Posts Tagged ‘women’

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 new chain-letter: The never-ending e-mail

December 21, 2009

[On not losing friends, post-grad]

There is an e-mail that I never move out of my inbox, it’s subject title is “My girls, how I miss you,” and it dates back to June 14 — exactly 14 days after my lease ran out in the Bronx and moved back to the desert city that is Phoenix.

There are five of us who try to keep in touch using this ongoing chain of communication — on top of text messages, gmail chat, a phone call here and there and the occasional drunk dial (college reminiscence, you understand).

All in all, keeping in touch with college friends post-grad is hard. Two of us have never been so busy in our entire lives, others have never been so happy and others have never been so far away. Yes, keeping in touch is hard.

But let’s start by saying this: College was fun.

Oh how our lives have changed.

I’m not the only one living with my parents again — thank God. We have a substitute teacher, an accountant, a first-year analyst on Wall Street and a burgeoning publishing assistant in midtown.

Life post-grad isn’t exactly what we all thought it would be. It’s probably not quite as bad, actually. See, there was this mounting fear of the future toward the end of senior year at Fordham. The senior class, as a whole, decided to ignore it with all of our might (as you may be able to guess from the photos above).

Instead, we decided to throw parties with every theme imaginable (luaus, balls, high school stereotypes, etc.), to lay on the quad in the sun, to write amazing final papers and relish the fact that they had no real-world application. It was perfect.

So, now that our lives have changed so much and have gone in so many different directions; now that we don’t live two doors down from one another and share morning coffee and late-night bottles of red wine — now what? Do we lose all of that?

Luckily, I’m a bit of an expert in the moving-away-and-keeping-in-touch-while-starting-over area.

Growing up, we moved a lot. When I was 7 years-old, it was from Louisiana to Oregon; when I was 13, it was from Oregon to Phoenix. Then there was the end of high school and beginning of college in New York.

Every move means the same thing: old new friends become new old friends and new friends find you.

And then I graduated and found myself back in Phoenix again — back with old friends who became new old friends with my now old college friends scattered about, busy finding out what their lives will be.

It was a perfect storm of starting over at the beginning of the…well…old beginning.

We’re not great at this never-ending email — there are weeks when no one writes and periods when we can’t even get a hold of the one living across the world (literally) on Guam. But then one of us sends out a new message in this ongoing chain — she’s sick, or in love or she’s found a new career path she never thought she’d pursue.

So, how does this last, post-grad?

By not letting it go.

Women in Journalism (and Bob Dylan quotes)

November 13, 2009

That’s the name of my Mom’s last PowerPoint presentation for her JMC110 class (minus the Dylan parentheses). That’s the last hour-and-a-half-long lecture she gave to 125 squirming Freshmen.

I sat in on it because I didn’t know who Ida B. Wells was, and it got me thinking.

That PowerPoint was chok-full of MegaWomen, and students cited their favorites — Christiane Amanpour, Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Barbara Walters. And that classroom was absolutely full of young women. (I won’t mention the fact that some of the young men in the class cited Erin Andrews as their favorite woman journalist “because she’s hot” — oops, I mentioned it).

I am in a graduate program in journalism right now that has 19 young women in it, and one guy. One. You know what I have to say about that? The times, they are a-changin’ my friends.

Let’s take a quick look at the newspaperman past: (I’m going to dress up like this for Halloween one year)

newspaperman

Now, a look at the newsman — past (and present):

newsmen

There’s no way of knowing if this is just us Cronkite…ah…ites who are witnessing first-hand the changing of guards of the journalism profession. And it’s purely anecdotal from my point of view, but things seem to be shifting. All colleges around the US are 60-40 women on average and the trend doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. (Anyone know what the classes look like at other j-schools around the country?)

There are two questions that come to mind with this: 1) When did journalism become a woman’s field? and 2) Will we still have to spend most of our lives on morning television before we finally getting the job we’ve always deserved?

And I can make two guesses in answer to those questions: 1) Probably about now, and 2) There likely won’t be morning television jobs to giggle through for the next 20 years.

OK, I thought of three questions: Does this, perhaps, have something to do with the concurrent (and complete) demise of the news industry as we know it? There’s a theory I learned in my Freshman year Sociology class that blew my mind at the time. It said that necessary, subservient, under-appreciated, jobs — teaching, nursing, office management — have become women’s jobs in order to maintain the patriarchal social structure. Or, the social structure forced women into subservient jobs…etc. (Chicken or egg?)

I can’t help but think it at least timely (at best ironic) that more and more women are becoming journalists at a time when all that’s left of the journalism strongholds are a lot of (male) executive editors who watched from their corner offices as innovation was laughed away and the Internet blew up their business model.

And then there are the ones who stood up to the publishers and those who are working now to help the next generation innovate — many of whom are now my professors.

No, in the future, the face of journalism will look probably look more like this:

newwomen

Oh, and this (the one guy):

n7602949_6735

Well, I agree with Dylan in this case: Don’t think twice, it’s all right.

(Thanks to Lisa in Phoenix and Grant’s facebook for the photos)