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My secret past (shhhh)

March 14, 2010

I have something to admit to those of you who have started following me here but don’t know me from my past. I used to be a…cheerleader. Gasp!

Yes, I know.

It doesn’t really fit my personality now. There isn’t anything about me that screams “She used to be a cheerleader!” when you first meet me or even when you read my blog or tweets. I know. Please don’t hate me because I was a cheerleader.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Hmmm…now that I look at her avatar, she does kind of look like she could be a total stuck up (I know. Isn’t that such a high school word?) bitch that would have ignored me in high school. I’m going to unfollow her now. Delete.”

And to be honest, in my defense, I really wasn’t a stuck up bitch in high school, though you may have thought I was. I was actually kind of shy. (You’re thinking, yea, right, Red, they all say that.) Either that or I was drowning in homework. Let me explain.

I was a gymnast. I started doing flip-flops when I was in the fourth grade and didn’t stop until, well, sometime in my twenties. I just loved being a flipper. So when high school rolled around, I decided to go out for drill team, not cheerleading, when I was a freshman. I thought I’d check out this whole “spirit” thing and see if it was going to fit into my gymnastics schedule. Because, you see, I made the varsity gymnastics team as a freshman. Yea, that’s right. Got my letter, baby.

End of freshman year rolls around and word gets to me that the JV cheerleading squad is sorely missing flippers. I am encouraged to go out for cheerleading my sophomore year but the thing is…the cringe-inducing thing is…I would have to try out in front of the whole student body–split into two groups–in the school auditorium–same routine, two giant groups, twice. Then they would vote. Whoever got the most votes, won. Total popularity contest. Doing my routine with another girl. Hoping, praying I wouldn’t screw up because then she’d hate me; that she wouldn’t mess up because then I’d have to hate her. Frightening is what it was. Twice.

Still, myself and five other girls won. (I’ll spare you from the agonizing wait to find out if you made the team and the way you found out if you “made it” or god forbid you didn’t and your life was over.) Mostly I remember fighting about uniforms and feeling relieved that I wasn’t captain. Because I just wanted to flip. I couldn’t wait to get out on the field, or the gym floor, and do my aerials or back flips. The crowd always seemed to appreciate it. I also seemed to have a lot of boyfriends. Huh.

I got along well with my JV cheer pals but none of us were besties. I was a smartypants. I was in all the smart (AP–remember those?) classes and they, with the exception of one other, were not. We all had different priorities. I knew I wanted good grades for college so I was a dedicated student (nerd) who happened to wear a cheerleading outfit. This certainly helped with the boy thing, though I have to say I didn’t really have a steady guy like many of the cheerleaders seemed to have. Mostly I hung out with the soccer nerds–they were smart, they threw the best parties, and they had great legs. :o)

Come junior and senior year, it seemed I was a shoe-in for the Varsity squad, being the resident flipper and all. Didn’t make tryouts any easier–same dumb election process, though I did well enough both times trying out with the resident beauty queen (who happened to be very sweet) that it all worked out okay. We did this “dead-drop” thing that gave my mother a heart attack every time we practiced it–always a good sign for a winning trick. When a few of the girls smoked dope before a basketball game and showed up higher than kites, they got booted from the team and we were down to four girls for the rest of the year, which to be honest kind of took the fun out of the whole thing (listen, we all smoked dope–just not before games. I mean, really, girls. There’s a time and a place for everything).

I did have one injury. I broke my arm during an unfortunate half-time pyramid-related accident. See, me being little and all, I was usually the one tossed up to the top of someone’s shoulders. No exception here. Except when it was time to jump down, one of the gals holding on to my ankles decided not to let go. Yea, oops. Despite my protestations of “Down! Down!” which any cheerleader worth her weight in spirit stick will tell you is the universal command for, well, down–this gal continued to hold on to my ankle. Gravity being what it is, my body continued its trajectory in a downward motion backwards, with my right arm breaking my fall. My wrist area had a clean break all the way through, which I can tell you, did not feel as good as winning the spirit stick at cheer camp.

If you’ve ever had a major bone break, perhaps you can relate when I tell you that I entered into what can only be described as an alternate reality (shock). I was in this weird, eerie, silent place where apparently I could not hear that I was cursing like a sailor (cheer advisor was not amused), and quite loudly at that. (It’s worth nothing here that they played “Three Times a Lady” at halftime at the next game I attended in honor of my, er, mouth.) Where the pain was so incredibly great that it was all I could feel; where there was so much pain that I felt nothing, almost nothing at all. That is, until the ambulance went over the speed bumps. Fuckers.

Really, the only long-lasting side effect from my broken arm was the damage to my hair (and ego) from the unfortunate poodle perm given to me by an overconfident friend while I sat idly by, watching her roll my hair in those incriminating pink curlers, while I was hopped up on Vicodin. That friendship was short lived. And despite a hard, uncomfortable plaster cast up to my shoulder for eight long weeks, and the fact that I broke my writing hand, I survived. I think I was more upset about having to go to Homecoming in my cast than anything else. Hey, at least I had a date.

My ten-year old daughter tried on my cheer clothes last weekend. I’m not a particularly sentimental person, in case you couldn’t tell that already. I throw everything away. But I kept the damn cheer clothes. All these years. And my hip fashion girl thinks they are really cool. (Go Broncos!) She is even wearing a vest or two out and about which just cracks me up. Me, I just can’t believe how little we all were–and how we all thought we were fat.

So did cheerleading change my life? Yea, I guess it did. I learned at a very young age how to work as a team, how to fight as a team, and how to stand on a cold railing and shout stuff in the middle of winter with a short skirt on and act like it was fun and as if I wasn’t freezing my ass off (Go Broncos!). A skill I will undoubtedly use multiple times in my life. At some point.

I’m now forty-six.

Go team.

  1. I'm fairly certain that I have to stop following you on Twitter now. Also, I can never read here again. A cheerleader? How could you keep this type of information from me? I thought we were buds. *sigh* I guess you never really know someone.

    Sadly, my husband used to be captain of his football team. But we try to keep that quiet. I mean, he has to be able to hold his head up in society.


  2. I was the most unlikely cheerleader EVER. starting in 6th grade, with braces, glasses, red hair and freckles. But I cheered for 6 years ( 2 letters) and then when my daughter was little I became a cheer coach. We took league and division. I still 12 years later have girls contacting me with grad or wedding announcements. I taught in an “underprivileged area” and wanted each girl to find self worth, team work and confidence and they did, EVERY girl I had finished high school (against that local statistical data) and most went to college. Yeah for cheerleaders !

  3. nacho permalink

    I was never a cheerleader, but I had school spirit. I never missed a home game.Okay, so I went to party but still…. I went. Go Leopards!!

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