The XX Factor

Spelling Sisters

Last night’s 10-round National Spelling Bee final was a nail-biter, and an awesome one at that. There were redonkulously hard, beautifully arcane words ( schizaffin , palatschinken , Neufchâtel ). There was heartbreak (heavily-favored Sidharth Chand, last year’s runner-up, crumpled before our eyes in the second round, when he realized he spelled apodyterium with an ei ). There were class clowns (Kennyi Aouad, a three-timer who famously got the giggles in 2007; not to mention the deadpan ninja Kyle Mou). There was even-awkwardly-former Olympian Shawn Johnson, who just won on Dancing with the Stars , and is apparently qualified to comment on all kinds of childhood competition.

The most compelling story of the night, though, took hold in the final rounds, when it was down to just three competitors, and we learned that two of them-Aishwarya Pastapur and Kavya Shivashankar-have been friends since nursery school. Aishwarya was easily one of the most composed, adult-like kids up there (hello, future Senator!), but when she misspelled menhir , she welled up and scurried off the stage. With her mother’s arms wrapped around her, she watched her old friend carry away the trophy with Laodicean.

I was watching over the phone with my best friend-the one I mentioned in yesterday’s post , the one I met at a spelling bee-and we both got choked up, for both girls. Now there’s a follow-up story I’d like to read, once the dust settles a bit. Hey girls! My friend and I are still tight 17 years later; I have faith in you two.

(Unrelated side note: menhir ? Doesn’t anyone read Asterix comics anymore?)