Desperate Acts

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A few days ago, my friend, “Susan” and I were discussing a mutual acquaintance.  I said that I liked this person, but I said, “She’s just so desperate.”  Susan chortled and said, “Well, I feel pretty desperate myself sometimes.”  It kind of surprised me because I do not think of Susan as desperate.  She is one of the most beloved people I know and I know she knows it.  But her statement made me think a little about what desperation is and how we are all a little desperate. And if we are artists, I think we want to be desperate.  Forgive me for being obsessed with William Inge, but so many times last weekend, I thought about how desperate Inge’s characters are.  Lola in Come Back, Little Sheba is desperate to feel vital again.  Hal in Picnic is desperate to find his way in the world. Elma in Bus Stop and Millie in Picnic are desperate to leave their small Kansas towns.  Sammy in Dark at the Top of the Stairs is desperate to make friends.  And of course, my favorite desperate Inge character is Rosemary Sidney who gets on her hands and knees begging her boyfriend to marry her because the thought of another year as an unmarried schoolteacher living in a rented room is too much for her to bear.  I’ve seen the scene in skilled hands and less skilled hands, but every time I’m moved to tears by the, well, the desperation.  And I think about how desperate William Inge was .  One of the interviews from the Saturday night program included one with a niece who recounted a conversation she’d had with Inge where he told her his life had been a failure.  This is a man who won an Oscar, a Pulitzer and wrote four of the most successful, profitable, beloved plays of the 1950s. Perhaps he always had a voice telling him he was a failure and that made him desperate to create the characters and stories that touched our lives so deeply. In the last couple weeks, I’ve thought so much about why I’ve started this blog.  It’s fun to get compliments and see which stories get the most traffic, but I also feel so vulnerable at times, even foolish.  I’ve had close friends make fun of the blog.  Granted, there is something desperate about a 44 year old man plunking away on a keyboard, offering his hopes, revealing his shames.  And I do feel like Rosemary.  With every awkward sentence, I’m beseeching a reader who may or may not be reading this, “Marry me, Howard.  Please, please marry me.” Here are Rosalind Russell and Arthur O’Connell in that scene from the original movie of Picnic.

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