My high school dance team was no ordinary high school sports team. Most high school sports teams show up, go to practice, win some games, and call it a season. Ponderosa Poms, however, is a special kind of breed (we once got called a cult in the school newspaper, which caused some tensions, and I would not say it’s not necessarily untrue depending on your definition of a cult). The characteristics of a Ponderosa Pom include:
-An appearance of perfection: A Ponderosa Pom may appear perfect, because she is beautiful, kind, smart, a good dancer, involved in community service, wins every single scholarship available, plans to join the Peace Corps, etc. Notice that I italicized appearance, because we all know that no one is perfect. But, this appearance does not come without sacrifices, and hard work. The Ponderosa Poms appears beautiful, but that is just because she has spent years perfecting her straight posture and smile. A Ponderosa Pom appears smart, and while many are very intelligent, she also knows to sit in the front of the class, to ask questions, to complete her homework on time. While it appears that a Ponderosa Pom wins everything, it’s probably because she spent her summer, collecting community service hours and filling out applications, instead of engaging in whatever social activities high schoolers do. In this case, ‘perfection’ does come at a cost, but to a Ponderosa Pom, it’s a cost worth taking.
-Extreme go-getters: As a Ponderosa Pom, we take failure as a challenge, and we do not let anything stand in the way of our success. I remember one year before state, we needed to use the gym to block our formations. Of course, the basketball team was in there, so my coach walked in, waved her finger, and kicked the entire team out. We are goal-setters, and we do whatever it takes to reach those goals. If my goal is to get handstand in my yoga class, then I take every class I can and practice at home until I finally get it. If my goal is to create a really cool costume change in my dance, then I find the best minds in the business and strategize together. If my goal is to publish a book, I research and read up on every single publishing story I can, and I find a way to make it work. We don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
-Overly sentimental: Every tradition as a Ponderosa Pom has meaning behind it, from lighting the candle and praying before competitions, to listening to the team song and the senior skit, to the cards and little knick knacks given before games. I still get random ‘thinking of you’ cards from my fellow teammates in the mail.
-Cognizant of image: It was pounded into my head at a very early age that “you are wearing Ponderosa Poms splattered all over your chest, which is decades of women working hard to build a legacy, and if you ruin it….”. Even to this day, I feel fiercely loyal to whatever organization I am representing, even if I really have no affiliation with it whatsoever. When I go to a school training, I am on my best behavior, because I do not want to ruin the image that decades of educators before me have set. When I go shopping, I am attracted to purple stuff (and stray away from the red–which is our rival high school’s colors). But, even when I am out and about, I always keep in mind that I could be recognized as part of an organization, whether it be the school I work at, the yoga studio I attend, the grocery store I shop at, and I always try to monitor my behaviors accordingly.
-Lovers of surprises: It’s always a magical moment when the Ponderosa Poms team walks into the competition venue. It first starts with the unveiling of the costume as they begin warming up. People start murmuring, “They are wearing light blue–this must mean a lyrical dance”, or, “Pants this year–interesting choice”. At they take their first positions, it’s always a guess to what the music will be this time–will it be another 80’s cut, or something modern, or perhaps something ultra jazzy? That element of anticipation and surprise up until the very second the music starts is the best part. As a Ponderosa Pom, you are trained to not share anything until that moment arrives in order to stun your audience. I had the privilege of coaching against my best friend last year, a former Ponderosa Pom; while we talked about our dances, I didn’t tell her my concept, she didn’t tell me hers, and no one said anything about it, because we were raised with the same tactics.
-Go All Out, All the Time: Normal people’s bridal showers consist of some snacks, lemonade, and a gift exchange. If you go to a Ponderosa Poms’ bridal shower, it’s a completely different experience. First of all, everything is themed, and the invitation tells you exactly what to wear. The food, the decorations, the music, the party activities incorporates the theme. There is a detailed, minute by minute schedule, and party favors with inspirational quotes. If I am going to spend the time doing it, it is going to be done right, and done well. A couple years ago, I made a poster to hang up at school, and of course, adorned it with flashing Christmas lights. Nothing is ever done half-assed.
-Schedulers: At our first meeting in May, our coach would literally give us a detailed calendar of all pom related activities through the next August. But, this has to happen, because people have vacations to plan, weddings to attend, appointments to make. If you have ever tried to ask a Ponderosa Pom out on a date, she will probably respond, “Well, I think I have an opening in two Friday’s from now if you want to go then. Let me add you to my Google calendar”. I know exactly what my life will look like in three months from now, because it is planned that far in advance.
I can encounter any Ponderosa Pom alumni, and assume that she is practically the same person that I am; her experience on the team was probably very similar to mine. She probably danced to the same great 80’s songs. She probably still has her senior year doll in her room at her parents’ house. And, she probably conducts her life in a very similar way, because, being a Ponderosa Pom is it’s own special kind of breed.