“So midseason tryouts are today?” I ask the sixteen-year-old cheerleader, standing outside the colossal gymnasium of Anchorage’s ████ High School.
“Right,” she replies.
“And the coach actually said it’s okay for me to give it a shot?”
“Sure. Just what kind of article are you doing on our cheerleading squad?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
She leads me into the gym. Along the way, we discuss what will be involved in my becoming a cheerleader for a day.
“Do I have to wear one of those skirt thingies?” I ask.
“Actually, male cheerleaders wear spandex pants,” she explains.
“THERE ARE REAL MALE CHEERLEADERS?!”
This comes as a total shock to me. I had absolutely no idea that there are guys who really do cheerlead, aside from Will Ferrell on Saturday Night Live. Incredible. I am almost as excited now as I was the first time I heard the sound produced while using a hammer to smash up baby raccoons. Shit!
Presently, I’m greeted by ten teenage girls wearing bright orange uniforms, turning in circles and hollering, “Team!” Suddenly, all of the girls’ eyes point straight at me, something to which I’ve become accustomed over the years.
“Who are you?” asks a cheerleader named ████, adding, “My name’s ████.”
“I’m Marty,” I say, successfully introducing myself. “I’m here to do an article on your squad.”
I wonder if I can nail that bitch, I ruminate. I conduct an “exclusive” interview, she suckles on my skin-flute for a minute or two, we have an unforgettable night of steamy passion (for a minute or two), and everybody goes home happy. Sounds like a plan to me!
Saving this line of thought for later, I ask ████ for her opinion of those who believe that cheerleaders are all idiots and bimbos.
“Wait, let me think,” she answers.
Twenty seconds later, I ask the question again.
“Okay, I think they’re ignorant,” she replies. “Maybe they’ve seen a squad out there that isn’t very good, and then they think it’s just all about girls wearing skirts. But it’s really different than that.”
Just then—this is the honest truth—one girl runs out of the room while loudly declaring, “I have to take a poop and wipe my butt!”
I approach the team’s coach, who tells me she doesn’t wish to be identified in this article. I suppose the desire for anonymity is more than understandable.
“What do you think about this group of young women?” I ask.
“I think they’re highly dedicated,” the coach says.
“Why aren’t there more boy cheerleaders?”
“Well, some of the best teams have male cheerleaders,” she explains, “but I think there’s a generalization that real men don’t cheerlead.”
“Right,” I say. “And just what is your personal opinion on the abortion debate?”
“Pro-choice? Pro-life? Pro-death? That’s just sick, lady.”
After a long, awkward silence, followed by brief spurts of nervous laughter, the coach replies, “I think abortion is a decision that probably has no right or wrong answer.”
Shortly after the coach makes this shocking confession, the cheerleaders invite me to join their team for one routine.
No going back now, I tell myself, walking to my designated position in front of the group.
“One, two, three, four,” ████ shouts.
“No, it’s ‘three, four, five,’” another cheerleader says.
“I thought it was ‘one, three, five, seven,’” chimes in one more.
“I’m telling you, it’s ‘five, six, two, eleven,’” declares yet another.
(I swear to God, this horrifying verbal exchange actually occurred.)
We start the routine, lack of basic counting skills notwithstanding, and it turns out to be one of the most beautiful things of which I’ve ever been a part. Imagine, if you will, ten of these graceful cheerleaders moving like elegant swans in the delicate moonlight. And then there is me in the front, looking very much like a giant cow waddling in circles, mooing with sheer delight.
“So did I make it?” I ask the coach after the routine has ended. “Did I make the team?”
“No,” the coach says, adding, “Please leave now.”