Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ten Things I Learned...

I started this tradition, and I will keep it alive!

Ten Things I Learned this Weekend

10. I don't like traveling without my teammates. I missed all the derby gossip, conversations about sex, and Amyn and Cho yelling at me to pull up my pants.

9. Claiming to own 1/500 of The End Zone, Jean-Ralphio is alive and well in Huntsville, AL. (Okay, okay. I know a lot of you don't watch Parks & Rec...but if you did, you'd find this reference hilarious.) BZ put him in his place, and Amyn wants to beat him up.

8. Watching Lita land an awesome hit is like watching a cute, determined fairy flying out of the woods with a big stick and a grudge.

7. Blicker and Griff were awesome bench coaches...but they got a bit bossy afterwards. Not to worry-- Ziggy and I put them in their place.

6. I couldn't help but feel a sense of grandiose satisfaction when I was jamming and blocked the other jammer to the floor. It may never happen again, so I'm going to chase that feeling.

5. Signing a stranger's book for the first time was both elating and slightly embarassing. (More elating than embarassing.) I felt like a real writer!

4. I knew Monroe-lling would do awesome jamming, but she was also a badass blocker. I want her to block for me all the time!

3. "Put your body where the words should go" is the best derby advice I've ever heard. (Thank you, Villianelle!)

2. It doesn't matter if people show up to watch. It doesn't matter if the next bout will supposedly be "more exciting" than the first. It doesn't matter if you play well or if you play horribly. It's derby, and it's fun. Always.

1. BCR has started to come together as a team this season. OG's, Medium Rares, whatever...we are a team. If you play with fire, you're going to get burned!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Paper Flowers

I am sitting on the floor in Blicker's mother's bedroom, and I cannot give my final insulin injection of the day. My dog, Gatsby, sits beside me. Her brown eyes flit from my face to my stomach and back again and back again with worry. She knows I am hurting. I have poked the tip of the needle into my stomach six, seven, eight times. The needle will not break my skin. Little droplets of blood dot my stomach like a living, breathing pointilism piece of art.

I suppose I deserve this.

I refuse to give my injections anywhere but my stomach. I have a custom watercolor blend of blue, black, and brown to the right of my belly button. That's my spot. That's where I always poke, prod, and plunge. My needled hand gravitates toward the space with magnetic force. I can see the spot, and I can feel the needle slide into my stomach fat. I know what getting an injection there feels like: usually as smooth as a knife through soft clay. Tonight the clay is, unfortunately, a hard baked ball beneath my skin.

I don't ever showcase that bruise.

My derby bruises, however, are works of art I am proud to display. Courtesy of tonight's bout, I already have a circular bruise (with a bloody tear) on my left thigh. My left foot was practically crushed in a pileup that I tumbled over like spilling paint. On my right thigh, a small navy circle tattoos my skin with someone's toe stop. I love touching the texture of these intricate bruises. I love feeling the inconsistency of red rink rash bumps. I feel a sick sense of euphoria when I run my fingers over the goose eggs that might break the skin at any moment.

I am proud of those bruises. I worked for them. I earned them. They are beautiful.

The bruise on the stomach, however, shames me. I stand in front of Blicker's mother's full-length mirror and look at the reflection of failed impressionistic art near my belly button. I shouldn't feel any sort of sadness, I tell myself. We won our bout that evening by over 200 points. 200 points! We obliterated the other team! I jammed, I blocked, and I kicked ass! Hopefully our Derby South ranking will improve! I sold all of my books! We skated, we conquered, and we partied!

I just survived a face-first tumble over a pile of skaters! I just survived two toe stop flicks to my shins! I just survived a skater accidentally shoving the canvas of her crotch in my face when we tripped over one another!

And now here I stand, a nude model with a bare, unused needle on the carpeted floor. I investigate my leg bruises to boost my self-esteem. You took these, I tell myself. Now just give yourself a goddamned injection. You do this four, five, six times a day. Get a grip.

Gatsby whimpers.

I am too tired to keep trying. I want to take my freshly showered self and crawl onto the memory foam mattress that Blicker's mom is letting us enjoy. I want to think about how good it felt to win; i want to think about how groovy Beatrix Killa was in the halftime dance contest; I want to think about how no one on our team gave up, despite our large lead.

And now I am giving up. I am putting down the paintbrush and calling it quits.

For the past couple of weeks, I have been preaching to our fresh meat that no one on Burn City ever gives up or quits. Never. Don't even think about it.

Yet with no one around but my dog and my reflection, I am ready to incur a super high blood sugar in the morning so that I don't have to try again. I am doing exactly what I said that no one on our team would ever do. I am disappointing myself, and I am proving myself wrong.

Here I stand, a bruised slab of marble, ready to break apart and crumble to the ground.

I throw on an old t-shirt, underwear, and pants. I don't want to look at these bruises anymore. I don't want to think about them.

Still, I can't convince myself to hop onto the memory foam or leave the bedroom. Thinking about letting my team down, even when they aren't around, is going to cause all of those bruises to burst and morph into a bad Jackson Pollock knockoff. I can't let that happen, no matter how badly that needle hurts.

I plunge the insulin from the old needle back into the vial of insulin. I scrounge around my purse until I find a new, clean syringe. I pull thirty units out of the vial, and I try again. I press the needle into the left side of my stomach: nothing. Gatsby eyes flit from my face to my stomach and back again and back again with worry. I take a breath and try again. And again. And again. I close my eyes and visualize how many times I jammed around the pack this evening. I did that. I made those points happen.

And finally, the needle slides into my stomach. The insulin burns as I push the plunger all the way. My hands are shaking, and I am biting my tongue. When I pull my t-shirt down over my stomach, the blood soaks through the fabric and blooms like a paper tulip.

I know that tomorrow, I will have a brand new work of art gracing my stomach. One that I will not show. One that I gave myself. One that may never fade. One that guarantees I am far less fragile than I imagined.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Happy Suuuuunnnnnndayyyy tooooo youuuuu!

Someone hum the theme from Superwoman, Cho says. We have just finished the first practice of season three. Cho, Amyn, and I are the only veterans to lace up our Sunday morning skates. I’m not sure if I should feel intimidated or excited that a new group of girls outnumbers the vets. We splay onto our stomachs, stretch our arms in front of us, and lift our skates from the dingy floor. We are attempting to hold this pose for two minutes; I can feel the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and Christmas cherry pie rolling around in my gut like an errant skate wheel.

There isn’t a Superwoman, BZ replies. She and her girlfriend, Saintly Vicious, have encyclopedic comic book knowledge. I wonder if they quiz each other as they fall asleep. Green Lantern? No, it was the Silver Streak. But there is, she continues, Supergirl.

Well, someone hum the theme from Supergirl, Cho insists. Does she have a theme?

BZ scrunches her face and looks stumped.

Fuck it, I’m just going to hum the Superman theme. Just pretend like it’s Superwoman. Cho pauses. Supergirl. Whatever her name is. We’ve already been holding this banana pose for thirty seconds, so I’m just going to do it.

Cho hums. The song sounds familiar…too familiar to be the Superman theme song. Shit! Cho interrupts herself. That’s Star Wars!

Definitely not Supergirl. Or Superman, I add.

Fine, then, let’s sing “Happy Sunday.” Twice.
Cho's looks flustered as she holds her banana pose. Before the singing commences, Cho rocks her banana back and forth.

Cho and I belt out Happy Sunday to you! Happy Sunday to you! Happy Sunnnnday to yooooouuuu…happy Sunday to you! Cho takes the high harmony. The two of us sound like prepubescent frogs. I notice that none of the others sing along; though most of the girls were not around that ancient Sunday when we initiated the song, Amyn certainly was.

You know I don’t sing that shit, Amyn says with her trademark smirk. You all go right ahead. One of us has to stay sane.

We have been holding the banana pose for two minutes. Maybe more. You know how people say that pain is weakness leaving the body? Cho asks. She deflates from the banana pose, and the rest of us follow. I’m pretty sure for me that pain is ice cream leaving the body. I try not to giggle, but one leaks onto the rink and lands beside a gum wrapper.

Why are you always making fun of me? Cho asks. She throws a wrist guard at my leg. Her wrist guard smells like vinegar, and I’m sure mine smells worse. I don’t say anything; I usually just let Cho keep talking in these circumstances. I told my friend, by the way, Cho continues, that you think I’m the female Michael Scott. He thinks that I should be offended.

Offended? Michael Scott has floated a failing paper company for seven seasons now. I think it’s a compliment.

I sense that I need more than a failing fictional paper company to convince Cho that I find her whimsy and sparkle quite admirable. Well, actually, Blicker and I were saying that you are actually more like Amy Poehler on Parks and Rec. Leslie, that’s her name. She’s smarter than Michael, but still…quirky.

Cho’s mouth curves from a straight line to a semi smile. I sense that she is not quite appeased.

Oh, hell. I just can’t stop myself. But you know? Admitting to me that someone else thinks you should be offended that I call you the female Michael Scott is a very Michael Scott thing to do.

Cho throws her helmet at me. Lovingly, of course.

Amyn rolls her eyes. Lovingly, of course.

Welcome to season three.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Ahhhhhh! Escape of the Terrible Tutu!

Derby has turned me into a materialistic, ostentatious piece of ruffled ass.

Before I started skating, I wore gray, black, and brown to school almost every day; my gym clothes were no different. I sported black pants, black shorts, black t-shirts, and one red t-shirt that I got for free when I joined.

I didn’t want to stand out. I didn’t want anyone to notice me. I wasn’t unconfident; I just wanted to blend into the gym walls. I wanted to swing my legs back and forth on the elliptical, blankly staring at a television or magazine page. Sometimes, I would even wear my headphones without my iPod, just so everyone would know that I didn’t want to talk about calorie counting. I didn’t want to hear boar grunts. I didn’t want to make any friends. I didn’t even want anyone to look my direction.

I lost about twenty pounds that way. Of course, twenty pounds wasn’t enough, so when I would come back post-workout to my tilted trailer, I would eat nothing but lettuce leaves and a hundred calorie ice cream popsicle. Soon I had lost twenty-one pounds, twenty-two, twenty-three…but I still didn’t want to be noticed physically. I hid in my black, brown, and gray clothes. I looked great, but I felt tired. Cranky. Miserable if I missed a workout. Cruel to myself if I didn’t do at least an hour of cardio and half an hour of plyometrics.

When I started derby, I gained thirty pounds. I have no idea why. My eating habits were consistent, I still worked out, and I was getting more exercise than I did before. Of course, it could have been the prescription of antidepressants. It could have been that I was unknowingly “feeding insulin.” (In other words, injecting myself with too much insulin and later having to stuff sugar and carbs in my mouth to stay alive. It’s a vicious cycle.) It could have been that I was turning twenty-seven, and my body was preparing me for the brutal snowstorm of my thirties. I have no idea.

I don’t know where the weight came from, but it returned right where it belonged: my stomach and enormous boobs. It was back, and it was here to stay.

But without me even realizing it, something else about my appearance had changed. The brightly colored tights, floofy tutus, and booty shorts crept up on my body more slowly than the weight, but they were there too. There to stay.

Soon, my closet was overflowing with tangled tights, fishnets, striped booty shorts, ruffle panties, and a pair of kitty cat ears to wear for pictures and bout introductions. (I know, I know, my name has nothing to do with cats…but I am kind of obsessed with them.) Every practice and bout became an opportunity for me to put together an outfit in a way that I had never done with regular clothing. Do highlighter yellow tights go with a black sport skort and that red shirt I got from the gym? No. Did highlighter yellow tights go with a black sport skort and turquoise jersey? Why, yes! Of course!

And you know what? I discovered that an obsession with image had been a latent part of my personality all along, and it wasn’t a bad thing. I wasn’t the greatest skater when I started (and I’m still not), but I thrived from the attention my boutfits got. Don’t get me wrong; I am not one of those Myspace derby girls who only join the team because it’s the cool, alternative thing to do. I did, and will continue, to work hard and strive to improve.

I just want to look hella good doing it, extra thirty pounds or not.

These days, I want people to notice me.

Of course, having an ultra bright, flamboyant boutfit makes it easier for opposing blockers to knock the glitter right off the tutu. Still, I just can’t let my short lime green petticoat go. (Unless we play Knoxville, of course. I learned my lesson the first time on that one.) I cringe at league meetings when girls bring up the idea of dressing alike at every bout. I cringe harder when they want us all to wear black shorts. (Why can’t we all wear cute turquoise ruffle panties?)

I won’t say that derby has given me the confidence to wear my underwear outside my tights. In some ways, derby has made me less confident. However, derby opened up a new part of my personality that was, um, slightly brighter than I imagined.

These days, I have an edgy, asymmetrical haircut. I tend to buy regular clothing in a rainbow of colors. Sometimes, I even wear blue eye shadow to work. I don’t mind that my mom’s coworkers alert her when I change my facebook profile picture to me with one panty on my head and one under my tutu. I don’t mind when my mom calls and asks me why I decided to dress that way. (Though I have told her that my boutfits cover way more than a bathing suit would.)

My teammate, Ziggy Bloodlust, told me that one night, she browsed through all of the Burn City Rollers’ pictures. Start to finish. She said to me 9, when you started, you looked so…young. Now you look so much more womanly.

I just smiled and gave myself a little pat on my materialistic, ostentatious piece of ruffled ass.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Every Now and Then

I am in the bathtub. The water is cold and will be shut off tomorrow. I haven’t had the money to pay the bill. Everything but my face is completely immersed in the chilly, indifferent bath water.

I drug the computer into the bathroom, all because I wanted to listen to my Bright Eyes Pandora radio station. The first song that grows from the green plush rug is “Untitled (Lovers Turn Into Monsters).”

How appropriate, I think. Of course this song would play. Bright Eyes reminds me of almost every single guy who ever fucked me over and tore my heart to tiny shards of ripped

I am almost, if not completely, certain that beer does nothing for me…except cause the overdramatic piece of my brain to fill up and completely spill over.

I start crying. I don’t know why. My tears warm the bathwater.

Blicker stayed at the Indie. He told me that he wanted to hang out some more. I was tired from skating, dancing, singing, drinking, and getting a lap dance. On my drive home, I convinced myself that Blicker wanted to stay at the bar because he knew a bunch of random girls there. I swear sometimes that he has dated (or almost dated) every girl in Auburn.

The night began sweatier and happier. After practice, some of the team went to The Independent for beer and indie-rock karaoke. (Indie-rock karaoke, I discovered, is basically the same as regular karaoke, only with a separate page at the end. Label? NEW. The number of NEW songs drops in at about thirteen, and I could swear that I have heard all those songs on the radio, minus one.)

It only took Cho a couple sips of Jack and Coke before she was ready for her highly anticipated rendition of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

9 and Ziggy you haaaaaaaaaaave to come up there with me and just dance or something, Cho begged from the stage as she struggled with the mic. The mic made thud thud sounds as it slid through the stand. I don’t want to do this anymore, Cho whimpered. I’m scared.

Earlier, Cho had shown us a magic trick. She pretended to put a coin through the back of her neck, and then coughed the quarter up from her throat. Turns out, as Ziggy noticed, the coin was in the crook of her elbow the entire time. Cho said that the trick really impressed kids, and I am certain that it did. I didn’t see anything but giggles come from her elbow.

Ziggy and I agreed to go onstage with Cho, but we made a pact first. Just stand there and stay really stoic, Ziggy instructed me. Don’t crack a smile. When I look at you, then we’ll crossover behind Cho.

I wish I could have upheld the pact, but I admit: I faltered once or twice, mostly because Cho did the Old School version of the song. She substituted freakin/fucking/fuggin at every possible opportunity. Still, I was impressed that Cho covered the song as well as she did. I mean, it was Bonnie Tyler, after all.

At the theatrical close of "Total Eclipse," Ziggy and I (stoically) made a short line behind Cho. When Cho belted out her final note, she threw her hips backward and her hands in the air. Her hips hit my cup of Shocktop, sending beer all over my face and the stage. I felt like instead of a standing atop a beer-soaked stage at a nearly empty bar, I was at a raucous concert gone wrong. I felt like I was making up for all those quiet teenage afternoons I spent in the library, or all those times I convinced myself that meekness was a necessary approach to every situation.

I don’t think there could have been a more appropriate ending to the girl-friendly power ballad than the hip thrusts and flying sloshes of beer.

The song eclipsed the bar that night. After Cho’s performance, more drinks went down our throats and made us crazy. Insane. Blicker sang Bob Seger’s “Against the Wind,” in a gravelly voice that I’d never heard him use before. Seedy Elle danced all the spilled beer off the stage. Beatrix Killa played an invisible bass-accordion-guitar-ukulele for each BCR member who attempted to sing.

The climax of the evening came when Cho did a somersault on the stage. I didn’t know she could do a somersault. I was glad that she was still wearing her tights from practice.

Cho is the goofiest, most loveable person in my life at the moment.

After Blicker handed me my third beer, my derby wife Skully approached me from behind. Some cute, gay guy from Hair Expo was singing “Beauty School Dropout.” Skully's hot breath in my ear startled me.

I just wanted to tell you, Skully said, that Ziggy is going to give you a lap dance.

I looked at her with my left eye squinted. My left eye has always been my suspicious eye.

I just thought you should know, she said in her best neutral voice.

I didn’t know what the fuck was going on anymore. The room spun like a carousel in my head, the band posters and fliers replacing colorful horses, camels, and unicorns. We could have been in California, New York City, or Auburn, Alabama. We could have been a roller derby team, or we could have been a handful of escaped criminals. We could have been senseless drunks, or we could have been savant singers, dancers, and magicians. I just couldn’t tell.

The lap dance, I discovered, also involved Cho. While Ziggy grinded her ass on my thighs, Cho shook her butt next to my leg. I’m not very good at this, Cho admitted. I lost any stoicism that I so earnestly began the evening with. Ziggy leaned back, put her head on my neck, and stroked my hair.

If any of this seems sexual, it wasn’t. It all seemed completely normal. Expected, even.

Just another night in Burn City.

After the lap dance, the tiredness hit me like one of those anomalous microphone thuds. Skating. Dancing. Singing. (If that’s what you want to call it, commented the smug karaoke operator. I don’t recall the song.) Drinking. Receiving a lap dance.

And now here I lie in a chilly bath, listening to songs that weren’t on the indie-rock karaoke list.

I don’t think I can move my arms or legs.

I don’t think I can feel the water anymore.

I hear the rush of the faucet backgrounding the radio. I can’t stop crying, and I don’t know why.

Turn around, I think before I sink my head completely under. Bright Eyes. Every now and then I fall apart.

Monday, March 28, 2011



Fall forgets the South; just leaves her
in a pile of red clay and roots.

While wind strips Northern trees naked,
the sun beats Alabama dry.

As I sleep to field cricket chirps,
the dust crusts my eyes like sand.

Here, the geography flatlines
like a dying man; horizons

stack in vast rows of tomorrows,
while I wait for zephyrs to blow

past my face and breathe relief
into a baked soul and hardened eyes.

Spring forgot the South, too. And now
I stand in the center and wait

for the first magnolias to bloom.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Waist Land

The Waist Land

My curves are bad tonight. Sloppy, ugly. Sleep with me.
Comfort me. Why must you leave the lights on?
Quiet. Say nothing more.
Are you thinking of my bruised breasts? My paunch? My ass?
They fill your hands like pudding, like wet rags.
I never know what you are thinking when we touch.
I think we are in some B movie
where the actress has lost her mind.
Why there? Why my hip? Don’t grip me there.
I feel nothing.

The cuts on my arm.
They quit bleeding minutes ago. Why touch them? Why try?
Nothing, again nothing.

Do you understand why? Why I can’t let you inside?
You don’t know the disgust. The horror of my body.
Don’t you see these things? Don’t you remember how we saw
that blonde girl, and that skinny girl, and that girl with slim ankles?
The perfect ones. Don’t you remember?

I remember well.
I remember well,
my brown eyes like bronzed cinnamon,
you asking “Are you okay? Are you okay?
Are. You. Okay?” No, no, I mean, yes.
Just stuck in the drawers of my brain,
always these papers in my head,
ready to blow through the room like rotting leaves.


O O O that Elliott Smith waltz--
It’s so saddening,
so maddening.
I shall not dress. I shall not paint myself as a doll.
What should I do now? What should I do?
I might rush out as I am, breasts, ass bouncing.
I might walk the avenues and curse the streets,
my hair showing so. What will I do tomorrow?
What will we ever do?

A hot shower at ten,
and, if it rains, we fuck at four.
I shall lie there naked,
pressing printless thumbs in fatty flesh,
waiting for you to come.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I need a hero! I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night!

Oh, Maggie Mayhem from Whip It. How ironically inspiring and heroic you were when you said "Put on some skates. Be your own hero."

Lately, I've heard a lot of derby girls here and there discussing their derby heroes. (Heroines? Whatever.) For those unfamiliar with derby, there are many categories and subcategories of skater relationships. There's the "derby crush." There's the "derby wife," the "derby mistress," and the "interleague derby wife." These could all be separate posts, and I'm sure I'm forgetting many.

And then, there's the ultimate. The best. The Derby Hero.

When I first joined Burn City Rollers, someone had me fill out this info thing. I didn't know blurp about roller derby at the time, so I was unfamiliar with the derby bios, alter-egos, etc. I didn't know I was supposed to know that Rice Rocket took a ride on Beyonslay. I didn't know I was supposed to admire this bad ass chick named Iron Maven, who conveniently bore a striking resemblance to Juliette Lewis.

So under the "Heroes" section of my questionnaire, I put The Amazing Delores. The Amazing Delores, which kind of sounds like a derby name, was actually this really insane bluesy/gospel singer from Charleston, WV, who loved leopard print and telling gay guys about Jesus. When I saw that everyone else on my team had actually listed derby girls for heroes, I thought to myself Oops. I hope know one notices.

I've had heroes before. When I twirled, my hero was this girl named Mandy Blank. She was uhmazing. When she dropped her baton, she would actually look at the judges or crowd and make them believe that the drop was actually in her routine. Mandy had spectacular tricks and professional showmanship. I wanted to be just like her.

Unfortunately, she was blonde, skinny, and well, a way better twirler than I was. She was also destined for semi-fame. (See video.)

I don't have to have a derby hero, but goddammit, I want one! I want to find someone with a similar body type and playing style whom I can look up to. I want to have that hero to challenge me. I want that hero so I can strive to be better.

Who knows this better than Bonnie Tyler? I feel you, Bonnie.

I need a hero! I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night! She's got to be strong, she's gotta be fast, and she's gotta be fresh from the fight!

So if you see or know of a derby girl who is around 5'00, has huge boobs, and lots of determination, let me know. :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


You know, not to be too nosey, but you should get a couple of enormous tattoos or something, my chiropractor says as he pulls my left arm over my chest and pushes me into the brown, cushy table. The table, if it had wrist cuffs, would seem like it belonged in a mental institution. Sometimes I feel that a mental institution would be a more appropriate place for me to be.

I know, I say with a sigh. I’m just too much of a Girl Next Door, I suppose. In image, anyway. As my back cracks like a twig, I notice the Christian prayers and degenerate pictures of spines posted all over the office walls. There must be a connection, I think. Jesus would have probably needed a chiropractor after carrying that cross for so long.

The chiropractor instructs me to shift my legs to the other side of the table. Slowly.

So what makes a Girl Next Door like you join a roller derby team? the chiropractor asks.

I don’t really know how to respond to that question. Oh, I could give plenty answers. I could say, I was looking for something bigger than myself. I was trying to get out of a bad relationship with a boy named Keegan, and I needed something to fill my spare time. I was coerced by an officemate who quit the team after one practice and doesn’t talk to me anymore. I spent my spare time hanging out with my cat and trying to cut bangs in my hair with regular scissors. I didn’t have any friends and my life was shit.

None of these seem like answers he wants to hear.

I pause as he presses his chest to mine, cracking my upper back like a loose tooth.

When Keegan and I broke up, joining the derby team wasn’t my only act of post-breakup rebellion. I finally went to a stylist to get my hair cut. I asked for an “edgy” look, but all I ended up with were layers that drooped like weeping willows. I bought new sweaters for my teaching classes. Of course, none of them slouched off my shoulder or revealed any cleavage the way I imagined they would. I bought new flat shoes, but they were white. Plain white. Not even any ribbons, bows, or shiny ecoutrement. I was still the simple little Suzi-Q (who always left the room when Keegan smoked pot) that I was before the breakup.

And then, I pierced my lip. I figured the piercing would do the job; the piercing would take me from Girl Next Door to Motherfucking Badass of the Year. My former teammate, Lucy, went with me. Two of the refs, one that I ended up dating a couple of months afterwards, accompanied us crazy derby girls so we could decorate our faces with painful metal baubles.

What no one knew about me, Little Miss West Virginia Hometown Beauty Queen Runner-up, was that I had always wanted to pierce my lip. I especially wanted my lip pierced because I had a habit of biting my bottom lip before I fell asleep. The pain soothed me more than a backrub. The downside was, of course, that the bites created white, visible bumps where lipstick should have been. But piercing my lip would make my transformation happen. I would go from Sweet Lil' Suzibumpkins to a sledgehammer. The piercing would make me too cool to have ever dated Keegan in the first place.

Even though I’m a diabetic and I have been giving myself injections for years, I’m scared of other people with needles. Terrified. I don’t trust them. I don’t want them near me.

But this time, I had to. I had to let that girl pull a needle through my lip, right through one of those white spots. I claimed it didn’t hurt, but it did. It hurt way worse than when I would bite my lip until it bled. It hurt way worse than that fall I took at the previous week’s practice when I busted my chin on the floor.

Afterwards, I looked like the Girl Next Door who took a dare or lost a bet. My derby wife at the time laughed because I had to pull my bottom lip over my mouth guard to ensure protection. No longer could I just pop in the good ole MG and start skating. Now I had to think about it. I had to think about that instead of being a Motherfucking Badass of the Year, I was the girl on the pivot line who had to make a silly, laughable scene when inserting my mouth guard.

Oh, and the piercing itched. It itched like a repeated bee sting.

Keegan hated it. Of course he did. I didn’t care. I wanted him to hate it. I wanted him to think that he had no idea who I really was. (In addition, I busted out one of his door windows with my fist. A lip ring and busting a window! Obviously, he had no idea who the real Suzanne 9lb Hammer Samples was!)

The real problem, as I can see in retrospect, is that I didn’t know who I really was. Was I that Girl Next Door who acquiesced to the needs of friends, animals, and homeless people who couldn’t afford my Chinese leftovers? Or was I the skater chic, the badass, the pierced brick wall who wasn’t going to let anyone, even a guy I’d dated for four fucking years, take me down?

When the lip ring got infected, I had no choice but to take it out and let my lip heal.

I had to let myself heal, too.

I became happy with being somewhere in-between.

I became okay with being the teacher in the plain white flats and the roller girl whose favorite pack phrase became Get the fuck off of me.

I became okay with not having monstrous tattoos painting my body.

I don’t know, I finally respond to the chiropractor’s question. I was just ready to try something new.

As I roll to my side and sit up from the bed, I see a faded picture of Jesus, his hands bleeding profusely from the nails. I'm definitely okay with not being quite that badass, I think. Thankfully, the only person I will ever have to save is myself.

That's me, bottom row center. Love the hair.

Monday, March 21, 2011

We are Here (excerpt from my derby memoir, Hammered)

No one is going to come and kill us with a knife, Amyn says. I haven’t ate my chicken nuggets.

Cho, Amyn, and I are driving around some neighborhood in Chattanooga. A neighborhood where we shouldn’t be. We are looking for a vegetarian restaurant/bar where the Chattanooga bout afterparty is taking place. Atrophied trees line the yards. Chain link fences scratch against one another. Enormous mixed breed dogs bark and cry like phantom soldiers. I look through the window, searching for the moon, but all I see is blackness. This dark, decrepit neighborhood does not look vegetarian friendly.

Maybe that’s why Amyn is convinced that when a potential killer sees her eating the chicken nuggets, he will drop the knife and set us free. Maybe she will even offer to share one with him.

That makes absolutely no sense, Amyn, Cho replies. There is no logic behind that. Chicken nuggets do not equal survival.

They could! Amyn insists.

I am sitting in the back seat, trying to listen to the GPS on my cell phone. Turn a slight left at the next stop sign, the lady repeats mechanically. Turn a slight left at the next stop sign. I am certain that Cho, the driver, has heard none of this. She’s punching Amyn in the arm, and she hasn’t even had a fourth of a beer yet. Usually a fourth of a beer is all that is required for Cho to start hitting.

Cho, turn a slight left at the next stop sign, I say.

Amyn, stop! You are going to give me another bruise, and I don’t even bruise easily. Obviously, Cho isn't listening to me.

I wonder if I should remind Cho that she beat Amyn like a punching bag through the entirety of Georgia. Good naturedly, of course.

Turn a slight left at the next stop sign. Turn a slight left at the next stop sign.

Cho! I yell.

Rerouting. We have angered the voice of the GPS. Rerouting. Rerouting. Turn right at the next fork in the road.

Wow. We were going to die. Not even the pissed GPS lady can save us from this post-bout horror movie.

To Amyn and Cho, I haven’t mentioned my familiarity with Chattanooga. Sure, I don’t know where we are at this second, but the trees, grass, and paint-chipped houses rewind my brain three years.
Three years ago when I was dating Keegan. Visiting him monthly. Me and my little Subaru, chugging hundreds of miles to find a love that never really loved back.

Most of mine and Keegan’s visits happened because I made them happen. I drove to Chattanooga, Tennessee, three times as much as he drove to Huntington, West Virginia. I should have known then that I was not the protagonist in that story.

I recognized the dirty white houses. I remembered the Tennessee River that smelled like a slightly decayed version of home. The mountain air that carried zephyrs of every conversation soul to soul. The reminder that once, someone pretended to love me here.

I knew him for ten years. We dated for four. He moved from Chattanooga to Auburn to be with me. To live in the same town. To see what it’s like to be a real couple. And we were a real couple—until, that is, he decided to knock up the fat waitress he worked with.

Today, the cherry blossoms in the medians of the main roads couldn’t help but grow through my ears and bloom out my nose with their sweet scent. A scent that reminded me of walking Keegan’s roommate’s dog in the spring. A scent that reminded me that Keegan loved Wilco as much as I did. (I hate them now, but that has nothing to do with him. Naturally.) A scent that reminds me how Keegan would slow down to walk beside me, even though he was a foot and two inches taller than I was.

I am thankful, I suppose, that the current conversation does not allow me to reminisce for long.
It just makes no sense for someone not to kill us because of your chicken nuggets, Cho repeats. It just makes no sense at all.

You’re wrong, Cho, Amyn says. You crazy vegetarians don’t know the power of this meat in my hand.
That’s what she said, I chime in. No one laughs. They expect this type of comment coming from the back seat.

Cho and Amyn, derby wives, have been picking at each other like little finches the entire ride from Auburn to Chattanooga. The paused briefly for the bout, but they started again when we got back in the car. Something about the way Amyn and I were shouting Cabs ahr heeere! T-shirt time! irritated Cho. I felt fortunate to be in the back, attempting to listen to the increasingly frustrated voice of the GPS.
Cho! I yell, louder this time. If you don’t turn right or left or something at the next fork in the road, we really are going to die. No chicken nugget will come even close to saving us, not even if we put them on chains and make them into necklaces. I don’t know what I meant by that.

It’s true, Amyn agrees.

Fork in the road? What is wrong with your GPS, 9? How am I supposed to know if it’s a fork in the road or just a little driveway or something? I mean, what the hell?

I sigh. Rerouting. Rerouting. Rerouting. Amyn takes a bite of her chicken nugget. Some fries fall to the floor like our jammers did earlier.

I was trying to tell you, but…you two were too busy beating the shit out of each other.

It’s Amyn’s fault, Cho accuses. Oh. My. God.

Turn left at Cherokee Boulevard, instructs the GPS. Unfortunately, instead of Cherokee, the GPS lady says Chair-oh-kee. This sends the car into giggles that fill the dark night with pleasant, if not slightly haunting, sounds. Our giggles grow leaves on those atrophied trees and sprinkle the blank sky with stars.

Oh my God! Cho exclaims. Chair-oh-kee Boulevard is where we are supposed to be!

It was the chicken nuggets, Amyn says.

When we pull into the restaurant, Cho’s car stalls. Someone’s phone buzzes with a text. For good measure, Amyn yells Cabs ahr here!

We are here. We are ready. We are here.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Love Hurts

You've heard it from a million padded, helmeted, mouth-guarded girls: Roller derby is empowering.

Unfortunately, roller derby is also devastating. Derby reveals your biggest, most skin-crawling, insecurities and vulnerabilities.

I wanted to start this season with a win. I wanted to start my first season as an official jammer by tallying up points on the board, by getting lead jammer, and by doing well for my team.

Instead, during our first season bout in Chattanooga, TN, I spent a third of the game crying, ten minutes of the game recovering from hitting my head on a concrete floor, and a third of the game in the locker room. Ejected. Gone.

This bout, there was a ref who had an issue with my mouth guard. When I play, I often pop my upper lip under the mouth guard to take a breath. This will last about a second, and then I pop my lip back over the mouth guard. Never does the mouth guard actually leave my mouth.

Unfortunately, the ref did not see it this way. I'm pretty convinced that he spent the entire game just glaring at my mouth. (I mean, the ref was doing his job...just a little too well...) Once, I even got two minutes in the penalty box because I popped my lip under the mouth guard on my way to the chair.

It was the most disappointed I've felt in myself, maybe ever. I ended up sitting in the box, as a jammer, seven times because of that mother flipping mouth guard. I had no other major penalties, and just a few minors. Every time my butt was in that penalty box, it was because of that mf'ing mg.

As most derby girls know, a jammer constantly in the box pretty much equals losing a bout. I just had to sit there and watch the Chattanooga jammer get grand slam after grand slam, all because I wasn't out there skating. All because the ref didn't like my mouth guard.

I felt like a failure to my team, and a failure to myself.

I know that I didn't lose the bout on my own. I just felt like I contributed to the loss a bit too much.

Before getting ejected because I'd spent seven trips in the box--all for this mouth guard hooey--I did put our team's first eight points on the board. I also had the opposing jammer hit me, fall on her ass, and make me seem like a semi-beast. However, it still feels really difficult to concentrate on the things about the bout that made me proud.

(Oh, and I also took that nasty fall on the concrete floor: Head first, Large second, ribs third. I was out of it for about twenty seconds. Turns out "bout day" isn't a good enough answer for the EMT when he asks "What day is it?")

After I'd accrued many majors and before my ejection, of course, I couldn't jam anymore. It was too much of a liability for our team. I was more than bummed. I was hurt. I was pissed. I was sitting on the floor crying like a ten year old who doesn't get the Princess Unicorn doll for Christmas. It was the first time during a bout that I really felt like giving up.

I didn't give up as a blocker, but I didn't do my best. Actually, I did pretty horrible. I felt defeated and awful. The worst thing was is that I knew I didn't really do anything wrong.

To be honest, I'm not sure where to go from here. (Besides getting a custom fitted mouth guard by a dentist in Nashville-- ref recommended.) I guess the only place to go is up, but I've lost some of that panache that I started with. I hope it comes back. I hope that I can stand on that jammer line with a fucking custom, bejeweled mouth guard and let all of those blockers come and try to take my deceptively small, cute butt down.

That seems more empowering than the hurt that happened last night.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lead Jammer (and a Jonas Brother!)

Hey, there. You're my hero.

I know what you're thinking. BCR's first bout of the season is tomorrow! This blog post is going to talk about nervous poos, road trips, and the best foods to eat before skating! Well, I think most of my friends have covered that, so I'm heading in a different direction:

Derby and diabetes.

If you've read my book, you're probably sick of hearing about that combination. If you haven't read my book, you should go to lulu.com right now, search for Pivot, and add my semi-fictional masterpiece (snicker) to your cart. Then after you press "PAY NOW," you should go smack your head against the wall for your previous, heinous disregard of literary genius. (Just kidding...but you really should buy it. It will help me out! It will help my team out! It will fill you with tears, laughter, and band names you've never heard of and don't care about!)

But anyway, I'm getting off topic. When I talk about diabetes, this tends to happen. It's serious. It's bothersome. It's really fucking annoying on bout days. It's something that scares me to talk about, because talking about it makes it real, and I don't want it to be real. When I write about diabetes, I like using the pronoun it. Not naming it makes it seem less absolute, and that makes me happy. (And yes, I am in counseling working out this 24 year denial. No worries there.)

On bout days, my blood sugar takes its own loops around the track, taunting me and telling me that I'm never going to make it through that pack. Due to stress and excitement, my blood sugar usually skyrockets to the 400 range, which is way too high. My legs tighten, I get extremely dehydrated, I have to pee more than a pregnant woman, and I get tired. Really tired. The whooshing of wheels around the track sounds louder than a line of windmills. When this happens, I just give myself doses of insulin that would kill an elephant and have to wait. I keep strict tabs on my blood sugar on bout days, but sometimes, that blood sugar just wants to be lead jammer and grand slam me every two minutes.

I can't have that happen tomorrow.

During the Mobile bout (that I've referenced in just about every blog I've written so far...hmm...), a random fan saw me checking my blood sugar and said that I was his hero. He told me that most people with a disease like diabetes wouldn't attempt roller derby. He told me that it must be hard for me to keep everything under control at bouts. And then he kept talking and talking and talking and talking until I had to excuse myself for the team huddle.

Though the fan's comments were very nice and heartfelt, I am nobody's hero. While I'm dealing with my blood sugar, someone else is dealing with a torn meniscus, a broken arm, or a concussion. Yet diabetes is my biggest enemy, that invisible jammer who wants to hip check me off the line post whistle. Diabetes wants me to cut the track and sit in the penalty box. Diabetes wants me to yell at a ref and trip someone on purpose. Diabetes wants me to die.

But I am not going to let that happen. (Well, not yet, anyways. According to doctors, I still have a few good years left in me.)

If I am any sort of hero at all, it's because I don't quit. My blood sugar could be 9 million, and I would still be skating around that track. It's not that I want to harm my health; it's just that I want to be who I am, and who I am is a determined, intelligent, wacky woman who does not want to miss a single moment of my life. I want, I need to be lead jammer against this thing. Ironically, in some ways, I have diabetes to thank for that extreme willpower.

But unfortunately, it isn't going anywhere. It is going to be trying to score points throughout my entire life. Diabetes wants my eyes! My kidneys! My feet! Oh noes!

After my last doctor's appointment, I gave my endocrinologist a copy of my book. I told him that it was the story of a diabetic who joins a roller derby team. He looked me in the eyes and hugged me. (Side note: He is NOT a man known for his good bedside manner.) However, it's his goal to make sure that his patients are healthy and normal. I'm sure he felt a little flutter in his heart, all because one of his his patients did something that not a lot of people (non-diabetics and diabetics alike) have done. He was proud of me, and he was proud that in some way, he was doing his job.

Tomorrow, I have a job to do. I have a bout to play. Tomorrow, it's my job to block diabetes outside of that rink and concentrate on beating Chattanooga. Just watch. It's going to happen. You're going to like it. You're going to forget that I'm a diabetic. You're going to forget I have enormous boobs. You're going to forget that every time I'm drunk, I cry and ask Blicker for a kitten.

You're going to forget that I've written this blog, and that is exactly how I want it to be.

Hey, one of them Jonas boys gots the sugar! Do you think it stops him from singin' them songs and gettin' them ladies? No way, bub. No way.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tripping and Whipping: The Derby Double Standard

Good 9.

Bad 9.

I am assertive.

I am a bitch.

I am a woman who doesn't like to take other people's unnecessary shit.

I am also a woman who has a soft little, meowing calico kitten as a heart.

One of my favorite topics is the derby double standard. We're supposed to be fierce. We're supposed to be rockstars. We're supposed to be kicking ass and standing up for ourselves. We're supposed to roar around the track, be strong on our skates, and feisty with our attitudes.

Oh, but we're also supposed to be friendly. We're supposed to be sweet. We're supposed to be womanly. We're supposed to support other teams, make gift bags for our rivals, and congratulate a team who won because of a bad reffing decision.

Most of the time, I don't have a problem with this. I think many girls understand the balance between ferociousness and kindness. Many girls understand that what happens on the track, stays on the track. I, for one, LOVE gift bags. I love making them special for other teams, and I love getting them, especially if they are thoughtful. Even though I am awkward, I love meeting girls from other teams who either have things in common with me, or who are just plain nice. These are the heartfelt moments of derby that make it a contact sport with an added side of sisterhood.

But then there's the other side. The dirty side. Putting aside the nasty Mobile brawl I had last season, last night at practice presented a particular challenge for me. We had a visiting skater, and from the minute she started talking, I was offended. (By the way, these are my thoughts and perhaps not the thoughts of my team.) She was bossy, played a style of derby that I would consider dirty as hell, and she thought she knew everything. Each time we'd finish a drill, she would immediately start telling people what they should have done, where they went wrong, blah bloo blah. The last straw came when she told me that I was calling off the jam incorrectly.

Wrong move.

I really, really wanted my head to explode all over the rink, leaving little springs and screws all over that track. I wanted to yell. I wanted to throw fists. I wanted to tell her that she was a bossy biatch who didn't know half as much about derby as she thought she did. Instead, I replied (very condescendingly) I don't need your help, sweetie. I've been playing for two and a half years. Oh, and I had also kicked ass in the jam she was referring to.

I admit, there are some things I need help with, but calling off that particular jam wasn't one of them. I dig constructive criticism from people whom I respect and from people who are better skaters than I. This, however, was not one of those situations.

I'm sure this girl meant no harm. I'm sure that she wanted to help. However, if I were visiting another derby team, I would keep my mouthguard glued in place and try to learn whatever I could.

Of course, after my comment, she had it out for me. She wanted to throw her elbows all over my face and hit me as hard as she could. I expected this. I hit back, I fell, I got up, and practice continued as normal. I think it was safe to say, however, that this girl definitely did not have warm, fuzzy feelings for me anymore. I'm sure that a lot of derby girls don't have warm, fuzzy feelings for me and a plethora of other derby girls out there.

However, if one is willing and has the time to get to know me, one will find that I'm generous, sweet, and sympathetic to a fault. I'm not a bad person. I spend my days encouraging students, loving animals, and thinking about my friends. I cried for three days after a student had a miscarriage in the middle of my class. I want to adopt every stray cat that catches my eye. I want to connect with people through my writing. I believe that most derby girls, even the one I called sweetie, have a similar (literal) sweet side, no matter how wild they seem on the track.

But last night, goddammit, I was proud of myself. I could have thrown those fists. I could have screamed. Although I was condescending, it could have been a hell of a lot worse. Blicker might have had to toss me over his shoulder and escort me out of that rink. I stood up for myself, and righteously so.

Yet the thing that bothers me the most is that I still don't know how to deal with this derby double standard. I don't know how to assert myself without making enemies far and wide.

When I was a little girl, I was so timid that the phrase cat got your tongue? became a common response to my silence. But, throughout the past ten years or so, I've become much more assertive. I don't let people push me around.

I think I surprise people because I have the "girl next door" look: why would such a petite, smiley, educated young woman have the balls to shut someone down, and so harshly? For some reason, it is not acceptable in society and (sometimes) roller derby for the girl next door to express herself in a such a spunky way.

And I think that's bullshit.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

There are Things You Don't Know About Me

There are things you don't know about me.

This is not a cry for help.

I know you think I'm the girl next door. The one who reads a lot. The one who teaches and tutors students. The one who squeals everytime I hear tell of a kitten. But inside of me, I'm a little bit different. A little bit unbalanced.

I was nine the first time I tried to kill myself. I climbed on a chair to reach my parents' medicine cabinet, and I devoured an entire bottle of vitamins. I thought that for sure, those little orange jelly bean pills would do the trick.

Of course, they didn't. Of course, I'm glad they didn't.

Besides impulsivity and despite a chronic illness, I don't even know why I wanted to die. I just had a feeling that it was something I should do.I had great parents. I had hobbies. I, if you can imagine, actually liked school.

Interestingly, I've always had a quiet obsession with death. As kids, my cousin and I loved to walk around cemeteries, explore old attics, and try to contact otherworldly spirits. (Unfortunately, we always ended up laughing too much to make contact.)

At this point, I'm still not really sure what I believe happens when we die. I would like to believe that something happens, but I can't latch on to a guarantee that any religion (from Scientology to Buddhism to Christianity to the ubiquitous crazy man on the street corner) offers.

When I became a teenager, things got tough. Things get tough for any teenager, right? It's just the way the world works. Unfortunately, the toughest times I had were dealing with a chronic disease that required as much care and attention as a wailing newborn. I didn't want to bruise my stomach and arms with injections. (Some bathing suit look that would be.) I didn't want to eat healthy foods. I wanted to eat candy with my sister and play video games. I didn't want to listen to doctors who, I felt, knew less than I did. I didn't want to feel badly everyday, but I didn't want to take care of myself either.

So with little other options, I turned to self-abuse. I felt like that I couldn't blame diabetes on anyone but myself. I felt like I wanted control. Therefore, instead of actually taking the time to properly dose my insulin and eat healthy foods, I hit myself until my self-inflicted bruises left womanmade lakes of blue and black all over my arms and legs. Because I was a baton twirler, these bruises were easy to excuse. I could just blame a faulty throw or an awkward catch.

And then came college and the sleeping pills. I couldn't sleep without them. I continued to beat myself up, but the sleeping pills offered some relief. I could at least knock myself out with medicine instead of my fists.

When I started grad school, however, things got worse. I still blamed myself for having diabetes. I still felt like I had little to offer the world. I still felt like that petite nine year old, reaching for those vitamins, ready to put an end to it all. I finally sucked up my pride, went to counseling (My counselor's sister co-founded the L.A. Derby Dolls! How rad is that?), and I was prescribed Zoloft, then Prozac, and then heavier doses Prozac. I've tried every sleeping pill from Ambien (which made me drive at night, unaware) to Trazodone (which works remarkably well for me). I gained thirty pounds, but it seemed somehow worth it.

I thought things were good. Great. As sunny as an Alabama smile.

But somewhere along the way, I started overdosing on those sleeping pills. I was fat. I was ugly. I was useless and stupid. I started cutting, and I started cutting the veins that unlock death's door. I started tearing myself apart. Besides the fact that I sometimes forgot to take my medicine properly, I can't tell you exactly why I still wanted to die; I just felt like it needed to be done. I knew people would be mad at me. I knew it was selfish. I knew that I was a giant fuckup.(Of course, this just perpetuated the cycle of self-hatred.)

Somewhere inside of me, I still wanted control of my body. I didn't want diabetes to take my legs, my eyes, or my kidneys. If I could take myself, I thought I could at least die nobly.

I was also still impulsive to a fault.

Now, I am still that impulsive, but I'm trying to be careful with myself. I know that my pets need me. Without a doubt, Prufrock would not survive with any other "hoomin" but me. I know that my boyfriend needs me. I know that my family needs me. Most of all, I know that my derby team needs me. (And hey, as an added bonus, I still get those beautiful bruises!)

I do not want anyone to feel sorry for me. I've done these things to myself, and I am trying to deal with them in the healthiest way that I can. I'm still in counseling, and I'm getting ready to see a psychiatrist. I still hate diabetes, but I'm trying to un-victimize myself and get better control of my life. After all, it's going to be a battle to the end, and I like winning.

I don't feel weird sharing these things in writing. In person, however, I've only told about three people. As you can imagine, it felt awkward as hell. I often use humor as an excuse, so I usually laugh about how silly or drunk I was when the beating and cutting and overdosing happened. But as much as I don't want people to know my deepest, darkest secrets, I don't want to collapse into myself like a dying star.

I really don't.

I also know that I'm not alone, and I never will be.

I can't guarantee that I won't try to die again, but I hope that I won't. However, if I do, get out the nearest Ouija board. I'll be happy to let you know what happens next.

This picture reminds me of my favorite writer/memoirist, Dave Eggers.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Going for the Goal

Writing goals down with this formula will increase your chances of achieving success!

There is something semi-magical about writing one’s goals down, which makes achieving well-written goals an almost certainty!

Writing down your goals creates the roadmap to your success!

These are three quotes I found when I Googled "Writing down goals." I've always heard that writing down goals makes them easier to achieve. I suppose that writing down goals holds one accountable; penning goals makes them seem more permanent than just a thought; and, sketching them out on a computer or paper serves as a daily reminder of what one wants to achieve.

I've always been a goal setter. Of course, some of my goals were so high that I couldn't have ever achieved them, even if I did grow a twelve inches and magically slim my stomach to the thinness of a postage stamp. (In other words, even though I wrote the goal "Be Miss America" in my fifth grade diary, it surely never happened. I'm pretty okay with that now, though.)

This time around, however, I want to set some tangible goals for the upcoming derby season. I don't want to set myself up for failure, but I badly (so badly) want to achieve so many things this season.

Here we go:

1. I will not get ejected. (Side goal: I will not indulge in fighting on the track.)

2. I will score point(s) every game I jam. I don't expect myself to score points every single jam, but I want to put at least a couple points on the board.

3. I will do my best to approach derby girls from other teams and make conversation with them...no matter how awkward I feel.

4. I will have fun.

5. I will concentrate on hitting; I've gotten in the habit of just letting people hit me and trying not to fall down. This season, though, I'm gonna hit 'til my heart is content.

6. I will do my very best not to trip my own teammates.

7. I will learn a new skating technique/style at every bout. Then, I will practice it. Even if I can't get it, I will try!

8. I will be more confident and showy in my intro.

9. I will do a backwards hit, at least once.

10. I will jump over a pileup. (This is the one I'm feeling most positive about!)

I've never been as good as Combo at jumping, but I'm not so bad!

Extra: I want to be on a flier this season. I've never even had a skate appear on a flier! I don't have much control over that one, though. :)

Lookout, derby world. 9lb and her goals are hoping for a great season.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Coming Out...of my Helmet

I am not good at making friends.

I have always been confident, but shy. Often, this gives people the impression that I am rude, aloof, or just disinterested. (Cho Cold quote-- "When you first started, I thought you were rude and just didn't want to be at practice. I kept thinking 'Why is that girl even here?'" Ha ha.) In reality, I like to observe people and get a general feel for them before I start spilling my life, or before they start spilling their own. I need to warm up to people before I feel comfortable making more than small talk. It's who I am, and I'm comfortable being quiet and observant; however, I usually like the people I meet. I just clam up a little bit and start to pull back.

As you might guess, I don't have a lot of acquaintances. My friends and I are as close as sweaty pads to an elbow and as close as branches on a family tree. In other words, my besties are derby sisters and family members. For the most part, I am fine with that. Still, sometimes I feel like I'm missing out when it comes to making new friends and meeting people. Two hours at a bout after-party just isn't enough time for me to make friends. I'm not big into dancing, and dive-bars with booths and conversation are more my thing.

So last night, I had a great time hanging out with Cho, Amyn, her husband Jason, and Ziggy at the TCR/Hattiesburg throwdown. It was also great to see Zoom Tang, Turbo Tyke, Bianca Bullet and Barbie. Though I don't hang out with the RSRD/Hub City girls often, I've come to respect and enjoy getting to know them. Bianca is super sweet, Zoom is freaking hilarious, Turbo is a-dor-a-ble, and Barbie is super cool.

Still, with gregarious teammates (and past teammates) like Quakes, Crush, and Saintly, I've often wondered if I would ever make friends with girls outside my league. In the diverse world of derby, I've had a difficult time finding girls who have anything in common with me, other than eight wheels and a bitch streak that saturates the South.

While the other girls dance it up at the after-parties, I often find myself outside, or in the corner on the phone with my sister or boyfriend. It's not that I am not having fun; I just feel out of my coffee shop, library, classroom, dive-bar environment.

Before our bout last season with Hattiesburg, Barbie approached me during warm-up and said "You like Bon Iver? My sister and I love Bon Iver! I didn't think that anyone who lived outside of rural Wisconsin knew about him." This instantly made me think she was really cool. I was so happy to have someone be friendly to me, and to have a similar interest. Later in the season, I had the opportunity to talk to Sigga Please after our home bout with Red Stick. Turns out we are both type one diabetics, and we both love Ryan Adams. I started thinking, "Hey, maybe there are girls outside of my team that I can bond with, even if I am shy."

I'm not saying I'm going to be best friends with everyone in derby who has something in common with me. However, I'm starting to feel more comfortable talking and hanging out with some of these girls. And you know what? It feels great to pull my nose out of a book and get to know some folks.

The strange thing (or maybe not so strange) is that I'm willing to put out pretty much anything about my life in my writing. It's my way of letting people get to know me, I suppose. (By the way? Have you bought my book? Nudge, nudge.) I have a feeling, though, that in addition to everything else, derby has assuaged a lot of my social anxieties. Having friendly acquaintances isn't a bad thing. There will be girls out there who have similarities to me. One of my goals this season is to open up a little more, and to be more active seeking out girls I can bond with.

Even if it's just over some obscure band from Wisconsin.

Friday, March 11, 2011


I wrote this about a year and a half ago, but I thought I'd resurrect it for the blog. :)

(with apologies to Lewis Carroll)

‘Twas Pivot high upon her stops
Did block with booty large and round:
All pack wheels tried to move on past
And pace the rink with rolling sound.

“Beware the Jammerwock, slow girl!
Her pace, her strength, her quiet wheels!
Beware her speed, and hit her hard.
Smack tough in places she will feel!”

The Blocker took her pointy hips:
Long time the speedy foe she sought—
She skated fast and looked behind
To prep herself for battle wrought.

And as she rolled with eyes behind,
The Jammerwock, with skates of flame,
Came speeding through the surly pack,
And bellowed as she came!

One point! Two points! And then the hips
Came jutting towards that speedy foe
The Blocker smacked the girl so hard
Suicide seating lost some toes.

“You massacred the Jammerwock?”
Asked Coach. “Come, let me slap your hands!
Wonderous play! Hulloh! Hullay!”
The Blocker yelped with joy unplanned.

‘Twas Pivot high upon her stops
Did block with booty large and round:
All pack wheels tried to move on past
And pace the rink with rolling sound.

If anyone could take down a jammerwocky, it would be this gal!

Teammates, Tacos, & Tears

It is 3 p.m. on a Sunday, and I am salting my taco shells with messy tears.

Cho fiddles with her napkin. Amyn stares at her burrito. I know she’s disgusted by the burgundy colored sauce on her plate. Amyn doesn’t like anything vegetarian or of unknown origins.

I am blubbering. I can’t form a complete sentence. I just…I just never thought…thought I was important…

9, you’re going to make me cry, Amyn says. Stop it right now.

Cho dabs the corner of her eyes with her napkin. I still see the imprint of her signature eye-makeup from the bout yesterday.

We have only been back in Auburn for an hour. I haven’t showered, and I am not hungry. I don't want to be having this conversation. I want to be asleep in bed, forgetting that the Mobile bout ever happened.

I want to forget that Amyn, the captain, got ejected. I want to forget that I, 9 lb Hammer, the alternate, was ejected moments later for repeatedly punching a girl in the face. I want to forget that Amyn and I left our team on the floor without anyone who could communicate with the referees. I wanted to forget that in a moment of self-defense and rage, I let down my team.

I want to forget that Cho said that she wasn’t angry with me; she was just disappointed. I think I would rather my grandmother be disappointed in me.

It’s just that…that I’m not you, Cho, I say. I am still crying like a motherless kitten. I’m not a super fast jammer. I’m not you, Amyn. I’m not an amazing blocker with lots of finesse. I didn’t think that getting ejected would matter so much.

Amyn turns toward me. 9. You are there. You are always there. I know that I can always count on you. Stop it with this “I’m just a relief jammer” bullshit. You are always, always where you need to be. Always. I cannot say that about anyone else.

Cho, Amyn, and I are the only three BCR original gangsters left. The others have relocated, quit, or moved on. Some started with us, quit, and thankfully returned.

When I went to the very first practice two and a half years ago, I had no idea that I would be sitting here with these two girls that I once thought I had nothing in common with. I didn’t know that I could be close to a mother of two who loves the Twilight series. I didn’t know that I could be close to a girl assertive enough to start a derby team and organize all her files in oversized folders. Now I can’t imagine my life without them.

You know I can’t be mad at you guys, Cho says. I love you both too much.

Goddamit, I say as I rifle through my purse.

You lost your debit card, didn’t you? Amyn asks.

How did you know? I ask. The debit card was probably glued with my mouth guard on the skuzzy Mobile rink floor, or maybe the maid at the La Quinta was having herself a shopping spree at the local K-Mart. At this point, it was hard to say.

Because you’re 9. You lose your shit all the time. You’re worse than my kids and their toys.

Cho nods. Oh, 9. I’m going to let you borrow this book I have about organization.

Amyn rolls her eyes. Let’s get out of here and get some sleep. 9, I’ll pay for your damn tacos. Let’s go.

In the parking lot, Cho, Amyn, and I hug one another. We smell like body odor and burnt ground beef.

At this point in my life, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Monday, March 7, 2011

From Batons to Booty Blocks

My mainstream sports career lasted two t-ball innings in right field and seven on the bench. One time I hit a triple, but I got in trouble; the coach didn't think I could make it to third base in time. I proved him wrong, but it didn't matter. I had absolutely no future in softball, volleyball, or basketball. The most I could hope for was a volunteer position as a statistician for the track team.

The best thing that came from my t-ball dalliance was a cute picture of me slumping beside the water cooler, sporting black strips under my eyes, and a wearing a cap three sizes too big. Oh, and my mom bought me two Babysitter's Club books for that triple.

After ball season ended, my only hope for an active hobby was a pom-pon squad that practiced in an abandoned firehouse. My dad didn't want me to join-- before Toddlers & Tiaras came along, pom-pon squads were the closest things to complete child exploitation. Makeup, shiny bathing suit-like costumes, and heinous head pieces were all the rage.

But my mom and I won. I joined the pom-pon squad, and soon after, our teacher introduced us to batons. I fell in love. I was flexible, so doing crowd-pleasing tosses under cartwheels, somersaults, and walkovers was much easier for me than running to third base (and getting yelled at for it). I liked being able to manipulate a metal stick around my body. It felt circus-like and mystical.

Through the years, I got good. Really good. I practiced hard. Eventually, I won two national solo awards, a national fancy strut award, and two halftime showcase titles. I was a master technician; I could roll the baton all over my body without using hands, I was a fast twirler, and I had spectacular showmanship. An admirable coach from Michigan saw me twirling at a clinic, and she offered to take me on. Along with the great coaches I had from my area, Derek pushed me to my limits and beyond. Without her, I could have never won any of those national awards.

And then it ended. I tried out for feature twirler at Marshall University. I delivered a perfect routine, complete with a toss double walkover, three baton section, and stunning two baton tricks. I had a "no drop," goddamn flawless routine.

But the band director picked a blonde who danced around her batons more than she twirled them. She was prettier than I was. She was thinner than I was. She was probably willing to perform undignified special favors that I wasn't.

I didn't cry. I picked up my batons and joined the majorette squad. Yes, it was fun, but it wasn't me. I wanted to twirl, not march around and do dead-stick baton movements. After a year, I gave up the ghost. My baton career was finished.

I then had an eight-year alternative sports lapse. I joined a gym. I read a lot of books. I lived in Slovakia for three months. I had a social life. I got a cat.

And then derby came along. How and why I joined derby is another post. The transition from baton twirler to derby girl has been an interesting one. In some ways, the transition was natural: both sports take dedication, hard work, and mental and physical stamina. Both have an element of performance, and both have fun makeup. (Fortunately, derby doesn't require 80s blue eyeshadow, bright pink lipstick, and Texas teased hair. Ick.)

With baton twirling, however, if I dropped my baton, slipped, or broke my ass (I did), I was on my own. No one dropped that baton for me. For all the awards I won, I spent just as much time sitting alone in an empty dressing room, beating myself up for the mistakes I made.

Derby is a different story. Falling is encouraged! If I make a mistake, I have a team--a real team!-- to sit in that dressing room and cry with me. Sure, they get frustrated with me, but they love me. Though I loved my baton, it couldn't love me back. Derby gave me people to rely on.

Baton taught me to trust myself. Derby taught me to trust a team. I won't lie. Sometimes I miss the individual accomplishments that baton brought me. But, learning to trust my derby teammates has been so much more rewarding than taking home a trophy that will eventually form a film of permanent dust.

These days, when I make a mistake in derby, I get back up and keep rolling. I am thankful that there are no batons to chase. I am thankful that tutus cover more than sequined bathing suits. Most of all, I am thankful that I am not out there on that floor alone.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

TV Derby Dream Team

I got to thinking, if I were to compose a derby team of contemporary television characters and personalities, whom would I choose? With the help of Blicker, this is what I came up with.

1. Jenni Farley, Jersey Shore: We all know she can hit a bitch. She could take out any little meatball her heart desired...especially if they laid eyes on any of her gorilla juice heads. Derby name: JWoww. Number: 36 F Duh.

2. Annie Edison, Community: This sweet girl-next-door could distract opposing jammers with her constant blabbering. Despite her optimism, Annie could use her debate skills to argue with any ref...and win. Derby name: Brainblow Brite Number: 900x2

3. Phyllis Lapin-Vance, The Office: Don't let her age or her Mother Goose appearance fool you. This sassy lady could deliver a stunning hip check. Derby name: Refriger Hater. Number: Suite 210

4. Effy Stonem, Skins (UK): Derby girls don't need to be loud. She's knocked out a chick with a rock, so imagine what she could do with her shoulders. Plus, she's got the eyeliner thing down. Derby name: Effin' Stone-'em Number: 420, of course

5. The Waitress, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: First of all, she's got to be on the sauce-- that's when this girl gets belligerently angry. Plus, if Charlie was sitting in the suicide section, she could wipe him out for good. Derby name: Derby Girl Anonymous. Number: 12 steps

6. Jenny MacArthur, The League: She already kicks butt by practically running her husband's fantasy football team. It would be great to see what she could do if she were actually playing sports. Plus, she wore an embarrassing frog costume for Halloween, and then she got humped by a monkey. Falling in a tutu would be nothing for this chick. Derby Name: Vaginal Hubris Number: 6

7. Margene Henrickson, Big Love: Poor Margene. As the third wife, she's always looking for her place in the family. Plus, she's always on the lookout for female friends. What better than a group full of derby girls...who don't live on a compound. Derby Name: Splatter Day Saint Number: Deut 21

8. Chef Anne Burrell, Food Network: Have you seen this woman? The only problem would be fitting her hair into one of those helmets. Otherwise, she would be serving up plenty cans of whoop-encrusted ass. (With a can opener, of course.) Derby Name: Chef From Hell Number: 450 Degrees

9. Callie Torres, Grey's Anatomy: I haven't watched Grey's Anatomy since season two. However, this girl is tough...plus, she could pop knees and broken ankles back into place, without flinching. Broken bones are her business. Derby Name: Callie Tore Ya Up Number: 20cc

10. April Ludgate, Parks and Rec: Could there be a more obvious choice? Her ironic hipster personality lends itself well to the appearance of the sport. Her secretive, nonchalant manner could be invaluable to score the team points. Plus, Andy could help her with his mad blade skillz. They could skate around City Hall when Swanson's busy eating breakfast foods and thinking about pretty, dark haired women. Derby Name: City Brawl Number: 1816


Mac, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: He's a self-styled enforcer. Derby Name: The Cooler

Dwight, The Office: Not a rule bender, Dwight can keep feisty girls in line...or so he thinks. Derby Name: Beat Farmer

Bubbles, Trailer Park Boys: He's good at breaking up fights. He's smarter than he looks. Plus, he loves kittens. Derby Name: The Green Bastard


Kevin Malone, The Office: He knows what 7+4 is, even if he records it wrong on his expense report. Derby Name: A-counting


Ron Swanson, Parks and Rec: How could a team lose with the Ron Swanson Pyramid of Greatness? Derby Name: The BaconAteHer

Any other suggestions?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

No Balls in Derby

There are no balls in derby!

It's an old joke. Unfortunately, it's not always true.

When I joined the Burn City Rollers almost three years ago, I joined for me. Myself. Nobody else. Derby was going to be my thing. I'd always been more comfortable around women. (I can actually count my guy friends on three fingers. I like it that way.) I much prefer bonding with women; they know what it's like to fight, forgive, and love with abandonment. Sure, women can be catty, gossips, and emotional. I am no different. Good or bad, I like seeking solace in others who are similar. Who doesn't?

Unfortunately, I am not gay. I have wished myself gay many times, but it's just not who I am. I like boys, and I like boys a lot. When I started the team, my at-the-time boyfriend didn't give a darn, and that was fine with me. He didn't support my derby team, but he didn't dismiss it, either. It was comfortable. He had his things, and I had mine. He had his Wikipedia edits, and I had roller f'ing derby.

And then when that relationship ended, I was left with a bloody hand (from punching a window), a lot of tears, and the support of my team. I was starting over, but I still had my thing. I still had my derby.

When a very handsome derby referee asked me out to dinner a few months later, I was thrilled. He was the best looking guy I'd ever been on a date with. He was nice, polite, and sweet. Oh, and he was a derby ref. How cool, I thought. What an opening story for The Newlywed Game we would be!

At first, I thought the ref/derby girl relationship was going to be an amazing thing. We would travel together to bouts. He would know my friends, and I would know his. We would be the Becks and Posh of the derby world. (I would be Becks, of course.)

The problems started when he started calling a plethora of penalties on me, and only me. I was pissed. I felt he was being unfair. I knew he was a good ref, but I wished that he would pick on someone else for awhile. To compound that issue, other derby girls (on rival teams, thank goodness), hit on him all the time. When it comes to relationships, I am not a competitor. All I could do was bite my lip and hope that he didn't give into temptation. He never did, but my jealousies didn't go away.

As his girlfriend, the last thing I said to him was "If you put me in the box at this bout, I will find you later and kick your ass." Okay, that was pretty mean. Awful. Thank goodness, I had a clean game and didn't end up in the box at all. The relationship, however, was headed for the eternal penalty box. I had started losing my derby identity. Instead of "9lb Hammer," I became "Combo's girlfriend." I. did. not. like. that.

Derby wasn't the cause of our relationship's demise, but it didn't help. So why on earth, I ask myself, did I decide, after my ref breakup, to date the derby team's announcer? The easy answer is that he was a guy whom I was around on a frequent basis. He loved the derby team, and he was effortlessly cool. We had similar interest in music. He was an English major. I'd always had a thing for beardies.

The complicated answer is that I fell in love. Hard. After about 30,000 words of facebook messages, we finally had our first date. (He gave up watching the first Auburn game of the season to have dinner with me. Whoa.) The first time I kissed him was after our last home derby bout. He was easy to talk to and sweeter than a grand slam. This was big.

When he started accompanying me to derby practice, my heart fluttered with anxiety. Oh no, I thought. Oh no. I do not want this to happen again. Ugh.

Thankfully, he doesn't enjoy skating, so I don't think he will ever ref. He is, however, at every practice.

Sometimes I love it. He cheers me on. I do better when I hear his voice. He gets me ice when my back is acting up. He is still sweeter than a grand slam.

Other times, I want to rip his WFTDA rulebook out of his hands and burn it. Sometimes, I want him to spend less time on the 133948930 derby forums he has joined and more time with me. (I do, however, learn plenty of interesting things from his boarding.) Sometimes, like at the last practice, I wish he wouldn't yell things at the team if he doesn't know the strategy. (For example, at the last practice, he was yelling something something something something, and I replied with something something something goat something. Yes, I was yelling back. Loudly. Aggressively.)

And then came the day when he suggested I get a new hobby to keep myself entertained. Wait, what? I thought. Derby is my hobby. Duh. But then I realized, oh. This is our hobby. Shit. Without even realizing it, I had lost my derby identity once again.

But this time isn't so simple.

More than not, I like his involvement with derby. I know that without a doubt, he will be on my side. (Like when I started smacking a girl in the face at the Mobile bout. Oops.) I know that if I get hurt, he will accompany me to the hospital so the other girls can keep playing. He will teach me things, and I will teach him things. He has instruction at home bouts to keep announcing if I get hurt, so that it's not awkwardly silent. I love him, and I want him involved.

As long as I remain 9lb Hammer--and not Blicker's girlfriend--my derby identity will remain. As long as his balls remain in his pants and don't roll all over track, I think I will be just fine. My derby identity is mine, and I plan to keep it that way...no matter how many refs and announcers I skate by.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Saga of Very and Large

I didn't know they were big until I was trying on a friend's dress for my first prom. I was 17, had never been kissed, and was well on my way to being The Smoke Free Class of 2000's valedictorian.

The dress fit, so I wasn't sure why my mom and my friend look so surprised.

"Uh, I never quite filled it out like that," said my friend.

"Yes, they are quite, um, big," said my mom, as she held two imaginary watermelons in front of her chest. "Not sure where those things came from."

I stood still, like a Saved by the Bell, Zach Morris freeze frame. Sure, I'd been wearing a bra for some time. Sure, I wore larger shirts than my girlfriends. But no one had ever looked me in the...eyes and told me, straight up, that I had gigantic boobs.

I had no idea.

But since that moment, I have become, um, enormously aware of my chest.

No matter how much I exercised or lost weight, my breasts never got any smaller. My boobs just kept spilling out of bra cups until I landed (with a thud) at a 36 DD.

Oh, have I mentioned that I am barely five feet tall? I am terrible at math, but it just doesn't seem fair that I could--potentially-- fold up my legs, stuff them in my bra, and still have room leftover. Yikes.

Sometimes I wish I was still that naive 17 year old. Maybe then, I wouldn't wonder if a guy was talking to me for my brains or for my breasts. Maybe then, I wouldn't constantly worry that I'm showing too much cleavage, or that my tits are going to fall out of my jersey at a family-friendly bout.

Maybe if I wasn't so self-aware of my chest, I wouldn't have flinched and run away when the dude at Big 10 Tire told me that they "didn't have any available racks big enough" for my car. Hmm.

And then came the day I cut up my jersey to let my boobs breathe. Of course, I cut too much, and the result was me flashing them all over the rink at our last home bout. Maybe the crowd like it, but it was making me pretty nervous.

The thing is that my chest is always bouncing out of sports' bras. My boobs annoy me. They make my back hurt. They draw endless comments from friends and strangers. One time I caught a guy at a Wendy's trying to take a surreptitious picture of the ladies. Ew.

However, they are a part of me. When short and dark-haired don't work, my boobs serve as good identifiers. Sometimes I look at my chest and think, "Damn. These things are pretty hot." They are womanly and beautiful.

My teammates endlessly tease me about my jugs, but I've come not to mind. After discovering that my boobs didn't have a name, Amyn baptized them as "Very" and "Large." (Much more appropriate than "Cam" and "Newton," because they are the biggest things in the SEC.) I've discovered that because they are not getting any smaller, my only option is to poke fun at them myself...and just hope they don't jiggle too much.