A year ago to this day, I started my derby journey with the Nottingham Hellfire Harlots.
Last week I had a nice relaxed evening out with my derby wife Karat and the ever awesome Jevo. We hit our usual haunts, Costa and KFC (most often visited before committee meetings making up the three Cs: Chicken, Coffee, Committee.)
During the random conversations we were having and the fitness plan they helped me put together (which I have named 30 minutes of hell), Jevo asked about the concept of the derby wife. It got me onto the different types of derby relationships you can have and she requested I write a bit in my blog about it. So Jevo… this is just for you! (I promised to upload Monday night but it got too late to publish it now, so hoping this works – this is the first time I’m using the publish at a time feature!)
The derby wife is a strange thing, some like it, some don’t. I am one of those people who does like it (obviously) as I have my own derby wife. I feel it is a magical thing to have, someone who means that much to you and is there for you when life gets hard or when you just want to hang and have a laugh. The best part about my derby marriage is that we are not so wrapped up in ourselves that we forget about the other girls – something I have sadly heard about in other leagues. We are very much a derby couple (including performing an unplanned synchronised 180 toe stop at last nights practice) but we are very much a league couple in the way we make sure if any of the girls need us, we are there. Jevo mentioned that she would never find a derby wife, which brings me to fact that I do however feel that there should never be pressure on finding that relationship between you and another skater, it is something that comes naturally, it may come from a friendship within or outside of your league, and for some it may not come at all – but this is not a negative reflection on that skater. Some girls don’t feel they can choose or find just one person they can get close to which in a way is where the other forms of derby marriage come in.
Now – I am basing this on what I know and what I have read elsewhere, so feel free to add your own comments and knowledge to the pile!
Your best friend, your nearest and dearest, that one who is there for you no matter what and if things go to hell she is going with you to keep you company on the ride. I have noticed more recently in the last few months that derby wives have encompassed the person who is your best friend both on and off the track which speaks volumes about the effect the ladies in your derbyverse have on you and your life. My only real issue with the derby wife phenomenon? Some skaters want things too quickly. When you start derby, you have no idea who that person will be, you may start derby with your best friend and become derby wives very early on, but she may leave the league and leave you wifeless. As with any normal relationship, things take time and you need to grow yourself and let your friendships with your teammates build. But I guess this is more an issue which lies with that minority group of girls who join derby just to say she is a derby girl (you know the ones, the ones that want it all to be fishnets and face paint, don’t turn up to practices but are at all social events and constantly posting/telling everyone that they are this awesome derby girl and she got this bruise this one time… the “derby girls” who just want the status but do nothing? Yep. Those ones. – Just want to point out I have no issue with fishnets and face paints!)
The other lady in your derby life. She is the lady who is probably a good friend, you hang out every so often but are not that committed. A step down from the derby wife in a sense, sometimes a mistress only because your derby wife would not agree*, sometimes a mistress simply because bonds are not quite strong enough for wifedom. (*other forms of the “other lady” see derbygamist or derby polygamist)
Often a derby life choice, the lady who decides that derby wifedom is not for her. This does not mean that she does not have close friends on the team, it is simply that she has chosen not to be involved or commit to being a derby wife for whatever reason or other. Again, not a negative reflection and makes a skater no less of a skater or derby girl.
A derby wife bigamist. Simple. This happens a bit more often than you think, when a derby girl has a derby wife already but has a possible derby wife on another league or in the same league. Or more than 2 wives. Rather than being a derby mistress, this lady is considered close enough a bond to become a derby wife. A derbygamist is usually a lady who has derby wives which are not necessarily close or in the same league, unlike the derbypologyamist (see derbypolygamist)
Like a derbygamist, however an agreed derby marriage between two or more derbyladies. When you are already a group of three or more ladies who just cannot chose one of your girls to be your derby wife and leave your other lady out, or you are a derby couple but have a third lady who is your other bestest – you may talk it through and agree to be a polygamist derby marriage. This is an odd and tricky one because I have heard of girls being pulled between each other and it becoming difficult or a strain on the marriage. Though I have heard of cases in which it worked – and it would appear that users on Etsy on it with the following actually pretty cool key rings and necklaces.
Let us spare a thought for the poor derby widow. The man/woman in our life that temporarily loses us for derby purposes but is often understanding and supportive nethertheless. Derby widows can sometimes be drawn into the sport as fan support, an NSO or sometimes even consider getting a pair of skates on to ref. (Thankfully my derby widow is understanding, he is patient and even comes to help out on a Sunday session – he even approves of my derby wife!)
I believe that a derby wife is your one and only, to have and to hipcheck etc etc. But through my time in the derbyverse and seeing the close bonds of friendship between girls as a whole team, I do understand that some may need a third derby wife due to being a three group of best friends or they pick up derby wives from a team transfer or a best friend in another league. The derby wife and other derby relations are magical beings and are not always one way or the other. You choose and you make it what you want it to be. Don’t worry about conventions, as with real life – marry who you want! Just be happy and be confident in your decision, avoid making the wrong choice – no one likes a derby divorce!
I also feel very strongly that whilst the derby wife is a lovely tradition and one which I have joined in with, it should only act as a positive reinforcement in your derby experience. I am very lucky and thankful that I have a derby wife who is not only a great person and there for me when times are both easy and hard, but she also kicks my butt and makes me a better person and skater/player. I genuinely could not ask for more. She is not just my derby wife, but she is also my best friend! I named this post the mythical and magican derby wife, as I feel that when you find your perfect derby wife, it’s like finding a unicorn! YES! UNICORN!
If you do think you have found your derby wife, have a good think about both your friendship and how they add to your life, if you can honestly say that they are a positive and supporting influence – go for it!
I will leave this with a really good quote which sums up my feelings on the derby wife phenomenon from a post written by Starry Starry Fight, who sadly no longer writes but I highly recommend reading her older derby related blog posts as they are fantastic
“After a little research, the best definition for a derby wife I have read is: the girl who reminds you of all the things you ever liked in anyone else. Your derby wife is the girl who will always talk to you about anything both on and off the track. Your derby wife is your competitor, but she still appreciates your talents and skills. And your derby wife never judges you, even when you get drunk, fall off of a bar stool, and smash your eye open all while laughing maniacally (true story!).”
“I guess what surprises me most about the derby wife phenomenon taking place is how vocal we are about the relationships we have formed with these partners. Instead of claiming that friendship is impossible, we openly claim that we cannot live without each other. We recognize that a blend of competitiveness and rivalry actually helps to cultivate the relationships we have with these women.”