Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Derby Dating: Derby Widows, the forgotten heroes

If you haven't figured this out, this is not a blog entry FOR derby widows, but it is FOR the skaters that inflict derby on their significant others. Yeah, I said inflict.  Derby is an addicting, time consuming, life devouring monster for some of us; we didn't necessarily realize how much we would be immersed in the whole derby experience, but here we are.  Unfortunately, we tend to take our established relationships in with us, even if our significant others never even come to one of our bouts.  How can we lessen the impact derby has on our loved ones?

How much time do you spend practicing a week?  I've tallied up some weeks with 10-15 hours because I've gone to every practice and then attended other league practices.  That's a lot of time for a sport, and even though it's not a normal week for me, I know that most skaters practice at least 6-8 hours a week.  Now add in league meetings, committee meetings, public appearances, fund raising, travel time, open skating, team bonding and t-shirt making.  Wow, how do we fit all of that into our lives?  Well, like the old saying goes "behind every strong man, is a stronger woman", behind every strong derby skater is a partner who is shouldering a lot of the burden that derby brings to life.

When I first mentioned finding people to write for this topic, I got a lot of "I will add my thoughts, but I want to remain completely anonymous" comments.  That made me stop and think that this topic should definitely be brought to the surface.  I know for a fact that a lot of derby widows are afraid to really let their spouses (etc) know how they feel about derby, because they don't want to be thought of as unsupportive.  Some of the comments made me sad, and some brought me a smile.  Here are a few that struck a chord with me, and on a personal note, the following entry made me feel guilty, sad and incredibly introspective. 

Imagine, if you will, that your wife is cheating on you. She's not trying to hide it. In fact, she talks about this other person constantly, and his name is Derby. She goes to see Derby three or four or five nights a week, leaving you to cook and clean and take care of the house. She comes home battered, sweaty and bruised, and so tired that she's got no interest at all in you.

She spends an unseemly amount of money on Derby, so things like family vacations and big purchases are out of the question. But, of course, that's not the same thing as Derby vacations, oh she loves those. She'll go out for a weekend, or maybe longer now and then. Nothing with just the two of you anymore, but if you want to come watch her be with Derby, well that's fine as long as you don't get in the way.

She's got a bunch of new friends, and they're all dating a Derby too! So now all your social outings are spent with other Derby girls, and their poor husbands and wives. You all know what each other is going through, but you're forbidden to speak of it. Because you all know, deep down, that if you make her choose, she'll choose Derby over you. Derby makes her feel smart and strong. Derby makes her feel like a powerful woman, and obviously you don't or she wouldn't need Derby in the first place. And because once she loved you, you stick it out. Through the bouts where you go watch her flaunt her relationship with Derby in front of thousands.. where you pay for that privilege
. Through the injuries and the fights and the days where you don't even see each other.

And when she's angry at Derby, she comes to you for comfort. A few times, at first, and then more and more, until every night she's venting about Derby to you. Not that you should, not that you *could* even suggest leaving Derby. No no... you cook and clean and take care of the house, and you listen to her and be there for her, but you never, ever suggest she might leave Derby and come back to you.

Her relationship with Derby goes on for years. If you're lucky, someone who is somewhat like your wife might come back to you eventually, when she tires of Derby of its abuse. If you're not, then she'll stick with it until she's so injured you have to support her full time, or she leaves you, or you two simply split it.

I suppose I was 'lucky' in that, after a few years, she eventually came back to me. But she still loves to talk about Derby and 
reminisce, to forever remind me of where I really stand in her world compared to Derby.  (Anonymous)

"I became a ref, so I could spend time with her.  It's also a good excuse for checking out derby girls, and pointing and whistling at them, and I cant get in trouble cause its 'my job'. "  (Ziggy)

For some couples, Derby is the thing that the wife can do that is great for her, while the husband is off doing things that are great for him. It gives them both 'me' time. For other couples, Derby is a chance for them to do something together as a family. This has been our (Punk Blocker's and mine) experience. So for any Derby widows who are unhappy about being a Derby widow: get involved. The sport needs you too. Of course, you then have the problem of Derby orphans... (A Boy Named Tsunami)

Aren't they adorable?

Here's what I've done to cope with long practices, away bouts, committees, all the derby talk-
Allison (AlaBAMison) and I were married on Oct. 23rd 2010. Instead of driving off into the sunset for our honeymoon, the next day she skated in a bout, I volunteered as a medical first responder. By the same time the next year, on our anniversary, skating in another bout, I was bench coaching her home team, the Mad Dollies. My new year's 2012 resolution: go into coaching 'full time.' I lead off and on skate fitness practices, still coaching with the Dollies, and run stats for Gate City. It keeps me exercising, keeps me involved, and introduced me to lots of wonderful people! Also, we can sit close together at home and have her talk derby to me.

Best way to deal with being a derby widow- get off yer butt and volunteer with the team! There's so much that goes on behind the scenes, support staff is always welcome. and don't make her choose between you and derby, 'cause you gonna lose!  (Neverending Torry, GSORD)

The couple that plays together stays together!

My husband  DID say to me the other day that I would pay more attention to him if he had the word DERBY written across his forehead! :D   (Genea Morfeld Swan)

Want to acknowledge your derby widow?  Derbylicious has some awesome gear you can get him!  Try this shirt, these buttons or this sticker.  Remember to appreciate your derby widow and let him or her know that even though derby is important, it will never be number one in your heart.


  1. I absolutely love your blog, Q!

    I'm not even a skater and my husband often times feels like a derby widower. He is a good sport about it though and we do very well at balancing time together, for the most part. My concern is with telling the widow or widower, "You should help as a ref or an NSO or a volunteer - the team needs you too." Where the widow/er has an interest, that's a great thing. But you can't expect that every one of those widow/ers is interested. And you run the risk of having disinterested volunteers if their sole reason for doing it is to try to eek out a little more time with their loved one.

    It also seems like a very much one-sided compromise. Derby gets everything it wants and the relationship is tipping one way.

    I'm not saying a spouse/S.O. joining derby isn't an answer... it's certainly a very good one that works for some people. It's just not the answer for everyone. And we as a community would do well to support our community members when they take steps to shore up their relationships outside of derby - maybe that gives us the opportunity to be part of the solution and not so much a part of the problem.

  2. I personally think Tsunami has the healthiest answer. Married couples aren't supposed to be joined at the hip all of the time and both partners need to grow and develop themselves as individuals too.

  3. In my humble opinion, the "sob" story makes me feel angry insead of sad, and not just from a derby girl point of view ( how dare he bad mouth Derby) but from a woman's point of view. He should feel proud of his wife and her accomplishments in life, not feel jealous or angry. If she has found a love that makes her feel empowered, and strong, and secure about herself then he should be happy for her. It is obvious to me that he doesnt want her to feel these ways about herself, because he is hoping that he gets back someone that is somewhat like his wife, so he wants a scared, weak, girl back instead of a strong, empowered woman. That logic doesnt appeal to me. Yes I understand his points about being left alone for long periods of time and having to do all the housework by himself, but that is a different issue with their marriage. Sounds to me like he doesnt want a wife with whom he has a partnership, but a little lady to stay home cook and clean, take care of the kids and submit to his iron rule, and this does not sit well with me!

  4. I will have to say that I know the person that wrote that first entry and he is not someone who wants to put down his wife; he is bitter about derby and how much it takes from everyone involved. We have to remember that derby is not the first choice for everyone.

  5. perhaps its just the way it comes across, without tone or inflection, but it just bugs me how he can be so bitter about something that makes his wife so happy. I never appreciated my husbands involvement with golf, or the money he spent on it, but I didnt ever want to take it away. He enjoyed it.

  6. Agreed, but read the whole piece. Clearly his wife was not happy towards the end of her derby career. She was complaining to him and the complaints became more and more frequent. We do have to watch how we vent sometimes.

  7. I thought the first story was sort of sad. I never looked at it that way. I haven't had a s/o since I started derby two years ago. Probably because I don't have/won't make time for one. I've even used the "I'm too busy to date seriously" line on guys I don't really click with. Derby is my boyfriend and I'm happy in my relationship. I have a friend or two that satisfies the one physical need derby can't, lol but sometimes I put derby before them too!


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