A few nights ago, as the children were brushing their teeth, and I was loading the dishwasher, and el husbandio was eating his mug of Tillamook ice cream, this conversation took place:
“I wish life were a musical,” I said. “Everything would be better and happier and easier and certainly there would be more joy and less crime and fewer people wanting to blow up everything. Singing reminds us of our humanity, don’t you think?”
Husbandio narrowed his eyes. “OK. And what song would you be singing right now? To remind us of our humanity?”
“Hm,” I said. “I’m pretty sure I’d be singing about cat pee. A little something like this.”
Cat pee! Cat pee on my purse, (not Helene thank goodness, not Helene thank goodness). And not just my purrrrrrrse. But my Danskos toooooooo (the ones I got on EBay, the ones I got on EBay).
El husbandio (who does not love musicals) nodded. “Sounds a little dark and mournful. Like something from Fiddler on the Roof?”
“Exactly,” I said.
“And,” husbandio continued, “as you sang that song, would you be dancing like this?”
Husbandio set down his ice cream and proceeded to attempt that Russian squat-dance until, after only about eight seconds of dancing, he gave a grunt of pain and flopped over, holding his hamstring.
“That,” he said, breathing heavy, “is much harder than it looks.”
Indeed, husbandio, this take practice. Not to mention hip flexibility.
Not to mention snazzy red pants.
Now I’d imagine some of you share my fondness for the musical. While others, surely, share the opinion that musicals are weird and irritating. That musicals are creepy because (as my dear writer friend, Sean, says), “I just don’t get them. Think about it. The story is moving along nicely, and then, bam, everyone starts singing in key, in unison. I don’t know . . . that doesn’t happen in real life very often so I’m a little wary of it.”
True, Seano. I get that.
But then Sean continued, explaining the apparent exception to the rule: Julie Andrews. “I mean seriously,” he said. “Not only was Julie Andrews fairly hot, in a short-haired pixie, spunky sort of way, but she’s got pipes, in the singing sense, and when she’s doing that spinny thing on the top of the hill, yikes, it’s chilling.”
As someone who attended the 2009 Sound of Music Sing-along, an event where Seattle’s entire 5th Avenue Theater was filled with TSOM fanatics, I started crying in the very first scene of the movie, where Maria was spinning, wide-armed on top of that mountain. It was chilling.
The event itself was also hysterical. Many were even dressed in nun-garb or lederhosen, while everyone (with the possible exception of husbandio) sang along with Maria and Captain von Trapp and the Von Trapp Family Singers, hissing when the Baroness came on the screen, booing Rolf, shouting joyfully when Maria and the Captain smooched. It was so joyful. And so funny. Really, when you have a theater full of pretend nuns, goofy things happen.
But the whole experience really made me think. Yes, there is certainly something a little weird about spontaneously launching into unspontaneous song and dance. However, I’ll let you in on a little Life Secret I’ve learned along the way:
Sometimes, if I am about to lose my cool or flip someone off or yell at my kids, if I can just keep my cool long enough to turn that incredibly stressful situation into a song, I’m so busy making up the lyrics and maybe even doing some complementary dancing that I forget I am flooded with rage.
Say for example, Sweetie says something like this: “Mom. Why did you put ham in my lunch? I wanted peanut butter.”
I have two choices. Actually, I have many choices, many of which will result in extreme mom-guilt and/or a visit from CPS. Rather, I make the choice to take a deep breath and start in on Parenting Small Ingrates, the Musical.
How dare you talk to me like that, Sweetie (I sing in some made-up tune to compliment my made-up lyrics.) Say that again, my darling daughter, and I’ll drive you to White Center or possibly the border of Mexico and California. Andleaveyoutheeeeeeeere.
A little impromptu song like that with very little musicality could really go on for another six or seven verses, depending on 1. my level of frustration and 2. Sweetie’s level of attention. The less she pays attention, the longer I will sing. The more frustrated I am, the longer I force myself to sing.
After my song is over, I inevitably feel better because no one has had to call CPS, Sweetie looks appropriately contrite, and I have forgotten that sometimes I really dislike being a parent.
The same tactic (impromptu, frustration-based songs) might work, of course, on telemarketers or Angry Freeway Drivers Who Cut You Off or the Cigna health insurance call center person who denies your mental health benefits claim. Or, even your cat who keeps peeing on your shoes and your purses (and no, it’s not a health issue; it’s “bad behavior.” We went to the vet.).
Just take any song, preferably picking one that’s got a simple tune, one that’s also comfortable for your vocal range. Do-re-mi, (AKA the Doe, a Deer song from The Sound of Music), for example:
Why, do you, pee on my shoes?
Your li-tter box is just right theeeeeere.
I, can’t take, much more of this.
The smell, of cat pee’s in the aiiiiiire.
I, thought cats were low maintenannnnce.
This, does not seem to be truuuuue.
I’m just eight steps from the loony bin.
But you are so cute and cu-uh-uh-dly.
All this leads, of course, to my The Sound of Music theory. I submit to you, lovely readers, that it is impossible not to feel joy after watching that particular musical. In fact, I have long since believed that the world would be a happier, more hope-filled place if all 6.7 billion of us could somehow sit down in front of one huge screen and watch The Sound of Music. Together.
Israelis and Palestinians. Hatfields and McCoys. Me and that Orthodox Jewish guy I almost ran over. Kim Jong Il and . . . I don’t know, Everyone Else? And I’d cordially invite the two soliciting people who came to my house and called me a white bitch after I politely declined their chocolate or magazine subscpriptions or whatever else they were selling.
OK, and if I’m being totally honest, I would prefer not to invite Sarah Palin, but I suppose it’s not nice to invite The Whole Wide World except for Sarah Palin. It’s like that whole “univited 13th fairy” thing in Sleeping Beauty. Plus, Sarah could use a little injection of Julie Andrews. I’d just seat Sarah and Kim (Jong Il) beside one another . . . you betcha.
Yeah, yeah. It’s more than a little Pollyanna of me to think Julie Andrews could bring the world together. But maybe there’s something to it . . . maybe world peace really does start with a little singing, a little reminder of our humanity.
And if you disagree, just watch this. Watch the joy on the passersbys’ faces. That’s some pretty cool humanity right there, if you ask me.
Oh, and should you happen to have a cat that pees on your Danskos, did you know you can just throw them into the washer? I know!
So step right up, ladies and gents! Step right up and buy your tickets for the 2010 Sound of Music Sing-along. A free pair of Danskos for the first one billion people.