Hearing Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” offers me grace, strength, and courage. But when is the last time you heard that song come up on somebody’s playlist or on the radio? Never? Same here. So I have to conjure it up in my head when I need grace, strength, and courage. Strange, and possibly crazy, I know. But allow me to explain.
This song epitomizes how shame can turn to pride through hard work and determination. Sheer beauty. Ultimate inspiration. Hope.
When I was in middle school, I took piano lessons at my friend’s house. I did it more to spend time with her than to actually put forth the effort necessary to be a piano player, but I did also want to be a quality piano player. At least I did while I was sitting on that bench with my teacher, but once I got home, I quickly forgot about my cultural aspirations and got more involved with teenage drama, I suppose. She, however, legitimately wanted to learn to play the piano and put forth the necessary efforts. She would take her 1/2 hour lesson first and our piano teacher would praise her,
“You’ve made so much progress this week. I can tell you’ve been practicing well.”
“You nailed those chords perfectly.”
“You got a hold of that melody, mixing in beautifully the shifts from staccatos to legatos.”
Or whatever they were talking about.
Because when it was my turn, the tone of the comments shifted drastically.
“You didn’t have time to practice this week?”
“Why do you use this lesson time as practice time.”
And the one comment that no student ever wants to hear, ever, “You have so much potential, if only you would give some effort.”
My friend would sit on the couch, giggling to herself, knowing that I had not practiced last week and nor would I next week, despite my promises to try better next time.
Then one day, that piano teacher proposed the idea of auditioning for the Local Piano Guild. To my friend. But she didn’t suggest it to me. The teacher described hard work, high honor, DAR Constitution Hall, Washington DC, and a prized pin.
I was intrigued. My friend quickly agreed and began discussing which songs she would play for the panel of judges. The teacher gave her feedback on whether or not these songs would meet the criteria. I became more intrigued.
I asked for a chance to try. My teacher looked at me with that sideways glance of doubt. I made more promises and I assume that she skeptically agreed because she knew I wouldn’t really show up for the challenge and she could write it off as my fault. Well this time, she was wrong.
That is my pin. I still have it.
“Fur Elise” was one of my selected songs. I learned the importance of showing up, not just for the lesson, but for reals, when I earned that pin back in 1982. I am not naturally a graceful person but with this challenge, I discovered the beauty of grace, hard work, and determination in the melody created by the genius, Beethoven.
This song is great because of its complexity, its beauty, its perfect balance of softness and loudness and slowness and quickness. By listening and learning Beethoven, I learned what it feels like to not let people down (my piano teacher and me). I learned what it means to show up. I must be honest and say that, at that time, I was more concerned about not letting her down, but in retrospect, I can see how empowering that experience was for me, as well.
I also learned to appreciate pure beauty and complexity and strive to be those qualities and to seek out those qualities in every aspect of my life. Whenever I encounter a challenge, I hum “Fur Elise” in my head because I recognize the grace, strength, and courage that I need to bring to the situation. Such as blind dates. Wow. That was one of my longest tangents ever, but we got here finally!
So here I am “back on the market.” What an expression. The specific implication for me? “For sale, short brunette with the nickname ‘The Spiller.’ She has already failed at marriage once and now she is on the rebound from a long term relationship. Get her while she’s hot.”
Anyhow, I must have been screaming that sales pitch one night while bellied up to the bar at Firestone’s with my bestie, my wing woman. She and I were enjoying a beer and there was a man, and older man, sitting right next to me. I glanced at him; he glanced at me. Then we struck up a conversation. I would not call that man a looker. I did not feel a physical attraction, until he started telling me stories about what brought him to Frederick and about what kept him connected to the home he left. He told me stories of how he moved to Frederick for a fresh start and job opportunity in the wake of his late wife’s death but maintained the family beach house up in Cape Cod simply to perpetuate a strong and healthy connection with this three grown daughters. Wow, total turn on!! A person can transform from troll-like to Richard Gere-like, in my eyes, with some stories that reveal priorities that match mine. He piqued my curiosity.
By the end of the beer, we had exchanged numbers and agreed to meet back here in exactly one week. We agreed that we would both return with our friends and were excited to see each other again. Date? I thought so.
Although I very much appreciate my wing woman, I have some crucial advice for all wing (wo)men. Do not, I repeat do not, attempt to talk up your friend with comments such as,
“(S)he is so much fun.” Could be misconstrued.
“S(he) is available to go out with you any day this week.” Implies desperation.
“S(he) loves to ____ and you should go do that together.” Implies dependency.
“Isn’t she beautiful?” Good ness, this is in the eye of the beholder.
These types of comments actually have the opposite of the intended effect. The wing (wo)man hopes to talk up his/her friend but actually makes them appear desperate. Why do I need to explain this? I have had several friends shut down opportunities with theses types of comments. Or at least that is who I am blaming for the rejections…
My friend, as soon as she heard us exchanging numbers, said all of the above comments. I watched his facial expressions change. I think I went from attractive to very unattractive?
Fast forward to one week later. I was prepping for the “date.” Just a reminder that this means that I brushed my hair and selected an outfit with more thought than usual.
Two of my friends and I set out for Firestone’s. Somebody in the car asked me a question, but I couldn’t hear it because I was experiencing anxiety so was naturally listening to the music in my head, “Fur Elise” in order to conjure up grace, strength, and courage. I had convinced myself he would be a no-show. I couldn’t explain it, but I really doubted that he would even show up. Maybe because I had not heard from him all week-he had my number after all-not a single text? Plus I did witness his face change from excitement to pure fear when my wing woman spewed out her comments about how awesome and fun I was.
I did not admit my fears to my friends until we were sitting at the bar and he was already 10 minutes late. I said, “What if he doesn’t show up?”
Well, my friends laughed, “Of course he will show up.” But he didn’t.
My typical wing woman frantically suggested, “Text him.”
I replied in dismay, “No chance.”
She scampered with possible explanations, “Maybe he lost his phone. Maybe he broke it. Maybe he got the dates mixed up. Who knows? Text him.”
I said, “If he lost or broke his phone, and he really wanted to see me, he would have left a message with the bartender or something.” I was crushed. And embarrassed. And discouraged. “Fur Elise” reverberated louder and louder as we all drive home in silence.
About a week later, my wing woman and I were bellied up to our neighborhood bar, J & P’s. I struck up a conversation, once again, with the gentleman next to me. This was a whole different story. I was totally fascinated as this man described his situation of homeless and living out of his car and trying to build a home out of recycled materials. I believe that recycled materials was a euphemism for trash. But anyway, he also spoke about his trials and tribulations with an estranged daughter, ex-wife, and other family members. Ugh!! I had so much empathy for him. But not a single feeling of attraction. I suppose I pitied him.
One more piece of advice for wing (wo)man:
Your single friend is not desperate and his/her standards are often higher than Do they breathe?
My wing woman got excited by my fascination and said, “She will meet you here tomorrow night for drinks.”
I sent laser-like daggers at her with absolute panic in my eyes, “We’re going shopping. Remember?” Now, if you ever hear me say I’m going shopping, know that something is horribly wrong. Either I have lost my glasses, I’ve outgrown my favorite pair of jeans, or I’m trying to tell you I don’t want to meet this person ever again. She mistook the panic in my eyes for lingering feelings of rejection from last week’s no show.
By the way, she was still begging me to text Mr. No-Show and ask him why he didn’t show up. Ha, as if!!
I did not know how to delicately tell this man that I was not interested in meeting him. So I continued to convince my wing woman that we had other plans. She continued to dismiss them, despite my subtle kicks and back of the arm pinches. I had a date.
It wasn’t until later that I told her about his situation and she laughed, “Well you guys had great conversation. He is potential.” I personally have higher standards for myself. I want complexity and beauty, not pity.
I have stated quite a bit about it what a wing (wo)man should not do. Here is what a wing (wo)man should do.
Shut the fuck up, please. Know that I’ve got this and let your actions show your confidence in me.
But remembering the sting from my prior no-show, I could not do that to this man who I already pitied. So I showed up the next night with “Fur Elise” as my loyal companion and pity as my motivation. I muddled my way through an evening with him, which ended with me kindly (I hope) explaining that I wasn’t interested in seeing him anymore. The old “It’s me, not you” cliche.
I am proud that at least I didn’t ditch him with the demeaning and cruel no-show. I have “Fur Elise” to thank for the clutch grace, strength, and courage to show up. My wing song.
Who is your wing (wo)man? Show him/her the rules.
What is your wing song? Let it guide you to beauty and complexity!
On deck, the desire for love (or is it loneliness?) drives me back to online dating.