The Chicago Outfit is #9 in the region, ranked #20 in the world by Derby News Network, and is playing in the top 10 tournament. The L Stop was lucky enough to chat with derby’s cutest couple, CeCe Painiston (#303) and Maul E. Hachet (#1031), of The Chicago Outfit. They met and fell for one another in the world of derby. Now, they are each other’s biggest fans. Roller derby is not only a part of their lives, but also a part of who they are, in and outside of their relationship. CeCe and Maul E. sat down over brunch at the restaurant where their relationship blossomed, A Taste of Heaven in Andersonville, to discuss their relationship and the hard-core life of a derby girl. We love these derby girls, and you soon will too.
The L Stop: Are you originally from Chicago?
CeCe Painiston: I grew up in Colorado. I lived there for 12 years. I moved to Houston for nine months and then I moved to Wisconsin. Now I live here.
TLS: What brought you to Chicago?
CCP: I started playing soccer here. But I stayed here because I was in grad. I just finished my masters in Oriental Medicine. I’m finishing my board exams to become a licensed acupuncturist.
TLS: And how about you?
Maul E. Hachet: I’m from the suburbs. So, I’ve been around Chicago my entire life.
TLS: How did you come up with your derby names?
MEH: When I joined I was trying to find this epic name on my own. I eventually emailed a friend of mine and said, “I’m joining derby. I need your help.” He gave me the suggestion. I said, “that’s awesome but I’m changing the spelling.”
CCP: I went through a lot of derby names at first. Then I went through a CeCe Penniston kick. I was like, “oh my G-d. This is perfect. CeCe Painiston.”
TLS: How did the two of your get into roller derby?
MEH: I went through a breakup and needed something to do. Some very good friends of mine had a roommate who played roller derby. I texted him one day and was like, “Tell Steph that I would really like to try roller derby.” She ended up calling and leaving me a message saying, “You have no choice. You’re coming to practice with me. I almost said no. I gave it a try and I fell in love. It’s been this crazy, four-year, epic journey with me.
CCP: I started playing roller derby because I used to get my hair cut by Erin, who’s derby name is Althea N. Hell, at Rockstar. She was one of the people who helped start The Outfit. She would badger me all the time about playing roller derby. I was like I cannot play roller derby. I love my face.
MEH: That’s everybody’s reaction, “I like my face too much.” Always.
CCP: And she had me come to a bout. I watched it and was like, I have to do this. So, then I went to a new recruit meeting and started going to recruit practices.
TLS: Did either of you know how to skate before joining The Outfit?
MEH: I had been roller-skating since I was little. So, it wasn’t terrible for me to put skates on and try again. But, it was definitely awkward when you’re trying to hit and whip and do all these other things while you’re just used to skating normally.
CCP: I knew how to skate from going to skating parties as a kid. But, derby skating is completely different.
TLS: How long did it take you to get comfortable?
CCP: Some days it’s still not comfortable. [laughs] It’s a day-to-day thing, depending on where you skate.
MEH: I would say three or four months, or so, before I felt I was comfortable on my skates. But, at least the whole first season I was a bit awkward on my skates.
TLS: How long have you two been in derby?
MEH: This is my fourth season. The Outfit just had their fourth birthday. I got in six months after, not even, they had started up.
CCP: This is my first season. So, I’m a rookie. It’ll be a year in November.
MEH: I remember my first year anniversary. It’s exciting. I was like, “I made it a whole year.” A lot of people drop out. They don’t realize the commitment that it takes.
CCP: Yeah, financially and time.
TLS: How did you two get together?
CCP: She hunted me down. I didn’t have a choice. [laughs]
MEH: Did not! We actually started out just wanting to be really good homies. Then we realized that just wasn’t going to happen. I think it was probably when we came to brunch here [A Taste of Heaven], when we sat down was like, “Wow. I kind of really like this girl. I wouldn’t mind if we were girlfriends.”
CCP: Yeah. We met at nationals last year. We were skating with each other for, like, a week but didn’t really know each other. She was there and I was like, she’s kind of cute. And then, the last night of derby everyone was leaving. They were like, “CeCe, you want to come and eat with us in Chinatown?” I really just wanted to eat Chipotle. I love Chipotle. She was leaving, too. I could’ve taken the blue line back toward my house. But, instead, I took the red line to a Chipotle way out of the way so I could ride the train with her.
TLS: How is it being a couple and playing derby together?
CCP: For us it’s been pretty easy because when we were first dating—well, we thought we were being secretive about it.
MEH: The reason why we didn’t want people to know is because she was new and we didn’t want her new group to think that she was getting any kind of special treatment. Or, we didn’t want the veterans to pick on her more. And, I also didn’t want her to automatically be associated with me.
CCP: So we were like, we’re totally going to be secretive about it. Well, of course all of our friends were like, who are you guys fooling?
MEH: Everybody knew.
CCP: It’s actually okay. We have a rule that we don’t kiss on skates.
MEH: We broke it a few times. It’s usually when injuries happen.
CCP: It’s good most of the time. We’re there to calm each other down. She get a little hot headed some times.
MEH: Hey, I’m Italian. It happens.
CCP: We’re also not on the same team. She’s on The Syndicate and I’m on The Shade Brigade.
MEH: I think we do a pretty decent job of separating home and derby.
TLS: What do you love most about roller derby?
CCP: I love that you don’t have to have been playing roller derby your whole life to be good at it. Like, I played soccer for eighteen, nineteen years of my life. The only people that rise to the top are people who have been playing forever. Derby is really cool in that you can be like, “Whatevs. I’m going to train hard and be fucking amazing. I’m going to go on to win national championships.” You have a totally built in support system too.
MEH: Yeah. It’s definitely like a family. That’s probably my favorite thing. They’re my family and if I need them, they’ve got my back.
CCP: There’s no one you see more than the people you skate with. [laughs]
TLS: How long do you see yourselves playing derby?
CCP: I said that I’m going to give myself a maximum of three seasons. So, one’s down and there’s only two more left, max.
MEH: I always go back and forth. Derby’s really hard to quit. I know people who have been retiring for, like, three years and their still skating. I think I’ll just know. I can’t put a time limit on it because it will probably come and go or be too far.
TLS: I saw the It Gets Better video that The Outfit did. How did that come about?
CCP: Someone contacted us about doing the It Gets Better video.
MEH: A bunch of sports teams in Chicago, I think, were doing it. So I think we just got put on an email list. Which is really awesome. I think it turned out amazing. It’s so cheesy but we started crying.
CCP: I was crying like I had never seen it before.
MEH: I just think that the clips that they picked were so perfect. And, it really shows that The Outfit has everybody. We’ve got so many different walks of life. I think we’re really, really accepting of anyone who wants to skate. If you want to skate and you can put in the time, we want you to come. And, I think that video is just awesome.
CCP: I’m really glad that they included people who aren’t gay. Like, a lot of times It Gets Better is about being. And, it’s not. Not necessarily. I’m glad that we included people who aren’t gay but had a pretty rough time.
MEH: High school is hard for everybody. I think no matter where you grow up, high school can be absolutely terrible for some people.
TLS: Do you feel that you are role models to young lesbians/queer females interested in joining derby?
CCP: I would say yes. We have a junior derby league and a lot of them are queer. A lot them just value us saying hi or being around them. I think that they, also, kind of look up to our relationships. For a lot of kids it’s such a burden being gay. For these girls they’re already embracing it. They skated in the pride parade.
MEH: Yeah they did. They skated in front of us at the pride parade. I love them. I think they’re adorable. They really do look up to us.
CCP: I think they’re parents are more accepting of the lifestyle by being around us.
MEH: I came out after I started playing roller derby. It’s really accepting, and it’s this safe space that you know no one will judge you. Everybody should be unbelievably accepting of everybody. I just hope that people can see that and use that as a model for them.
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Growing up Erica knew she’d be one of two things: 1. A lesbian 2. A writer. Lucky for her, she turned out to be both! After graduating from the University of Central Florida with a degree in Creative Writing, she moved back to the Midwest. In Chicago she found a community, a home, and her wonderful wife. Besides writing for The L Stop, Erica spends her time script writing. She hopes to, one day, write and produce good quality films and plays. If you ever see Erica around, feel free to say hi. She loves meeting new faces.