Independence versus cheerleading |

Independence versus cheerleading

Alison Berkley
Aspen, CO Colorado

Believe it or not, when I was a little girl, my biggest dream was to become a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.

The other night I was sitting around watching bad TV because the place I’m house-sitting has digital cable but no movie channels. I’m scrolling through the 700 things I don’t want to watch when I see it there in blue and white: “Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader Tryouts: Season 2.”


I spent the next two hours watching as girls went through several elimination rounds, being told they were too fat or too ditzy or too uncoordinated. I watched mascara-stained tears roll down their plastic-looking faces, watched them do the high kick line and dance tryouts and even swimsuit competition.

It surprised me that I still want to be one of them.

I know it’s a bit odd, considering I didn’t grow up anywhere near Dallas. I was raised outside of Hartford, Conn., where we didn’t even have a pro football team. In those days it was all about the Pittsburgh Steelers, at least according to my dad. (“Always stick up for the underdog,” he said.) But not me: I was all about those blue and white uniforms with the blue stars, the royal blue satin blouses tied right below the bosom, the short shorts and the tall boots. By the ripe age of 9, I was already fascinated with the idea of being sexy, of having the perfect body and long, flowing blond hair.

I dressed up as a cheerleader every year for Halloween, making my own pompoms from newspaper strips I’d cut and painted and bound together in little bunches. I’d wear short skirts and a sweater with the letter “V” pinned to the front of it, my hair in pigtails with matching bows. My friend Becky and I would ride our bikes down to Simsbury High School to watch the cheerleaders practice, and then go home and make up our own routines, dancing around my room and jumping up and down on the bed. By fifth grade, we had upgraded our pompoms to the real ones they sold at Leaders Drug Store. They were bigger and fluffier, made from shiny blue and yellow plastic strands, with white handle grips. We taught ourselves how to do cartwheels, back handsprings, splits and even managed to learn a few of the high school squad’s cheers. (My parents must have gone insane, listening to us holler “You say blue, I say gold, BLUE! GOLD! BLUE! GOLD! You say Trojans, I say win! TROJANS! WIN! TROJANS! WIN! GOOOOOO TROJANS!” in the basement.)

I remember watching a movie about Dallas Cowboys cheerleader tryouts and that summed it all up for me. I wanted all that ” the excitement of tryouts, the performance, the dance choreography, the locker room and uniforms, of being the prettiest girl and the best dancer and hanging out with football players all day, and being on TV.

My parents, who were well aware of the fact that I was horny from the age of 9 and on a fast track to becoming the town slut, pulled me out of public school and sent me off to a fancy-pants private day school in West Hartford in the seventh grade. Forget about a cheerleading squad, the Kingswood-Oxford School didn’t even have a football team. The closest I ever got to wearing a cheerleading uniform was the black and red plaid wool skirt and collared shirt we wore in lacrosse.

My mother certainly did not raise me to be a cheerleader. She always made a point of telling me she didn’t rely on anyone, didn’t need my dad to support us. “If he ever left us, I could afford the same lifestyle we have now,” she’d say. She told me she charged her patients more money than he did, even though he’s a medical doctor and she only holds a master’s degree.

“Why?” I asked her. “How do you get away with it?”

“Because I can,” she replied.

She told me if he ever cheated on her, she’d have the locks changed. “There wouldn’t even be a conversation,” she said. She broke off her first engagement to go to graduate school because her ex-fiance tried to stop her. She always wore the pants in the family, was the one who did the hiring and firing, and called the shots. (Sorry Dad, but you know it’s true.)

Point is, I was raised to be this strong, independent, intellectual woman, but in the end all I really ever wanted was to be a cheerleader.

I look at these women and start getting all kinds of wild ideas. I won’t lie to you ” there are days when I just want to throw in the towel and get a boob job. I mean, it seems quite possible that it could be that simple: flash a little cleavage, and the whole world is your oyster. Maybe size really does matter.

Maybe the world isn’t as complicated as I was lead to believe. Maybe those East Coast intellectual types made it that way. How simple it would be if I could just look pretty and not have to worry about my mortgage or car payment or my next writing gig. I’ve strived to be everything I was supposed to be, and then watched one guy after another go for the younger, more submissive types ” girls who aren’t threatening, who don’t challenge them or step on their fragile egos. There are days when I feel like the feminists drove us to climb way too high up a tree and now we can’t get down. We’re looking around for the guys to help us, but they’re long gone. We’ve chased them away.

I don’t know about fake boobs, but I do know one thing: I should really think about dressing up as a cheerleader for Halloween this year.