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Question number 2: What is your favorite extracurricular activity? Please describe how it has affected your life.
Cheerleading, for the true believer, is no extracurricular activity. It is a vocation, a calling. I myself received the call when I was a mere novice, a member of the junior varsity drill team. It was the first football game of the season, third quarter. The score was tied and the tension mounting. Our boys were looking haggard. The spectators murmured softly in their seats. Someone in the stands tossed a cigarette onto the field and it sparked the dry grass on the sidelines. I watched the blaze, and that was when the vision came to me. I stared into those flames, and I heard a voice. It sounded like the voice of the announcer who called the plays over the loudspeakers, but I swear to you it was not. It was the voice of the Spirit. School Spirit. It called my name. It told me to take up the pompoms and megaphone and bring my message to the people. I was filled with ecstasy. The manager's assistant doused the fire with Gatorade and the game continued. But I knew what I had to do.
Then I got my own car. Then I dated college boys with trust funds, who wore chinos and loafers with no socks.
but her problem was that she just wasn't happy enough. She was a solemn girl with big circles under her eyes. When she performed the classic cheer "I've got spirit, yes I do, I've got spirit, how 'bout you?" none of us felt for a second that she really had spirit.
We'd all seen Corrie on television during the Olympics, sobbing because she won the silver medal instead of the gold. This was a double liability. First of all, we didn't want anyone on the squad who would cry on national TV; didn't she have any dignity? we asked one another. Second of all, there was the matter of that silver medal. Why not the gold? She'd really let down her team. Let down the whole country. We didn't want a loser like that on our squad. For God's sake.
Corrie looked terrified all during the tryouts, and she recited the cheers in a squeaky, strangled voice, as if her gymnastics coaches had snipped her vocal cords to make her neck a little more flexible. And her body was wrong. She was definitely thin enough, but she had no chest at all. You need something there, it's what people like to see. A little jiggle. You can't hold their attention otherwise.
When Bunny and I tried to explain these shortcomings to her, Corrie started to cry more of those big Olympicsized tears and said that she couldn't help it. We told her she should have considered implants; lots of girls do it before tryouts. There's no shame in it. As long as you don't tell anyone. If word does get out, your social life is finished. We told her we were sorry.
We had high hopes for another prospect. Her name was Meili and she almost passed muster. Nice legs, great smile, good straight teeth. Excellent posture. She seemed to have the spirit in her. We were preparing to take her when it came to our attention that she was not a natural blonde. When confronted, Meili tried to defend herself by saying she was Korean. That's no excuse, we told her. There are rules.
It was unfortunate; we would have accepted her if we hadn't noticed the telltale dark roots. Even then, some of us were willing to let it slide, but Bunny declared Meili unacceptable. No bottleblondes, that was the rule. Bunny was a real stickler; it could cause difficulties at times, but we all had to admire her fervor.
We were very excited about a third applicant, LaShonda. LaShonda had style. She had the moves. She had grace and panache. She looked fantastic in the uniform. She was unexpectedly strong; we were eager to use her as the base of our human pyramids. She said she was dating a twentysixyearold, which pleased us; it meant we wouldn't have to worry about her stealing our boyfriends. You can imagine our disappointment, then, when we discovered that LaShonda was really Sean, and had until recently been the star kicker on the football team. We questioned LaShonda, who burst into tears and swore she was on a waiting list for an operation. We hugged her, some of us cried, too, but we had to tell her no.
"Oh my God, my life is over," LaShonda told us, sobbing into her hands. But Bunny was firm. We had standards to uphold, after all. If we started making compromises, exceptions, then everything would fall apart. Without rules, society would quickly disintegrate and soon we'd all be living in the wilderness, eating rats and beetles, peeing on the ground and wearing stripes with plaids. At least this was Bunny's reasoning, and it seemed sound to the rest of us.
So when we learned of LaShonda's suicide a short time later, none of us felt particularly responsible. Some of us rationalized it as a sacrifice of the one for the sake of many. I admit I felt a bit sad at the time, and considered dedicating a cheer to her at the next game, but I had so much on my mind that I forgot all about it.
We eventually accepted three girls who managed to meet all our qualifications. Nikki, Sherri, and Tonya were thrilled. We put them through the usual initiation procedures (beer, branding, sensory deprivation) and then began an intense workout program to whip them into shape for the next big game.
We thought our troubles were over. We hoped the Spirit would return, now that our squad was complete.
But scandal returned to haunt us. We soon discovered that meek little Corrie had a vengeful soul. Or, rather,, her mother did. Several days after the tryouts, Corrie's mother cornered Sherri's mother in the Lord and Taylor's parking lot. Instead of complimenting her on Sherri's fine accomplishment, Corrie's mother shot her in the stomach, then quickly drove off to an appointment with her hairdresser. Sherri's mother spent the ensuing weeks in the hospital, in critical condition.
Bunny decided to say something before the matter got out of hand. One day after practice she approached Staci and said kindly, "Do you feel okay? You look a little sick. Do you think you need to throw up?"
"No," Staci said.
"Well, I think you do," Bunny said. They looked at each other. "I think you do," Bunny repeated, "so why don't you waddle off and"
Staci finally walked away.
Bunny turned to the rest of us and said, "I'm doing this for you all, you know. For the squad. We don't want her dragging us down. Or dragging herself down. Do we?"
We all agreed that we did not want that. Then we held hands in a circle and said the Mighty Westside Pep Chant five times, slowly and with feeling. Then we hugged one another and went home to weigh ourselves.
Things came to a head at the Halloween dance. Bunny came dressed as Pamela Lee in Baywatch. I came as Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman; I had these fabulous thighhigh boots. Lori showed up and told us we were both totally passe. She was dressed as Demi Moore in Striptease. Bunny and I told her she looked like a slut. We all had brought vodka in contactlens solution bottles, and Lori had some of her father's coke hidden in her Gstring, so every fifteen minutes or so we went to the bathroom for a squirt or a snort.
Sometime after midnight, during one of our bathroom trips, we heard moans, and peeking into one of the stalls, we discovered Lori's boyfriend (dressed as Dennis Rodman) having sex with Nikki (dressed as Madonna in the conebra phase). Lori and Nikki screamed and went at each other with their fingernails, and half the student body crowded into the bathroom to watch, and soon people were cheering and placing bets. There was so much commotion, with all the shrieks and moans and cheers echoing around the bathroom, that no one noticed how in another stall Staci (also dressed as Madonna) was busy giving birth to a sevenpound baby boy.
She put the baby in the trash, fixed her hair, pushed her way out of the bathroom, and went back to the dance floor. No one noticed the little body at first; later people said they thought the blood and gore were part of the Halloween decorations. It was much later that the police finally came and broke up the catfight and took Staci away for medical treatment and questioning. After they left, Lori and Nikki hugged each other, and cried, and tried to piece their costumes back together, and we all trouped back out to the dance floor and requested "Papa Don't Preach" by Madonna and danced until dawn.
So we had lost Staci. At first we hoped that after all the courtroom nonsense was over she'd be able to come back on the squad, but then we found out that the probable father of her baby was Bunny's boyfriend. That finished Staci. We no longer mentioned her name. We burned her pompoms and megaphone, and did our best to ignore all the hoopla surrounding her case.
Bunny referred to Staci as the evil in our midst, the source of all our problems. With her gone, the Spirit would return to us.
I wanted to believe Bunny, but I couldn't. Weeks passed, and Bunny insisted that she could feel the Spirit, flowing through us and lifting us during our chants and stunts. Some of my sister cheerleaders nodded their heads, their eyes filled with rapture. But I couldn't feel it. School Spirit seemed farther from me than ever.
It was the beginning of a great split. Bunny swore that the Spirit had returned, that our trials had brought us to a higher spiritual level, that the squad should prepare for a loftier mission. I argued that the Spirit had not returned, that we were deluding ourselves with false hopes. I thought that we should simply practice, return to the old cheers, and try to heal ourselves. Perhaps even hold a bake sale.
The rest of the squad refused to take sides; they wanted unity at all costs: team spirit, cooperation, squad solidarity.
By November I could sense Bunny distancing herself from me. She returned my angora sweater and my Spice Girls CD before I asked for them back. She lost four pounds without telling me. I realized she would soon try to sleep with my boyfriend; I immediately broke up with him to avert that betrayal.
game we held the annual bonfire on the playing field behind the school. The football team set up a huge pyre of old railroad ties and newspapers, then lit it.