On May 15, 2012 I would have been married to Shannon for 20 years. Would have been. Five years ago, I ceased being married to Shannon and instead found myself married to Deathskull. At first, they were as similar as identical twins, but now she’s hotter and stronger than Shannon was, so I think most of you will forgive me for picking the winning side. The biggest differences are internal, however, and more about that in a minute.
5 years ago, Shannon told me that a mutual friend of ours had taken up roller derby, which to be honest was a sport I’d never heard of. I grew up in Australia and Papua New Guinea, and as a consequence I missed out on many of the typical formative 1970s cultural events that are relevant to many of you. Like the televised “sport” that roller derby used to be. Like disco. In fact, missing the disco era in its entirety is probably the explanation behind my electronic music fetish, as I try to recapture an era that I totally missed out on the first time around.
Due to a pediatric orthopaedic condition, Shannon had also missed out on things in her youth, particularly sports. So when our dear friend Noel, who you know as Violet Roshambo, told her about roller derby, she jumped at the opportunity to participate in the team sports experience she had missed out on during her childhood. At first, there were no appreciable changes. Except Deathskull was gone at night a lot more often than Shannon ever was.
As it turns out though, Deathskull was really pretty good at this new sport. There’s a picture on the fridge of a young baby Skully (penguin), and me, with a sweaty, recently crowned Most-Valuable-Player Deathskull post-bout, grinning from ear to ear. It’s probably the happiest we’ve ever been. And it’s around that time that I realized that I wasn’t married to Shannon anymore. I was married to Deathskull. And I was Dr. Skully, Roller Derby’s biggest fan.
Perhaps you find yourself in a relationship with someone who is in the process of becoming a Rollergirl.
What is that going to mean for you?
It means you’ll be loving a new person, a changed and in many ways improved person. Creating that new person will take up a lot of their time. To be any good, one has to practice for two or three hours a day, three or four times a week. Many roller girls do put in that time, and a commitment of less time than that is obvious on the track on bout day. So prepare yourself for long absences, late into the evening. And road trips to cities you have never visited.
It means that when you’re sleeping, she’ll be up pecking away on her laptop, engrossed in a dark corner of the Internet. No, not that dark corner of the Internet. She’ll be on the Forum. The Forum is mysterious. As a significant other, you can have a password and access to the superficial levels. But you can’t ever see all of the good stuff that is restricted to the HOS, the Heads of Skate. That’s where the juicy topics get discussed, like whether we allow unleashed chickens in the courtyard on bout day, why the King of Pops never brings enough Popsicles, or why there’s a big metal slide in the Shriners’ Temple. And whether it is acceptable to have a bout day music playlist composed entirely of technopop. (I don’t care what the HOS say about that one. Cherry put me in charge of next month’s playlist, and I’m going to deliver.)
It means you’ll travel internationally to stand in unventilated, unheated sweaty retired munitions depots to watch the best skaters in the world compete against each other. From behind a 4-foot wide concrete pillar.
It means you’ll have a new appreciation for the stunning beauty of a strong woman, and gain a realization that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.
It means you’ll have to hold yourself back from approaching total strangers who are built like blockers and trying to recruit them them to the sport so that your significant other, a little Jammer, will have yet another person to provide protection and cover in the pack.
It means a serious commitment on your part as your significant other transforms themselves into a roller girl. It is a lengthy metamorphosis.
It means that there is often frustration, as 80 or so enormously diverse women try to get along with one another and move the organization toward a common goal. You will hear about that frustration. And you will become a better listener as a result.
In the end, you will find yourself in a relationship with a rollergirl. She will be a smellier, fitter, stronger, more powerful version of somebody that you used to know. And you’ll love her like crazy for it.