In junior high I was a cheerleader, for a few months; then I quit. I was too aimless for the after-school time commitment, and I didn’t like the fact that I was clueless about the game.
In Canada — well, at our school at least — being a cheerleader didn’t have the same status as in the movies and books. As long as you had agility and rhythm, you could be ugly and unpopular and still be a cheerleader. Still, because of the “on stage” aspect, mostly attractive girls tended to try out. Hali and Maureen were two of those, and being good friends, they toted me along with them.
I hated the uniform colours — yellow and black; they didn’t suit my pale, freckled complexion. However, I did love the cheers. Small choreographed dances with clapping and chanting, simple gymnastics; and best of all, we were literally cheering people on, and getting others to do the same. What could be better?
I didn’t like that some of the boys jeered at us or made lewd comments.
—“Let’s go Monty, let’s go! (clap clap) Let’s go Monty, let’s go!”
—“SHAKE EM, BABY!”
—“Defence, attack! We’ve got to get the ball back! Uh-huh. Defence, attack! We’ve got to get the ball back!”
—“BACK IT ON UP OVER HERE!”
But it wouldn’t have been the same without them.
Half the time we didn’t know what they were talking about anyway. Hungry for validation, tuned in to our own bodies’ subtle yearnings as they filtered through the fairy tales and romance novels of our minds’ eyes, we assumed good intent. A sweet valley kind of high.
Hali was the head cheerleader. She was confident as hell and actually understood the game. She knew when to shout for the defence attack. She’d flip the boys the bird behind the coach’s back.
“YeeeeAAAAAAAAY WILDCATS!” Pompoms circling wide and high, jack-jump, flip finish. Honey-bronze legs in white socks. Perfectly manicured middle finger poised elegantly toward the peanut gallery. Smile, strut and wave.
The field was a muddy place.
It was easier to be on the sidelines, in the stands, whispering behind our hands. We could believe in our own limitless potential, from the safety of the shelter.
But it was not as exciting as being in the arena. Our faces red and mud-spattered in the sweltering rain.
- p.s. Yes, friends, the interview is coming… I just had to get this one out of my drafts folder, it’s been rotting there far too long… there is a method to the madness… In the meantime, check out Brené Brown’s talk about “the arena,” which she credits to a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, and which partly inspired the above little story. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-s6DQrqVHx Brené Brown’s “The Man In The Arena Speech” (3-minute edited version uploaded by Oie Osterkamp Nov 13, 2016)
Nadine inhales & exhales words & images from current vantage point in Zone of Emptiness, France. If you wish to contribute and/or show appreciation, please recommend/like and/or comment — or send email via the contact page. Thank you for reading. ❤︎