I grew up with a girl named Ulie* who very regularly said, “No offense…” just moments before saying the most offensive things imaginable ranging from “Your mini-bangs really aren’t holding their curl today, Amy” to “No one shops at County Seat anymore.”
*names have been changed slightly to only very nominally protect the innocent
By the time we reached high school, Ulie and I were both on the cheerleading squad, even sharing the role of co-captains one unfortunate season. Even though I only had about ten pounds on Ulie, maybe fifteen, I was always the stunt base. The rock solid base. She was the top of the pyramid, the tip of the food chain, the head of the pecking order that exists in that microcosm we call small town America. In my mind, this is what Ulie and I looked like together.
My apologies to Mo Willems
Somehow I didn’t realize that we were very close to being the same size. I should have figured it out when she stood right in the middle of my back. Or maybe when her shoe dug into my thigh, my skirt pushed up so she could get a better grip of rubber on skin. Or possibly when she decided to do a two person stunt and she stepped first on my leg, then my elbow pit, then my shoulders, her black and red Kaepa triangles digging into my neck while I held her cankles to support her.
This is what we really looked like together. I’m the one whose face hasn’t been pixelated and she is the ginormous hair next to me. With the scrunchy. Don’t miss the scrunchy.
Pixelation added to actually protect the innocent…but how about that hair?
Do we look like big and small or like two normal high school sophomores…from the early nineties when “normal” involved freezing spray, a teasing comb, and a hair dryer?
But this is what happens when you are a teenager and you believe what people tell you, especially if those people are cheerleaders and need a place to stand. Your little becomes big. Your healthy becomes fat. Your thighs get prefixes like thunder. And you begin to see yourself as an elephant wearing glasses holding a little prickly pig up in the air so the crowd can cheer while your
heart back breaks.
Thankfully, about a year after this photo was taken, the bright and shiny of cheerleading came to an end after nine long years when I was told that I would be “benched” from an upcoming wrestling match if I missed practice in order to attend my grandfather’s funeral. Because one thing cheerleading taught me was to be aggressive, be be aggressive (b-e-agg-r-e-ssive!), I stopped by the end of practice on the way home from the funeral and quit being stepped on by the Ulie’s of the world for good. It was also about that time that I cut out my pouf and started wearing the clothes I really wanted to wear that had decidedly not come from County Seat.
This morning I read a report that women with thin thighs are more likely to die from heart disease. I looked down at my solid gams and smiled to myself thinking about not only all of the cheerleaders they helped me hold up over the years but also my children, the mulch in front of my house, the furniture that I built for my office, the bags of groceries for my family not to mention all of the walking they’ve done all over the world, the dancing, the jumping, the way they have carried me through my very happy life.
It was nice for them to have their little moment in the sun.
And it also made me want to tell Ulie, “No offense…but you’re more at risk for heart disease.”