14 January 2011

The Music Man is not real life

"It is a well-known principle that if you keep the flint in one drawer and the steel in another, you'll never strike much of a fire."

I said this with authority.

I said this with the attitude of a woman who'd been married for 38 years to her high school sweetheart, giving her the freedom to lecture whoever she wants on the way to get married and conduct relationships and not end up an old maid.

I said it to my co-worker Christy, who was about to go on a date and was having those doubts. The stealthy ones that sneak up like lions, low to the ground and hidden by the grass—you don't know they're even there until the last possible moment.

Then, just as you're ready to go meet this person, pounce. The doubts come out of the grass, and you suddenly feel you'll be mauled if you go to the restaurant. The idea of spending an hour or so making small talk and trying to smile at this person you barely know makes you go wild. And feel hunted, or perhaps like a hunter.

That is the feeling Christy had, and I was trying to reassure her. I wanted to get her through the door and to the table. She needed to see that just because you're meeting someone for drinks, that doesn't mean you have to fall madly in love with them, nor does it mean that you even have to like them.

However, the tactic I took was not as helpful as I intended.

I told Christy, "It is a well-known principle that if you keep the flint in one drawer and the steel in another, you'll never strike much of a fire."

"Ok, grandma," she shot back.

You see, I'm not an old married woman. I'm in the same position as Christy: wanting to go on dates {that will, I would hope, eventually lead to marriage} but scared when actually faced with those dates.

Given my lack of experience and authority in this area, when Christy asked me for reassurance, I gave her the best I had: a quote from a musical.

In The Music Man, which is set in the great state of Iowa, Mama says that to Marian the Librarian when she's a-wondering if Marian will ever get married. She is, after all, 26 and with very high standards of who's right for her: Mama calls it a blend of Paul Bunyan, St. Patrick, and Noah Webster—all created out of Marian's Irish imagination, her Iowa stubbornness, and her library full of books.

Marian calls it wishing for a plain man, a modest man, a straightforward and honest man to sit with her in a cottage somewhere in the state of Iowa.

{You can guess, perhaps, who I identify most with in The Music Man.}

This flint and steel quote works well in a musical set in 1912, but said by a 29-year-old in 2011, it comes off sounding out of place and out of time.

But it was the best I could do for encouragement at that moment, and I would like to point out that Christy did actually go on that date. From my perspective, then, the flint and steel pep talk worked.

It started a fire, if the fire were considered going on an actual date with an actual guy in an actual restaurant.

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