the gospel of derby everywhere they go: come to a bout, subscribe to 5 on 5, volunteer, attend an afterparty, and they just know that it is only a matter of time before you share their devotion to the sport. They travel all together in vans and hand out fliers and live by their own set of rules because they know the truth and if you would just listen for a second, and take this jello shot and maybe put on a pair of fishnets, you would know the truth too. Derby for life, bitches.

When I first heard about derby wives, I didn't really get it.
Was it a lesbian thing? Because this is roller derby, after all.

And yes, lesbians do have derby wives of course - but thank god, the straight/bi/transsexual girls can have them too. I don't think guys involved with roller derby have derby wives, but I'll look into that and get back to you. Like I said before, we are a very open-minded group.

As with most things related to roller derby - it's all a bit hard to explain. You kinda have to be there to understand how perfectly responsible women - adults - can put on a pair of roller skates and come unglued. Because it just defies all reason. One minute, you are a mother of two with a minivan and a mortgage and a master's degree, and the next minute you are half naked at a bar with people signing your tits and doing shots of tequila out of your bellybutton.

Not that I know about this from personal experience.

And this sort of mayhem is exactly why derby wives are a good idea. Derby wives serve many, many purposes - on and off the track. From keeping tabs on your whereabouts to holding your drink/purse/skate bag during potty breaks, applying makeup before bouts and holding back your hair while you puke afterwards, sharing beds, meals, and gorilla tape, running interference with weirdos and supporting each other in all things derby. It's not necessarily romantic, more of a mutual commitment to each other and the sport, and participating in the sport together.

Some teammates have chosen permanent derby wives - partners on and off skates, united in their love for derby and mutual admiration of each other - while others are still single, either because they haven't met that special someone, or because they are desperately planning a proposal that could possibly top this one, the derby proposal upon which all other proposals are based:

We traveled to another island for a bout this weekend, moving as a group - "the amoeba effect" we called it - ensuring our safety and keeping us on schedule. Taking it further, those of us who did not have a derby wife were partnered up with "temporary" wives, to share a room, be sure no one got left behind, and have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that everyone had someone looking out for their physical and emotional well-being.

It all started out so well. And it all went downhill from there.

My failings as a derby wife became clear when my wife woke up covered in black permanent marker signatures. I will say this - I was *also* covered in black marker. And the trouble began long before someone broke out the jumbo-sized Sharpie.

The bout itself was a blur of tension and excitement, the venue filled with a very devoted home town fan base - and not our hometown. And after the game we reconnected in the parking lot before heading to the afterparty. We needed to let off some steam. As afterparties go, this one was spectacular: it had an outdoor bar with a smoking area, they set up a buffet o'fajitas in a back room, the band was paying Violent Femmes covers, and there was a tray of jello shots. Actually, there was more than one tray.

And that? That right there? THAT is where the trouble began.

I personally did not have any jello shots, because I had a plan: two drinks, and then switch to water. I followed that plan but the plan did not allow for dehydration, an empty stomach, and the ridiculous amount of aloha being passed around. At some point, I ended up dancing between a couple that may or may not have been happy about my presence in their derby sandwich. The entire episode was well documented and I am pretty sure I can never hold an elected office now that the debauchery has been aired publicly. It was a long night, but the next morning as my poor wife lay on the bed while I straddled her and attempted to scrub off the ink with a baby wipe between sips of water, I realized that as terrible as I felt and as surely as I had failed her by not preventing the body graffiti, I had no regrets.

Well, maybe a few regrets. Maybe that I hadn't had a few more wives to help keep my shirt on.
It takes a village. Or rather, a family.

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