You never know what to expect at the Kids' Choice Awards, except children. You come prepared for the shrieks and hollers of adorable school kids having the time of their life. You do not show up ready for a grown-ass adult 20-something, tattoos and all, to be seated behind you, crying out for a free T-shirt like everyone else.
My name is Maria Sherman, and I went to the Kids Choice Awards, alone, as an adult.
3:40 P.M. The Kids' Choice Awards is much less chaotic than you'd expect, possibly due to the parental supervision. Beer, which you'd believe would make some sort of commission via the massive number of chaperones, has been bled dry. This is going to be a long night.
3:46 P.M. Upon entry of the venue, kids run rampant, stylized like Frank Grande (Ariana's charismatic brother), fauxhawks spray-painted neon. Glow sticks are many. If the median age wasn't nine, you'd think this was some hyper EDM gig...or the living embodiment of Kidz Bop.
3:50 P.M. Outside, kids ask for selfies with celebs I'm much too old to ID, leading me to guess that they're probably YouTube- or Vine-famous.
3:53 P.M. On the hike to the press tent I pass a woman wearing an artists' badge, vaping, walking a giant white poodle with an impossibly manicured haircut. Later I'll learn that the poodle would not make an appearance during the show, and I'd never see the woman again. Serious Twilight Zone vibes.
4:00 P.M. I begin to undergo an existential crisis, mostly out of jealousy. How did kids get tickets to this? Some kind of contest? Why didn't I do this as a child?
4:04 P.M. I'm seated near an army of moms and their children. The adults are dressed up. This is truly the GRAMMYs for the pre-pubescent.
4:10 P.M. I'm told the show won't begin until 5 P.M. Dear Yeezus, why did I get here so early? Kids seated directly below me scream when more people, possibly of the famous variety, appear side stage.
4:12 P.M. The crisis continues: Since when do children have iPhones? The brother/sister dynamic duo in front of me average something like seven years old and their emoji game is unrivaled.
4:45 P.M. I just paid $6 for a lemonade that had no alcohol in it. I am aging backwards.
4:48 P.M. Charli XCX's "Break the Rules," pays in the main auditorium, the Nickelodeon folk editing out the word "high."
4:49 P.M. The girl directly in front of me's iPhone lock screen reads "You Complete Me," a hat tip to 5 Seconds of Summer frontman Luke Hemmings' now infamous shirt.
4:51 P.M. A stagehand demands applause and my eyes focus on a giant Nickelodeon blimp. The channel might be virtually unrecognizable from the Nick that I grew up with in the '90s, but this branded beauty of the sky remains the same.
--THE SHOW BEGINS--
Host Nick Jonas starts the show with a medley of his two biggest hits, "Chains" and "Jealous." He's airborne in some giant, cubic art as acrobats flip and turn around him. Women hit bass drums (Jonas must be taking a page out of Fifth Harmony's "Sledgehammer" video) and for a moment I forget I'm at the Kids' Choice Awards. Then I tune back in to the hundreds of screaming voices, most of which ringing in the high shriek-y registers of #youth. Unlocking the Truth, the pre-teen metal band, join Jonas, giving his R&B croon a real edge.
The actual event is pretty disillusioning: Zendaya shouts out grrrl power, Emma Stone wins Favorite Female Actress for what appeared to be Birdman, a film these kids are way too young to see or appreciate. When Modern Family win Favorite Family TV Show, the cast begins with a "thanks for not sliming us" refrain, immediately get slimed. I begin considering the potential slime could bring to other events. It would make the Oscars actually bearable.
During commercial breaks, dudes in orange jumpsuits break dance and shoot commemorative T-shirts out of handheld canons. There's a countdown to allow parents to know how long to take bathroom breaks, which, in reality, seems very well organized and smart. Other awards shows don't do this so it's up to you—and your bladder—to make the call.
When Fifth Harmony are awarded Favorite New Artist, Ally of the group shouts, "Kids, believe in yourself and always follow you dreams." It feels especially powerful here, in this room full of youngsters full of vinegar and promise, still on the right side of their jaded adulthoods. Angelina Jolie shares the sentiment, wining Favorite Villain and telling the kid crowd, "Different is good." 5 Seconds of Summer close out the night moments later, dosing themselves in slime and smiles, living Angie's words.
I'd be a liar to say this didn't end with a tear or two shed. There's something delightfully democratic about the Kids' Choice Awards; here, kids can be whoever they want. It's a shame so many of us lose that enthusiasm with age.