Playing the classic game of double cartwheel

High school was a rough time. Being the son of a military pilot who was gunned down over a rouge Middle Eastern country, I was forced to rescue him after our government decided to sit on their hands and play politics. With only a couple of clever high school pals, an older Air Force Colonel and my rockin’ jet pilot skills were we were able to steal a couple of military jets, get my dad back and destroy some MiGs in the process.

Like I said, rough.

At least that’s the story I’m going to tell my kids, who will be far too young to have seen the movie “Iron Eagle.” In reality, my high school career was only slightly less heroic. Reality presented enough challenges. A prime example was while preparing for a summer musical, of which I was involved because, while I liked girls, I apparently enjoyed doing things to ensure they saw me as an asexual best-friend/brother person they could talk to about other dudes and the harrows of going through puberty.

I would’ve rather been flying jets. You don’t make out with girls when you’re doing that either but at least you can shoot missiles.

This particular production was about knights, though, so you see it was quite manly. Sure, some of the guys wore tights, but they were a darker hue than you’d imagine.

One particular scene was full of festivity, ballyhoo, pomp and circumstance (though more pomp than circumstance; like a ratio of 12 pomp for every circumstance). It called for some gymnastics (as if you needed more convincing just how manly of a production this was) to symbolize a party atmosphere. As historical documents show, when medieval knights wanted to party, there’d obviously be gymnastics.

Specifically, the scene called for two people doing a double cartwheel, which was really just one giant, continuous cartwheel with two people stuck together awkwardly. For some reason I was chosen for this. At the time I thought this was because of my enthusiasm and obvious gymnastics prowess (I could often be found prior to dance numbers stretching like a sports person). In retrospect, it was a fairly complicated and dangerous maneuver as you could fall on your head and get seriously injured, so it was likely decided not only was I expendable, but the production would probably improve as a result.

At first I was a little excited. I began surveying the girls for my potential gymnastics buddy. We’d probably have to practice a lot. If she was someone I had a crush on, I’d make sure of it (though my natural “ability” likely already made that inevitable). As I began thinking about practicing with Dream Girl in loose-fitting clothing, getting all sweaty and eventually making out, I received a far too masculine tap on my shoulder.

“Not now, man, I’m looking for my cartwheel partner,” I said, which is one of the least masculine phrases you can probably ever say.

“Dude, that’s me,” he said. I turned.

“But you’re a guy,” I said, not understanding.


“Ah, crap.”

I was turned away from the school board on the grounds I was being “ridiculous” when I appealed the decision at the monthly board meeting. I guess I went to one of those “progressive” schools that encouraged male-on-male cartwheeling.

It turns out it was even worse than I imagined. I soon found out a double cartwheel essentially consisted of one person dashing and thrusting their head between the other’s legs and using that momentum to do a continuous cartwheel across the stage or until they crashed into something and died. That might be a bit dramatic, but this was a play, so clearly my talents were going to waste and I should’ve had the lead.

I’ll just say this about that first practice: if you’ve never had another man’s upside-down head slammed into your waiting crotch, well, you haven’t really lived. Skydiving has nothing on the scare-rush you receive your first time forcing yourself not to fold yourself into a protective ball when your bits are about to be head-jammed.

I’m not sure how we decided who would run their face into whose groin, but it was like choosing between, well, having your face in another guys’ crotch or having their face jumping into yours (there isn’t a better metaphor because this is literally the worst thing).

My body did not know how to react, but this is how I imagined it went down:

Crotch: There’s not another dude’s head coming full throttle at us again, is there?

Eyes: “That’s exactly what’s happening.”

Crotch: “Legs, I assume you’re bracing for this and will protect me.”

Legs: “Nope, we’re spread wide like we’re eagerly anticipating this!”

Crotch: “That’s concerning! Well, arms, at least you’ve got us covered, right?”

Arms: “Oh heck no. We’re being held out like we’re making a giant capital letter ‘L’ so we can grab the legs of the approaching gentleman in order to place our face in HIS crotch!”

Face: “Hold up. WHAT’S happening now?”

After learning far too much about each other’s groin areas than two straight guys should ever have to learn, we got the move down and performed it flawlessly each night. Obviously I was the star of the show, so this has a happy ending. But the real triumph is discovering that, years later, I can still have kids.

But I really don’t want them learning about this so I plan on playing it safe and never teaching them to read.

Kelly Van De Walle is the senior creative & marketing writer for Briscoe14 Communications ( He can be reached at or via cirque du solei. Follow Kelly on Twitter @pancake_bunny or he’ll run into your crotch.