This morning we were out walking past the University of Montana and came upon a large group of pretty girls practicing cheerleading moves. The amplified voice of the instructor, also a pretty girl, carried across the open lawn: “One, two, three and four; five six seven eight… don’t flex your hands.”
The girls moved with a charming lack of unison; maybe it was early in the course. I should have taken a picture. But sometimes a man my age, taking pictures of girls their age, can have his intentions misconstrued. Even if (or especially if) the man my age is with his wife. So we walked on, our pace somehow matching perfectly with the called cadence. They were still at it on the return leg of the walk.
It was one of those little moments I’ll remember. Not sure why. All that youthful power concentrated on something so inconsequential. Pretty girls are welcome everywhere, forgiven everything and denied nothing. And this is how they wield it: learning to generate pep for a football squad. It’s not a waste, exactly, any more than when butterflies flit from flower to flower. It’s just kind of funny, in a poignant sort of way.
When I got out of high school, I remember a lot of people telling me I had my whole life in front of me. At the time I dismissed it as kind of obvious. What I didn’t get was the exasperated tone, the implication that this was a fleeting condition. They were saying that there could come a day when I had a large portion of my life behind me. And that I might one day meet a person in the mirror I didn’t quite recognize.
Yeah, right. Nobody young ever believes that. The trainee cheerleaders don’t either. When you’re good-looking and pushing 20, you know there’s always time for the important things, and that time is later.
That’s the nature of youth. The nature of age is to grouse about it. But I really wouldn’t want it any other way. Past a certain age all you have is wisdom. It’s not much good if you can’t point out the folly of those less wise. Anyway, it would be drab world without a certain number of cheerleaders.