I drove into Union City on Wednesday to watch a hula performance by the wife's little cousin. Oakland to Union City can be a mad dash of insanity during rush hour. To avoid the slow traffic crawl, I left work at 4 o'clock.
The performance was at an upscale senior center that looked more like a hotel than anything else. The senior centers of my youth would be an open square room with chairs on the sides and board games by one or two tables. The entrance to the building reminded me of a gym club. Bright, airy and filled with smiling faces.
The cousin C has been performing hula over the last few years. Helped along by a mother with a driving passion for her children, the cousin has thrived in her hula environment. C is an eight or nine year old full of energy and armed with the ability to make friends with everyone. At last year's hula powwow in San Jose, C sat with a group of people at the front of the participants. It turned out that C was in the wrong group of kids. But she sat there with nonchalance and an air of belonging.
The hula affair itself was typical for any children's recital. When I was younger, it was piano recitals. Now that I am older, it is hula.
I must say though that I find it deeply disturbing that we as a society must apply make-up to children. I suppose you need it for the bright lights of the stage. But seeing children with rouge and lipstick reminds me of Lestat's little friend in Anne Rice's books. Was it Charlotte?
Some parts of the performance was painful to watch as little kids watched the other kids to make sure that they were in step or doing the proper sequence. It must be the perfectionist in me. In one performance, I saw a four year old's face gradually scrunch into disappointment as the other dancers ruined any chance of symmetry or coordination among the dancers. To their defense the other kids were three and four.
The hula performances did challenge my notion of beauty. Why is a fat child less attractive in my eyes than a thin child? When I was younger, I was fat. Maybe that had something to do with it. But it was also great because the children could be honest about their bodies. So you have a belly. Big deal. Show it to the world.
(God, I wish I could punish all those teen-agers who wear those low-cut jeans and those skimpy t-shirts and show off their bellies. I want to wear low-cut jeans and skimpy t-shirts!!! That should be punishment for all of mankind!)
And of course, I got to see what age does to the physical body. We begin with short stubby bodies. No wrinkles, flexible as heck, and energetic. We mature into beautiful sexual beings with bodies to match. And, we give birth to the next generation. Our bodies expand, change and wither.