Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Gimme a K! Gimme an E! Gimme An...Oh, I Need a Nap

The other day, a couple people asked me if I had been a cheerleader.
"You were, weren't you?" one insisted.

I'm not sure exactly what about me screams "former cheerleader," but I assure you, I was not. I sneered at the cheerleaders. I hated them. But that doesn't mean that for a little while, I kind of wanted to join them, seeking a little validation that I, too, was tiny, pretty, lusted after by all the boys and overall, awesome.

My friend Ana and I gave it our best shot in seventh grade. We figured that was our ticket to joining the in-crowd. I think that deep down, we both knew that people already IN the in crowd became cheerleaders, and not the other way around. But it didn't stop us from practicing the assigned routine (which I don't remember now) for weeks on end.

About 40 girls tried out that day, and we all had to don our regular P.E. uniforms: tight, uncomfortable red shorts with a very unflattering elastic waistband and equally unflattering white polo shirts branded "KENNEDY JR. HIGH PANTHERS" just over our left boobs. This was probably test number one. If you looked cute in this getup, welcome to the squad.

We tried out in groups of five. We lined up side by side to do the assigned cheer in unison, then we were to finish the cheer with our arms akimbo, legs together, back straight and, most painful of all, a GIANT CHEESY GRIN. The more of your molars visible, the better. That just meant you had pep and were possibly high on Dexatrim.

While we stood like this, a group of four women kept their heads down while silently grading our performance. I imagined they were writing things like, "Why did the middle one try out? LOSER!" or "That stocky one on the right is hard on the eyes, but she'd make a suitable base if we get desperate."

As the judges wrote their notes, we had a coach on the floor with us, pacing back and forth, reminding us to "SMILE!" which she would silently mouth as she made a smiling motion with her fingers. She really seemed to want all 40 of us to make the squad, and I remember wondering what it was to her.

Every once in awhile, one of the women would look up to assess us. When they looked back down, cue the coach: "SMILE! SMILE! SMILE!"

I could feel myself beginning to fatique. My smile was beginning to weaken.

"SMILE!"

I gave it my best. One of the girls next to me began to slouch. We were getting tired. We'd been standing in the Impossibly Perky Position for a good five minutes.

Coach strolled by and mimed "SMILE!" and did a back-straightening motion for the sloucher.

After the 400th "SMILE!" mime, I knew there was no way in hell I was going to get on the squad. I wasn't even so sure I wanted it anymore. This was exhausting! It isn't natural to smile that much. It isn't natural to be that perky all the time. I didn't have it in me. Neither did Ana.

Anyway, did Ana and I really want to be friends with Dominique Bender, the alpha girl/captain? I think we dodged a rah-rah bullet that day.