Posts Tagged ‘rings’

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.

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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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