Was it the silky sighs of the violins? The soulful hums of the cellos? The sweet trailing notes of a few brass horns?
Or maybe it was the darkness blanketing everything around me. Minus the glowing stage, of course, which held swirling ballet dancers who were being swirled around by other swirling dancers.
And the tulle, the endless tulle. So cloud-like.
Mid-performance, my chin dropped ever so slightly. My eyelids slid down to my pupils. “Don’t do it, Denise. Just don’t.”
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I was sitting as upright as possible in the orchestra seats, waging a war with an army of zzzzs. A posse of dear ones surrounded me. Adjacent, behind, and ahead. I was in the visible middle. I worried. What would they think if my head dropped like a spent sunflower in this glorious place of expressive arts?
But even worse, I thought about what I had spent to soak in this performance. Nodding off at that ballet would have been like drooling on a bed of caviar.
I lost the battle. But not for long. My will jerked up my noggin and forced metaphorical toothpicks in the eyelids. As I said, these were not “Tightwad Tuesday” tickets.
Like many peers I talk to, this business of suddenly snoozing so far from one’s pillow seems to be a thing. There are many obvious causes, most rooted in a society where we’re not getting enough overnight rest.
My ballet coma was likely caused by previous waves of insomnia perhaps related to my age and/or agitating core. But I think any phase of life can leave any person exhausted and prone to nod off in public. Walk through a high school homeroom, a college library, or a movie theater peppered with newbie parents. You will see eyelids.
Which reminds me of my most unnerving, unintentional cat nap experience of years ago, when my sons were little and I was young. (Compared to now.)
I made the epic mistake of taking the boys to a mid-afternoon showing of a Pokémon movie. They were preschoolers, but more importantly, they were rascals, prone to climbing up the outside of open staircases and using lower dishwasher racks as indoor go-carts. The exact kind of children one had to keep a fully open eye on at all times.
I thought a movie matinee would give us all a break from the mayhem. The tactical error was choosing a circa 1999 Pokémon flick, because back then I didn’t give a Jigglypuff about the whole whatever it was and even today I don’t get it.
The particular screening we stumbled upon was brutal. Brutal. It was 90 minutes of floating anime characters punctuated with occasional sighs and chirps.
Apparently, when this movie was made, employers didn’t drug test “screenwriters,” animators and editors, because there was no plot to hold my attention. Just trippy flying creatures with eyeballs. So I fell asleep while the mischievous Mario Kart brothers were on my watch. A nervous mother’s nightmare.
Miraculously, my sons remained bolted to their seats while mommy snoozed, but that scenario never happened again. Thank you Shrek and Buzz Lightyear.
Now I take most of my public naps on airplanes, where it’s somewhat acceptable but still not ideal. There’s something about airborne sleep that makes my chin lose altitude. I’m fairly certain all my dental work has been on display many times between MCI and LGA. I’m probably snoring right now on a YouTube channel. “The tonsils of seat 17B.”
But twirling back to the ballet incident, my greatest fear is I dozed because I wasn’t captivated. I’m either uncultured or too sleep-deprived. Either way, what an awakening.
Reach Denise Snodell at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DeniseSnodell