Posts Tagged ‘Mom’

Raised on Musicals

October 1, 2011

It’s happening again. I can feel myself being pulled back in.

My Mom and I sat in the highest balcony at Gammage Auditorium last night and mouthed every word of West Side Story. We were offended when the producers of the show’s revival added a scene that wasn’t in the original. We didn’t like when they switched the order of the songs. But we still cried when Maria sang her final farewell to Tony, kneeling beside his dead body on the dark streets of New York — ahem, I mean, on the stage in Tempe.

Oh no. It’s all downhill from here.

I just spent the last hour watching every scene that’s posted on YouTube from the original 1961 movie of West Side Story. (“A Boy Like That” is my favorite, thanks to the fiery Rita Moreno). And, on the drive home from the theater last night, I played selections from Wicked on my iPod because it’s the only musical soundtrack I have on there. Lucky for anyone sitting in a car next to me at any red light on the way, I drove with the top down on my convertible and could be heard clearly, belting out every note.

The Cult of the Musical has a strong pull on a generation of women like me (and our mothers). It’s an obsession that usually rests nascent in the back of our minds as we go about our everyday lives as seemingly normal people — until we hear a Sondheim melody or see a Fosse dance move. Then, the obsession is triggered and it could be weeks before we are back to normal.

It’s not our fault. We were raised on musicals.

In fact, most of my childhood memories are mixed up with musicals: My sister fast-forwarding through the slow songs in My Fair Lady every time we watched it. Both of us refusing to view the second tape of Camelot because everything gets sad after the end of the first one. My mother making us sing the “Sisters” song from White Christmas every year. Me, spending hours playing with sponge-rollers, trying to figure out how to make my hair exactly replicate Shirley Temple’s.

Like great literature might do for some other (smarter) children, my concept of historical places and events was almost entirely framed by these films. Ask 7-year-old me what slavery was, and I would tell you about “Old Man River”  and the Show Boat on the Mississippi. What’s an arranged marriage? When Tevye tried to make Tzeitel marry the butcher in Fiddler on the Roofbut she had the courage to defy him. What were they fighting about in World War II? I wasn’t quite sure, but I knew it kept Liesl and Rolf from falling in love even after they kissed in The Sound of Music.

Courage, tradition, love — especially love.

Even now, the biggest mysteries — the ones I still am grasping to understand — just make more sense in a musical. And, for my generation of women, in between Feminism and Whatever’s Coming Next, that kind of high drama hits a nerve. There’s a longing for something more — something grander — within us. And musicals give it life.

Thanks to my childhood of musicals, I have always known exactly what love would look like one day. Thanks to the world I actually live in, I have been consistently disappointed. Shocking, I know. Instead of ballads and dancing and long, flowing dresses, we get hook-ups and Match.com and text-messaging.

I’m not blaming musicals for giving me unreasonable expectations about love. I’m blaming myself for not living up to my grand musical ideals.

When Tony sings an entire song just about Maria’s name — repeating it over and over again at different pitches and volumes, just to hear it sung — it’s hyperbole, sure. But it also touches on something true. And, when he hit that last, quiet, high note of the song on the stage in Tempe last night, it gave me chills. And maybe even a bit of hope.

This Christmas, I will be a bridesmaid for the fourth time. My best friend will steel her nerves and walk down a long aisle looking like royalty to commit her life to the man she loves. For the fourth time, I will stand in awe watching her, wondering how she could be so brave, so beautiful, so sure.

But, like millions of women before her, she will do it without a moment’s hesitation. Like millions of weddings before, the music will swell, the steps will be traced, the words will be recited — and I will cry just like I did last night watching that musical.

Courage, tradition and love — especially love. Only, this time, it will be in real life, not just the movies.

Post-Grad: Part 2

May 22, 2011

Well, it’s official. I’m a graduate. Again.

Last week, I stood on stage at Gammage Auditorium as Associate Dean Marianne Barrett placed a graduate hood over my head. I walked across the stage in ludicrously high heels and shook the hand of Dean Chris Callahan and then made my way to my mother, Associate Dean Kristin Gilger, who handed me a diploma — and a very big hug.

After two long years of writing, shooting, laughing, crying, running in heels and sometimes falling on my face, I now have a master’s degree in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

My post-grad life is about to restart. And so is my post-grad blog.

I will wake up tomorrow morning, drink a large cup of coffee and then pack up my life in Phoenix. I’ve been grinding my teeth a lot lately. I think it has something to do with this impending reality — not the coffee, leaving Phoenix. See, there is nothing I want to do less.

Last month, I found myself sitting in a tiny room inside a shop in Sedona with my two best friends and a woman named Ashiko. She had a vague Eastern European accent, round glasses and three decks of Tarot cards. Now, as a Catholic, I don’t believe in this kind of thing — fortune telling or auras or palm readings. But, as a Catholic, I was also raised with an innate respect for — and fear of — anything that hints of the supernatural and superstitious. So, as I should have expected I would, I believed every word Ashiko said.

She read me like the open book I am, and we spent the majority of our time talking about my career. Where will I go when I graduate, she wanted to know. I did too. So, I pulled a card for each place I might end up — New York, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans. They were all promising, she said. There were cards with words like “Power” and “Prosperity” on them. Nothing ominous at all.

Then, I asked Ashiko if I could pull one more. “What if I stay in Phoenix?” I asked, and flipped over a card.

There was a picture of a Gollum-like character on it gripping onto the bars he was trapped behind. “Clinging to the past,” the card said.

Out loud, I laughed at the cryptic message on the card. In my head, I was shouting at Ashiko and all of her supposed wisdom about my life. My life. What did she know, anyway?

I left the shop secretly devastated by that card — not because the card would somehow force me to leave Phoenix, this city that I love with its mountains, heat, space and my friends and family within its boundaries. I was devastated by that card because I knew what it said was true.

Tomorrow, I will wake up, drink a large cup of coffee and then pack up my life in Phoenix. I’ll spend the summer in Europe and New York City. I’ll become a Carnegie fellow at ABC News under Brian Ross’s investigative unit. I’ll apply for jobs all over the country — the world, really. I’ll convince myself I’m ready for another adventure and I might actually be ready for one by the time I start it.

But, all the time, wherever I end up in the coming months and years, I’ll know that I was devastated when I saw that card.

After a lifetime of moving from place to place, the last occupied always became my new answer to the question, “Where are you from?” In Oregon, I was from Louisiana; in Phoenix, from Oregon; in New York, from Phoenix; in Paris, from New York. Then, I moved home. Now, I will always be from Phoenix.

I was devastated when I saw that card because I knew what it said was true.

That’s how fortune telling works, after all.

The Bridesmaid Years

October 23, 2009

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It’s begun. My mid-20s. Or, as I have quickly come to understand it: The Bridesmaid Years. That time of life when, at least once a year, one of my wonderful, talented, strong, smart, gorgeous best friends will ask me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding.

Just a few days ago, it happened again. Almost exactly a week after I was honored to be the maid of honor in my big sister’s wedding, one of my best friends, Katie, called to say that he had done it! Joe had proposed. I literally shrieked and jumped up and down in my kitchen. We have been waiting for this one. (Katie and I picked the ring out at Tiffany’s at least a year ago now.)

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I will help her choose flowers and colors and venues; I will squeal when she finds the dress; I will love whatever dress she picks out for me and I will hold up all of those white layers of silk when she has to pee right before walking down the aisle. (I didn’t make that up, it happened to my sister).

I will love every second of it.

Having already been maid of honor twice before my 23rd birthday (which was the day after my sister’s nuptials about two weeks ago), I am an early inductee into the 20-something post-college Bridesmaid Years.

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I expect this phase to last for about 5 years, with some outliers and a congested period in the middle somewhere. (This will be a recurring segment on my blog, as you can tell).

You all know what I’m talking about, 20-somethings out there. There are movies about this phase of life. (Not very many good movies about it, but they’re there.) When I updated my Facebook status after Joe proposed on Monday, I said, “It’s wedding season again!” A high school friend commented: “Isn’t it always wedding season in your 20s?” Yes. It seems to be.

But here’s the catch: In every single one of those movies, lonely girl (whether she’s played by Jennifer Lopez or Katerine Heigl, it’s the same girl) finds that perfect guy by the end of the movie who understands and loves her even though she is a neurotic workaholic. Ah, how art imitates life.

There was this moment at my sister’s wedding — it was a moment when I found myself, somehow, standing in a bustling, pushing, pretty drunk crowd of young, unmarried women in heels ready to fight for the bouquet. The bouquet that meant you were next.

I didn’t expect to be one of the girls in that crowd. I’ve been raised by a staunch feminist mom and the least macho dad in existence. I’ve never been all that concerned about being perpetually single, which I am. I usually enjoy it, actually. But I am hopelessly romantic (blame it on a childhood full of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers).

I hate to sound like a stereotype. I really hate to actually be a stereotype. But something happens when I see that diamond ring on someone’s finger. And then there’s that look on her face. That peaceful sort of knowing — that she is settled, that she is done, that she is ready.

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I have realized by now that being romantic and being a feminist are not mutually exclusive things, but part of me instinctively cringes when I think like that. I hate to feel like there’s some existential race going on, in which I’m quickly falling behind. Two weddings have gone by already and I have yet to reach the end of my own terrible romantic comedy.

So, even though I have no answers right now (except when it comes to mermaid cuts versus A-line), there is one thing that I do know: The Bridesmaid Years will be nothing but lovely, gushing, romantic fun — if I can just stop watching those movies.

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My Mom is in Facebook Purgatory.

October 7, 2009

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She’s done it twice now: Requested to be my friend on Facebook.

The last time she tried was years ago — sometime when I was probably a sophomore in college and therefore way too cool to be friends, let alone Facebook friends, with my mom.

And then last week, out of nowhere, after years of peaceful, not being Facebook friends (punctuated only once or twice a week by a comment from her about the fact that I refused to be her friend), she did it again!

So, my mom is in Facebook purgatory — that feared place where you get no answer from your friend request. She’s just sitting on my requests page. And I’m leaving her there. Until I make up my mind what to do with her, at least.

This time, it’s not because I’m too cool for my mom. Now I realize that she’s probably too cool for me. No, this time, I’m leaving her in Facebook purgatory on principle.

What principle? The one that says: That is just not what Facebook is for.

Now, I’m aware that Mark Zuckerberg would probably disagree with me, seeing as how he opened Facebook up to everyone and their Mom (literally) not too long ago. And it’s not that I think that was a mistake. It’s that I never thought my mom would join — or anyone’s moms, for that matter.

I’m aware that my this post makes me immature; I know it makes me seem like I have something to hide. (I promise, I really don’t.)

You see, I am of the (only) generation that remembers what it felt like to get that college email address and finally be able to join Facebook. It was a big, fat deal to a high school senior. It was liberating. It meant you were really in college now (even though you still had 2 months left of high school).

This goes against everything Jeff Jarvis says about the free and open internet. But, I’m not in opposing the fact that anyone should have a Facebook, I’m just in opposition of my Mom using it to figure out just what I’ve been up to for the last four years in college.

I’m not paranoid, I promise. I have a Mom who spent most of her life as a reporter. She wants to know everything about all of her children, and she will find out. She once found my sister at a hostel in Florence, drunk at 2 am. Seriously, my sister walked in the door (tripped is probably more like it) and the Italian guy at the front desk says, “Dana? Your mo-zer ees on thee phone.”

Like I said, that is just not what Facebook is for. It’s not for networking, or job-hunting or growing a virtual garden. It’s for friends — friends that I would not keep in touch with otherwise, friends I can’t see everyday (and, yes, it’s for tracking who’s getting married  and who dropped out and who’s dating and who broke up).

Facebook is for not forgetting birthdays and petitioning your school to have Stephen Colbert as your graduation speaker. In the words of another recent college graduate who finally accepted his mother’s friend request this summer, “it’s for picking up chicks.”

But, with the way things are going, it looks like I’ll have to give in sooner rather than later.

They say there is no privacy anymore, that headhunters and college counselors will find your facebook no matter what restrictions you’ve put up — and not hire you because of drunken pictures of you in Vegas or at a highlighter party, or drinking wine on a metro in Paris. They say that the world is online and online is open and you’d better open up to it or you’ll be left behind. At least, that’s what they’re telling us in J-School these days: Be public, be open, be linked, be your own brand.

Yes, it looks like I’ll have to open up, to be public and to let even my mom be my facebook friend.

–Eventually. She’s staying in purgatory for now.

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