When I was a cheerleader most of the girls on the squad were really mean to each other. Big shocker. It was one of the reasons I decided to only do it for two years. They were all dating from the same pool of football playing boys, so that didn't help inter-squad relations much.
I remember that the captain of our squad had it out for one of the "climbers" (aka those on top of pyramids). The captain just happened to be the person on whom the climber's life depended. One time as we were about to send the climber flying into the air for a basket toss the captain said, "You better hope I catch your ass."
I was like, "WHAT THE FUCK?!" and moved to make sure the girl in the air didn't come crashing down on her neck. I didn't have to, because the captain was just fucking with her, but threatening murder or major bodily harm was fucked up, we can all agree.
I remember that that same climber's mother had a problem with me. Isn't that fucked up? I can't even remember the reason now. It doesn't matter. I was 14! I distinctly recall climber's mother approaching me at a basketball game in this floor-length fur coat. God, I wish I could remember what her problem was now, thirteen years later, but I can't. Something ridculously petty, no doubt.
There was always such drama. Once at practice I was being punished for something--not going back handspring, I'm sure--and was required to jog one mile for each transgression. I was up to about 6-7 miles, but I couldn't force myself to do the flip. I'd jogged about a mile and half when I gave up. I was tired and beaten, and I quit. I grabbed my jacket, the one with my name embroidered on the front just above a stitched megaphone, and headed to a pay phone to call my mom. I had wussed out and just wanted to go home.
As I waited for my mother's sedan I cried. Tears fell and I reached into the pockets to look for a tissue or something when my hand hit a small box. It was a hard pack of Marlboro cigarettes.
I'd grabbed the wrong jacket. The coat in my hand belonged to that captain I told you about, the really vicious one, the one I'd probably pissed off the most by walking out just before we were about to compete at nationals. I stood there another five minutes, maybe, contemplating just keeping the other girl's jacket. But she was bigger than me, and three years older, and I think she had been in a few fights before. As I've made clear in this story, I was a big ole baby. I knew I had to give that jacket back.
So, I did what I had to do and marched back into the gymnasium. I opened the double doors with my head held high and walked to the pile of belongings on the bleachers. Twelve pair of eyes glared at me as I strode past, nothing but disdain and disappointment. For whatever reason the silence was too deafening, the sound of my sneakers on the gym floor and the sound of my beating heart was all I could hear.
"I TOOK THE WRONG JACKET," I said too loudly and too emphatically. It was obvious I'd taken the wrong jacket. Why did I say that? They all laughed. All of them. Not all at once, but like, one by one. That made it worse. By the time I made it out those doors hot tears were splashing onto my t-shirt.
I still regret never mastering the back handspring. I gave up. I failed. I let my fear keep me from doing something I really loved, despite all the cattiness I had to put up with. I haven't let fear prevent me from doing too much else since.