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Thursday, July 09, 2009

You Wanna Bet Your Pretty Neck?

My man hates show tunes. My man hates musicals in general. Keep this in mind.

So, here we are spending a month or so with my Old Man's family on the Jersey Shore. This year, it's more like three weeks, since we're going to Cape Cod for six days in the middle of the visit, but still. A long visit. Six people in a house that usually holds two. (Plus my sister-in-law is in town from Florida, and though she's not sleeping here, she's around much of time during the day and evening.) I've mentioned that this is actually harder on my man than on me. Let me explain a bit more about why that is.

Obviously, it's harder in some ways for my man to stay with his family for several weeks at a stretch because he has all this history with them and they push his buttons and everyone reverts to old modes and habits that drive everyone else crazy. Except me, who mostly finds it all pretty amusing (except when it occasionally makes me want to throw a potted plant at someone).

But there are other reasons that this is easier for me than him, and I'm just sort of starting to articulate those, here in our seventh extended summer visit. This is partly due to an epiphany I had at dinner last night.

Okay, dinner. It's me, my Old Man, his mom (who tends to go by the handle Gram), his dad (code name Pop-Pop), baby Roo (in her high chair), six-year-old O., and my Old Man's sister, Aunt A. Dishes are being passed every which way, debates are raging over whether the corn is undercooked or just bad, speculations are being made about when Jersey corn will finally be in season. Everyone is loud, everyone is talking over each other, and every adult-oriented comment is punctuated by an observation of something cute that Roo is doing, an extra-loud question intended to engage O., or a suggestion that O. eat more, use his napkin, or stop lurching into Gram to the beat of the frenetic, horn-heavy jazz that is perpetually playing in the background.

At some point Roo does or says something exceptionally cute, and this inspires Gram to begin singing to Roo a song from the venerable Broadway favorite Guys and Dolls, the corniest song in a show abounding in corny songs. I love you a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck sings Gram, and then Pop-Pop joins in, A hug around the neck and a barrel and a heap. Then Aunt A. joins in A barrel and a heap and I'm talking in my sleep, about you, about you. And, dangit, I can't help it (after all, I played the role of Sister Sarah Brown in my high school production of Guys and Dolls, and after all, these people are singing this song of love to my adorable toddler, who I actually happen to really love barrels and heaps, etc.). I just have to join in I love you a bushel and a peck, you bet your pretty neck I do.

"Your pretty neck?" Egad. But we keep singing and it just gets worse when we hit the Doodle oodle oooh doo, Doodle oodle oooh doo, Doodle oodle oooh doo doooooooo! And remember, this is all being sung over the sounds of frenetic, horn-heavy jazz.

Needless to say, my Old Man is not singing along, however much love he might have for his baby girl (love he'd more likely measure in kilos or assloads than bushels and pecks). He does not know this song, and if by some bizarre circumstance he did, he would never sing it. I don't even need to look at his face to know that he's in serious pain right now.

And this is part of the reason it's harder for him than for me to be here. In some ways, I'm more like his family than he is. I'm cornier than him, I'm less inhibited, more able to quickly and comfortably shift social modes and rhetorical registers. He and I have a lot in common. We're both ironic, we both love to read, we both cherish quiet time. But I'm more able to shift from irony to cheesy jokes without feeling a painful wrench, and I'm more able to temporarily forgo my need for quiet reflection and solitude when super-social chaos is the order of the day. My man is actually a very goofy dude much of the time when he's in the comfort of his own home, but his goofiness tends to run the order of absurdist humor and scatology rather than bad puns and cheesy ribbing.

Anyway, to his credit, he did not shriek or run from the table when this outburst occurred. I think he still likes me, even though I went there with his family of origin, to that place of unspeakable darkness, the spontaneous show tune singalong.

4 Comments:

Blogger Elizabeth said...

This sounds uncannily familiar. We just got back from an extended in-law visit, and I *may* have sung various songs from "The Sound of Music" and "Mary Poppins" with A's mom and sister to little M. "Guys and Dolls" is way cooler than either of those.

7:47 AM  
Blogger E. said...

I'm glad I'm not alone. Though the suffragette song from Mary Poppins is pretty cool - it actually alludes to the historical Emmeline Pankhurst, a figure worth exposing our tiny daughters to. But I agree, Guys and Dolls is a relatively cool musical (trumped only in my estimation by The Music Man and My Fair Lady, which both have excellently rewarding lyrics as well as good music and interesting stories). Of course, Stephen Sondheim is a whole other story - I dig many of his shows as well.

Oh God. I'm just exposing myself as an even bigger showtunes geek.

9:58 AM  
Blogger LetterB said...

My MIL sings this song to Lowell all the time. It's their thing. Or at least she's trying VERY hard to make it their thing.

You realize just how close you are to Broadway, right? Interested in a matinee? It could haaaappen....

7:30 PM  
Blogger E. said...

LetterB, we should talk. (Then maybe we'll sing a little.)

1:28 PM  

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