The bus pulled up and I got on, my little skirt waving in the wind.
I was heading to the CHIditarod, the costume contest pub crawl I volunteer for every year. Some friends and I help run the checkpoint at Roots every year, decorating it and coming up with a theme.
We’ve turned the Chicago Avenue pizza place into a Wild West saloon, Canada, a Walmart and, this year, a high school gym class.
So what’s more high school than a cheerleader?
A trip to Boystown for cheerleader uniform that would fit a grown man netted me a flouncy skirt the color of a circus tent, a tight black-and-red top blaring “EG” and the following life lessons, which will follow me all my CHIditaroddy days.
Cheerleading is messed.
First, it is extremely screwed up that they make high school girls dress like this.
A quick online search that no doubt got me on every watch list revealed that my buy was actually an Elk Grove Youth Football cheer top. This is a K-8 program, which means I no longer feel as bad about how bad my muffin toppin’ was.
On the K-8 girls, this would have been a full shirt, so I do feel better about society. But former cheerleader and co-volunteer Kate told me that they had belly shirts at her school and that my skirt, which was well north of the knee, was way too long.
Her school wore tights underneath the belly shirt, Kate clarified, but not all schools did, depending on how wild that district happened to roam.
It is extremely screwed up that they make high school girls dress like this.
Cheerleading is really messed.
I get that having fun, keeping fit and promoting “spirit” for a random collection of individuals that authority figures now tells you is a team are qualities our nation wants to instill in its young people, but you are basically putting young girls in belly shirts and miniskirts and telling them to dance off to the side and yell about how great the boys are.
It’s not the girls; the girls put in an amazing amount of work. Then the adults make them apply that skill, dedication, athleticism and gymnastic talent to making the boys look good. It’s telling future women, “If you work really, really hard, someday you can draw even more attention to the accomplishments of men.”
Competition cheer is fine. That’s where they go to gymnastics competitions against each other instead of just sis boom bah-ing boys athletics. I’m fine with that. Be the event, not the sideline.
(Although I think they would still be just as capable if we let them have pants.)
It’s hard not to flash.
I spread my legs when I sit because it’s more comfortable. This, according to Internet memes, makes me sexist.
But although I sit sexist (and stand racist, walk homophobic and inhabit space hateful of the Irish somehow), it doesn’t usually give anyone a show. Until the circus-tent-colored skirt.
Ankles crossed, my female friends told me. Knees together. Lean the legs a little bit. Never show them what you’ve got. Always be on the lookout. ALWAYS be on the lookout.
Frankly, I’m just not used to paying that much attention to how I sit. I suppose it’s male privilege, but it could also just be pants.
So did my day in a dress get me more insight into how the other half lives?
No, don’t be stupid. It was a costume party, not “Tootsie.” I didn’t get any more insight into being a woman this year than I got insight into the true essence of Duran Duran the year I went as Simon Le Bon.
My male privilege never went away.
But I got to be silly at an event that has raised more than $100,000 and 100,000 pounds of canned food for needy in its 10 years. I got to joke with friends and chat with people dressed as bees. I got to participate in what has become a tradition for both the city of Chicago and, on a personal note, for me.
And, honey, I looked damn good doing it.