Five thousand scientists and reporters are here in St. Louis this weekend for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. So I thought my Downtown Pavilion Hotel—five blocks from the convention hub—would be full of scientists and reporters. Eager scientists, divulging their new research only to me. A flurry of science reporters, offering me fabulous jobs. Nope. I entered the lobby last night to find it packed with…girls. It was full of energetic, giggling girls, aged 3 to 18, wearing sequined corsets, long socks, and noisy shoes. Most of them had freckles, and covered their frizzy red hair with an inflexible wig of tight blonde curls. I saw the lobby sign, and had that Aha! / this-can’t-be-for-real epiphany. It read: The Pavilion Welcomes Irish Arts Feis. I was stuck in an Irish dancing competition. And boy, did they dance.
They were everywhere, dancing dancing everywhere. As I walked the long, circuitous path from the west to the east wing elevator shaft, I saw them around every corner, in every ballroom. In every inch of available red velvet carpet they were practicing. They clumped in groups of three or four, jigging down the hallways as if they were Dorothy and the Tin Man following a red-velvet brick road. I walked past the pool room. Hasn’t anyone ever told them NO DANCING near the pool?!
This morning, I was waiting for an elevator down to the lobby. A middle-aged couple waited with me, with their two daughters. The parents looked pathetic, equipped with schedules and snacks. “Sweetie,” the mother said with exasperation, “we’ve got a long time before you dance.” The sweetie was about 6, in full purple, hideous costume, dancing in place. The other girl was too young to talk, sitting in her stroller. But her feet were tapping rhythmically against her hard plastic seat—I swear to god, exactly in sync with her sister!
Who are these parents? Who, in their right mind, thinks that carting the fam to a hotel in St. Louis to dance in the ballrooms is a fun weekend activity? Maybe it’d be ok if your daughter always won. And I don’t mean any honorable mention or crappy yellow ribbons. I mean if she got a gigantic trophy every single time—or better—prize money! But hundreds of girls are littering about, and they can’t all be winners. So not only do you have to watch this dancing all day long, but you have to watch all the other daughters jigging their asses better than your Sweetie? No thanks.
And another thing…lots of girls in elaborate dresses, wearing wigs, and make-up (yes, on the 3-year-olds, too)…doesn’t this seem just a little too much like a beauty pageant? All these blonde curls and rouged cheeks…and all I can think is Jean Benet Ramsey.
And isn’t there some risk of neurological damage if you go hours on end without moving your arms?