When our daughter, Dimples, was about three, she inexplicably started saying, “the guy” at random moments. Sometimes she would point at her dad, sometimes at baseball caps. We could not figure out what she was trying to tell us.
Then we took her back to SeaWorld for the second time. We sat down at the “Viva” show, which had mesmerized her the first time we went. The show was filled with leaping dolphins, graceful beluga whales, and amazing feats of gymnastics and diving. Despite all of that, it stunned me that she didn’t fidget the entire program. She never clapped or smiled, just watched with wide-eyed wonder.
Determined to repeat that experience, we brought her again about 3 weeks later, carefully arriving about 15 minutes before the beginning of the show so we could be sure to have the same seats as the first time. When you find something that works well with a toddler, you don’t mess with perfection.
We sat down, and suddenly Dimples started saying, “The Guy! The Guy! The Guy!” with great excitement.
And then I saw who she meant. Before the show started, a man entertained the crowd with goofy antics in the audience, pretending to try to “fix” a leak, and splashing water everywhere. He wore a cap. And last time, I had pointed him out to Dimples by saying, “See the guy over there? See what the guy is doing? Isn’t the guy funny?”
From then on, whenever we went to SeaWorld, it was required for us to attend the Viva show to see The Guy.
And if there was a substitute Guy? Dimples was not happy.
This week, Dimples and I went back to the show. It’s been 7 years since “The Guy” appeared in her life. Since then, the show has morphed into a new one, “Azul”, but it’s always had pretty much the same theme.
And it still has “The Guy.” And he still fills a baseball cap with water and puts it on the head of a very surprised member of the audience.
“But it’s a different guy,” Dimples noted with disappointment this week. I felt myself preparing for her inevitable announcement of a Day Ruined. But it didn’t come.
Because now we go to the show to see someone else. Now, Dimples is a synchronized swimmer, and her coach is performing in the Viva show. Now, Dimples is on her way to the Nationals, and her mind is on holding her breath, standing during her lift, and pointing her toes. Now, she is noticing technique and stamina, not the silly man who does pratfalls into the water.
Will I sit in that stadium seven more years from now and be watching Dimples performing with the dolphins?
I don’t know. But I will always associate that open-air theater with a little girl watching her idol with bright eyes of adoration.
And my frantic mental telepathic warnings to The Guy that he Better. Not Come. Anywhere Near Me. With that Cap Full of Water.
Son, I’ve Made My Life Out of Readin’ People’s Faces, and You Don’t Know What the Heck I’m Talking About
To this day, probably the scariest two words you can say to me are, “Talent Show.”
“Hey Mom, guess what? I’m going to be in the 5th Grade Talent Show,” my daughter announced the other day.
“Really? Um, have I mentioned what happened when I was in my 5th grade talent show?” I asked.
Because it’s all about me.
“Well, I was with two other girls, and we were going to sing The Gambler, and I promised I would learn all of the words but I didn’t. And I stood there like an idiot, making up words to everything but the chorus, and completely embarrassed myself. In front of the biggest crush I ever had.”
“So, what are you doing for the show?”
“A Taylor Swift song.”
“Do you know the words?”
“Just the chorus.”
“That’s exactly how much I knew of The Gambler,” I said with a raised eyebrow.
I was pretty sure where this was leading, and I thought maybe nurture (or lack of it) could bypass nature, but a feeling of doom settled in my stomach.
This was going to be The Gambler all over again. The Circle of Humiliation following its inevitable path.
But it turned out that she changed her mind. She is now doing a skit with her friends. Which could still lead to embarrassment – but it will not be a musical one at least.
That, of course, is not the end of the story.
After school yesterday I ran across one of my students sobbing uncontrollably.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“It’s Lyric Check Day for the talent show, and I forgot to bring my song,” he sobbed.
“Well that shouldn’t be a problem,” I said. “Tell me the song, and we can go print it out real quick.”
“The Gambler,” he choked.
Wow. It really is all about me, I thought in amazement.
“Are. You. Kidding?!!!” I exclaimed. Probably not the best way to calm down a hysterical kid.
“I sang that when I was your age!” He looked at me doubtfully.
I decided not to relate the whole mortification in front of my possible future husband portion of the story.
“Let’s go get that printed out,” I said.
I realized what was going on. This was my chance. To redeem myself, to console this poor boy, to make a difference, to be a hero. TO BREAK THE CYCLE. We went to to the computer lab, and I pulled up the song.
He peered at the screen through his tears.
“That’s not it,” he said, somewhat hesitantly.
“Are you sure? You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to run,” I belted out. “By Kenny Rogers?”
“Who’s that? What are you talking about?” The tears had dried up. My singing has that effect on people.
“What are you talking about? Who do you think sings The Gambler?”
So, sure. That’s who sings it. And why he looked at me so doubtfully when I announced I sang it at my talent show. Before “Fun” was even born.
And the Humiliation comes full Circle.
I decided to look up my Roller Derby name today. According to Mia Psycho’s Roller Derby Name Generator, I am “Terror Shattering”. It’s good George W. was not aware of this during his interminable term, what with his whole hostility against horror. I might have been drafted to be some kind of weapon of mass emotion obstruction, which I would, of course, have found morally reprehensible. Even though, ironically, I take a pill every morning to obstruct my own emotions. And I think I can pretty much directly trace the necessity for that back to George W.
George’s Roller Derby name, by the way, would be “Anger GimmeMore,” according to Mia Psycho. She is amazingly accurate, that Mia.
I am not intending to join a Roller Derby team. I just ended up watching this unique sport last night when Kanye West got a bit too intense and creepy on Saturday Night Live and I was looking for another channel to switch to that would not be too engrossing because I definitely wanted to switch back to SNL in time to see Seth Meyers do his last news report.
Looking at the online guide, it seemed that Roller Derby might fit the bill, and I arrived on the scene just in time to see some kind of penalty being assessed, and a giant wheel being spun to determine the consequence, and the ensuing pillow fight between two of the opponents, the winner of which was determined by some kind of peanut gallery of spectators who certainly seemed completely objective.
I nearly did not get back to Seth Meyers in time because I found this human behavior so sociologically absorbing that I could not peel my eyeballs from the screen or shove my chin back up to meet the rest of my skull.
I’m not really into contact sports. Or sports. But I have got to admit that Roller Derby is fascinating. And not nearly as disturbing as Kanye West. It’s a bit like Quidditch combined with football and roller-skates. And without the flying, of course. I’m not absolutely sure there are no broomsticks, though. The rules seem a bit vague on that.
I only had to watch Roller Derby for two minutes and seventeen seconds to realize that this is the solution to every major conflict on this planet, and that women definitely should rule the world.
Just stick me on the rink with Aim Antagonism (Kim Jung-un) and a pillow, and I’ll have things sorted out before you can say, “Ithaca New York Suffer Jets versus the Empire Skate Troopers”.
God, I love puns.