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  • In an effort to make me her little theater-ingenue-daughter, my mother took me to see "The Nutcracker" when I was five.

    It was a big deal for her, because growing up she loved "The Nutcracker" and this was the most cultured event to happen in my town since Richard Simmons had come to sweat with some oldies at a local ski resort.

    We sat down in our seats on a Tuesday afternoon. I was befitted in a dress with tights (which was another accomplishment for my mother: getting me out of saddle stretch pants). The lights came down, and the curtain came up. Ten minutes had flown by, filled with elaborate music, costumes and dance, when finally I leaned over and asked,

    "So, are they gonna talk or....?"

    That was the last dance performance I ever saw.

    Later that night, my father asked me about the ballet. What were my favorite parts? Did I like it?

    Through a mouthful of spaghetti I pointedly answered him, "There was this great part where the lights came on and everyone got up to go to the bathroom."

    My parents would experience a similar sense of cultural failure after taking me to the Met at age 12, where I would cite "the Exit sign" as my favorite part of the museum.
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