There is a new reality tv show out there that some folks may have heard of called “Married at First Sight.” The premise might be obvious from the title, but it’s such a ridiculous concept that I might as well lay it out for you. I will preface this with the fact that I have never actually seen an episode of this show, but I have seen a promo video and had a friend explain the show in some detail to me recently, so clearly I’m an expert now on it.
The premise is that there are a number of applicants who have yet to find that special someone and are willing to have strangers pair them up with the hope of finding love. The show then employs different professionals (two psychologists, a sexologist, and a spiritualist) to create three perfect couples out of the available applicants. Pretty standard fare when compared to lots of other love-based reality tv shows up to that point. But of course, the show has to distinguish itself, and thus raises the stakes. The pairs of folks must then agree to get married without ever having met each other. The first time they see each other is right there in the church, a moment before they both say “I do.”
This is such a baffling perfect storm of desperation to me. Desperation not only in finding love without having to go through the normal trial and error process, but also the desperation of fame that I have to assume goes hand-in-hand with allowing cameras to follow every move of your life. This show is currently going on, so who knows, maybe all three of the couples will find perfect happiness (my friend who has been watching doesn’t seem to have faith in this outcome). But my view is if the foundation of your relationship is not based in your faith in the other person, but instead in the permanence of marriage and the opinions of strangers – I just can’t see how it will stand the test of time.
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I watched North by Northwest last night with my family. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s about a well-meaning businessman (Cary Grant) who stumbles into the life of a spy, quite accidentally. There is also a female love interest, because of course there is, played by Eva Marie Saint. When you are introduced to her she is effortlessly composed, sultry, forward, and seems to be constantly ahead of the action (compared to our poor blundering leading man). She is also a self-proclaimed 25 year-old.
Now watching her character tell Cary Grant’s that she was 25 hit me weirdly in a variety of ways. Mainly in the fact that she didn’t look, sound, or act like a 25-year-old. Or at least, she doesn’t look, sound, or act like me. I was vindicated when I found out (through IMDBing her) that she was actually in her 30s when shooting this movie, but the fact that she was written as she was, as a 25-year-old, still stuck with me.
Now I could go into a whole spiel about the Hollywood complex of pairing younger women with older men, and how weird I find it that they didn’t just have her be her actual age in the film- but that’s a rant for another day. What I was struck by was how self-assured this woman was supposed to be at my age. Now, I know that the film takes place in another era, and maybe everyone grew up faster and were better adults by their mid-twenties then, but that doesn’t help with the fact that I feel like I’m reaching the age where big adult milestones happen and I’m supposed to be a little more proactive at getting to them.
I know the subject of millennials reaching adulthood and not knowing how to navigate has been run into the ground at this point. That isn’t really what I’m trying to talk about here. It isn’t that I’m a floundering mess right now. I have all of the things I’m supposed to have by this point- a job, a boyfriend, a place to live, responsibilities I don’t shirk (for the most part). So far I’ve been plugging along and checking all of the boxes that I’m supposed to have figured out by now. But that doesn’t mean I know what I want with my life.
And I guess that was what struck me with this woman. She had the odd self-assured disposition, at least in her first scene, of someone who saw an encounter and knew how to approach it to get exactly what she wanted to out of it. I know part of the act was just the fact that we are in movie-land and action has to move forward and characters are allowed to meet and fall in love in an evening and then go on with their lives. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m now at the age where I’m supposed to at least have some sort of bearing on what kind of career I want to end up in and what kind of life I want for myself. I’m no longer the awkward 18 year-old who casually approached college without knowing what I wanted to get out of it. I stumbled into a major then, and I stumbled into a job after it, but I probably shouldn’t allow myself to stumble through my entire life.
But stumble I do, and I haven’t been making strides to change it anytime soon. Because unlike the millions of people who seem to know how to charter their own lives, who see that end goal and then line up opportunities in order to get there, that has never been the way I approach things. I’m a bit of a reactionary person in that way. I go along until an opportunity presents itself and then I go for it, without a lot of hemming and hawing about the consequences and future implications of my decisions. It makes me feel a little stationary up until that moment of change. I’ve been plugging along with the same company while one of my best friends who started work along with me redefined her career expectations about 20 different times, and has now finally settling on something specific and concrete that she wants. I admire how proactively she went about her search, while knowing that I probably will never approach my own career in the same way.
I suppose for now I’ll continue with the same strategy I’ve been employing since I’ve casually found myself in adulthood. Keep doing what I’m doing as long as I’m enjoying it, and once that runs out, I’ll look for something new. In my mind the world is too full of strange opportunities for me to be able to pin one down now anyway. It isn’t necessarily the strategy that will help me know what I’ll be doing 5, 10, or 15 years out, but I think that works for me. If I left no room for spontaneity in my life, I think I’d end up getting pretty bored. And that sounds like the worst fate of all.
Our dog may have picked up a bad drinking habit over Thanksgiving. The holidays can do that to you.
So the holidays are here! Which is always very exciting for me, but I’ve heard they can be crazy for other people. Lots of family, lots of stress, lots of booze… it can lead to heightened situations and also lots of injuries. Or so I’ve been told. Apparently the ER is a crazy place during the holidays. So, in preparation for these upcoming days I went through the list of ICD-9 codes again and picked out some (completely real) medical conditions/diagnoses that you can be glad don’t apply to you:
Fear of cotton or cotton balls
Fear of activities in public (activities is pretty vague, but this sounds pretty debilitating)
Fear of appearing ridiculous (aren’t we all?)
Fear of empty streets
Fear of feathers
Fear of hospitals (which is just a terrible thing to have to get diagnosed with in a hospital I would think)
Fear of oncoming retirement (don’t tell my mom about this one)
Fear of saying the wrong thing
Fear of surgical masks (I wonder if they have to sedate you before you go into the operating room for this condition)
Fear of sweating
Fear of writing in public
Accidentally caught in drying rack (how?)
Accidentally caught in letter box (only diagnosable in England?)
Accidentally knocked down while boxing (is it really an accident then?)
Accidentally struck by falling street furniture (what is street furniture? And where is it falling from?)
Accidentally struck by stationary object (but how???)
So anyway, there you have it. Some odd diagnoses you can be glad you don’t have while you are trying to suffer through your Uncle Larry’s mildly racist jokes or the fact that someone ate the last slice of pie before you could have any.
Happy holidays everyone
I’m a bit less than a week out from opening night of another show here in Madison. The current show is Company and if you don’t know it, it’s a delightful little musical about a single guy and all of his married friends. The story is told as a series of vignettes with several different couples who have very different relationships and illustrate Bobby’s thoughts and worries about marriage.
Now, I’m not married and thus can’t really weigh in on the institution, but watching this musical every night makes me appreciate the commitment there. There is insanity and pettiness and confusion between the couples, but there is also tenderness and understanding and an undefinable connection, and it’s those little moments that get me every night. What I think the show is so great at highlighting is the difference between Bobby’s relationship with everyone and their relationships with each other. What is increasingly clear about Bobby (our single guy) as the show progresses is that he is much more a spectator than a participant in the action of the musical. He’s in every scene, but rarely is the scene about him. He’s the unassuming witness to the crazy drama happening around him. He is comfortable with his relationships with his married friends because he can be there when they need an outlet or someone to come over for some fun, but he doesn’t have to put up with the tough aspects of the relationships they are in. He’s a witness to their highs and lows, but ultimately is also a stranger to it.
One of my favorite songs of the show is a bittersweet reflection on marriage sung by a few of the husbands. After spending a night with one of the couples (Harry and Sarah), Bobby asks Harry if he is ever sorry if he got married. The answer he gets is:
You’re always sorry
You’re always grateful
You’re always wondering what might have been
Then she walks in
And still you’re sorry
And still you’re grateful
And still you wonder
And still you doubt
And she goes out
Only maybe slightly rearranged
Why look for answers
Where none occur?
You always are
What you always were
Which has nothing to do with
All to do with her
The song continues, and all of the lyrics are poignantly conflicting. But I think this song is a beautiful description of marriage, or how I imagine marriage must be. That a deep relationship like that is something that you can always be both grateful and sorry for. That every great decision you make in your life, especially the ones involving another person, is a complex entity that will never be fully good or bad. It lives in the contradiction that you can be glad you took your life in that direction, while at the same time wondering if there is something better out there that you never explored.
By the end of the show that’s what Bobby has to decide. If he wants to keep drifting, unattached, or if he’s ready to make a commitment and take all the scary, confusing, and rewarding uncertainty that comes with it. He has to make the choice to want something, and admit that he’s ready to stop being a bystander to his life. His friends are there to encourage him and let him know that he shouldn’t be afraid that it won’t be perfect, the only thing he should be afraid of really is that it won’t be.
Suffice it to say, I’m excited for opening night next week. I think this is a really special show, and the cast is absolutely sensational.
I had the radio on in my car last week. I don’t normally do the radio. I hate ads and am addicted to my own music, but it was a lazy morning and I didn’t feel like putting in the effort to plug in my iPhone. The song that came up almost immediately was this gem by the Black Eyed Peas.
I’ve Gotta Feeling is not, per se, what you would call a good song. It doesn’t have particularly intelligent lyrics, nor is the melody very original or interesting. I mean, come on, the title isn’t even grammatically correct. But dammit if I don’t get a little bit happy when I hear that song because it pulls me into very distinct memories of spending my junior year in South Africa. We had a mix CD that we played basically anytime we went out, and this song was featured prominently on it. Possibly as track number one. It reminds me of getting dressed up and then cramming four or five of us into the backseat of a car and driving unsteadily off over huge speed bumps and through the security gate of Wits University. It gave a lot of wonderful possibility to every night out, which I suppose is what the song is trying to do. Normally I’m too jaded to give into that stuff, but I have a soft spot for this one.
Sounds and smells - are there any other things that can instantly transport you somewhere so completely? It’s why anytime I smell paint drying I think back to the kids theater I participated in from kindergarten through middle school. They had one stage that rose a tiny bit in height every year from the layers of paint smoothed over it for every production. In my head the walls and floor keep creeping towards each other as scores of children stumbled through the likes of Roald Dahl and EB White, from Shakespeare to Oklahoma, until eventually you will need a ladder to get up onto the stage, and it will only have room for a two person show. A simplified Waiting for Godot perhaps. How symbolic to set a piece with two men suspended in time on a stage that literally shows the passing of time through the uncomfortable dimensions of its space.
I’m sure they eventually scraped off the layers of paint to start again, but in my head it will just keep growing.
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Last OOO excuses. I moved offices today to be closer to the folks I work with. Sad day
By my last count, there are about two and a half weeks of time between me and a sudden change of relationship status quo. This is also known as the fun process of turning something that has previously been really easy and amazing into something requiring a lot more effort, a lot more concentration, a lot more scheduling, and a lot more flying around in airplanes.
18 days to be exact.
I feel really lame blogging about this actually, but you’ll have to forgive me. I skipped this phase in middle school and high school. I was too busy being a complete and total spaz to bother with normal things like “having crushes” and “dating” and “making out in the backseat of your parents’ car before curfew.” Is that what the kids do these days? Maybe. I’m trying to wade through my adult version of it and I’m not sure how well I’m doing. But hey, I’m trying here.
My biggest issue of course is that I’m a planner and this isn’t something I can plan for. I’ve become that person who will ask advice about long distance relationships from anyone. If a kindly stranger sat next to me on a bus stop and asked how my day was going I would probably be like “well, today’s been going okay, but I’m about to start a long distance relationship in about a month, so I’m worried about that. Have any advice?” I’d end up being that annoying person in a public area surrounded by strangers who tries to make a meaningful conversation out of what was supposed to be small talk. I think the only person who is allowed to get away with that is Forest Gump. And he’s fictional.
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When I was 9 I saw Annie for the first time. I feel like musical theater girls all have a similar experience centered around Annie. It’s something about seeing someone your age up there in lights and thinking, I can do that too! In fact, I’m amazing and super talented and too bad I didn’t go to that audition, because I would so totally be up there right now if I was! (Nine-year olds obviously think exclusively in exclamation points). Now that Matilda exists, there’s another show for girls to watch at an impressionable young age, but for me, it was Annie.
After seeing that show in its traveling run to Boston, I was convinced I too was born to play that role. So much so that I would belt The Sun Will Come Out throughout my house for weeks on end (sorry family), and outside in my yard. All of my neighbors definitely knew of my Broadway ambitions. They loved me for it… or not (the more likely option).
The Boston Globe had auditions listed in their calendar section every Thursday. Wait, do they still do this? I haven’t lived in Boston for awhile, maybe they stopped. I had no idea this existed until a fourth grade friend told me about them. They were having auditions for extras in the touring company of The Wizard of Oz and they were looking for kids my age to play a few munchkins in one of the shows in Boston. She told me she was planning on going and invited me along with her. And obviously this was going to be my big break, so how could I not go?
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Shakespeare appreciate post. I’m so excited for Joss Whedon’s Much Ado to come to theaters tomorow!!