Since I always left the cheerleading in our family up to my sister, I’m just now coming to realize that plastering on a smile when things aren’t going as well isn’t as easy as those short skirted, ponytailed nymphs make it look. In recent days Dave’s team has hit a bit of a rough patch, a string of losses, a lack of offense and a struggling defense. And despite his rugged, toothless exterior, Dave has a very sensitive, fully toothed interior that takes this kind of rough patch to heart. And when Dave gets down, the team I play for, called the Clark-Bonkville Ligers*, suffers. And I must support my team. So I’ve picked up a pair of pom-poms, and I’m doing my best to keep our spirits up.
This kind of cheerleading is a tough balance. Because unlike people living your average, double-income lifestyle, we are both invested financially, personally and mentally in Dave’s profession. Success is performance based, but it’s based only on Dave’s performance. So despite my stake in this dream, there is a limit to what I can do to help the cause. Unfortunately for us, there are no stats based on my lasagne baking, guest hosting, book reading, blog writing, yoga posing or dog walking. So even though Dave takes care to make sure my stats are given due credit, we are basically working together, with me as the silent partner or perhaps the water boy, to ensure the success of our team. The burden of responsibility and the glory of success both rest on Dave’s adorable shoulders.
So I put my game face on. I make favorite comfort foods, I put extra pillows on the bed. I download favorite shows and turn on the sports channel without being asked. When the Clark-Bonkville Ligers huddle before Dave leaves for his game, I express my utmost (and totally genuine) confidence in his ability. During the game, I represent the Ligers in the stands, paying attention as best I can (this is an athletic feat in itself considering my attention span) and using my force of will to get the puck in the opponent’s goal (this force of will is genetic, my mom uses hers to keep airplanes in the air). Regardless of the outcome, our team regroups after the game for a debriefing. Dave vents, I listen. Dave vents, I respond. Dave vents, we move on and I do my best comedy routines to keep the mood light.
The thing about a slump is that is always breaks. The problematic part is that there is no way to predict when that will happen. As the player, this is difficult for Dave because he has to convince himself before each game that this is the day the slump is destroyed. As the cheerleader, this is difficult because I have to re-convince Dave that the next game is the slump-breaker even though he just spent the entire day convincing himself it was today.
One of the many benefits of this particular marriage is forced sharing of moods. Generally, and especially during the off-season, this means that Dave is subject to my Greek mood swings, my British glumness, my Clark tendencies for dismissiveness and my personal flair for the dramatic. If I am pumped because I’m having my second good-hair day in a row, Dave is going to be graced with the presence of a inexplicably happy woman. If I am suffering from the worst menstrual cramps of my life, I will make sure Dave comes as close to feeling my pain as humanly possible. And so on. Because I am usually on the sending end of the moods, it’s an adjustment for me to become the mood-moderator, since we haven’t experience hockey-related stress like this since Dave’s waning moments at NMU. I’m a work in progress, a cheerleader in training. I hope, as all good cheerleaders do, that the slump breaks soon so I am more of an accessory to the good times rather than a consoler during the bad times. But until then, I’ll suit up each week, play my role, and be thankful to that thing we call ‘perspective’ for making me look so stable. For once.
*Liger=Like a lion and a tiger mixed, bred for it’s skills in magic.