In the Sondheim revue I’ll be performing today – me on piano, two excellent singers on voice – the characters do that Sondheim thing; that is, they give their neuroses free rein in lightning quick musical monologues, but also reach out, furtively, even clumsily, but always with shining hope, to connect, somehow, so that they don’t have to go through the world alone.
As part of my preparation, I’ve turned to the gayest number on the Sirius roster; of course, I speak of the Broadway channel. The best time to hit the Broadway channel is pre-8 a.m. For some reason, that is when the standards and current power ballads get tossed out the window in favor of wittier and more obscure gems from days gone by. I’ve heard the wonderful “Oh My Feet,” that timeless ode to waitress blues from The Most Happy Fella, “Always True to You in My Fashion,” Cole Porter’s celebration of infidelity with celebrities from Kiss Me, Kate, and tons of Rodgers and Hart, who wrote dozens of shows no one remembers today and a good dozen songs for each show, some of which survive thanks to classic recordings by Ella Fitzgerald, but most of which languish in dusty corners.
I was struck the other day by “I Wish I Were in Love Again,” from Babes in Arms (which also yielded “My Funny Valentine”):
The sleepless nights,
The daily fights,
The quick toboggan when you reach the heights,
I miss the kisses and I miss the bites.
I wish I were in love again!
The broken dates,
The endless waits,
The lovely loving and the hateful hates,
The conversations with the flying plates.
I wish I were in love again!
Snappy, eh? And of course exaggerated, though when the plates are flying, it feels pretty dead on. Or at least it did, up until a couple of months ago.
My absence, dear readers, has been due to my Having Met Someone. I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to Match; it was so contrived and stupid, and I’d never dated, just sort of met people and waited for things to happen. I swore it off after two experiences that weren’t terrible, but were way too soon. I went on in late June, took my picture down a week later. Dennis and I had decided to split months before, but the paperwork wasn’t official at the time, and it was just too weird.
In that week, I did get an email from a guy who sounded decent. He’d spent a fair amount of time in Italy and loved it, a big plus in my book. We were going to meet for coffee, but then I wrote and said, I’m not ready for this. He said, no problem, I’ll get back to you in a couple of months. True to his word, and about 8 weeks after D-Day, this email exchange occurred:
Him: If you haven’t fallen in love yet, you want to join me at a dinner?
Me: Sure. But I warn you, I’m not good at dating.
Him: That’s ok. I don’t really expect anything to come of it. It’ll just be fun.
Me: OK. I’ll meet you there. It will feel less date-y.
Him: I’ll be the tall guy.
He’d left Match as well and had just hung on to my email. So when I did a search, I couldn’t find him. Oh dear, I thought, what if my Mystery Date is the Dud? I could find nothing on him anywhere, thought about canceling, drove to the dinner, my stomach feeling a bit churny.
I walked in and saw a tall guy with a name tag that said, “S.” He wore a suit. I thought, oh dear, this will be work. I said, “S?”
From behind the first S, there was a taller guy. He wore jeans. He said, “Hi, Nan.” Then to the other S, he said, “We go way back.”
Talking to him was easy. We laughed. We liked a lot of the same stuff. He spoke German. Like me, he’d been widowed. (I can’t describe what a big deal that is, but if you think about the fact that you don’t meet many widows/ers under 60, you’ll get it.) He loved to travel. He’d grown up in a strict northern European Protestant environment, voted Republican in his first election, then took a hard left. He did yoga, ate healthy, and he liked I Am Love. At the end of the night, we both wrote each other emails that said, thank you for a lovely night/I like you, and hit send at virtually the same second.
Over the next 10 days, we skated around love: What did it mean, what was it, how did you know? And it really couldn’t happen so fast, could it? We were both utterly taken by surprise by the speed and intensity of the whole thing. And then we both decided, why wait? why question? We fell…and it was swell.
And it remains swell. Early on, I said, look, I know at some point we’ll have some big blow-up. He said, why? If we disagree, we’ll just talk about it. I said, no fighting? He said, absolutely not.
And I’ve since realized that, for all the love songs that are about conflict, there are a whole bunch more that are about love being really, really, well, lovely.
When fortune cries “Nay, nay” to me
And people declare “You’re through”
Whenever the blues become my only songs
I concentrate on you
On your smile, so sweet, so tender
When at first my kiss you do decline
On the light in your eyes when you surrender
And once again our arms intertwine
And so when wise men say to me
That love’s young dream never comes true
To prove that even the wise men can be wrong
I concentrate on you.
Right again, Cole Porter.