I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know what a dream is anymore. I got a lot of shit kicked out of me.
Have you somehow made your peace with this world? I’m curious: without getting all religious or flaky on me, can you tell me how you did that?
Once upon a time, lord, wasn’t I sweet? A more mild-mannered, easy-going guy you couldn’t find. We all know, though, that things change, and often enough we’ve no good idea why, or how. Not exactly, anyway. The goodness bleeds out of you. The world takes your trust through a series of thefts both large and small. One day you wake up and you no longer recognize your face in the mirror. The muttering voice in your head is as unfamiliar as the face.
Dreams are tough things, cruel schoolchildren, cheap balloons, faded flowers, broke down hot rods, blind dogs, etc. Time carves them all down to dim wishes and fragments of memory.
In my more chipper moments I like to imagine that all those old childhood dreams are still out there somewhere, drifting in the gloaming of another waning summer, waiting for their dead mothers to call them home. It’s sort of lovely to think so.
Meanwhile, my daughter is a sad, pretty girl who is well on her way to becoming a woman every bit as miserable as her mother. At the age of fifteen she has no broader desire than to be a cheerleader –a cheerleader, period. The poor girl is so dim that she actually seems to believe that being a cheerleader is a realistic occupation for an adult in America.
I’ve tried to explain to her that cheerleading is an extracurricular activity for a very few, mostly unfortunate, high school and college students, and that paying jobs in the field are pretty much non-existent. She counters this argument with the claim that she sees cheerleaders on television all the time, performing in a clearly professional capacity.
At fifteen years of age she is apparently already calculating enough to recognize that professional cheerleading would offer her the best opportunity to meet, date, and eventually marry a professional athlete.
The fact that I don’t feel this represents a very healthy or realistic goal for any young woman doesn’t seem to carry much weight with her.
My own life, I’m willing to admit, hasn’t exactly been a blockbuster success, and I’m also quite clearly no paragon of happiness. All the same, I try to explain to the poor girl –my daughter, I have to constantly remind myself– how such dreams usually play out.
This pathetic little town, I tell her, is full of old cheerleaders. On any given Sunday the church pews are crowded with unhappy women who had variations of the same ridiculous dream my daughter harbors. Look around, I say to her. There are no professional athletes here, so chances are good you’ll settle for a star on the high school football team, who will become in very short order –after he’s knocked you up– a miserable fuck in hog kill at the plant, or maybe an insurance salesman if he’s really ambitious. He’ll gain weight faster than you can pump out the infants, and drink like a fish, and there’ll always be some other unhappy woman who remembers that he was once a local football hero and is still willing to sleep with him while you stay home and take care of the kids and watch television.
You’ll see, I say. Just ask your mother.