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.