OK, let me start by saying that I’m a well-adjusted 24-year-old working and living in New York City.
Now, I recently attended a preschool targeted toward adults, and I loved it.
Preschool Mastermind is a month-long program that seeks to reconnect grown-ups with their inner child. Rather than treat students like kids, founder and head teacher Michelle Joni Lapidos places them in scenarios that get the creative juices flowing and open up the imagination.
Lapidos’ class has sold out since January, and I now see why.
When I first heard about Preschool Mastermind, an artsy-fartsy playhouse for grown-ups who seek to 'release their inner child,' I cringed all over.
The media had not been kind to Michelle Joni Lapidos, the 'manic pixie dream girl' behind the academy. Many harped on the program's cost.
For the month-long course, hosted in Miss Joni's two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, participants pay what they can, between $333 and $999. Art supplies, snacks, and class-trip expenses are not included.
Still, some young professionals say it's a worthwhile investment to get back in touch with their creativity, resilience, and childlike wonder. I decided (was coerced by my editors) to attend one Tuesday evening.
Before enrolling, I had to submit a handwritten application to make sure I was a good fit for the class. Using markers and doodling helped me get into the spirit.
When I arrived, a tall bearded man dressed in drag greeted me and introduced himself as Cupcake, a recently graduated master's student of queer theory and visual culture. He asked me what I was called as a kid, and made me a name tag that read 'Mimi.'
As students wandered in, I joined the circle on the floor for 'free play.' Someone asked if we should put on 'Kidz Bop.'
Some students created abstract art with fingerpaint while others moulded Play-Doh into castles and sea creatures. I made a beeline for the Crayola 96-count box of crayons and a Lisa Frank colouring book, both things I loved as a child.
Cupcake overheard me introduce myself as 'Mimi, but my real name is -- ' and interrupted. 'Real name?' he said. 'Disband with reality! It does you no service here.'
Miss Joni rounded up the troops for circle time. We started by sharing exciting personal news. A young photographer received positive feedback on her portfolio; Cupcake was throwing himself a birthday party; I'm moving to San Francisco. We cheered and clapped for one another.
Miss Joni then talked about the way we share and how it changes as we get older. 'You wait until you feel safe to share, as an adult,' said parenting blogger Sarah Fader (right). 'Children share with no restraint, sometimes embarrassingly so. Kids are like, 'I peed in my underwear.''
'There are parts of us that get lost along the way,' Miss Joni said, such as sharing or living in the moment. She proposed that we reprogram through play and arts and crafts.
After an interim dance party, set to the tune of 'Shake Your Sillies Out,' we descended the stairs for the main event: the ME-SEUM. Each student prepared an activity in a separate area of the apartment.
Steven Chu, an art director who goes by the name Chuubie, set up a make-your-own-monster station. It could live on one of four worlds: Courage, Lurve, Magik, or Adaptability.
My four-legged creature, the all-powerful Taco-Monster, supplied the world of Magik with all the Tex-Mex supplies it could ever need.
As I moved about the stations, I took inventory of Miss Joni's apartment. It looked like an A.C. Moore imploded, with craft supplies strewn everywhere and a film of glitter dusting most surfaces.
Beatles memorabilia, which seemed somewhat out of place, hung in every room. In 1974, Miss Joni's father went from managing a record store to organising the longest-running Beatles-tribute festival in the US. Beatles Fest remains their family's legacy.
Inspired by her father and the Beatles' originality, Miss Joni went about finding creative ways to make a living. In 2014, she launched 'Skipping Club,' charging attendees $20 for curated jaunts through the city. The group took off, and was written up by The New York Times.
Through skipping, she stumbled upon her trademark: organising events for grown-ups that ask them to abandon their cynicism and see the world through the eyes of a child. Preschool Mastermind opened in January and, with each class capped at 10, has sold out each session.
By this point in the evening, I saw the draw. In one of the bedrooms, three women constructed magic wands out of pencils, pipe cleaners, stickers, and ribbon. As we crafted, the conversation spanned crazy ex-boyfriends, the divisiveness of Lena Dunham, and hateful comments on the internet directed at Preschool Mastermind.
'I find the comments funny about, like, 'What the f--- are people wasting their money and time on?'' said NiNi, left, who works in marketing. 'I'd rather do this than go to happy hour every Tuesday. So what if it's weird?'
After NiNi knighted me with my magic wand, I headed over to Cupcake's crown boutique. Like a bespoke tailor, he fit a strip of paper to my head and, with hot-glue gun in hand, fastened it together with clothespins, gems, and netting. Everyone's was unique.
Hanna 'Hannie' Agar, a portrait photographer, took silly portraits of students dressed in their 'preschool finest.'
In the midst of chaos and fun, we blew right through nap time and prepared for a sing-a-long. Some of the older students snuck away to the kitchen for a snack: Velveeta cheese and peanut M&M's on toast.
Janna Pelle, keyboardist and vocalist of Floorchestra, led the group in singing 'songs with violent lyrics that we never noticed as kids,' such as 'You Are My Sunshine' and 'Rock-a-bye Baby.'
Three and a half hours after I arrived at Miss Joni's playhouse, I left feeling utterly refreshed. The colouring gave me an outlet for the day's stress, the students' warmth filled me with positivity, and the music readied me for sleep.
At Preschool Mastermind, I tapped into the superhuman capacity for joy that comes so easily to children. It remained with me through the morning, like the glitter in my hair.
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