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Maybe he’s leaving town – don’t let him get away! Hurry and track him down!

Remember last weekend, I went to (and then summarily snuck out of) Guys and Dolls? (Not because it was bad, but because poor cousin J. was getting antsy and I adore her.)

I was recapping Act II for her in the car on the way to the mall (in brief, because when you think about it, not a hell of a lot happens in Act II) and I was trying to think of the songs we’d missed. The only ones I was sad about were “Luck Be a Lady” and “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat” and “Sue Me” (which I love irresponsibly – this is the first song I heard from the musical, many and many a moon ago, put on a mix by a very wise friend back in the glorious heyday of cassette mixes, sigh…and it remains my favorite to this day.)

Then I realized we’d missed “Marry the Man Today” and I was humming it a little in my house that night and thought…wait a minute. Whoa.

I don’t think I ever really paid attention to the lyrics of this song before (mostly because I kind of hate this song.) And once I did, I’m totally overjoyed that cousin J. didn’t hear it, because it’s kind of terrible and the last kind of romantic advice she needs.

Let’s take a look at this gem of a song, shall we? (my comments in italics. Because I’m fancy.) Oh, a little background, in case you need it: the two female romantic leads sing this to each other while they’re deciding whether or not to marry the MALE romantic leads, who they love, but who are CADS! CADS, I TELLS YA! (They’re not really cads, they’re just really, REALLY into gambling, to the point of ignoring their ladyfolk for it.)

And if you want to listen to it, rather than read my (MOST EXCELLENT, by the way) commentary…

Marry the Man Today (music and lyrics by Frank Loesser)

At Wanamaker’s and Saks and Klein’s
A lesson I’ve been taught
You can’t get alterations on a dress you haven’t bought

At any vegetable market from Borneo to Nome
You mustn’t squeeze a melon till you get the melon home.

(So don’t mess with something until you own it. Until it’s your property. OK. Fine. Heh, Borneo to Nome. Odd.)

You’ve simply got to gamble

You get no guarantee

Now doesn’t that kind of apply to you and I

You and me.

Why not?

Why not what?

Marry the man today.
Trouble though he may be
Much as he likes to play
Crazy and wild and free
Marry the man today
Rather than sigh in sorrow
Marry the man today
And change his ways tomorrow.

(OK. This, this right here? This is where the song takes a REALLY WORRISOME TURN.)

Marry the man today.
Marry the man today
Maybe he’s leaving town
Don’t let him get away
Hurry and track him down
Counterattack him and
Marry the man today

(OK, so first you’re going to marry him in order to change him into the man you want…then you’re going to, I don’t know, stalk him, attack him, and FORCE him to marry you. That’s not at all off-putting.)

Give him the girlish laughter
Give him your hand today
And save the fist for after.

(Hmm. I don’t…I’m going to hope this just means, like, shaking your fist at him, but the way this song’s going, I think it’s about punching.)

Slowly introduce him to the better things
Respectable, conservative, and clean
Readers Digest
Guy Lombardo
Rogers Peet
Golf!
Galoshes
Ovaltine!

(Because whatever he’s into SUCKS. You know best. You gotta train him. Like a puppy. DON’T YOU PIDDLE ON THE GOOD RUG, HAROLD! *fist*)

But marry the man today
Handle it meek and gently
Marry the man today and train him subsequently

(What did I say? Train him. TRAIN HIM. Have a treat, Rover, that’s a good boy.)

Carefully expose him to domestic life
And if he ever tries to stray from you
Have a pot roast.
Have a headache
Have a baby
have two!
Six
Nine!

(If he tries to leave your iron fist and terrible household of trickery and deceit, feed him, deny him sex, or GIVE him sex, and tie him down with NINE CHILDREN. This is a great marriage. EXCELLENT advice.)

STOP!

(Yes. Please stop.)

But marry the man today
Rather than sigh in sorrow
Marry the man today
And chance his ways – change his ways – his ways
Tomorrow!

(AND SCENE.)

OK. Now, I realize this musical was first produced on Broadway in 1950. This was a very long time ago. Amy’s Dad was a wee bebeh! Amy’s Mom wasn’t even BORN yet! It was a different time! A time in which…well, apparently, women needed to trick men into marrying them, using any means available to them, then if the man wasn’t EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANTED (and they seem to want some sort of pipe-smoking dorky sweater-wearing loser with no will of his own) they wear him down using MORE trickery until he is CHANGED! And everyone lives happily ever after. Right?

Wait, not right? No?

What about the guy?

The woman’s happy as a lark, with this changed guy who’s exactly what she wanted all along…but is this GUY happy? This guy who, apparently, can’t do anything right unless he does everything the way she wants him to, and once he gives up everything he is, she’s finally happy…but who is he now? And how can he be happy, being this ghost of the person he was before?

I know love is compromise. I’m well aware of that. This situation isn’t compromise, though. This is one-sided; compromise means BOTH people change. This is sexist garbage, is what this is.

BUT AMY! you are saying. THIS WAS A SONG WRITTEN IN 1950, SURELY THIS ISN’T SOMETHING WE WORRY ABOUT NOW!

See, it is, though. I know a lot of people who’ve broken up (marriages, serious relationships, what have you) and I hear, over and over, the same thing.

I thought he/she would change, once we were together.

Or, the opposite: He/she thought I would change, once we were together.

I asked them over and over to stop doing (whatever it is) and they just wouldn’t and I couldn’t take it anymore.

If they loved me, why wouldn’t they change?

Do you remember, a long time ago, we talked about the frog and the scorpion? This is very much a frog and scorpion situation. You knew that person was a scorpion when you picked them up.

If you get together with someone with the endgame in mind that you will change him or her to better suit your needs, you are a., a jerk for getting together with someone who has things about them that bother you so much that you need to change them in order for the relationship to work for you and b., you are in a losing game, because no one’s going to end this scenario happy.

I’m telling you right now: once you get older, you learn to pick your battles. What’s worth getting up-in-arms about and what’s worth letting go. And you learn that no one’s perfect. And you learn that life’s not a rom-com. And you learn that you can love people not only DESPITE their flaws, but BECAUSE of their flaws. Because those flaws make that person more real, and more alive, and more yours; you wouldn’t recognize that person without those flaws. (And you know what? You’re not flawless yourself, special snowflake. That person’s overlooking probably a lot of YOUR flaws, too. Keep that in mind, sunshine.)

I’m going to give you an alternative to that song.

Marry the man today – if you can’t imagine a life without being married to them. Don’t attempt to change their ways tomorrow. Their ways may or may not change. Go into this with your eyes open. Can you live with the person you’re marrying if they remain exactly like this the rest of their lives? If not, how about you don’t say yes to the dress. There’s someone out there better suited to you, and someone out there better suited for him, as well.

Go ahead and marry the man today. I’ll totally cheer for you. I’m all about the romance, yo. But if you try to trick him into it (or reverse those genders, this works for the fellas, too) and then slowly chisel away the man who DID marry you, and someday you wake up and you’re married to a stranger and he leaves you because, well, that stranger no longer wants to be married to you…

…you really have no one to blame but yourself.

And they say theater is an unneccessary art. LOOK AT ALL WE’VE LEARNED TODAY.

Happy weekend, you romantic fools. Go woo like the wind. Do me proud.

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About lucysfootball

I'm not the girl with the most cake. Someday. SOMEDAY. View all posts by lucysfootball

8 responses to “Maybe he’s leaving town – don’t let him get away! Hurry and track him down!

  • sj

    All this fist talk has me mighty uncomfortable.

    Like

  • cynthiaw

    I had a cousin who got divorced after SIX MONTHS because her husband was a druggie and he apparently hit her. When my uncle expressed shock that the guy had changed so quickly (my cousin lived with him for a few years before they got married), she said “well, I thought that he’d stop all that after we got married”. For real. Not that she should have stayed with a druggie who hit her. Or not WANTED him to change – but really?

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    • lucysfootball

      Yep. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard this from. Like a marriage license (or even moving in together) changes fundamental things about the other person, you know? People seem to think it will, and that always makes me sad. Marry the person in front of you, not the person you think you can make him or her become. That’s not good for anyone.

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  • becomingcliche

    Wait. If I can’t use a fist, can I use a frying pan? That seems very 1950’s, so it should be okay, right?

    It astounds me when people get married and expect that the ring is a magic eraser poised to take out all the bad.

    And just for the record, I have no flaws.

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    • lucysfootball

      Yes, I think you can. A frying pan, or maybe your apron. For strangling. Since it’s the 50s and all.

      I completely agree. When you get married, the person doesn’t put on the ring and change into someone else, like those Super Twins used to on that cartoon when I was a kid. It’s the same person. Only they’re wearing jewelry.

      NO FLAWS! I totally believe that.

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  • grrgoyl

    So true! Like my friend Dan Savage, the sex advice columnist, says (he’s not my friend but I listen to him religiously so I feel like he is), “There’s no perfect 10. You have to find the 9.2 or 9.3 you’re willing to round up.” Also that can’t change a person thing. And frankly it’s a bit creepy to think you can.

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    • lucysfootball

      It’s creepy and it’s presumptuous, you know? Maybe that person’s happy being the way they are! Maybe that person isn’t your match, and you’d be happier with someone who doesn’t NEED all that changing, and who are you to go changing someone to fit some mold you have in your head? It kind of makes me angry.

      Like

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