Here’s a simple and fun experiment. Ask any mom at random, who has a daughter in middle school, if she’d rather enjoy a 2-hour Pop Show Performance or a 2-hour root canal without anesthesia.
Trust me, she’s going root canal every time. Yes, she knows it’s going to be unpleasant and terribly painful, but at least it’s better than 2 hours of high-pitched, off-key whining, otherwise known as Karaoke Hell.
I speak as a mother who has endured countless Pop Show performances, Christmas recitals, Spring recitals, Cabarets, and theatre plays. So I can advise you, with some authority, that when you have a chance to attend your daughter’s magical, momentous performances, don’t. Spare yourself some unpleasantness, and just stay home.
OK, no, I don’t really mean that. I love to watch my daughters perform on stage. It’s everybody else’s daughters that I’m not crazy about. But as Polite Recital Etiquette requires, you have no choice. You must endure, and even pretend to be thrilled, about the performances of other people’s daughters. And for some reason – scientists are still trying to figure out why this happens – every other kid on that stage is severely lacking in the talent department. Except your kid. I swear this is true. My kid is the ONLY one with any real talent. It’s the strangest thing.
This is the end of the school year, so naturally, it is the season of final recitals and performances. Last Friday night, Emily’s choir had their annual end-of-the-year Pop Show extravaganza. After an entire month of serious, intensive preparation (actually, they threw this crap together in just two days), the eighth-graders were finally ready to show the world (basically just their parents) their awe-inspiring vocal abilities. Oh yes, you could feel the adolescent excitement as the girls got ready for the show. They were running around in a screeching tizzy, practicing their grammy-winning solos, each convinced that an American Idol scout was in the audience, ready to hand them a recording contract the second they ended their last tear-choked soprano note.
At least that’s how the story goes for the performers. But, for the worn-out parents, who really just want to go home after work, the story takes an entirely different turn, my friend. Clutching your poorly typed and Xeroxed Show Program, you take your seat, which of course is on the very back row, because all of the other seats near the front are taken by Serious Choir Booster Moms who got there 17 hours ago, and in some cases, way before their daughters entered Middle School. The lights dim, the curtains go up, and you begin to watch the long, slow painful parade of other people’s daughters take the microphone, and either scream the notes like a banshee, or barely whisper the song while shaking like a terrified chihauhau.
Each performance takes 5 or 6 minutes, or in Pop Show Performance time, is more like 7 years. I look around and notice that all the other moms are checking their phones, which are on silent mode of course, every couple of minutes. I know exactly what they are doing, because I am doing it too. I am checking my phone because I am hoping, if I get really lucky, there will be some kind of major catastrophe at home, such as an exploding washing machine, that requires me to, unfortunately, get the hell out of there.
The most entertaining performances are the ones in which the really confident girls get up there with a-t-t-i-t-u-d-e, honey, convinced that they are about to blow your socks off. And you know, based on years of experience watching American Idol, that this is going to SUCK, to put it delicately. And, boy, does it. In these moments, you find yourself wishing you could be more like Simon Cowell. If you were, you’d stop pretending every performer is the next Kelly Clarkson, stand up in the middle of the show and scream (in a British accent), “What the Bloody Hell was that?” and then storm indignantly out of the cafeatorium.
But, instead, you sit there politely and try to stay awake. And when each god-awful, eardrum-damaging solo ends, you clap dutifully because, again, this is required etiquette. Each song is from various styles of music which you would never, ever listen to voluntarily, each designed to express important human emotions such as love, joy, hope, despair and medieval torture. After 14 really bad karaoke versions of Adele, 2 rap songs,7 show tunes from Les Miserable, and the stiffest, non-dancing version of “All that Jazz” I have ever seen, the moment finally arrives. Someone jabs you in the ribcage to wake you up because now YOUR daughter finally enters the stage. Your heart swells with pride and you look around and glare at anyone who isn’t paying attention, because now it’s gonna GET GOOD. “Oh my goodness, Emily looks so beautiful!”
She strides across the stage and delivers her well-practiced line: “Hey, guys, the cast list is posted!”
Oh, wow. Just wow.
Yes, that was it, and, no, she did not have a solo. I asked her later why she didn’t audition for a solo in the show. She has an amazing voice, and she clearly would have been the highlight, had she not been so shy. She said, “Duh, Mom, I wasn’t gonna be a part of that trainwreck going on onstage. Didn’t you see that? No way, I’m not into embarrasing myself on purpose.” Oh, well, there you have it. Smart move, kid.
Finally, the Pop Show ends and you stumble outside into the hallway to reunite with your daughter. You smile at all the other moms who clearly have no clue that their daughters are talentless wannabes with absolutely no future in the performing arts. You tell your daughter that she was incredible and, by far, the pinnacle of the entire show, and you mean it sincerely. The funny thing is, you are not lying. She really was the best part of the entire fiasco, I mean show.
And you also realize, as you are driving home, “Hey, that was way better than a root canal.”