Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Porn and the Amish, or Why I Watch Dance Moms (Things That Make No Effing Sense)

Every time I would go up to Toronto for conferences back in my old card-carrying Charismaniac days once we got near Amish country I'd notice the strangest line up of businesses along the mostly deserted rural highways. Quilts, Quilts, Amish store, XXX video store, Porn, Porn, Porn, Quilts, Porn, Amish store and so on. Just one big old long line up of porn, quilts and Amish. It made no sense then and it makes no sense at all now either.

But then again neither does my obsessive viewing of Lifetime television show 'Dance Moms'. I'm not a dance mom, hell I was horrified as a charismatic that my youngest child was insistent on being a cheerleader for one season at peewee football. Even my old feminist side was perturbed by the possible wrong lessons she could absorb at the hands of those that think gender defined roles were a good thing. Skimpy costumes and cheerleading moves with some sexualized overtones didn't endear cheerleading to me either. But I sucked it up, let her experience what it was like to be a cheerleader, just like I did when she decided to take up soccer at middle school age and other things she wanted to try that I wasn't wild about.

Allowing your children to have a variety of experiences, even those you're not that in favor of, is an education unto itself.

During my childhood I did take ballet, tap and baton lessons, along with piano and etiquette plus junior Junior Cotillion. Hey, it was the deep South and these things are just what was done back in the Mesozoic era I was raised in. But I repeated very few of these with my own daughters because somehow all these 'lessons' seemed antiquated later on.

I always enjoyed dance class and had the chance to perform in local productions like the carnival balls and gatherings near Mardi Gras time and at recitals. I liked dance.

What I didn't like at the time was some of the mothers, though none of them ever screamed the F-word at each other. At least not in front of the class.

My mother wasn't part of the dance moms that hung around the studios watching the classes. She'd drop me off and pick me up several hours later. She'd run out to the grocery store or the druggist or dry cleaners, taking advantage of that time to do those errands she'd put off.

One of the things that happened that I remember well is that the dance teacher tried to get her to enroll me in children's beauty pageants and my mother had the sense and grace to tell the instructor that she didn't think beauty pageants were something little kids needed to be involved in. She protected me from that and I'm pretty grateful.

The only family at the studio that went after the beauty pageant scene hammer and tongs I remember well. The little girls in the family were with me in dance class. They always seemed to be grubby looking, as though they didn't bathe or wash their pink tights often enough. The little girls were also rather plain looking to me as a kid. But the worst of them was their mom, yelling at them or else ignoring the family toddler who liked to try and eat cigarette butts. I remember even at that young age thinking there was something somehow very wrong in that family and with kids beauty pageants. My mother didn't even have to say a word.

I realize now with the benefit of adult hindsight and wisdom that some of the things the mother did that I found off-putting were all things someone stage managing their children, living vicariously through their children instead of putting the children's needs first.

My guilty pleasure 'Dance Moms' is filled with many such women, except most of them have very foul mouths, jealousy of each other and all sorts of entitlement issues. I don't watch because I like them, I hate-watch. There's only one of the mothers that even comes close to being a good mother on the show.

Jim picks at me when I watch and gripe at the screen when they indulge in bad behavior. I tried to explain to him that it is my personal UFC, but instead of watching guys pummeling the stuffing out of each other in the Octagon I'm watching grown women air complaints and insults better suited to middle school.

I cannot explain why I do it, because these are women I would seriously avoid if I knew them in real life. This season has been particularly satisfying to watch as the dance studio owner Abby Lee Miller has had to deal with the public humiliation of being charged with trying to rip off the government by hiding assets and filing for protection in federal bankruptcy court. There's something so grandly ultimate karmic realignment about Abby facing jail time and watching her stress over it.

But when I call my mom up sometimes I tease her about her sedate behavior and lack of all crazy dance mom actions during my years dancing. I laugh and tell her she was a complete failure as a dance mom those five years because she never called another mother a nasty name and never fought with the instructor. We always laugh over this. 


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