I just saw my co-worker’s kid’s elementary school play of The Nutcracker. It was a real mindfuck. It reminded me of when I took part in school plays, and of my childhood in general — nice stuff, horrible stuff, and everything in between. I wish I could have spoken into a voice recorder to capture everything and then transcribed it after because there were so many fascinating things that I know I’ll forget to mention here. But here goes anyway.
I feel like there were a lot of kids who were pretty easy to read. There were the few exceptionally talented and confident ones who are probably very popular at school, and will continue to generally do well throughout life.
There were pathetic louts: bored, disinterested, untalented, vacant stares. They probably struggle now and will probably struggle all their lives. The sad part is that it will only get much harder, and much worse for them. I could see trailer parks, substance abuse, social assistance, and the like in their futures. How sad.
There were shy awkward kids, and some that were wide-eyed with terror, completely at odds with the nature of this public spectacle.
Some were class clowns, doing dumb shit in desperate attempts to get a laugh — these were the ones that bothered me the most because they reminded me of myself at that age. I knew I wasn’t funny so I tried to make up for it by being loud and goofy, even though I knew in my heart that it was no substitute for cleverness and quick wit. I still hate my childhood self for that, for causing so much shame and embarrassment that I still feel even now. When you suck at something, it’s best to realize it, quit it, and find something else you excel at. It took me a long time to learn that lesson.
There were a boy and girl who looked about 11 or 12 and I thought I saw them flirt the first time they stood next to each other. I had crushes and flirted awkwardly at that age too, so I could relate. They stood next to each other again later in the play and I saw them flirt again, this time without question. I found it both beautiful and horrifying — coming of age is like that. I remember how strong and pure my unadulterated emotions were then, and I’m sure those kids feel the same way and that’s lovely, but it’s also gross because they are so clumsy and inept at expressing their feelings. Their interpersonal skills are as gawky as the kids are physically. It’s also incredibly sad because despite the raw emotions involved, all romances at that age are doomed. I hate to think of those poor kids crying their eyes out over the impossibility of their grade 6 crush, just like I did.
One poor girl who was far too old to be doing so was absentmindedly picking at her derriere while on stage. It was quite disgusting but on the bright side, she didn’t seem to recognize she just did something that should haunt her for the rest of her life so maybe she won’t be scarred by it like I would have been, were I her.
The kindergarten children were impossibly cute. Good grief, they’re like puppies and kittens at that age — all huge eyes and chubby faces, arms and hands, happy and curious. Some were giddy with excitement about the event, and that was precious.
One boy spoke way too loud and way too close to the microphone. He didn’t seem to care much, if at all, about what he was doing. His appearance was slovenly. I am confident he will never amount to much.
All these things, and the other stuff I’ve already forgotten, made me feel a storm of conflicting emotions; joy for the kids who will do well, sadness for the kids who obviously suck and will get chewed up and spat out by life, disdain for the ones who will turn into mindless drones and nefarious shitbags, and embarrassment for the vast majority of them because growing up is impossible to navigate gracefully. It was really just a huge bad nostalgia trip because I remember the many intense feelings of those times, and now as an adult I can appreciate how the other kids also probably felt, so it was sort of an awkwardness/embarrassment overload. I really had a hard time taking it all in.
I actually found the whole thing so sad and oddly painful that I felt like some kind of intruder. I mean, here I was dissecting the event, seeing misery and awfulness in so much of it while everyone else there was just tickled pink to see their little sweethearts dressed up as mice and soldiers. I wondered if anyone could sense my internal struggle, if they knew I did not share their untainted happiness, that I was polluting their cute little event with my manic reflections. I suppose I felt like a bit of a leper, in that sense.
All that being said, while I was not envious of the parents, I did find myself envious of the teachers. It must be nice to know the kids for just a few years during the best times of their lives and then (hopefully) never see them again, never witness their descents into adulthood and the bullshit and ugliness that inherently goes with it. I think that’s the way to do it.
Just a pleasant evening out at my buddy’s kid’s xmas play, gee golly. Like I said, it was a real mindfuck.