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A Matter of Love and Death

Grim, eh?

No pics to break up all the text, sorry. But this week, I saw two of the painful ways that the loving life of a couple can end. And it reminded me of the …vincibility? of youth.

I’ve always kind of been scared of getting old. Seeing Amour last year didn’t help. I think I used to think that dying young would be easier. But that’s selfish, because it would probably just be easier for me. Not so much for those I love that I’d leave behind.

Anyway. On Wednesday night, I watched the latest HIMYM episode [spoilers ahead]

and though subtle, the show seemed to be indicating that the mother was dying. So subtle (and in my opinion, dumb, because Ted, we know you can be dim sometimes, but you wouldn’t be so dim as to spend NINE YEARS (yes, okay, I’m sure he didn’t tell his kids these stories once a week for 24 weeks at a time and break for summer, so likely less than 9 years) talking about all the crap you did before you met their mother instead of talking about their mother and your time together…would you?????) that I didn’t really think it fully until I talked to Rishma and Meg and read a couple of articles. It’s what the Internet thinks. And just, if it’s true, if that’s how this show is going to end, then boo. Yes, I know it’s reality and it happens to some people. But let us live in the fictional worlds of happily ever after because of those sad terrible realities! Because then Ted took umpteen years to find The Mother and then only got to spend [what I’m sure were an amazing and treasure-filled] ten years with her before he had to give her up. It made me sad. It made me think about the whole ‘treasure each moment’ and ‘life’s too short’ and all.

But then on Thursday night, I saw the Almeida Theatre’s production of I Do. It was a really cool concept and though audiences are often a ‘fly on the wall’ when they see a play, this was a much different fly-on-the-wall experience. There were 6 groups of 9 people + a guide. We were in the room, in their space, in their way, even! Just watching them do their thing while completely ignoring us. Sat on people sitting in their chairs. Spoke over a person standing between them who couldn’t really move. Threw their jacket towards the corner, where it landed on an audience member’s head. Repeated to themselves giddily the words of a crush after they’ve left the room (‘See you down there…’!), accompanied of course by giggles, somersaults on the bed and other such things normal people do when they’re alone in a room and no one else is there to judge. And I think that’s what resonated most with me, because these actors did a great job of ignoring us despite the small spaces of theirs that we invaded. The agony of waiting for a pregnancy test to give you one or two pink lines. The thought put into where exactly this letter would be best placed to be found when the intended recipient enters that room (the 3rd place of the trials, in case you’re wondering!). Because things like that might be silly, but I’m fairly certain we all do them.

The first room my group went into was that of the best man, Joe. He stood in the bathroom (where we also stood – about 4 people in the tub, the rest squashed in the tiny space or standing just outside the door frame) practising his speech. Nerves. ‘Smile, pause for laughter.’ Calling the groom to ask if it’s okay to mention that he and the bride met online (or at least that’s what I deduced from his question of ‘can I mention the Internet thing’). Answering a knock at the door to find Nick, who has come to clear the air about their kiss at the stag do. He isn’t gay..has Joe told Georgie? Okay bye. Joe, now more nervous and distracted, keeps trying to practice. Towards the end of our time in his room, Nick runs back in and says he was wrong. They kiss. They giggle. Nick says he’ll see Joe downstairs and leaves the room. Joe pauses, smiles, laughs, repeats the words to himself and then somersaults on the bed. Adorable.

Next, we headed into the bride’s room. There she was, Georgie, in her corset, drinking champagne with her 2 bridesmaids – a sister, who was very discouraging of the whole thing but trying to do so in a jokey way, and a friend – whose daughter was hiding somewhere – seeming very distant and quiet. The mother comes over with some hair spray and asks the girls’ opinions on her hat. The bride pretends to go pee and instead disappears from the room. The sister talks to the bride through the bathroom door, saying she shouldn’t have said what she did, everything will be fine. After a bit, she realizes no one’s inside and doesn’t know what to do. A little inexplicably, she then goes to her bag and takes a pregnancy test out. I guess she was just taking advantage of the empty room? The bride returns, seeming more at ease, and they continue to get her dressed in a bit more of a happy manner, though the sister is now a bit distracted – guess she’s pregs! Just before we leave, a young girl runs in and screams at the friend bridesmaid, ‘I KNOW YOUR DIRTY SECRET!’. Okay then.

The third room was the mother-of-the-bride’s – in which we saw 3 characters – the mother of the bride, the father of the bride and the grandmother. The mother tried on hats, put her Spanx on and took it off. Arranged placecards, fiddled with the seating chart, sorted out money in various envelopes. Went in and out to the bride’s room. The father showed up at the door and was clearly unexpected. These two hadn’t seen each other in ages and didn’t know how to act around one another. He tries to explain, she’s not interested. The grandmother’s time was short. Midway through, she came into the room, went to the bathroom and screamed. Loudly. Splashed water on her face and left.

In the honeymoon suite, we were alone for a bit. The tv played an ad on repeat for the hotel and all the special wedding planning amenities they had to offer. Eventually, the bride’s father came in, looking for the perfect spot to put his letter – a letter that said I was here, I came, but I just couldn’t stay. At this point, we see the groom, Tunde, for the first time, come in to do something similar. He realizes who the other man is, but the father never (in those 10 minutes anyway) realizes he is speaking to his son-in-law-to-be. After they both leave, the friend bridesmaid comes in looking for her daughter. The bride’s brother, Nick, follows close behind. They end up kissing and are about to have sex when he says he’s sorry and leaves. From my time approximations, this is about the time he goes back into the best man’s room to confess his love. The woman, who we’ve learned plans to divorce her husband and is generally unhappy, is demonstrably upset and stunned, her self-confidence broken. The next thing we see is her daughter – finally – climb down from the curtain-covered windowsill she’s been sitting on, listening to the whole thing and run out of the room, with her mother running after her. Uh-oh.

Next, we went into the grandparents’ room – this is where I lost it. I sat in my spot on the floor, just bawling, as silently as I could. If you’ve stuck with me this long, this is where I saw the other side of the coin of one person in a couple dying young. Because here, they got to be together, alive, for longer – but is it any better? When one person doesn’t have all their faculties about them? The grandfather is in a wheelchair and appears to have had a stroke, as his right arm is limp and his face is slack. He doesn’t speak. The grandmother chats away, helping him put his dress shirt on, tying his tie–all very carefully, very deliberately, and as a consequence, very slowly. But her love and patience in doing all this is evident and you can’t help but admire her and feel sad that she now has this kind of one-sided relationship, where her husband can’t even really respond. The grandfather either coughs or makes some signal for water, I can’t remember, and the grandmother brings him a water bottle. She helps him pour the water into his mouth, but he becomes impatient and moves and spills water all over himself. All of her hard work to get him dressed and ready for the wedding has been undone. You see her struggle not to get upset with him and then say that she’ll be right back and she leaves the hotel room. And then you hear a gutteral scream from somewhere outside — something we saw ourselves when we were in the mother-of-the-bride’s room. A release of frustration that she doesn’t want to take out on her husband. I cried. I cried so hard. And I continued to be terrified of dying old. Why does it have to happen???

In my final room, the groom’s room, we see the groom, sitting in the dark, fiddling with a letter in his hand, listening to a voicemail from his mother, then another one or two. Then we’re left alone, as he races off somewhere (somewhere I now know to be to drop his cold-feet letter off in the honeymoon suite, where he ends up seeing Georgie’s father doing the same — which I can only assume is what made him reconsider) and as he’s left his phone in the room, we see that Georgie is calling and leaving a voicemail. A minute or two later, she runs into the room, and seeing his phone sitting on the table, takes it to listen to the  long, rambling, doubty message voicemail she has just left for Tunde. Halfway through, Tunde re-enters, they both listen to the message and they share a moment of knowledge that they’re both scared, they both have doubts, but they love each other and they’re going to make it work. They are going to get married in the next few minutes, and neither of them seems to want to run away as much anymore.

The way the show was put together was so smart. Things got done and undone, as they would in real life – splashing cold water on one’s face and accidentally wetting the hair, using a hair dryer to fix this; Spanx on, Spanx off; rose petals that were first sprinkled carefully on the bed in the honeymoon suite, ruined by an unexpected rendezvous, re-arranged by the omnipresent maid — but they also served to set the scene up almost back to the beginning so that the room was ready for the next group. Not in a noticeable way, but I just couldn’t help but think about it. The only one I don’t quite understand how he did it so quickly is the dressing and undressing of the bride’s brother between so many rooms!

Feelings, guys. All the feels. ALL OF THEM. Reminded me of A Visit from the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan, a book I really really loved. If the show comes anywhere near you, I’d highly recommend that you go see it! It’s smart, funny, and very thought-provoking. Five stars!

——————-

Post-finale HIMYM Update:

Ted/HIMYM writers–you’re the worst.

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