Saturday, July 23, 2005

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match...

In the Kabbalah, there is a principle that every family is made to be together, either to teach each other the lesson their souls need to learn in this life, or because they will match each others temperament in a way that makes it possible to live together and learn from each other. But I reckon some people just get the wrong parents. Through no fault of their own, they land with their complete mismatch. I witnessed this on Saturday night at my friend LB’s thirtieth birthday party. She is the antithesis of her parents. Them: wealthy, influential, conservative. Her: earthy, socially conscious, altruistic. Nonetheless, they clearly love her, and despite the fact that she has a nice Jewish girlfriend they would rather pretend was a nice Jewish boyfriend, they still try to get along. So when she was planning her party and didn’t invite them, they were disappointed. Feeling guilty, she sent them a last minute invite. But LB’s parents are not the type to simply sit back and be guests at their eldest child’s coming of age shindig. They insisted on organising alcohol, buying elaborate cakes, and generally making their presence strongly felt. When I walked in to the restaurant, I asked LB how it was all going with her folks there. She nervously answered that as long as they didn’t make any speeches, she’d be happy.

The night progressed and The Parents seemed to know their place. Then, just as LB looked like she was finally starting to relax, a tapping on glass. Her mother, C, a well-heeled American from Scarsdale, New York, wanted our attention. Oh no, grumbled LB. I thought I said no speeches! C smiled. This isn’t a speech, she said. She proceeded to hand out colour photocopied sheets with music and lyrics on them. Five different songs, each with the words adapted to reflect LB’s personality (or at least her mother’s perception of it) and the fact that she was turning thirty / getting old / starting to wither slowly towards death. I’ll paraphrase an example. To the tune of Aint She Sweet:

Aint she Sweet
With a Figure so Petite
Now I ask you quite rhetorically
Aint She Sweet

Such cute knees
She defends those refugees…

And other, more absurd things that I’ve blocked from my memory out of care for my friend. Then there was Thirty Years sung to the tune of Three Blind Mice.

Thirty Years, Thirty Years
Hard to Believe
Hard to Believe
She likes English lit and she knows every plot
She’s into human rights and she sure talks a lot
Thirty Years

The more mortified LB was, the more enthused her mother became. To C’s credit, she had the crowd obeying her every command, singing rounds of different songs, changing pitch when she asked us to. At one point LB’s sister shouted out “Who misses teaching?” in a not so oblique reference to the fact that C used to teach primary school and was reprising her role, complete with the encouraging tone young children (and sophisticated, urbane thirtysomethings, apparently) respond well to.

The whole thing went on for about fourty minutes, during which time LB chugged down more alcohol than her ‘petite figure’ could possibly handle.

LB was then called on to make a speech. She said something about pay back for all of us who encouraged the behaviour. We laughed, secretly nervous that it wasn’t funny at all.

In the car home, I realised there was a part of me that was really envious of how involved her mother was. However misguided the song session was, it took a lot of effort and thought on C’s behalf. My mother, who is an independent, interesting, go-getting feminist role model, would never have had the time or inclination to do anything as absurd for me. I’m not saying I’d like C for a mother. I’m pretty sure if I grew up with her, I’d be as horrified as LB was to be sung to in a way that essentialised her most complex characteristics. But the teeniest part of me was impressed at the commitment her mother had, the lack of concern about making a fool of herself, and the desire to go out on a limb to turn a simple dinner into an occasion that few of us will forget.

I wonder if I’ll turn out to be just the right match for little O, or if, at her thirtieth, I’ll keep quietly to myself, not daring to sing to her, only to find out that that’s what she would have wanted most.

2 Comments:

Blogger Ova Girl said...

Ahhh! What a shocking night! And what shocking scansion (or whatever that thing is called where you make the words match the notes.

Yes admirable. But terrifying. And forty minutes?!

That's just wrong.

11:54 am  
Blogger Lin said...

Yeah, it is wrong, but it's SO wrong it's just about right.

2:58 pm  

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