Today I had to go to my niece's dance recital. I say I "had to" because if it were any other girl in the world I'd have never done it. I have a long memory and I remembered last year's recital. I spoke to one of my best friends as she suffered through the dress rehearsals. I offered to pick up some iced teas and join her. I don't think I've ever heard a more relieved soul in my life. I went on the endure a 4 hour rehearsal THEN saw the actual recital the next day. Never forget!
My Mom, whom I accompanied today, seemed oddly excited about today's event. I asked "Don't you recall the soul crushing boredom and pace?" She thought I was a grumpy McGrump face and didn't appreciate my attitude. She may have also thrown in "You're being a terrible Auntie." I didn't disagree. If being a good Auntie means faking joy at some of these events, well I plead guilty.
It's not just the bad music selections and (I'm sorry!) not very good dancers but mostly I had vivid memories of parents elbowing each other out of the way as they rushed the stage at the end of each performance to get pictures. Apparently the dance school folks didn't appreciate that either. This year they hired a professional videographer and prohibited any other photography. But I REALLY cheered up when I saw the large sign next to the dressing rooms stating "NO Mothers in dressing Room. NO cameras or video taping allowed." I snickered and said to Mom "Ooooh! The moms were naugh-ty." The mothers sitting in folding chairs around the dressing room entrance didn't seem to appreciate my glee. I'm sorry but it serves them right. I later explained my annoyance to my brother that most parents these days are so preoccupied with capturing a moment that they miss it entirely. I then complemented him for not being one of those fools. He then admitted that he'd forgotten his camera.
My niece's two performances were thrown in between a lot of older girl performances. This was a problem. If you're going to a dance recital I suggest you try to see the little performers. Everything they do is adorable and the outfits are so dang sweet. Unfortunately, I was to sit through many of the older girl performances today. I cringed through most of them. I just think they are cruel. They throw all of these poor pubescent girls on a stage, make them dress in identical, illfitting outfits then make them dance in front of hundreds. *shudder* I just feel so terrible for them. There is always a painfully thin girl, a chubby girl, a terribly flat chested girl, a terribly large chested girl, a tall girl with hunched shoulders, various other reluctant girls then one shining star with perfect skin who is inevitably the best in the class... and knows it. I can always spot the poor girls who have been forced into the class. They look even more uncomfortable than the rest. It's all so awful.
To make matters worse, I later spotted a sad pair of family members shuffle in late. One wore a knit cap, a few skirts and a heavy coat. (Did I mention that it was about 90 degrees today and not much cooler in the auditorium?) She was escorting a terribly overweight and sweaty woman in a dirty tee shirt and on a crutch. I immediately felt sorry for whoever they were there to see. Visions of Carrie ran through my mind. After the performance I ended up feeling sorry for the pair. Traditionally the family and friends of the performers crowd the dressing room doors and give them bouquets of flowers. The strange looking pair stood expectantly with the rest of the parents but held a modest bouquet wrapped in plastic wrap that had obviously come from a home garden. The flowers were pretty but the scene somehow made me sad. I felt bad for them. They knew enough to bring flowers and were doing their best but they looked so out of place. It was just heartbreaking. I didn't stay long enough to see their reunion at the back stage door. I hope they were ok.
It all reminded me of how grateful I was to my parents. They were always just right. They clearly loved us (I'm sure that was somehow embarrassing in my junior high years) but they always fit in nicely, they were always smart and funny and looked cute. Isn't that really all you want when you're 13? They were always very supportive. My mom was especially good at picking up my "I don't want to be here" signal and was usually very respectful of that.
My niece emerged and just wanted to know if she could have a sleep-over with her friends. No. there would be no sleep-overs as everyone had to move on to their brother's baseball tournaments. Alex perked up when her friends started waving and saying "I'll see you at the game!"
In the end I learned that while I may have been a bad Auntie today I wasn't alone. I heard the dad behind me grumble "Well, I'm sorry! I have A.D.D.". I then learned he had smuggled in a tv and was watching the Preakness. My brother exchanged text messages with the other dads. When a group of girls in dreadful tiger outfits came out dancing to Eye of the Tiger he received a text that said "Ladies and Gentlemen the Laaaa-kerrrr Girrrrrrrls!" Michael laughed then leaned over and said "Thank God! I thought they were playing Another Brick in the Wall. That would have been a bit much!" I kind of liked the idea. Dodger scores continued to be updated througout the recital. All of the distractions made me feel better about my attitude. At least I was paying attention. Once I was there I took special care to be supportive. I clapped for those poor miserable girls. I wanted to rush the stage and say "It all gets better! I swear. Just hang in there. College is so much more fun and after college it gets even better... just hang on!" Instead, I clapped and hooted and hoped they'd all make it through.