|I coulda been somebody.... I coulda been this lady.|
All of my friends made the team. It was awful. After a tearful inquiry, the cheer coach assured me I was very close to making the team. (Yeah, right. I’ve been a cheer coach. You can’t just say, “you really fucking suck, honey. Give it up.”) But I believed it. I was still devastated. The cheer team was my ticket to the “cool” table in the cafeteria. The cheer team would’ve prevented the REALLY vivid memories of being called things like, “Dyke” and “Orange Heels.” (“Orange Heels” came about after a combination of sweaty feet and a pair of cheap, imitation Birkenstocks. Long story, but my heels are fine now.) I would have to sit on the sidelines alone while all of my friends basked in the glory that is a “cheer uniform.” What was I going to do? I was already grade A, 7th grade nerd and not making the cheer team made it official.
|I mean, everyone thought this guy was cool.|
I brought my proposal to the cheer coach the next day. She looked at me with a furrowed eye-brow that, at the time, I thought it meant she was thoughtfully considering what the amazing benefits of having a mascot would be, but now I know she was showing great concern for my 12 year-old self-esteem. “Are you sure?” She asked. “We don’t even have a wildcat costume.”
|The original pattern for the Tigerbear. I'm pretty sure.|
I was nervous at the first game. I realized that I really didn’t know how to be a mascot. Mascots did flips and lead cheers. I just sort of ran around and clapped a lot. I wasn’t asked to go to any of the practices, so I didn’t know any cheers. It wasn’t until 4 games in I even began to clap over my head. You know, to get the crowd pumped. I didn’t care. I got to go to every game AND every away game. But then, I started to get made fun of…... A LOT. I started to realize that running around in front of your adolescent peers in a home-made Wildcat costume was kind of embarrassing. I thought about quitting, but at this point, I was committed and I was NOT a quitter. So, I embraced it. I made a couple younger kids laugh at the games and that felt pretty good. So, I started to get really silly in my classes. Wearing a costume AND being funny seemed to make more sense to everyone. My grades started to slip because I was more concerned about my next silly escapade than my next test. (As cliché as it sounds…) I wasn’t even THAT funny. I just did silly stuff. People laughed. I wore a costume. This was now my thing. After two years of mascoting, I hadn’t really improved, but I got voted “Class Clown” my 8th grade year. (Of course I did, right? Tweens seem to really go for the obvious.) I would really have loved some title like, “Best Legs” or “Most Fashionable,” but, how could they see it underneath the costume?
The costume, I’ve realized, was just a mask for my insecurities. You know, “If you’re gonna make fun of me, I’ll give you something to make fun of me about!” I learned a lot though. It motivated me to work harder than everyone else to get what I wanted. I learned to be funny, to be myself, and that I never needed to settle for just being the “mascot.”
To this day, the sound of mittens clapping together makes me cringe a little and brings me right back to the court.