Once upon a time (let’s say last Sunday afternoon), there was a young prince (let’s say he was no older than seven) who really wanted to see a holiday musical at a crowded theatre in Manhattan (let’s say it was “Elf” at the Hirschfeld). The little prince sat squarely in the middle of center orchestra Row M, high atop a pile of theatre-provided pillows engineered to enhance his view of the stage. To the right of the prince sat two large, mullet-bedecked ladies, each a significantly less attractive version of the kind-hearted Coach Beiste. It soon became clear that the prince was not with the ladies who sat beside him, as his small, meek-looking mother sidled up the partially empty row L and stood talking to him before the show began.
The prince complained loudly to his mother that he couldn’t see because of the lady in front of him, and his mother reminded him that at intermission, he would be switching seats with his younger brother, Prince Tyler, who was also seated alone, all the way up in Row B. This news did not console the prince. His mother placidly instructed him to stay in his seat until intermission, at which time she would fetch him and orchestrate his relocation. She pointed to the back of the theatre, indicating that she would be standing in that area throughout the show. Again, despite the lofty pillow pile, the prince balked at his inability to see through the woman’s head in front of him.
The woman seated in front of the prince in Row L was not particularly tall, nor was she sporting hair reminiscent of Irwin M. Fletcher in the basketball game dream sequence. She was flanked by her two young sons, and was eagerly awaiting the show to begin. The prince’s mother tapped her on the shoulder and addressed her, explaining that the prince had really wanted to see the show so she had gotten same-day tickets. But there had been only two single seats available in all the land, so she split up her young princes and purchased a standing-room-only ticket for herself. She then appealed to the woman that she might consider rearranging her seating order so she would not be impeding the prince’s stage-viewing. Row L lady kindly but apologetically declined, indicating that she felt obliged to sit between her two sons. This enraged the prince! The prince’s mother then presumptuously suggested that Row L lady crouch down in her seat so the prince would be able to enjoy a clear, unobstructed view of the show.
I am certain you will need to read the following sentence at least twice to fully comprehend the absurdity: Row L lady actually agreed to crouch for the entire performance. Yes, I’ll repeat it: Row L lady actually agreed to crouch for the entire performance. (I will now give you a few seconds to exclaim, “Are you fff’reakin’ kidding me?” And I can assure you, I am most assuredly not.)
The prince’s mother was appropriately grateful to Row L lady, who practiced her crouch to make sure it met with the prince’s approval. “How’s this?” she asked, slithering down in her seat. “Not enough. Crouch more,” demanded the prince. So she crunched herself even lower as he maneuvered himself up higher on his stack of pillows. “That’s better,” he pronounced.
He then informed his butler mother that he wanted water. And Skittles. NOW! She scurried off, and with that, the mulleted lady right beside him began to engage him in conversation, opening her phone to show him a photo of her dog. Instantly, the prince’s mother swooped back into the still-vacant Row L and began, I imagine, to reprimand him for talking to a stranger. Sure, I overheard every word she sputtered at him. It’s just that she was speaking French—apparently their secret “let’s not offend the ostensible lesbians” language.
Thankfully, the lights went down within a few seconds and the show began. Only once during the first act did the prince have to tap Row L lady’s shoulder and signal for her to crouch lower. Because we bolted at intermission (cute show for the little ones, but mine ain’t so little anymore), I am unable to report on the further adventures of the overindulged prince and his excessively accommodating mother. But I think I got enough to go on.
And that, my friends, is what’s wrong with people these days. No, not mullets. Not Row L lady who either lacks all self-respect or suffers through life as a pleaser. Not even His Royal Majesty himself, perched on his throne high atop Pillow Mountain. The problem unmistakably lies with HRH’s mother, indulging her son’s every wish and demand, regardless of, well, everything! He just had to see the show. No matter that he’s seven and sitting by himself in a sold-out theatre of almost 1,300 people while she’s standing in the back. And, of course, he just had to see the show, so she thought nothing of asking another theatre-goer to accommodate His Highness’s demands. No “please,” no “thank you” from the prince at any time to any person granting his wishes. Just an expectation—a clear sense of entitlement—that things should be exactly the way he wanted, with shameless disregard for others around him.
Now, if, heaven forbid, one of the young boys is terminally ill and the mother was simply going to great lengths to give him a joyful Christmas experience, I do sincerely and completely apologize for my insensitivity and beg for forgiveness. But if not—and I’d bet not—this lady sure needs a lot of help raising her kids. She’s the parent—and with that title comes the responsibility for setting limits, having the restraint not to indulge his every desire, and insisting on politeness and good behavior—especially in public, where it directly affects the experience of others. Every time she panders to his ludicrous demands, she contributes to his unconscionably entitled nature. Why do I care? Because sadly—and alarmingly—this entitled, self-absorbed generation is the future (and increasingly the present) of our country.
Honestly, I’m still not entirely sure what I would’ve said or done had I been the lady in Row L. I certainly wouldn’t have switched seats if my young boys were flanking me, and there’s no way I would’ve agreed to crouch for two-and-a-half hours for this spoiled brat to be able to see. But I don’t know in the moment how I would’ve actually responded. (And yes, it did occur to me as we were leaving at intermission that it would exemplify the holiday spirit for me to offer her our tickets for the six seats we were vacating in Row N so they could all sit together for Act Two. But you’ll forgive me that I wasn’t feeling particularly charitable toward the royal family.)
So how ’bout you? I’d love to know what you would’ve said or done…