I remember my first night in Oxford. After a red eye flight, a two hour immigration line, a 90-minute bus ride, and an incredibly uneventful orientation program for international students, I decided– for the sake of sociability– to participate in a popular British past time: the Pub Quiz. During said quiz, beers were dispensed, while young, often intoxicated individuals attempted to answer trivia questions, which related to politics, pop culture, and obscure 1930s rugby players. Unaccustomed to large quantities of alcohol, I decided to focus my uber-competitive nature on the task at hand: Winning.
One of the questions posed– as part of the “musicals” category– was: What Broadway musical features a lyric about the 181st Street subway stop? Instantly, I knew: In the Heights. When I shared this knowledge with my fellow Americans, one of the New Yorkers exclaimed, “Seriously, you like musicals?” Taken aback by her Uppity East Side personality, I meekly responded, “Um, perhaps I own the soundtrack to one or two (or thirty).”
However, what I should have said was, “Everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned from musicals.” And not kindergarten– whoever said that never step foot in this JCC. In actuality, many of life’s truths can be found buried in the lyrical prose of a massively popular show tune. Take, for example, the Tony-award winning musical Next to Normal, which despite the music, addresses the serious issue of depression. In the song, “Just Another Day,” one character belts, “But you’re grappling with gray and rainy weather. And you’re living on a latte and a prayer.” Now if there were ever truer words spoken, I have yet to hear them. My entire 20-somethings existence is defined by the oppressive New York climate, and my unhealthy obsession with the coffee shop that gave the world the green straw.
And because of Next to Normal I was prepared for that reality. It didn’t surprise me when I opened by first bank statement and saw I was $200 poorer as a result of my daily Starbucks run. In fact, it was comforting to know I was conforming to some standard of normal adolescent/liberal arts college student-esque behavior.
Well, I learned another musical lesson this past week, when Torie– my beloved roommate–and I saw Promises, Promises, starring Sean Hayes of Will and Grace and Kristin Chenoweth of Pushing Daises and Glee. Aside from the excellent script, derived from one of my top ten favorite films– The Apartment— a 1960 Billy Wilder comedy about a man, a woman, and a love shack on 67th Street, the show also provided another set of invaluable life lessons.
The one line that stood out to me– “Shut up and deal”– seemed to capture a truth not so universally acknowledged. Sometimes we can’t change the facts of the situation; we just have to accept them for what they are. I am a caffeine addict, fact. I must feed said addiction on a daily basis, fact. However, we can manage how we “deal.” I lack the funds to support my addiction, and hence will take control of the situation by finding additional jobs to support my Uppity West Side beverage preferences.
Basically the musical captured a sentiment my mother has been trying to impart since I was nine and told her I wanted to be a blonde so I could look like Britney Spears, and she adamantly refused to fund the dye job. Sometimes we are faced with uncomfortable realities, which we cannot possibly change. The real test isn’t in their existence, but rather in our reaction to those realities. In other words, do we crumble under the pressure, or do we start charging our father for every curse he makes until we earn enough money to go out and buy the bottle of blonde dye ourselves?
I leave you with my latest Starbucks obsession–an iced grande unsweetened black tea with two packets of Splenda: