I went to the circus for the first time ever a couple of weekends ago. It was definitely a lot of fun. But I learned a valuable lesson: I am absolutely not cut out for life in the circus.
As soon as we walked into the Big Top at Lincoln Center, my stomach fluttered with nervousness. The tent is tiny. We had seats in the third row, but even if we had been seated all the way against the back row we would have been impressively close to the action. The girls were ecstatic and full of This. is. awesoooooomes.
While they gushed, I found myself eyeing the trapeze and trying to remember high school physics to decide whether or not the (amazing) aerial artists could potentially fly out of control and into our laps. When I decided that was unlikely (although not impossible), I started obsessing about animals. More specifically, I started obsessing about an animal stampede. I knew there were farm animals mentioned in the program and there was a picture of a horse (shudder) on the front of said program. I decided that we were right in the line of fire and was glad that we were at least close enough to the aisle where we could grab our babies and run if something seemed even slightly amiss. (Spoiler alert: there was no stampede and we emerged from the tent unscathed)
Obviously I kept my fears silent. I might be crazy, but I’m not the kind of crazy that would alarm my perfectly content daughters. I just kept giving my husband wild-eyed stares over their unsuspecting heads.
The show started out OK, with the Ringmaster and the whole company coming out and a little clown action. The contortionist in a cube freaked me out slightly but I was still cool. I was calm and collected and the crazy eyes were settling down a little. Halfway through the first act I started thinking I could handle this whole circus thing.
That’s where they get you! They ease you in slowly and then BAM.
Pretty much as soon as I thought I was OK, the Anastasini Brothers came out to do their Risley act. For those uneducated in circus lingo (like myself) Risley is when someone lays on their back and spins and supports things using their hands and feet. In this case, one of the brothers laid on his back and spun the other brother around in what can only be described as a completely terrifying manner. If my anxiety didn’t suddenly kick into high gear, I would have thought it was the coolest thing ever. Instead, I winced as if they were my own children. I was highly concerned about their safety.
Then their actual parents came out and I completely understood why they were allowed to do such a thing. Their parents are insane. They did an act called the Aerial Spaceship—-which was the single craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I wanted to flee from my seat but I couldn’t tear my eyes from the scene. There was this moving spaceship looking thing suspended from the Big Top and this couple did all sorts of crazy acrobatics while dangling from it. But the most alarming part was that there was no net under them. They were hanging and flipping from the top of the tent and the only safety “net” beneath them was a small collection of burly looking men. I thought I was going to vomit.
Luckily, the intermission was next and I had 15 minutes to try and regain my composure while simultaneously freaking out about the trapeze artists that were supposed to close out the show.
I was ok for most of the second act. The Rolla Bolla (which is a crazy balancing act) freaked me out a little—especially when I saw what looked like sheer terror on the face of the Ringmaster while he watched the girl wobble. But I kept it together. Still, the closer we got to the trapeze act the more I panicked. My heart was pounding and my breathing kicked up as I popped my stress relief drops while everyone around me smiled and ooohed and ahhhhed in amazement.
This story is totally anticlimactic, because the trapeze act ended up being one of my favorites (read: there was a net). Sure, I squeezed the life out of Ellie (who was sitting on my lap) and made more than a handful of horrified noises while gasping loudly. But it was seriously amazing.
I mean I was terrified. There were bodies hurling through the air at speeds I was just not comfortable with. I just kept repeating to myself At least there’s a net. At least there’s a net. At least there’s a net.
Once the show was over (and I was breathing like a normal human being again), I couldn’t help but think about the performers. I could not possibly imagine watching my friends knowingly do seriously dangerous performances on a daily basis. Sure, they’re highly trained professionals. But all it takes is one small distraction to throw you off entirely and who knows what could happen.
I couldn’t do it. I knew right then and there that I would never have a career in the circus.