Monday, October 15, 2012

The mystery of derby wives

Derby has a lot of things that confuse people about it, but one of the more interesting phenomena is the idea of the derby wife.  Derby wifedom seems to have sprung from the intense bonds formed between some skaters.  Hellarad has a whole list of interesting derby definitions, but if you're too lazy to click on the link, here is their nicely worded definition.  Derby Wife: (n) A skater’s best friend in the entire world of derby. Derby wives are ethically required to always have each others’ backs, even to the point of arguing and fighting when they know their derby wife is in the wrong. It is, however, completely acceptable to bust the chops of one’s derby wife later if one is forced to argue or fight in such circumstances. 

That pretty much sums it up.  Back in 2009, I met my derby wife in my league, Riva Derci.  During my first year, I went through some pretty rough transitions in derby.  At one point in my rookie year, I was co captain with her, she helped me through a pretty traumatic injury, and she was just someone who made me feel she would always keep me grounded in derby.  After a while, we just sort of looked at each other and said "I guess we're derby wives."  We never had a ceremony, or made a big deal of it, but she is my one and only derby wife.  When she left derby at the end of 2010, I was sad, but she still has my back and is my sounding board when I need to vent about derby, my life, or whatever in general.  Riva and I hang out; she models for my art projects and we enjoy various nerdy things.  I've also gently threatened any gentlemen callers she's had to make sure they knew I was watching them and to treat my wife right!  I'm thankful to derby that I got to meet such an awesome person who has become a true friend.
Did I mention nerdy stuff?

Our first invitational together!  I will never have another derby wife.
Sometimes the idea of derby wives gets a little out of hand.  Having a derby wife went from being someone who you just felt a really strong connection with to a relationship that you had to have!  Not everyone needs to have a derby wife, or feels comfortable with the idea of one.  It's a fun concept, and one that some derby players take very seriously.  Rollercon often performs derby marriages, and even though it is in fun, it has a sense of decorum.  Wearing a  "I'm not gay, but my derby wife is" shirts is a great way to raise the eyebrows of any non derby folks. The real question is, does the derby wife still have a place in derby anymore?  Does it just bring a sorority sense to the sport, or does it really serve a purpose to make the derby experience more unique?  Honestly, I have no clue, but I seriously doubt that derby wives are going anywhere any time soon.  After asking various skaters about their derby marriages, and I've come up with a faux sort of etiquette rules when dealing with derby wives. 

1.  You feel pressured to get a derby wife.  Personally, the best part of finding my derby wife was the finding.  I wasn't looking for that kind of relationship, but I was happy to find it.  If you feel pressured by derby peers to get a derby wife so you're more firmly ensconced in the league, then maybe you should reconsider your league's culture.  Nobody "needs" to get a derby wife, but if you find that special someone, then don't fight it!

2.  Your derby wife has left your league or derby, and you feel like you need to "divorce" her.  Well, if your derby wife is such a good friend to you, then you two need to sit down and talk about your marital status like adults.  Just like any marriage, if it isn't meeting both of your needs, then maybe it's time to reevaluate the situation.  I personally will never have another derby wife again, but I'm an old fashioned kind of gal.

3.  You have derby wife envy.  You're a happily married derby couple, but then you meet this lady, and you have instant chemistry.  Do you leave your current derby wife?  Do you become a derby bigamist?  Once again, I know this isn't a real life marriage, but you should really be able to sit down with your derby wife and talk about the direction of your relationship.  Do you both want to go in for polygamy?  Do you want to have derby mistresses?  How about derby extended families? Stop me when you think I've gone over the edge with this, and according to the responses I got, I haven't gone too far yet!

4.  Your derby marriage is having a negative impact on your real life relationships.  Be careful of this one; spouses and significant others put up with a lot of things in derby.  Make sure that your derby marriage doesn't cause too many waves with your real one.  If your real life significant other and your derby wife don't get along, then it is up to you to see if you can smooth the waters over.

Whether or not you indulge in derby marriage, there are people who still uphold these traditions.  I think a derby wife is a fun thing, and for the most part can enhance your derby experience, but I've also seen derby marriages bring more drama into an already explosive culture.  In other words, they can be just like any other marriage in the world.  Just make sure you're focusing in on the important part of derby, and not all of the frivolous trappings that go along with it!


  1. My Wifey and I are the perfect couple, she is my derby opposite in every way and we complete each other. I couldn't have stuck it out this long without her. I even tried having mistresses but after all three left the league everyone said I wasn't allowed to take any more because I was cursed and I realized my wife is really the only one for me. My one true derby love!

    P.S. I think that sign above is from BRRG's after party venue...or we have an identical one

  2. I'm glad you wrote this! I find this hard to explain to people outside of derby. I've explained it kind of as your best-friend-got-your-back, but then with the ceremonies and stuff, it takes it to a level people outside don't get. Love all your thoughts here!

  3. I love my wives :)I The quick way we describe it to people is: "A derby wife is skater who will ride with you to hospital in ambulance if you get hurt."

  4. is it going to upset you if I tweet the hell out of this post?

  5. I am so fascinated and charmed by this post and your derby life. I am the Life Section Editor at and we're going to feature a snippet of this post on the Life home page today, linking back to the full post. For more info, email me directly: I'll send you some blog bling too, if you like.

    My home team: Rocky Mountain Roller Girls

  6. I think my derby wife and I are unique in that she is my real life girlfriend. We started as teammates, became derby wives, and after we had each experienced separate (and not connected breakups), we wound up dating. It works for us, though we do have to "turn off" derby at times.

  7. Found this post (thanks Google!) and thought it was super helpful. I'm a new skater but I've heard a lot of talk about derby wives. One question though: Are derby wives typically on the same team? Or are they just on the same league? Or neither? Personally, I'd prefer to only have one derby wife and it would make sense that she be on my team or at least in my league so I'd be able to see her on a regular basis. But I know different leagues can have different ideas about this.

  8. Linked your post on my blog, hope that's okay! :)