Skinny Jeans at the MFA

4 Jan

A few days ago, my family and I went to the John Singer Sargent exhibit at the MFA in Boston.

The MFA is a classy, beautiful place where one can go if one seeks intellectual stimulation… and/or restrooms that are modeled after those in the Louvre in Paris.

Which for me is really the full package.

A museum, however, is just one of those places – like an airport or a cheese convention – where people become SO over-stimulated that they forget how to act like normal human beings, and instead decide to act like Beta fish out of water.

I call this (as of right now) the “Beta effect.” And it was in full force at the MFA the other day.

Let’s begin with the act of entering the museum.

Members of the MFA get to bring two guests into the museum for free. TWO. GUESTS. Not five. Not ten and a puppy. TWO.

This limit seemed pretty clear when I read it on the sign by the entrance… and again when the angry little man behind the desk announced it in a shrill, “you people are going to kill me” kind of tone.

And yet, every person in line wanted to know, am I somehow the lucky exception? Will I be the one to break the chains of Member confinement and march into the museum like Angie and Brad and their brood of six?

The Danny DeVito front-desk man had to field questions such as, “If I walk into the museum holding hands with three guests, can we all get in for free?”

Or, “What if I hold little Johnny here and then put little Suzie on my shoulders as we walk in? Will we count as one guest?”

NO. Just NO. Unless you really are Angie and Brad and their brood of six, you will still count as three guests!

Which is more than two. (If I’ve done my counting correctly.)

Which means you have to pay up.

(As a side note to Angie and Brad: getting a museum to waive your entry fee is probably damaging to your image. You should pay the full fee because you are rich… And I should work in PR because clearly I am good at giving advice.)

After we entered the museum, we had to wait in a very long line to get into the actual exhibit.

But aha! Unlike the museum entrance, the exhibit entrance has a loophole! Those few people who opt to purchase headsets to wear while walking through the exhibit get to cut the line!

The man in front of us in the headset line was old and grumpy. Which meant that his attempt to purchase and work a headset was an exhibit in and of itself.

“What the hell does this green button do?”

“That’s the button you push when you want to begin the headset tour, sir.”

“Okay…I can’t hear anything. This thing is broken.”

“No sir, you just don’t have the volume turned up high enough.”

“WHAT? WHAT DID YOU SAY? HOLD ON, I THINK MY GRANDSON IS CALLING ME.”

“No sir, your phone is not ringing. I turned up your volume, and that is just the music that plays at the start of the audio guide.”

*Old man proceeds to interrupt the headset lady’s tutorial to shout into his flip phone.*

Because 90 year-old people can pull shit like that.

By the time we finally got our headsets, the “regular” line was marching into the exhibit.

What the heck! We’d been promised premier entry! This was outrageous!

My grandfather – armed with a headset – was trying to push his way into the line when the security guard said, “Sir, we recognize your presence, but please step aside until it is your turn.”

OH HELL NO.

It was like that scene in “Meet the Parents” when Ben Stiller isn’t allowed to board the plane, even though there is absolutely NO ONE waiting in the terminal.

I contemplated rushing past the gate, waving my headphones in the air and yelling, “This is America!”

But, I don’t know, it just didn’t seem like the right time.

When we were FINALLY allowed to enter the exhibit, I turned on my audio guide and was greeted by the voice of Nigel, a friendly, eager Brit who just couldn’t wait to educate me on all things watercolor.

Nigel and I were really jiving – he even made a couple of “art jokes,” which I appreciated. Oh Nigel, you are just too much! 

Things were going great. And that’s when I realized that an older lady was giving me a death glare. No, TWO older ladies were glaring at me.

Is this because I’m wearing skinny jeans? I wondered.

I looked to Nigel for help but his description of Painting Number Four had ended, and he was nowhere to be found.

And that’s when I realized: people were in a line, systematically moving in the same direction from one painting to another…and I was that dumb whippersnapper who thought she could skip around the room and cut in front of older people.

Skinny jeans AND poor museum etiquette…I was one step away from Lindsey Lohan protégé status. I needed to make amends.

So, I quietly went to the back of the line and tried to blend.

But then the older man from before – the one with all the headset issues – came and stood directly in front of me.

Because 90 year-old people can pull shit like that.

Apparently, there was something soooo interesting in the painting that this sir had to press his nose up to it and look for an EXTENDED period of time.

Is the painting changing from second to second, sir?

Are you plotting to steal the painting, sir?

Is there a spec of dirt on the painting that is just driving you mad, sir?

I WOULD REALLY LIKE TO MOVE ON FROM THIS PAINTING BEFORE MY 90TH BIRTHDAY, SIR, SO PLEASE MOVE ALONG.

That’s what I said to him. And then he hit me with his cane and I passed out and am now rich from the lawsuit that ensued.

Just kidding. But that’s the scene that I had more than enough time to play out in my head while I waited for Mr. I’m the Only One On Earth to have his fill of the painting.

When I was finally, finally allowed to proceed, I made my way through the exhibit and into the gift shop, where I begged my grandmother to buy me a coaster with my favorite painting on it… because a post card will get lost and a puzzle takes too much time. But a coaster is useful and classy.

(AKA I am a shopaholic and don’t know how to leave establishments without purchasing something pretty but of little use.)

I left the museum feeling culturally aware, artsy-fartsy, and classy (because of the coaster, as well as the Parisian-inspired bathrooms that I used at the end of our visit).

I’m sure my experience was exactly what Mr. Singer Sargent had in mind while he was painting.

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