Tuesday, September 6, 2011

derby orphans

Friday last week, I was sitting at the dining room table of the most indomitable Stitch Rip-Her along with jammer killa Lacee Long Stalkin', having a bit of derby meeting and chit chat, while Stitch's four year old son and my boy played around us. Lacee, as much as she'd like to think of it as being out of character (though it's not so much while we're allowed to call her 'Lacee'), dropped the F-bomb shortly into the meeting. Immediately afterwards she registered the young ears in her presence and began to apologise to Stitch and I. To which we said, 'Phhtt, whatever.'

I don't want to make light of this, but the word 'fuck' isn't going to rattle either me or my kid.

Don't let that scare you.

I have a normalish family. We're actually pretty nice vegan nuclear-type, a boy and a girl, two cats, who mow their lawn and vote 'n shit.  The Man works out of the house and I work in it so I can be with our children.  I bake muffins and come up with clever ways to turn empty ketchup bottles into craft supplies.  It's all very Leave it To Beaver, assuming Ward and June had tattoos, facial piercings and enjoyed the occasional zombie apocalypse on the big screen.

In addition to being mama, wife and pack mule, I also am an athlete.  Okay, I don't look like Sporty Spice and I don't wear yoga pants on the school run but I do play a sport and spend a ridiculous amount of time practicing, thinking, writing, studying, and playing it.  Under all this mama softness is some serious muscle.

Me NSOing.  Rudeness comes complimentry to the main service.
Photo by Anthony Canada

So, okay, my sport is sort of on the fringe culture-wise.  There are many things said about derby and the most often used terms in the media are fishnets and bitches.  Of course, us skaters know better.  I have met many smart, dedicated and insanely tough women (and a couple of men too) playing derby but I've yet to meet a 'rollergirl', that vampy cartoon nurse/housewife turn violent vixen at night.  So, it's a good thing derby kids live with real women, not caricatures, because then they truly would be orphans.  Even if real women (shockingly even ones who do not play roller derby) do say the c/f/s/d-words occasionally.

Kids come along with derby like stink comes with wristguards.  Sometimes they're at the arena but mostly they are at home watching mom do planks during Sponge Bob, or rifling through the derby drawer trying to find just the right fishnets to play ballerina dress up.  They are the witnesses to the behind the scenes action.  The hard work involved in moving butt cheeks two inches higher during the first six months of practice, the healthy breakfasts and protein smoothie snacks.  They are the ones failing to give mom any privacy in the bathroom while she reads the WFTDA rule book.  They hear the long laments about how no body can figure out how to make tights that don't cause muffin-top and see the hours doing paperwork, phoning sponsors and vendors, stuffing goodie bags or whatever it is that mom does extra for her league.

Hard work, reading rules, healthy eating, exercising... uh-oh, derby might start losing its bad-ass image if I keep revealing its secrets.

Stitch Rip-Her on the jammer line
Photo by Argent Dawn Photography

Alright, kids also pick up a few other things.  Derby orphans may occasionally hip check their friends as a sign of affection.  They tell grandma that mama can't come to the phone because she's halfway stuck in her sports bra, getting ready to hit some bitches.  The may decide to play 'blocker' to you when they don't want you to walk away from them and 'jammer' if they don't want you to catch them at bedtime.  They may decide to poke your bruises to get back at you after you make them shampoo their hair.

Kids always learn from sports.  Playing and watching.  Think of mainstream sports like hockey, wrestling, baseball and football.  They learn teamwork, hard work, preparation, self esteem, humility, how to sweat and give an effort to be proud of.  They learn they are strong and capable.  And they learn other things.  Like smack talk and disrespect of officials and bullying of weaker players.  They learn their job is to 'Kill!'  Oh, and do their best.  They learn to run out in the streets and randomly trash shit because their team lost.  Or because their team won.  It's a religion, it's the only way to make a parent proud, it's another way you'll never fit in.

Roller derby has the potential to teach any of those things to our youngest people.  It can be good or bad.  Usually it's a mix of both.  But it is up to us, the kids are paying attention, and even if there is no child around, you are probably talking to a mama (either now or in the future).  What impression are you giving?  What's your main message?

It's up to us, bitches.  How's it gonna be?

Here's my suggestions:  We show them our sweat leads to more play time and our dedication leads to self respect.  We show them how to fail gracefully and then pick themselves up and try again.  We show them how to work cooperatively to run a league and to respect strength and integrity in others, whether they be your teammates or not.  We speak well of each other, focusing on encouraging and raising spirits, and not worrying if the occasional shit or fuck works its way through the conversation.

All this positive stuff and we get to hit bitches too?  How fucking rad is our sport?!

The boy assuming his camera pose.  Wonder where he got this idea from?
Photo by mama


  1. I love this post Malady! It's so true!! People are always apologizing for swearing around my 9 and 12 year old.... like they have never heard it before... haha. My ex husband swore like a trucker, instead of trying to stop it, I explained it all to my kids so they would understand why daddy swears, but they shouldn't... A bit hypocritical, but isn't most interaction between parents and kids? I haven't had a problem with my kids swearing till now... my son is 12. That's about when I started thinking it was cool to swear... HAHA. Thanks for this post anyway.

  2. Well even my husband has commented on my colorful language upgrade since I started derby 2 years ago.I cringe when I use it sometimes as I never even meant to inject it into the sentence in the first place.I find it quite contagious and really make an effort to curb it.I do not allow myself to swear AT people however.Being a little older than the median derby age I was brought up that this resulted in fist fights more often than not.It also results in hurt feelings and burnt bridges which is often a regrettable offense when cooler heads prevail.So I will try and remember the little ears and perfection eludes me...but will still apolagize if I swear in front of your kids..or your mother for that matter..

  3. I love you and your nuclear family and your writing style. So much awesome! <3

  4. Sporty Spice? Really???

    I've always sworn, probably more now than say ten years ago but my cuss repertoire increased magnificiently once I became a midwife, even more so when I went to Scotland and spent a drunken weekend with some crazy Scotitish midwives.
    Two of my most favourite insults which aren't thaaaaat bad of swear words are 'knob jockey' and 'cockwomble'. Do you think they would transfer ok in the States cos here in England, those words make people snigger.

  5. ok, i'm just gonna come out and say it - i love you! thanks for posting about the "orphans". i'm divorced and 2 practice nights i can be kid free. but on the 3rd night i tote my 4 year old daughter along with as do several of my teammates. cora is constantly practicing hip checks and shoulder checks on her dad as well as explaining that elbows aren't cool. she likes to work out with us and does mountain climbers better than most of my teammates. i can't imagine playing a sport where i couldn't involve her. and serious i like how you think.

  6. I love it! GREAT article..I have a four year old who has always had a big vocab and a parrot..I have tried to not swear around her but sometimes it happens..specially at practice..I have found that if people make a BIG deal about the f bomb slipping out make it worse..she picks up on it..if they just keep moving with the sentence or lack there of LOL..it doesn't skip a beat..she does not pick up on it! Kids will hear them later in life anyways why not use the opportunity to teach our kids what is appropriate and what is not for them. Adults have alot more freedoms than children because we are adults..payed the time!

  7. Thanks all!

    Last night we spent a lovely evening with two friends who we have always blamed for any foul language that may have creeped out of our children's mouths. They are not derby peeps and they ruined my kids' cuss innocence long before I joined derby. Now I derby just to counteract their influence :D

    sniffandsnort, being from Canada I already know many knob jockeys but I'm going to bring up cockwomble at the next parent/teacher night and see if they will kick my kid back into homeschooling ;)

    Anon, I always tell my kids that I have earned the right to swear while giving them life. When they do the same, then they can also substitute the term 'asshole' for 'motor vehicle operator' with impunity.

  8. can i just say, thank you! i skate and i'm on the board and i do derby 20+ hours a week on top of working full time. my house is a dirty fucking filthy disaster pile, but i cram in as many baby cuddles as i can. my kid is going to grow up knowing that mom doesn't have to ask permission to go out and do anything! XO

  9. I love you. that is what I have to say. I swear in front of my children, alot. They go to derby with me and hear even more swearing, what parts of the anatomy is getting hit, ass grabs, tit grabs, and various other things. My 9 year old does derby, she is strong, smart, beautiful and different than other girls in her school. She is ok with that because she was taught by all the women she has been around in derby that different is awesome. She is more at ease with her derby family than her real family. Thank you for pointing out that derby is awesome and it's ok for kids to be part of it.

  10. I love, love, love this article! Being a future derby mom myself, this is a great take on the moms of the sport.