Our recent New York vacay was wonderful but did leave me feeling a little like a bad parent.
Everywhere we went, earnest Mommies were pointing, quizzing, reviewing and, in general, sucking the fun out of every tourist attraction we visited.
As the curtain went down for intermission at “Newsies,” I overheard this from the very chic looking woman seated beside me: “Who is the protagonist Hans?” Her son, about 8, gave me a helpless look and I responded with a “You’re-on-your-own-kid” look.
Compare and contrast with my comment to the Princess moments earlier: “That main guy is super hot.”
While young Hans fumbled valiantly for a suitable answer, the Princess just nodded her head. Yes, she concurred. He was scorchin’.
Later, at the top of the Empire State Building, the mom-shame continued as I listened to a woman dressed head-to-toe in Patagonia, her face void of makeup and her hair prematurely gray as she pulled her children out of line to actually read the many panels depicting the building’s construction.
“Yep,” I said, shepherding the Princess and her pal past the educational panels, “It’s big and it’s tall and it prolly took, like, forever to build it. Keep moving; the gift shop has Twizzlers.”
When we went to the Whitney, a boutique museum that is much more manageable than the big guys, I watched Duh’s horrified face when he came upon a particularly well-regarded collage by a famous artist. Because this is a family newspaper, I will only tell you that the work involved lots of American flags fluttering from male appendages and leave it at that.
The girls saw Duh’s expression and giggled loudly enough to earn a highly disdainful stare from the uniformed guard in the room. It had been a tough afternoon for this guard because he had also had to yell at a woman who had accidentally stepped on the edge of a circle of blue glitter on the floor on account of she didn’t realize that was art.
The guard straightened his jacket, huffed and I realized that he thought we were all idiots.
Except for Earnest Mom, who again appeared on the scene, this time as Impromptu Docent.
Turning to her small charges, she pointed to a photograph.
“You see, this work is emblematic of all the artists whose work interrogates how the social, technological and cultural forces at work today shape the contemporary ‘self.’ You could say that it illuminates the dystopia...”
Or you could say, “Do what?” which is what went through my mind.
We accidentally pressed the basement button on the elevator and ended up on what became my favorite floor: the café, which smelled like warm muffins and happiness.
I’d like to say that the highlight of our trip was dystopic paintings but I’d be lying. Kathie Lee Gifford, looking gorgeous in a cream-colored sheath, waved at us.
Wonder does that make her the protagonist?
CELIA RIVENBARK is the New York Times best-selling author of “You Don’t Sweat Much for a Fat Girl.” Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.