Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Why be normal?

For Christmas, my wife booked a hotel room in New York City for the two of us, and secured the services of my dad and stepmom as babysitters, so that the two of us could go see Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway. You guys, I am ridiculously excited about this.

I haven’t mentioned it before now because every time I try to approach it I feel like I have to tie myself in knots in order to address what reflexively strikes me as an identity-paradox: I love musicals, I really do. In almost every other conceivable stereotypical way I am so heteronormative you could calibrate a Kinsey scale to me (he humblebragged?). But I have been to at least half a dozen* different modern Broadway shows (and who knows how many community productions of The Music Man alone) by choice and with no regrets.

And yet I am incredibly defensive about this. It makes no sense, when I spell it out like this, I’m well aware. Old habits die hard, I suppose. I know I’ve spoken before about my father’s rigid enforcement of gender rules when me and my Little Bro were growing up. And certainly I grew up doing band and music and theater stuff rather than playing sports, which automatically made my sexual identity suspect within the nasty, brutish and mercifully short state of nature that existed in middle school and high school. I survived all of that, and (more or less) got over all of it, too. And yet.

Of course I would never cast judgment on someone else for having an interest in, even a passion for, something that has traditionally been the provenance of the opposite gender and/or sexual orientation. But on the other hand, half the reason I strive for open-mindedness is precisely because the world is so hung-up and judgy as it is, and I’m doing everything I can to chip away at that a little. So I encourage and support the whole world to fly their freak flag and follow their bliss and all that, but I don’t realistically expect the whole world to respond in kind.

Part of me is genuinely (maybe morbidly) curious how we even got to this point, where Broadway musicals are something everyone is aware of and yet so very not mainstream. In the hall of mirrors in my mind, I assume that anyone who heard my wife and I were going to a show would assume that my wife wanted to go and was dragging me along, when in reality she’s plenty enthusiastic about it but it’s her gift to me, because an actor we both really like is headlining in a production of my all-time favorite movie that originated as a stage show. And sure, part of it is that I love New York, and there are old friends from school we can catch up with while we’re there, and it will admittedly be a treat to have a grown-up night all temporarily child-free and such. But it could have been a matinee to see a touring production of Hedwig coming through town and I still would have been pretty stoked.

If your response to all of the above is “Don’t be ashamed to love what you love!” let me state for the record that I’m not ashamed, not really. I’m not conflicted about how I feel, I just have this overlay of social expectations where I’m anticipating other people reacting to my excitement with “What a weird thing for you to be excited about.” And if you’re response to that is “Who cares what other people think?” trust me, I am way ahead of you, that has been my personal credo since I was at least 14 or so. I don’t care in the sense of holding myself back in order to conform to anyone else’s sense of how things should be. I’m just hyper-aware of all these tiny ripple effects when things don’t slot perfectly into normalized templates of behavior and whatnot. Not that I necessarily know what to do with that awareness, what it all means or to what miniscule extent it matters. That’s what I do here, sometimes: just babble about these unresolvable things that bobble around in my brain.

But for reals, I’m super-psyched to see NPH as Hedwig. The show is in early May, and you know I will report back on it afterwards just as soon as I can.

(* = Cats, A Chorus Line, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, Tommy, Jekyll & Hyde.)

(I am realizing now that in the post I linked to above, I already admitted to "being fond of musicals" in general. Which is simultaneously a much softer sell of what I'm owning up to here, and also something I had somehow purged from my memory because I get so weirdly freaked out about talking about in the first place. I am a mess.)

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