Now that the kids are getting older, in addition to giving physical presents this past Christmas, I decided to also gift each of them with an experience. And with both of them really into music at the moment – K-pop to be specific – I decided to go with concert tickets.
Three days ago it was Eleanor’s turn to have hers: seeing her favorite group, Stray Kids, perform in the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. As she’s only 11, it ended up being a gift for all of us. We got to spend 24 hours in New York City, stay at a great hotel, get in some shopping at Kinokuniya and Line Friends, and connect with our kids around something that’s important to them.
Unfortunately, in my quest to get good seats for her first concert (I’d set a high bar with her older sister), I had to buy two different groups of tickets, which meant my husband and older daughter sat in one location, while Eleanor and I sat near the front. Not only did she sit closer to the performers – a fact I had not fully appreciated until I discovered I forgot ear plugs and realized we were positioned in front of a bank of speakers – the tickets also guaranteed her a VIP experience in the form of a “Hi Touch.”
Say “Hi,” don’t touch
When the kids were very small and we lived in norther Colorado, we had a saying in the event they ever encountered a rattlesnake, “Say hi, don’t touch.” It was short, to the point, and understood you would then walk away quickly after the encounter. The K-pop hi-touch is not entirely dissimilar.
After the show ended, those sitting near the stage and with special wristbands were told to stay in their seats while the rest of the theater emptied. About 30 minutes later we began moving toward the lobby entrance in groups of 25.
“Hustle!” yelled a security guard, speed walking up the aisles toward the front as we lumbered behind her, my daughter watching young women apply makeup, perfume, and even one go-getter curling her hair – all while walking. “Think you can keep up?” Eleanor shouted, her hearing still not quite right.
The screaming, which had blissfully subsided following the show, suddenly returned as I realized the performers had exited a side door on their way to the lobby. Eleanor, who hadn’t been sure she really wanted to meet her idols in person, was now fully on board, adjusting her face mask and wiping the sweat off her hands.
“Put your phones away and hold out your right hand to high five!” yelled another security guard, demonstrating the movement.
And then the line was moving. We headed down the aisle, through the lobby doors, and were greeted by a series of security guards dispensing hand sanitizer into our right hands from large pump dispensers.
“Thank god they’re doing this. If I were them I’d bathe in it for something like this,” I said to my daughter. She ignored me and concentrated on rubbing the lotion into her hand.
“Please remove your ring,” one guard said, pointing at my finger as we turned a corner. I fumbled with the engagement ring I now wear on that hand and put it in my pocket, the act suddenly making me realize just how much my life had changed over the past 17 years with my husband and our kids – a real “who would have thought…” moment.
And while I was still pulling my hand free of my jeans, there they were, all eight of them with their perfect hair, skin, and smiles.
“Thank you. Great show.” I said to each of them as I touched their outstretched hands in more of a slide than a slap.
It lasted less than a minute. And my daughter was ecstatic.
“Bang Chan said I was so small!”
“Who?” I asked.
“Which one was that?”
“The first one…”
“Lee Know laughed at my cat shirt!”
“Which one was that?”
“The second one…”
“Oh, I remember him!”
Disoriented, we floated out of the theater, down the steps, into a cab, and made our way back to the hotel and into our room to our awaiting family.
“Hold out your right hand” I said to my 14 year old who was drowning her sorrows in a Shake Shack shake, having wanted to meet the group herself and not quite ready to forgive me for not giving up my seat.
“What?” she said.
“Hold out your right hand!” Eleanor and I both yelled, hands outstretched.
She did and we proceeded to wipe it with our right hands.
“Now you’ve touched them too!”
“So, what did you think?” I asked my husband. It had also been his first K-pop show.
“It was really good! And I have a totally new appreciation and understanding for it,” he said, going on to detail his thoughts.
I looked over to the other queen bed as he talked. The sisters were whispering, giggling, nodding, and passing a phone between them as they detailed their concert experience for one another via the Notes app.
It was not for us to hear.