FACE IT: Life is hard. And these days that’s true even for the kids, who grow up much faster than they did back in my youth. (I can still hear Lynn Rosenblatt asking in 8th grade health class if it were true that you got pregnant when a boy and a girl both took a bite from the opposite ends of the same banana at the same time.) So it seems to me that every bit of respite from the anxieties of modern life is to be treasured, making the announcement by Ringling Bros. to shut down their circus in May, after 146 years of delighting families, a total and complete bummer.
Even though I haven’t attended the circus in years, during my childhood it was a much-anticipated annual event not to be missed. I have so many circus memories from so many years, starting at about age four. One special memory was my very first fainting experience, which happened inside the side show (a.k.a. “freak show”) full of oddities where patrons wandered before entering the Big Top for the “Greatest Show on Earth.” I passed out right in front of the Elephant Lady, finding the grey, wrinkled skin on her enormous body a tad too freaky, and hoping I hadn’t hurt her feelings on my way down.
And speaking of elephants, they pretty much brought about the demise of the circus after animal rights activists sued over alleged mistreatment by their handlers. Hey, I am a huge proponent of not hurting or abusing or exploiting animals, but still, was it really so terrible to have them walk in a parade with pretty girls sitting on top of them, wearing fancy hats (the girls and the elephants), or balance themselves on those little striped stands and twirl around gracefully, or maybe link trunks in a line Rockette-style and curtsy towards their adoring fans? It’s not like they were getting whipped or beaten or starved, unless of course that’s what they did to make them do all those things.
Anyway, all the elephants left in May of last year and retired to Florida. (No kidding.) Kenneth Feld, the owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, explained in a recent interview that their longest act is currently twelve minutes, and you can’t get kids to sit through a 12-minute act, even if it is performing tigers. Funny, isn’t it, how they can sit for hours watching virtual creatures on those dumb video games.
So now the real circus is gone, and the only one left is in Washington, D.C., and that’s no fun at all. God help the children.