Published on July 15th, 2011 | by Sweet N. Lowdown0
Jasmine Facun AKA Sweet N. Lowdown by Rich-Joseph Facun
Finding Derby Post-Partum
Over the course of one year I’d moved from Los Angeles to Flagstaff to Chicago to Miami, and finally to Tucson, AZ. In Chicago, I met Rich, a talented photojournalist, and got thoroughly knocked up. In Miami, he proposed. In Tucson, we had our son, Levi. Besides being an amazing photographer, Rich was also an avid skateboarder and went riding pools with his friends at least two or three times a week. I, no longer totally free to roam the country at will, generally sat at home most of the day until the desert air cooled enough to take the baby for a neighborhood stroll—the highlight of my day.
It was February 2005 and Levi was just two months old. I received a random email through Myspace from a girl who had seen Levi and me out walking a few times and we agreed to meet for coffee. I was eager to learn that she was currently doing her “fresh meat” training with Tucson Roller Derby. She invited the family and me to a bout and I officially had my mind blown. I watched in awe as the Iron Curtain and the Furious Truckstop Waitresses went head-to-head at Bladeworld.
These women looked like punk rock superheroes on skates. Fisti Cuffs taunted the voyeurs with peeps of her “speed ruffles” while Bolshe Vixen sent poor souls careening into the close crowd, spilling beers and eliciting cheers. Here and there a fight would break out, always ending in smiles and waves from both the offender and offended as they made their way toward the penalty box. I began picturing myself in one of those cute pink or red Dickies dresses, the crowd chanting MY name and holding MY sign.
Granted, I had no idea what was happening or how the game actually worked, only that I wanted in on it. I’d heard about roller derby while visiting Austin in 2003, where I’d met some of the Texas Rollergirls at a party. Rolletta Lynn had filled in the basic details and I vowed that if this roller derby thing and I ever ended up in the same town, well, we’d naturally have to be friends.
My infant son had other ideas though. The noise of the crowd became too much for him and we ended up leaving the bout early. As soon as we walked through the door, I went straight to the computer. I sat for over an hour, devouring every last ounce of information on TRD’s website. I laughed at the skater bios which read much like the “Wanted” ads in old Westerns, tried to make sense of the rules, paged through the photo gallery, until finally I clicked the “Join” link.
My heart sank.
Two to three practices a week. Meetings. Committees. Expensive gear. Risk of injury. This derby thing was not only going to be a big financial investment but also a huge time commitment. Beside the substantial cost just to get started, I’d never been away from my son since his birth. Yeah, you could say I’m THAT mom. You know the one. That crazy woman who breastfeeds her kid until he’s two and sleeps by his side every night until he’s three. That stay-at-home mom who carries her baby around in a sling as long as her back allows and never, ever, leaves him with a sitter. I was breastfeeding exclusively and couldn’t imagine leaving him even for a couple hours at a time. And what if I got hurt? So I waited.
I spent the next few months stalking the TRD website, gleaning new information and waiting for that perfect time to take the first step and attend an open skate session. The thing is, though, when you’re a mama, that day never seems to come. I’d always envisioned restful nights, my little angel slumbering peacefully in his brand new crib, Daddy offering a bottle every now and then to give my aching tits a well-deserved break. But that wasn’t my reality. Something changed in me when I became a parent. I recognized emotions, deep maternal instincts, I never even knew I possessed. You moms out there understand what I’m talking about—that certain feeling you get when you’re longing for a date night or missing your job or just want thirty minutes alone to take a damn bubble bath.
It’s a gut-wrenching feeling and it shoots to the core. Am I being selfish for wanting something that’s all mine? Am I a horrible mother because I desperately crave some time away from my child? Shouldn’t everything I have be enough? Dear Baby Jesus, why is there a skate-shaped hole in my heart?
Beside parental guilt, there’s also fear. Not fear that something would happen to my son in my absence, but fear of failure. Pregnancy and parenting can be all-consuming and my pregnancy was anything but normal. Always restless, my gypsy-like tendencies had moved me across the country—twice in the last trimester—before finally ending up in Tucson with just enough time to squeeze in some nesting and squeeze out my baby. I’d been diagnosed with debilitating sciatica and gestational diabetes, a condition that in my case had the doctors scratching their heads (I was a petite and healthy 23-year-old, only weighing 127 lbs at full term). And, my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I had met a mere four months before I got pregnant. Let’s just say we were still getting to know each other…
Ironically, Levi was born into this chaos on his exact due date, happy, healthy, and absolutely the most perfect thing I’d ever seen. It was my own anxiety over the state of my life that kept us joined at the hip. Suddenly, my choices mattered. I’d become completely dependent on my role as a mother. It defined me. So, when it came time to finally branch out and pursue something on my own again, having a purpose that didn’t directly involve being a mom felt alien and terrifying. What if I couldn’t hack it?
The truth is, though, roller derby really seemed like a convenient savior, an easy way to solve the most elemental of my problems:
* We had moved to Tucson when I was eight months pregnant so I hadn’t had much opportunity to make many friends. Derby looked like it attracted those who, like me, were a bit on the fringe.
* I was always an active kid, playing basketball and running track through high school, so derby seemed like a great way to get my pre-pregnancy body back.
* And finally, a rock star at heart with no musical talent to speak of, I admit that I was initially enticed by the campy nature of boutfits and derby names. Roller derby was a chance to be good at something—and to shine.
So the day finally came in early July when Rich decided for me that I needed to get a hobby because I was driving him crazy at home, and he gently pushed me out the door. After congratulating myself for only falling once—on my butt—at an open skate session, we went to the local sporting goods store to get me outfitted for my first real practice. I bought the first pair of skates I tried on (hundred dollar Carreras, size 4), a cheap Pro-Tec junior package, shiny black helmet, and a generic kid-sized mouth guard. I was ready.
We pulled up to the outdoor practice space at Catalina High School and my heart began to pound. Was I dressed right? I couldn’t be sure but had taken note that the veterans who’d showed up to open skate were dressed to sweat. In fact, I found I could pick out the other fresh meat because they were usually overdressed in fishnets and studded belts. It was the middle of summer in the Sonoran desert so I opted for a pair of red thrift store shorts, a tank top, and thigh high socks, and prayed I didn’t look like a total moron.
Nervously, I said goodbye to Rich and leaned back to give Levi a kiss, lingering a moment too long to be sure he wasn’t going to stop breathing the second I disappeared from view. I stepped out of the car and watched it pull out of the parking lot. I swallowed back a hard lump in my throat and blinked away a tear threatening to spill over. This was it. I felt strangely liberated—and yes, still guilty–as I walked through the chain-link gate and was greeted by the sounds of adult banter, pulled velcro, and wheels on concrete whizzing by. I’m shy anyway but spending so much time with a seven-month-old does something to a psyche. It took a few minutes just to feel at ease among the grown-ups.
I was almost done lacing up my skates when I realized I’d forgotten to put my knee pads on first. Rookie.
I took to the painted concrete track, the hot desert breeze on my face, and smiled just a little. Fresh meat training will be difficult. League drama may at times be intense. But for me, a mother, the hardest part is over.
By Jasmine Facun, a.k.a. ‘Sweet N. Lowdown’
Photos: Rich-Joseph Facun