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That time I was a high school cheerleader
(A short, *true* story)
I have a very gay confession to make…
I was a cheerleader. Senior year, only. A last-ditch effort to become the vivacious dancer of my dreams via what I felt was the most brilliantly balanced sport outside of gymnastics.
And, another confession.
It was my final attempt to get closer to Bianca, the dark skinned, hazel-eyed firecracker, apple of my eye. Well, at least since she complimented my hair that day in 5th period Show Choir and I decided that there must be a chance for us.
I tried being a dancer once before.
I was seven. I’d just witnessed the smooth and intricate stylings of Usher’s iconic dance battle against Tyrese in the music video for the 1997 number one hit “My Way.” I was in my cousin KiKi’s bedroom at my Grandma’s house, because the R&B modernity of My Way tis not a thing I’d ever get to see at home. Ha! The thought.
Not with parents who chose to homeschool 4 kids at once, who still didn’t have cable by the time I was twelve, whose version of TV options include whatever you can find on PBS, plus classics like Lion King, or one of my mom’s faves, Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
Never, and I mean never, were we allowed to watch a film rated anything over G, or a TV show not created specifically for kids.
Suffice to say, I’d never seen anything like Usher’s “My Way” outside of Michael Jackson’s obvious dance brilliance of which I assumed no one else could replicate.
Of course, I was mesmerized. By the freedom in these dancer’s bodies. The unadulterated cool in every movement. I was amazed. I’d dreamed of cool like that, but only ever woke up to a violin, my father’s instrument of choice for me which I argued on the daily was wildy uncool.
“I’ll see what I can do,” My mom promised after my fiftyleventh request for a dance class, of which didn’t quite pan out but sparked a years-long dance dream for me.
Fast forward to my last month of junior year. Bianca enters, lip gloss popping, cheer skirt just a fingertip below our school limit.
Her lips glistened and my knees buckle with her 7 delicious words,“I’m loving your outfit today. So cute!”
I cheesed so hard my mouth hurt. Whatever she said next, I was all in. Luckily, she didn’t say anything weird because, in that moment, I woulda offered a reverberating “yes!” to even the phrase, “You should jump off a bridge, like right now.”
She told me I should try out for the cheer squad because I would be, and I quote, an adorable cheerleader. Ah. Dore. Ah. Ball. Child.
It’s simply all the motivation I needed.
As far as I was concerned, I was made to be a cheerleader. I always wanted to be a cheerleader. This was my destiny.
I beelined to the gym after choir and scribbled my name on the try out list. I persuaded my mom to stop at Wallyworld on the way home so I could get some cute shorts for Day One. And after a bit of excessive shock (Cheerleading?! Interesting. You’re full of surprises.), she graciously agreed to let me do it.
The next day after school I power walked to the gym. Early. Too early. I tapped my toe on empty bleachers as other cheer hopefuls trickled in. My palms tickled. Cheeks sweat. Bianca sauntered in with a confidence I quietly praised, and when she flashed that smile my way…it hit me, I’m actually doing this. I’m at cheer try-outs.
“I’m so glad you came!” Bianca said.
I didn’t get to respond thanks to a rather important interruption from Ms Stacy, the cheer coach. She was a loud, white Cajun lady with a thick accent and this habit of popping her gum between sentences.
“Ya’ll pay attention,” Pop, “Cause we’re about to do a 16-count that ya’ll have got to memorize, you understand?” Pop, “You understand?” Pop
“Yes, Ms. Stacey!” All of us said, and then I jumped at the blare of a mighty dance beat.
Me and about 30 other prospective cheer-ers sat like sitting ducks as Bianca and ten other cheerleaders performed this 16 count in perfect unison. They all smiled like each step was an effortless, second natured movement. Wild.
And we had how long to learn this? A day?! I’d need to see that 20 more times, please. But instead, Ms. Stacey had us run ten laps around the gym, and then 50 jumping jacks, 25 push-ups and one more sprint before we even got to ask about a second run-through. I wasn’t feeling too great about making this team.
“We’re gonna run it through three times slow, cool?” Said Bianca, forever the singer, high pitched and soft and light like she might yawn any minute. And then she winked at me.
I nodded, equal parts eager to take absolutely any of her instructions and frightened to my core at embarrassing myself. I stood towards the front as one of the shorter folks there. To my dismay, Ms. Stacey landed right in front of me after pacing back and forth and so naturally, the bulk of my energy then went to seeming to have no issue with this whatsoever.
Big mistake, I could not grasp any movements for a good twenty minutes. I might as well have left the room in the 2nd two run-throughs because, baby, I was not there.
“Girls, “ Pop ,”Ya’ll better pay attention, next round you’re on your own.” Pop.
She clapped three times right in my face, or at least that’s how I remember it, and I jumped again. Floated back to earth just in time,
“You. you, you and you.” Pop. “Let’s go!”
Shit. We had to perform for her. I was not ready.
The bass dropped. One measly eight count before we…
“Go! Let’s go. Five, six, seven, eight.”
The music lost me back at beat three. Dammit.
“Let’s see what you got!” Ms. Stacey clapped.
A bit of her spittle landing on my glasses lens. What a mess.
I didn’t know about this dream anymore. It was starting to waver. Like, Me, dancing? More like trying to catch a family of fire ants with the bottom of my shoe.
Those 16 counts were over before I could say, “I’m so sorry.” Which is exactly what I yearned to mouth to Bianca who I sincerely felt I’d failed.
I’m never gonna make the squad looking like this, I thought. My ears rung. The track still played but I heard nothing as I sulked back to the bleachers, too embarrassed to raise my head.
And the rest of the tryouts happened. I’m sure of it, even though I don’t remember a thing up until I zipped my backpack closed and felt the silken soft graze of Bianca’s hand on my shoulder.
“You were so cute out there.” She giggled encouragingly with every bit of sincerity.
My heart fluttered in the good way.
“Really?!” Is all I could manage to say.
“Stop, oh my god, yes! Like, don’t worry, Ms. Stacey’s not looking for, like, perfection, you know? Just, like, practice tonight, come in tomorrow and kill it. You’ll be fine.”
She shimmied into a little shrug and smiled. Skipped away with her crew of already-cheerleaders and there I stood there, smiling. Charging up, Super Saiyan-style.
I finish my math homework in a record 20 minutes then turned on the CD Bianca gave me into the upstairs boombox. One and two and three and four and five, six, seven, eight. Over and over and over again. One hour passed, two, three. Four.
“It’s 9 o’clock.” My sister rushed into the room with a deadpan stare to say.
“I’m almost done.” I groaned, turning off the boombox so she could hear me.
But I turned it right back on, on low low, for another forty-five minutes before my dad said I had to go to sleep.
When I tried to sleep, I closed my eyes like normal, but I didn’t rest at all. Yet, I woke up with more energy than I’d had all week, popping upright like a mummy back to from the dead. Here we go.
Quick, ask me to run through that 16. I got it. I’m ready. Let’s go!
I’m sure I could have learned som things in class that day but, instead, I spent each period running that 16-count in a loop in my head.
“Are you so excited?” Bianca asked when I got to show choir.
“Yes! Oh my god, yes.” I was so excited. I was more ready than I’d ever been for anything, ever.
And I killed it. I went so hard Ms. Stacey found me on the way to the bleachers to say,
Pop “Good job.”
And the next day I sped towards the gym’s front door to squint at tiny letters on a ripped white paper where I’d find my fate.
Biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitch. I was officially a Trojan Cheerleader.
Next stop? Cheer camp.
Thanks for reading!
Just a cute story about high school hormones, crushes and motivation! I hope ya’ll liked it.
We’ll talk again soon,