Mary Lou Wretched

Roller derby star Mary Lou Wretched is no princess

What am I not? My mother, who always wanted a girly girl, hates that I play roller derby.

Instead of the sweet, mild-mannered, preacher’s wife daughter she dreamed of, she ended up with a daughter who enjoys beating up on girls twice her size. I’m a dream crusher. 

Growing up, what sports didn’t you play? Why not?

I didn’t take gymnastics or take ice skating as a child, both of which remain two of my biggest regrets in life.

I was a child of the ’80s, so Mary Lou Retton was a huge role model of mine, and I always wished I could have learned her sport. Sadly, my mom didn’t seem to think gymnastics was that important.

As far as ice skating is concerned, I just always loved skating and so badly wanted to rule the ice the way those folks in the Olympics did, but we didn’t have a rink convenient to us. I’d be unstoppable at roller derby had I been an ice skater.

As a member of the Kansas City Roller Warriors All Star team, you obviously know what it takes to succeed in this sport. What sort of person shouldn’t play roller derby?

Girls who think the movie “Whip It” is reality shouldn’t play roller derby, because they’ll be sorely disappointed that we don’t wear Girl Scout uniforms and choreograph our moves.

I’d also say anyone who is afraid of breaking a bone or getting hit shouldn’t play, because it’s a full contact sport.

You could easily break something (I did!), you will get knocked down by girls both bigger and smaller than you, and you will end up bruised, battered, and sore. It comes with the territory.

What don’t you think about while skating?

When I’m skating, I don’t think about the stress of every day life. Roller derby is an escape.

It’s where you can go and take out your aggression on girls who encourage you to hit them harder. It’s the only place where a bad day will make you a force to be reckoned with. 

What isn’t true about roller derby?

We’re not all giant, beer guzzling, tattooed lesbians. Sure, many of us enjoy a beer (or 5, plus shots). Lots of us are tattooed. And there are plenty of women in committed relationships with other women.

Many of us are professionals, mothers, women who are doing truly incredible things both on and off of the track. The thing that we have in common is that roller derby is a sport we all take very seriously.

You’ll hear most of us say it saved our souls, and because of that, we work hard, we stay in shape, and we pour tons of time, effort, and money into being the best we can be. Best of all, you can be 5′ and 100 pounds, 6′ 2″ and 180 pounds, or anywhere between — even over and under — and you have a chance at being amazing at this sport.   

Roller derby is one of the few sports in the world where female leagues enjoy a higher profile than male competitions. Why aren’t male leagues as popular with spectators?

Merby hasn’t fully caught on because who wants to see straight men in fishnets?

Honestly, men’s derby is beginning to catch up with the women’s leagues, but because the resurgence of modern day roller derby began with us ladies, the females seem to have a bit more experience under our belts for the time being. But the men are steadily gaining speed.

Check out leagues like Your Mom, the New York Shock Exchange, the Magic City Misfits, and the St. Louis GateKeepers, and you’ll see why leagues within the Men’s Roller Derby Association are making waves.

A big tradition in the sport is the use of colourful nicknames such as Auntie Climax, the Ovarian Barbarian, and Nancy Raygun. Any names you’ve seen/thought of that didn’t work?

I’m not a big fan of names that jeopardize the legitimacy of our sport. I’ve seen some that are just crude.

For example, our database of rollergirl names, which is where every single derby girl has to get her name approved, shows that girls have registered names like “Cunty McTaintStain” and “Pho Kyu.” What’s the point of a name like that?

I personally love the names I see that play off of famous people (Nancy Raygun is brilliant!) or have some smart meaning attached to them.

Some of my derby sisters from the Kansas City Roller Warriors and my former league, the Springfield Rollergirls, have great names: Brawl Things Considered (a huge NPR fan), Barbrarian (a tall librarian), Ruth Canal (her number is 22th), Hypersmacktivity (she works with kids who have behavioral problems), and Poisonous Polly (who is just terrifying).

And, despite what I said earlier, my favorite name is probably Queefer Sutherland, who plays for the Chicago Outfit. I laugh every time I hear it.

Follow Mary Lou Wretched’s rollerderby adventures at her blog Barely Skating By

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What Others Are Saying

  1. Eenie Meanie July 9, 2012 at 1:32 am

    Love it! Very well written article.

  2. Molly Misdemeanor July 24, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    I play roller derby too…nice article; all very true! I recently did an art piece called derby girl, check it our if you like :)

    • Max July 24, 2012 at 11:27 pm

      I had a look Molly, it’s very well done.

  3. Thomas Cotterill July 26, 2012 at 4:45 am

    Another great anti view, Max. I love the moniker “Auntie Climax.” Sounds positively literary!

    • Max July 26, 2012 at 8:24 pm

      It does, doesn’t it. I wonder how long they spend coming up with these.

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