D. None of the above

Young man photographing family at outdoor wedding. Horizontal shot.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Something about a posed picture brings out the prankster in me. I realize, of course, that posed pictures can and do capture a moment when a group of people come together.

In fact, I recently visited the athletic center of one of the colleges that admitted my daughter and stared, for hours, at the faces of athletes over the decades who took time out from their sports games and practices to have a picture taken. Without the uniformity and decorum, these pictures would have been a free-for-all with little structure.

And yet, in my own life, I can’t help seeing the camera and the formal process as an invitation to assert my individuality or, at the very least, to force the formality off someone’s face.

I can trace this back to formal extended family photo sessions we had when my brothers and I were young teenagers. Every so often, the aunts, uncles and cousins would get together. When they did, someone inevitably wanted to capture the moment for people to revisit years later, which, I guess, is around now, given how long ago the younger versions of ourselves forced a smile on our faces for those pictures.

So, anyway, I remember this one picture, when I was standing between both of my brothers, which made sense at the time because I am the middle child and my younger brother hadn’t decided I stopped way too early in the height department. As the photographer was getting ready to take the picture, I reached down as subtly as I could and pinched my older brother’s thigh, causing him to grin broadly at just the right moment, if you’re me — or the wrong moment, if you’re the photographer.

To her credit, my mom kept that goofy picture because, unknown to me, the photographer had taken a head-to-toe shot that clearly showed my fingers pinching my brother.

When my younger brother got married, I recall my father’s extended family all trying to line up for a family photo or, as my aunt said at the time, a fa-mi-lee pho-to, as she enunciated each syllable in a way that would cause poets to cringe. She accented all of the syllables and spoke so loudly that the camera picked up her demand to get everyone in their place.

Later, as we watched my brother’s wedding video, the whole family discovered an unknown treat. At some point, the videographer had clearly asked my uncle, one of the more serious and least playful people I ever met, if he had any marital advice for the newlyweds.

Seated in a chair by himself, with the music playing in the background and plates of hors d’oeuvres passing in and out of the frame, he paused for a moment before looking straight at the camera.

“It’s a sense of humor,” he said, cracking the smallest of wry smiles.

As my daughter and nephew prepare for their high school and college graduations, I can’t help wondering what the young men and women in the photos will be thinking when the many amateur photographers insist that they move a step to their left, lean to their right, stand up straight or open their eyes wider, no, less wide, no, wait, wider.

Hopefully, my daughter and nephew will be able to look back at pictures and see something more than a group of people celebrating one moment as they prepare for the next one. Hopefully, the camera will capture something, small though it may be, that brings a smile to their faces months or years later. Maybe the perfect imperfection will transport them back to the moment someone insisted that they “give us a natural smile” on cue.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

When we want to use a pronoun to refer to a deity, we use a capital letter out of respect, so that even if we’re writing about His will, we use the capital “H” in the middle of a sentence. For some, of course, the capital letter could also represent a female deity, as in, I thought I would get the job, but, apparently, She had other plans for me.

That’s so wonderfully deferential that it shows that only supreme beings merit such grammatical greatness.

But what about all the people we can’t stand, whose ideas are ruining our day or, gasp, our country?

We have long used symbols or faux letters, like an asterisk (*) to take the place of a letter or words we all know, so that we might write, “What the **** was he thinking when he cut me off for a parking spot at the supermarket?”

Nowadays, though, I think the politics of personal animus requires more than a few letter abbreviation or a casual dismissal. We need the equivalent of a literary eye roll, which can show a level of antipathy and disrespect befitting the lack of humanity, the utter depravity or the absolute inanity that defines someone’s actions or words that make us grind our teeth or snarl in frustration.

How about a super lower-case first letter of a pronoun, to make it clear that we don’t just disagree with someone, but we find that person so frustrating, evil, despicable, irritating and/or ridiculous that the person doesn’t merit a customary human pronoun? Perhaps we need a symbol that does the graffiti equivalent of writing that person’s name and spray painting an “X” or a thumbs-down sign over it.

Instead of referring to the person people either love, hate or love to hate, as he or him, we could use a diminutive placeholder for the personal pronoun, like *e seems poised to start another war to satisfy his ego, or *is idea so completely lacked substance that it’s hard to argue with *im when *e hasn’t read any intelligence reports.

On the other side, we might see a nemesis as unworthy of a typical pronoun, arguing that *he is preventing this great country from marching forward or *er ideas seem rooted in the word “no.”

But, of course, this doesn’t have to be limited to the power elite in Washington, D.C. It can refer to anyone, allowing us to alter the personal pronoun in a way that underscores our distaste for the idea, the person, or *is or *er actions.

Let’s say we’re watching a Little League game and a mother, father, grandparent or just random fan comes by and heckles an umpire. That seems so utterly absurd that, in the retelling, we might want to point out how *is words set the wrong example, or *he made me throw up in my mouth.

When we’re tapping out a text message to our friends, we might share our disgust that *he had the nerve to ask me if *er choice to date my best friend was OK.

We might realize that this person seemed eager to train *er dog to use my lawn as a bathroom or that *e was telling me how to live my life when *e apparently has no idea how to live *is.

These super lower-case pronouns can allow us to vent in code to our family and friends. We might suggest that *e is driving me crazy. If *e actually read the email or text, *e might have no idea that the subject of this diminutive pronoun is, in fact, *im.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Four people get into an elevator together. They kind of recognize each other, but they’re not sure so they smile politely and nod. They’re all going to the 7th floor. On the way up, the elevator gets stuck. Mr. B, the baseball coach, looks at his watch and shakes his head. Ms. S, the soccer coach, paces back and forth, as if she’s blocking a goal. Mrs. V, the violin teacher, closes her eyes, taps her feet and imagines the rhythm of a Mozart concerto. Mrs. Jones tries to text her three children, but the elevator doesn’t get any cell service.

“This shouldn’t take too long,” Mr. B offers hopefully. “I’ve been stuck in elevators, had rain delays and all kinds of problems in the past. We’ll be fine.”

“Oh, hey Mr. B,” Mrs. Jones says, her voice shaking a bit. “It’s me, Joan Smith. I’m John’s mom.”

“Right, right, I knew you looked familiar,” Mr. B says. “Did John have a chance to go hit in the cages like I told him to?”

“No, well, he had a violin lesson, so he couldn’t,” Mrs. Jones replies. “But I know he wants to and he’ll get to the cage this weekend.”

“This weekend?” Mr. B sighs. “By then the big game will be over.”

“So, you’re the reason John couldn’t concentrate during his lesson,” Mrs. V says, as her foot stops and she swivels to face Mr. B.

“Excuse me?” Mr. B says, crossing his arms over his chest. “John has been slumping recently and we need him to start hitting again. He has tremendous potential and we’d like to see how far that will take him.”

“Wait, John Jones?” Ms. S asks, turning to the group. “John is a fantastic goalie and we need him for our club game this weekend.”

“I thought soccer was a fall sport,” Mr. B sighs.

“Right, and baseball is a spring sport and yet during our busiest season, John seems to sneak away for extra hitting and throwing,” Ms. S says.

“Well, he needs to practice all year round. What’s he going to do with soccer?” Mr. B adds.

“You’re kidding, right? You think he’s going to play baseball in college?” Ms. S asks.

“Does anyone have any idea how talented he is on the violin? Have you ever heard him play? He is way ahead of his peers on the violin and could easily play at a much higher level,” Mrs. V says.

“He never talks about the violin with me,” Mr. B says, unfolding and refolding his arms.

“Would you be interested in hearing about it? Do you think he’s figured out that you might not be a receptive audience?” Mrs. V adds.

“Now, come on, think about this: John gets to play soccer, baseball and the violin,” Mrs. Jones says. “He gets to benefit from all of your expertise and he’s passionate about all these activities. You’re all giving him experiences he’ll never forget and he’s fortunate to have these opportunities. That’s a good thing, right?”

“Yes, I suppose,” Ms. S huffs. “But if he really wants to be great at anything, he needs to commit to it year round.”

“I could say the same thing about baseball,” Mr. B says.

The elevator suddenly starts to move again.

“Yes, but he has committed to all of your activities throughout the year,” Mrs. Jones sighs. “I know, because I’m driving him and his sisters everywhere. Please understand that he does the best he can to pick and choose during overlapping events. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to shop for a present to celebrate his 10th birthday.”

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

appreciate the joy of vanity license plates. They are like small puzzles that allow me to ponder their meaning while I await two or three traffic lights so I can turn left.

Sometimes they are like good movies or artwork, allowing readers to come up with their own interpretation.

My wife and I will ask each other what the combination of letters and numbers mean, offering various guesses as if we were on a game show, trying to figure out whether the letters are a message or the celebration of a successful stock that made it possible for the person to buy that lovely car.

They can reveal a car owner’s passions, for skiing, golf or for a particular person. They can also suggest how someone got the car, where the person with the car came from or how many people are in a family.

Recently, I came to a traffic light and read a license plate that suggested a sad story. In an inconspicuous maroon car that I would have otherwise overlooked, the license plate had a message of animosity.

Wow, I thought. Who would advertise an identity linked to hatred? How sad that each time the person got in the car, the license plate reinforced his or her antipathy. What could have happened that made anger so much more important than any other message or than a random collection of letters and numbers?

Then again, maybe it’s the internet’s fault. Traveling along the internet superhighway, people can’t resist sharing their disdain for everyone and everything. Maybe the anger that follows us on roads and on the heavily trafficked internet world has converged, blending into one laser-like beam of focused enmity.

Then again, that’s probably a sociological cop-out. More likely, the car owner, whom I will call Joe, has a life-defining story he’s sharing through this license plate.

Joe may have loved someone deeply and for years. He made plans about where they’d live, how many kids they’d have, what they’d do on weekends and where they’d take this small joy mobile on vacations.

One day, however, she arrived at a prearranged dinner at a diner. She looked different. Her hair was longer and had been straightened. Instead of her worn North Face jacket, she was wearing a designer coat. Her purse, which Joe noticed when she placed it delicately on the table as if it were made of glass, had also changed.

“Hey,” Joe offered. “You look so different. What’s up?”

“I am different,” she smiled behind lipstick someone else had clearly applied. When she refused the bread she usually wolfed down, Joe became nervous.

“What’s different?”

“I won the lottery. I’m thinking of changing everything about my old life.”

“How much did you win?” a suddenly excited Joe asked.

“How much is irrelevant. I’ve decided to give you a parting gift. I’m going to buy you a new car.”

Joe didn’t know what to say. A car wasn’t what he wanted or expected. Then again, he didn’t want to walk away empty handed.

When it came time to pick out a license plate, Joe wanted just the right way to express his frustration over what could have been. He tried options the DMV denied. Finally, he came up with a message that encapsulated a road not taken for his life and his car. Joe regularly drives past the home of the former love of his life, hoping she notices him and the message on his license plate: EVEIH8U.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Theodore Geisel, or Dr. Seuss as he was better known, was born 115 years ago earlier this month. He brought us so many wonderful characters, from Horton — my favorite — to Thing One and Thing Two to the Grinch to Sam-I-Am.

A wonderful part about having children is revisiting these friends from our own childhood. Certainly, babies born today have more options, but Seuss characters continue to inhabit their world almost as much as they did ours.

Before our daughter was born, we used to read “Oh, Baby, the Places You’ll Go!” to her. Tish Rabe adapted the book from the works of Seuss.

Almost 18 years later, I’m not sure how much, or if, the words we read to her and to our son a few years later, had any impact. It was fun, however, to picture them listening to our voices as we imagined the things they’d do and, of course, the places they’d go.

Written for, and about, children, this book doesn’t address the journeys we, the parents, the readers of this and so many other books, will take with and for our children. We travel in cars with them, where, initially, every journey is a voyage of discovery.

On those trips when parents can travel with their child together, one adult might drive while the other can sit with the rear-facing seat of our infant or toddler. We point out the world around us, enabling us to see the red-tailed hawks, oak trees and changing foliage through their eyes.

Even before we focus on the world outside the car, we travel through familiar songs, stories and nursery rhymes, creating patterns that we and our children can look forward to even if we are stuck in traffic somewhere.

As our children grow up, they travel with teams, bands or Model United Nations trips outside of the usual patterns of our lives.

Our daughter ventured to towns half a mile, half an hour, half a state and almost half a world away with softball and volleyball teams, bringing her uniform, enthusiasm and a readiness to join other girls who were, seemingly yesterday, also in the early stages of life.

With her band, she ventured out of the country, traveling to Italy, where she was delighted to play for an audience that didn’t understand much English, but shared reactions to the music that needed no translation.

As our children grow up, they travel more and more often without us, going on religious retreats, visiting national monuments and taking school trips to Washington, D.C., to see the capital of our democracy and many museums.

When they are on these trips, we are delighted that they are experiencing life, making new friends and discovering the world and their role in it on their own. When they travel far enough and for long enough, we sometimes pack a bag and visit them, eager to see them in a new setting and perhaps to explore the same part of Australia that always tickled our fancy.

As they prepare to graduate from high school and move into the great unknown of college classes, friends and parties — hopefully in that order — we share their excitement and anxiety.

At some point, we hope to see them come home again, so we can hear about their lives. We also plan to visit and see their college world as it unfolds. The wonderful part of the places our children go to is that they take us, literally or figuratively, with them. The title of this chapter of their lives could be, “Oh, the places you’ll take us.”

Daniel Dunaief

By Daniel Dunaief

reader wrote in to request a column about the search for missing items. The following is my attempt to oblige that request.

Right now, someone, somewhere is looking for something. Whatever it is, a birthday card bought three months ago for that special day tomorrow, a scarf that matches an outfit perfectly or a piece of paper from an art store for a critical presentation, will cost less in time and money to purchase anew than the time it takes to search through the house.

And yet most people don’t want to give up the search because they figure they’ll find it, save themselves the trip and prove to their spouses that they aren’t completely hopeless.

The search for stuff can go from the manic “Where’s my hat, where’s my hat, where’s my hat,” to the humorous “Oh, haaat, where are you? Come to me, hat. Wouldn’t you like to share a spring day outside?” to the gritted-teeth angry “I know I put the hat here and it’s not here, which means it either walked away on its own or someone picked it up and put it somewhere else.”

When stuff disappears, we return to the same location over and over, searching the closet, flipping the cushions off the couch repeatedly, only to put them back and throw them off again, hoping that, somehow, the magic that caused the item to disappear will bring it back through our frantic search.

Most of us aren’t like Seinfeld or my super-organized sister-in-law, whose garage is probably better coordinated and arranged than most Home Depots. I recognize, of course, that my wife and I are on the other end of that spectrum. I’m not sure how the people with the organizational gene do it. I look at a pile of stuff and separate out everything into broad categories. There’s junk I might need outside, junk I might need inside, junk I can’t readily identify — and then I stare at it.

At some point, my frustration at my inability to sort through it becomes sufficiently high that I put the pile back together and, lo and behold, the junk makes it almost impossible to find one specific item, even if what I seek is in that pile. My life is filled with figurative haystacks and my ability and my patience to search for the needles is minimal.

When I’m hunting for something, I close my eyes and try to retrieve from my memory the last time I saw it. Aha! I think. It was in the living room. No, maybe the dining room. No, no, I’m sure it was the kitchen.

Sometimes, I break down and buy the stupid item again, knowing that I need a specific type of tape, a matching pair of socks or something that I can’t fake having because something like it —- a Hawaiian shirt versus a button-down Oxford shirt — just won’t do.

When I return with the desired item, I take a moment to try to figure out where best to put it so I can find it again the next day or in a week, if I’m that organized. I walk slowly around the house, examining the piles of stuff that I just searched through, knowing that the piles are seeking recruits to join them. I come across an unusual and little used location, which I’m sure I’ll remember. As I find the perfect place for the redundant item, far from the all-consuming clutter, I sometimes discover that the joke’s on me: The original birthday card or missing sock await in exactly the same location.

Daniel Dunaief

By Daniel Dunaief

What better day than today, March 14, to celebrate numbers? In case you haven’t heard, math teachers around the country have been getting in on the calendar action for 31 years, designating the day before Caesar’s dreaded Ides of March as pi day, because the first three numbers of this month and day — 3, 1, 4 — are the same as pi, the Greek letter that is a mathematical constant and makes calculations like the area and circumference of a circle possible.

We can become numb to numbers, but they are everywhere and help define and shape even the non-perfectly circular parts of our lives.

We have a social security number, a birth date, a birth order, height and weight, and a street address, with a latitude and longitude, if we’re especially numerically inclined.

Numbers save us, as computer codes using numbers keep planes from flying at the same altitude. Numbers tell us what to wear, as the temperature, especially around this time of year, dictates whether we take a sweatshirt, jacket or heavy coat.

We use them when we’re ordering food, paying for a meal in a restaurant and counting calories. They are a part of music as they dictate rhythms and tempos, and of history, allowing us to keep the order of events straight.

We use numbers to keep track of landmarks, like the year of our graduation from high school or college, the year we met or married our partners, or the years our children were born.

Numbers help us track the time of year. Even a warm day in February doesn’t make it July, just as a cold day in June doesn’t turn the calendar to November.

People complain regularly that they aren’t good at math or science, and yet they can calculate the time it takes to get to school to pick up their kids, get them home to do their homework, cook dinner and manage a budget, all of which requires an awareness of the numbers that populate our lives.

We know when to get up because of the numbers flashing on the phone or alarm clock near the side of our bed, which are unfortunately an hour, 60 minutes or 3,600 seconds ahead thanks to daylight savings time. Many of our numbers are in base 10, but not all, as our 24-hour clocks, 24-hour days, 12-month years and seven-day weeks celebrate other calculations.

Numbers start early in our lives, as parents share their children’s height and weight and, if they’re preparing themselves for a lifetime of monitoring their children’s achievements, their Apgar scores.

Children read Dr. Seuss’ “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” We use numbers to connect the dots in a game, drawing lines that form an image of Dumbo or a giraffe.

Numbers progress through our elementary education — “I’m 10 and I’m in fifth grade” — and they follow us in all of our activities: “I got a 94 on my social studies test.”

Imagine life without numbers, just for 60 seconds or so. Would everything be relative? How would we track winners and losers in anything, from the biggest house to the best basketball team? Would we understand how warm or cold the day had become by developing a sliding scale system? Would we have enough ways to capture the difference between 58 degrees Fahrenheit and 71 degrees?

Objects that appear uncountable cause confusion or awe. Look in the sky and try to count the stars, or study a jar of M&Ms and try to calculate the number of candies.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a number tells its own tale — it was a six-alarm fire, I had 37 friends at my birthday party or I walked a mile in a circle, which means the diameter of that circle was about 1,680 feet — thanks to pi.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

When my daughter drives to a crosswalk and a pedestrian is crossing, she feels terrible if the person on foot starts to jog or sprint, pushing him or herself to move more quickly so my daughter can continue on her way.

My daughter also gets annoyed if the person suddenly slows down.

Life is full of those “just right” moments. If our hot chocolate is too hot, we risk burning the roofs of our mouths. If it’s too cold, it doesn’t have the desired effect of warming us up. 

It’s what makes the Goldilocks story so relatable. The father’s bed is too hard, the mother’s is too soft, but the baby’s bed is just right.

When my family searched for new beds, we collapsed into one mattress after another, imagining a good night’s sleep, just the right book or a good movie with perfectly balanced sound.

Most salespeople spend their careers trying to find the right fit for someone, whether it’s a shoe, bed, car, house or any of the myriad items that fill my email box overnight while I sleep.

Life involves the constant search for just right. If we won every game we played, the competition wouldn’t be strong enough and we wouldn’t push ourselves to get better. A movie with absolutely no adversity can be charming, but it can also wear thin quickly, as the lack of suspense can lead us to wonder whether a dystopian conflict is pending.

Even in the world of friendships, we search for just-right friends. We generally don’t seek friends who want to talk to us all the time, or who can barely make time for us. We also don’t want friends who agree with everything we say. A few people, public figures and otherwise, seem eager to find people who reinforce their brilliance regularly. I would prefer to find people with viewpoints that differ from my own, which force me to defend my ideas and allow me incorporate new perspectives into my thinking or behavioral patterns.

Just right for any one person can and often is different from just right for someone else, which enhances the notion that we can find someone who is a great match or complement for us.

Ideally, the non-just-right shoes, weather, girlfriends, boyfriends or jobs teach us more about ourselves. Why, we wonder, didn’t that work? Once we figure that out, we have a better chance at understanding what does.

Sometimes, like the bed that doesn’t feel comfortable at first but eventually becomes the only one that affords us a quality sleep, we grow into a role and find that the previous tasks or conversations, which had seemed so odious initially, are a much better fit than we originally thought, as a result of the changes in ourselves.

And, as Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “There’s the rub.” The pursuit of just right in any context can change as we age. Our high school tastes in music, clothing, cars, houses, jobs or any other choices can and do change with each landmark reunion, making it more difficult to know what we want or what we’re searching for.

While I share my daughter’s guilt when a pedestrian rushes across the crosswalk to let me go or prevents me from running down that person, I’m not as frustrated by someone who slows down. I try to determine, watching that person pause in the middle of the street, how this might be a “just right” moment for the pedestrian.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Wait, was that at me? How am I supposed to know? She’s still waving. I could wave back, but what if she’s waving to someone else. Should I put my stupid hand in the stupid air and risk the possibility of looking stupid?

Yes, this happened to me many times during my adolescence. How was I supposed to react when someone I kind of knew, or maybe wanted to know, was waving in my direction? Sometimes, I pretended I didn’t see the person waving, while I casually looked around to see if anyone near me was responding. I probably looked like I had a neck twitch, as I scanned the area to see if it was safe to wave.

These days, the waving conundrum has taken a different form, especially after we moved away from the tristate area. It appears that the Northeast and Southeast have different rules for waving. In the Northeast, we wave when someone we know well walks by us in the car. If they don’t see us, perhaps we offer a quick and polite tap on our horn, just to let them know we saw them and we’ll likely text or email them later.

If someone we’re pretty sure we don’t know waves, we immediately assume that someone else is the recipient of their gesture — they have a small dog on the loose and we better slow down, or their children are playing a Nerf gun game and might dart into the street. If they continue to wave, we squint for a while, trying to figure out if maybe they’ve lost weight. It could be they’re someone we might have met casually at one of our kids sporting events, or they want us to sign a petition, or even buy a product we’re sure we don’t need because we can’t stand all the crap we already have in our own house.

Of course, if we have our defensive curled upper-lip action going too quickly, we might scare away our son’s teacher, our daughter’s assistant coach or a new neighbor who has introduced herself to us four times.

In the Southeast, however, the rules are different. Most of the people in the passing cars wave when I walk the dog. Yes, we have a dog and, no, you can’t pet him even though he’s pulling as hard as he can to get to you because I have to bring him back inside so I can do some writing. I’ve stopped trying to figure out the source of the amicable gesture and I wave back. My son, who sometimes accompanies me on these dog walks, wondered, “Hey, do you know that person?” He is still playing by the rules of the Northeast.

I explained that I wave at every car, even the likely empty parked vehicles in case someone is sitting in them, because that’s what you do here. I told him I’ve conducted my own experiment, where I don’t wave and I see what happens. More often than not, the person slows down and waves even more vigorously, as if to say, “Hey, I’m waving here. Now it’s your turn.”

Kids in the modern era seem to have solved the waving problem. They do a quick head nod, which could be a response to a similar gesture from someone else or it could be a way of reacting to music no one else hears. Then again, they’ve probably figured out how to make a thinner, acne-free virtual version of themselves wave at cartoon versions of their friends.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

So, what was it like to be in Charlotte, North Carolina, Sunday during the?

For starters, employers warned their staff about heavy traffic around the Spectrum Center and about parking challenges. They suggested working from home on Friday and over the weekend, if possible, to avoid delays.

As a result, for the entire weekend, the car traffic around this manageable city seemed even lighter than usual. People couldn’t drive too close to the Spectrum Center, but it was nothing like Yankee Stadium or Citi Field before or after a game against a heated rival, or even against a middling team on a warm Saturday in July.

The city rolled out much tighter security than usual, putting up fences around a nearby bus station and restricting walking traffic into the outskirts of the stadium to ticket holders only. 

Once inside, I felt as if I had become a Lilliputian in “Gulliver’s Travels.” Men and women of all ages made 6 feet seem like a minimum height for admission. I felt like a kid who sneaks onto a ride at Disney World despite falling well below the clown’s hand that indicates “you must be this tall to enter.”

The clothing choices reflected a wide variety of fashion statements. Some had come to be seen, decked out in fine suits, flowing dresses and high-heeled shoes. Others strutted around in sweatpants and sweatsuits, donning the jerseys of their favorite players.

Celebrities walked among the commoners, much the same way they do at the U.S. Open. Several people approached a slow-moving and frail-looking Rev. Jesse Jackson to shake his hand. Jackson later received warm applause from the crowd when he appeared on the jumbotron large-screen display.

As taller teenagers, who were well over 6 1/2 feet tall, brushed past us, we wondered whether we might see any of them at this type of event in the next decade. They were probably thinking, and hoping, the same thing.

The game itself, which was supposed to start at 8 p.m., didn’t commence until close to 8:30, amid considerable pomp and circumstance.

The crowd saluted each of the players as they were introduced. The roar became considerably louder for local hero Kemba Walker, the shooting star for the Charlotte Hornets who scored 60 points in a game earlier this season.

The crowd also showered old-timers Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki with affection, saluting the end of magnificent careers that included hard-fought playoff battles and championship runs. The two elder statesmen didn’t disappoint, connecting on 3-point shots that also energized the crowd.

While the All-Star game sometimes disappoints for the token defense that enables teams to score baskets at a breakneck pace, it does give serious players a chance to lower their defenses, enjoying the opportunity to smile and play a game with the other top performers in their sport.

Wade and Nowitzki, who each have infectious smiles, grinned on the court at their teammates, competitors and fans after they sank baskets.

A first-half highlight included a bounce pass alley-oop from North Carolina native Steph Curry to team captain Giannis Antetokounmpo. In the end, Team LeBron beat Team Giannis, 178-164.

The halftime show proved an enormous success, as rapper and North Carolina product — via Germany — J. Cole performed “ATM,” “No Role Modelz,” and “Love Yourz.” The young woman sitting near us knew every word of the songs, swaying, rocking and bouncing in her seat.

I asked her if she knew Cole would be performing and she said, “Of course.” I asked her whether she liked the basketball or the halftime show better. She said she enjoyed both.