y goodness. What a weekend we had. Aside from being the first official WEATHER weekend of Summer (despite the fact that Autumn starts on Friday), we spent the entire weekend in an NFL-fueled, bleach bottle-blonde, over-scheduled, over-makeuped mad dash of insanity. Some time ago we signed my 5-year-old daughter up for a weekend camp with the San Francisco 49ers Cheerleaders. There, along with about 300 other girls her age, she learned a cute little cheer routine, got an official cheerleader uniform, and performed the routine right there on the field just before the national anthem on game-day. Between the schlepping, the heat, the hotel, the hairspray and the crazy tail-gaters the kids (and their parents) were absolutely wiped. Yes, yes. We had all the normal concerns about NFL cheerleaders sending out all the wrong messages to little girls about what it means for a woman to be successful and attractive. We did it anyway. But it must be said: the 49er Cheerleaders ran an EXCELLENT operation. They were organized, they were professional, and they were GREAT with the kids. The jury’s still out as to whether we’ll do it again next year, but for now we’ll just exhale and enjoy the memory of the wonderful Chevy Chase-esque weekend.
To be clear, we did not take the role-model thing lightly. Obviously the most important role-model in a girl’s life is her mother, and my daughter has a truly Olympic-class mother to look up to. And I am proud to say that during a juice box break, my daughter said to everyone within earshot, “I like being a junior cheerleader, but I don’t want to be a grownup cheerleader. They wear too much makeup”. But you can’t help worrying that you’re sending the wrong message to your daughter when she spends 6 hours over the weekend with over made-up 20-somethings in hair extensions and hawt pants. As it turns out, most of the NFL Pro-cheerleaders we were working with were preschool teachers or college students on the weekdays. That explained why they were better with the kids than I expected. They do it because it’s a fun adventure, and they love to dance. OK, great. So these aren’t the blondes from “Mean Girls” or “Bring It On” (even if they look that way). As I was gradually talking myself into feeling better about letting my daughter spend time with them I suddenly made a startling observation:
Of all the professional cheerleaders there, and there were dozens, there was not a single, solitary visible tattoo on the entire bunch. (not that I spent much time… ahem… scrutinizing their… erm… visible bits)
This I appreciated.
Let me paint a picture for you. I live in one of the most homeopathic, liberal, blue-collar, laid back, 5 years of community-college educated, surfer-bum towns in the world. At the local high school basketball games it’s jaw dropping how many minors are sporting ink. In this community it feels like getting your first tattoo is part of the standardized 6th grade graduation requirements. I’ll take the opportunity right now to say that I don’t have anything against tattoos. But when my daughter’s dance instructor makes no attempt to hide her tramp-stamp (I’m sure my mother has no idea what a “tramp-stamp” is, so here’s the link), when one of her preschool teachers had sleeves, and when the guy handing out skates at the roller-rink has gang tats on his neck, you get a little sensitive about that stuff. Tattoos are omnipresent around here. They’re part of the culture, the culture that my daughter is growing up in.
So sitting there with the other parents in the bleachers, watching our daughters shake their groove-things with professional groove-thing shakers, I took a little comfort in the tattoo-lessness of it all. Let me also put it on the table the fact that I hold no illusions as to whether or not I can keep my daughter from ever getting a tattoo. But I have to say, no daddy ever holds his brand new, beautiful, perfect infant daughter in his hands and says “Boy, I can’t wait to see how she inks herself up when she’s older”. Neither my wife nor I have any, and I hope that that will be enough to keep the temptation at bay while she’s still in our home. But she’s going to go to college someday. She’s going to be in her 20’s, and she’s going to have to figure out who she is outside our little microcosm. Sometimes that means getting a tattoo. There are worse things a girl can do, so in the grand scheme this ranks low on my up-all-night-worrying radar.
If she sets her heart on a tattoo, I know I can’t stop her so I won’t try. But if she’s going to do it, I hope maybe she would entertain this suggestion: Let’s go get one together. We’ll make an experience out of it. We’ll go to San Francisco (where I can pick the cleanest, classiest tattoo parlor in the western hemisphere), we’ll stay in a fancy hotel, we’ll go to a fancy dinner, and we’ll both get our first tattoos together. I don’t have to like it if my little baby decides to tattoo herself, but maybe I can turn it into an experience that we’ll love sharing – together. Maybe we’ll even catch a 49ers game when we do it.
…and maybe I can finally get that thumbnail sized Superman “S” on my shoulder that my wife told me I wasn’t allowed to have.