Ready? OK.

When I was a little god-fearing girl with grocery-cart legs and Hershey's on my face, I knew but one rhythm, and one only: the clap-snap-clap-clap-stomp-then-spin of white-trash Jordache brats choreographing their rudimentary cheerleading mimes up and down the stained Winn-Dixie aisles. Each beaming cherub would be sporting that same crazy concentration on her face: eyes up to the ceiling, mouth shifting in a perpetual silent count, willing herself into a blotchy confidence fit on the eve of tryouts. They cared not for the Cocoa Puffs, but only for their future glamorous careers spread-eagled atop a people pyramid. It was mesmerizing, really. If a little annoying.

"When I do a spread-eagle toe touch, you can see Jesus on my face!" Taylor splits his panty crotch. "I am blessed!"

These are the precise poorly chosen words Taylor remembers hearing last year at this very same event, and the precise reason why I've allowed myself, against all reason and legal precedent, to be here … at a cheerleading competition … a Christian cheerleading competition.

"I am here to get spirit-fingered!" I wiggle all 10 digits in the direction of Jesus.

"Herkies for Jesus! Herkies for Jesus! Herkies for Jesus!" Roy side-hurdles with a bent leg.

And so it is that Tim, Taylor, Roy and I have caravanned — by way of four saucy hot cops at a barbecue joint, some corn and some mashed potatoes — all the way out to the Rosen Shingle Creek for the Fellowship of Christian Cheerleaders nationals. Taylor's niece is actually in the competition, meaning he has family here and I can't be an asshole, and I can feel a nasty case of rosy shingles creeping up my atheist thigh. The Lord makes me itch.

"Do you think they'll have booze?" I reach for a holy salve. "Maybe some red wine and crackers?"

Nobody answers, but nobody needs to. The intoxicating absurdity of masses of pre-teen nubility in that visceral hyperventilation peculiar to girls who want ponies produces about all the dopamine I need triggered. I am in heaven.

To suit the event, I've donned my very own tight red Wakulla Cheerleader T-shirt. There's a story to my having it, but I've promised Taylor I wouldn't mention it on account of his family being a family and all, but I suppose since you are with the Lord and all, I'll tell you. Back in college, I was up all night with a super-hot punk boy named Levi Little (really!) throwing back Reddi-wip whippits to take the edge off a night of something worse. Levi was wearing said Wakulla Cheerleader T-shirt, which one can only assume he got from sleeping with a Wakulla cheerleader some years before (and I don't want to think about that now, nor did I then) — and having just descended from the nitrous high of whippit world, peed himself while totally making out with ME! I traded him a pair of green jeans for his red shirt, and have worn it with Wakulla pride ever since. It really is a charming story, I know.

"Shut up! It's starting!" Taylor lodges a twig in my brain wheels as we breeze past a table proffering such esteemed celibacy literature as The Truth About Guys. Ask Levi Little. There is no truth about guys.

"Grace is in the hole!" beams the announcer, intending to indicate that Grace Christian would be the next school to take the stage, but meaning something else to four grown gay men fellating promotional lollipops.

"In the hole, then," we giggle. "Grace."

Roy and Tim disappear for some refreshments, and return with a super-secret Absolut airplane bottle for me to amend my Coke with a smile. I opt out of the operation, pointing to my hair, my crotch and the lollipop in my mouth. I think I may already be verging on "too much."

"Grace Christian," Taylor leans in as the Christians gracelessly bleat/stomp. "I like them. They're tight!" Filthy.

What follows is a succession of in-group distractions ranging from Taylor and me finding which cheerleaders we are (he's always the large black girl, "Jeannie," while I'm the late-blooming twiglet, "Trish"), Roy's perfection of the perfect Christian cheerleader lunatic dismount face (a spirited head-bobble with mouth wide open), and the general conviviality endemic to queers witnessing choreography. We run to "the hole" to show support for (re: embarrass) Taylor's niece, losing irony just long enough to stand up, arch our backs and howl like Jeannie and Trish might, given a grocery-store audience. Though it returns when we realize that just because you're booty-dancing to the God-pop of DC Talk or Superchick, that doesn't mean the Lord doesn't see your ass wiggling. That means you, Calvary Owls and Indian Rock. Shame!

After about an hour of power, the glimmer of God's grace is fading fast — the transcendence of team spirit has dulled down into a tedious amalgam of clapping hands and girl zealotry. We attempt our polite goodbyes with Taylor's family — one of whom I accidentally piss off with my ever-accidental Paul Lynde affectation — and spend the rest of our car-ward journey squeezing the last bit of Jesus juice out of our crazy-faced cheerleader impressions … making sure that everybody knows that everything we say is "for him!" by screaming so and pointing at the sky. Charming, really. We know.

"Ready?" Taylor shin-splints as we snap-clap out the door.


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