Will the Real Sallie Please Step Forward?
Choosing a derby name is supposed to be a right of passage that closes the identity gap between who you are off the track and who you become once you strap on the skates. But for me ‘Musting Sallie’ has added to an identity crisis of sorts. It’s one of several personas I’ve created over the years. Not as in a disorder—although I’m starting to wonder about me. The others were for my work as an on-air personality.
Then when I moved to news I used my real name. I got married but continued to use my maiden name on the air although it was no longer my legal name. And finally when I was asked to spin tunes and have a cool personality there was no way I was going to do it as Sallie. Period. That way if ever I muttered a nugget of anything controversial nobody could hurl personal insults at Sallie. I pulled a name out of the air without much thought at the very last minute and have been Susan James for the last seven years. I wish I had been more creative but there are no do-overs once you’ve used your air name, unless of course you move a hundred miles away to start over.
Off the air, even though I am now divorced after 16 years, I continue to use my married name because I don’t want to hurt my kids’ feelings. Ugh.
So when it came to picking my derby name I was determined to really get creative because the better the name the better I would skate. It would make me more confident. I could hide behind it like I do Susan James. I could be really tough verging on mean and badass and that was okay because that’s what Musting Sallie is all about. But that didn’t happen. In fact, it was quite the opposite. The more I skated, the more I wanted just to be me. Tough verging on mean and badass wasn’t me and a new name wasn’t going to change that. I never responded right away when a team mate would yell “Sting” or “Musting” to get my attention on the track or otherwise. I didn’t hear it because I didn’t really connect with it.
It feels safe just to be me at derby because my sisters accept me whether I’m happy and on top of my game or bitchy, uncoordinated and having a really bad day. I never have to pretend to be who I’m not. In radio you are always ‘on’ and that is tough to do sometimes.
My sisters finally gave up on calling me anything other than Sallie on the track. In some weird way it makes me feel loved to hear them yell my real name—even when I’m being called for a penalty.
If I had my way and could choose all over again knowing what I know now, my game jersey would simply say “Sallie”.