I very distinctly remember the first time someone told me about the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” TV show. I scrunched my nose up, gave the person the side-eye, and said, “Like that stupid movie? No, thanks.” When I finally watched it, years after the series ended, it quickly became my favorite show of all time, replacing “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” which I had scrunched my pre-teenaged nose up at nearly 10 years prior.
Play Portal, they said. I scrunched my nose up and gave them the side eye. “I’m terrible at shooters. I think I rage quit Half-Life one level in.” I gave in eventually, and it’s probably one of my top-5 all-time favorite games.
So you’d think I would have been more receptive when I visited my old Musical Theater Summer Camp stomping grounds last summer, and I asked the hip teachers who frequented Broadway what the next up-and-coming musical was. The choreographer, without missing a beat, as choreographers are wont to do, answered “‘Hamilton.’ No question.” Side eye. Scrunched nose. “Rapping and the American Revolution? Those are two of my least favorite things.”
I am a fool.
But this tale is not about how I have terrible knee-jerk taste. It’s about how I ruin things for other people.
You see, I tend to get a bit obsessive over the popular culture I enjoy. And since I have peculiar taste, I often can’t share these joys with friends, because they are normal humans, whereas I am the type of human who spends weeks trawling eBay for character-name mispellings of the $300 video game statue I wanted in college, only to get it for a song ($50 because it was chipped), proudly display it on my mantel, and stand back, hands on my hips, waiting for all my friends to fall over themselves high-fiving me for having such cool taste in home decor.
I am the type of human who spends weeks meticulously crafting detailed Halloween costumes, only to have people say “Why didn’t you dress up?” when I was the SPITTING IMAGE of Marty McFly and “Are you Shrek or something?” when I was DAENERYS-flipping-TARGARYEN.
I don’t ask for much. I just want the high fives. The spark of recognition and kindred “I’m picking up what you’re putting down” with my fandom experiences.
So, sure, I suppose I tend to get a bit “in your face” about it. Several times, I have turned my closest friends off to something because I came on too strong. My friend Kameron introduced me to gaming in the late ’80s, so in the late ’90s, when my singing the praises of “Final Fantasy 7” didn’t force her to immediately purchase and enjoy it fanatically, I brought my PlayStation to her house and waited for lulls in the conversation to offer to plug it in and start it up for her. Shockingly, my attempts were unsuccessful.
In the early 2000s, I gushed to my friend Melissa over the show “The 4400” so often that I finally brought it to her house and made her watch it, pausing when she fell asleep mid-episode so she wouldn’t miss anything, instead of “taking the hint” like a “good friend” might have.
And just last August, I finally wore Tyler down enough to play “Beyond: Two Souls,” which I still say is one of the most underrated games of all time. I held him hostage by telling him I would only watch “Hannibal” with him upon his successful completion of the game. So sure was I that he would love the game I loved, that when he blasted through it in about three days, I sat staring at him with an open-mouthed smile frozen on my face as the credits rolled. He looked over at me.
“Soooo? Pretty good, eh?” I said, likely wiggling my eyebrows.
He scrunched up his nose and said, “How about that ‘Hannibal’ now, hmm?”
Now, when I put “Hamilton” on in the rental car during Thanksgiving, I realized two fundamental truths at the exact same time. One, I had been wrong with my snap judgment of both rap and the American Revolution and they were both perfect and had been missing from my life up until that point. And two, this was something that was going to break down walls. Like “Rent” or “Les Mis,” people who weren’t huge theater nerds would be super into this. Songs might even play on the radio. I COULD TALK ABOUT MUSICALS WITH MY FRIENDS.
I strolled into work in early January ready to drop rhymes and spit verses. No one picked up what I was putting down. They might have heard of it. Heidi’s parents asked her about it. Juli’s writerly friends were tweeting lyrics. I started to get that eager, exhilarating feeling you get inside when you know you’re about to introduce someone to something they will love forever. It’s like an emotional finder’s fee. “Eh, that Lauren is okay. Wait, she’s the one who told me to read Harry Potter! She’s super cool and has great taste, and I should pet her hair!”
I know I ruin things, so I played it totally cool. “Here, guys. You can listen for free on Amazon Prime. But, you know, no biggie. You just click that Streaming link. Not right now, just any time.” Then I’d wait a prescribed amount of time… Or until I got myself into a situation where I made a hilarious Hamilton reference that they didn’t seem to get. “Oh, hey, did you ever check out that free Hamilton link?” They hadn’t. “It’s cool, it’s cool. You got things to do. Hey, maybe I’ll send you a YouTube link of it later. No pressure.”
A former co-worker, dear young Toby, went to see it on Broadway. It was all over the tweets and the ‘grams. I good-naturedly ribbed my dear friends. “Hah! Toby’s seen it! NOW, will you let Hamilton into your life?” They didn’t take it well.
Finally, I was in the car, coming back from lunch with Heidi one day, and she said with a resigned sigh, “If you want to show me some of the songs, I guess now’s your chance.” I nearly choked on my own spit. We had, what, 5 minutes before we got back to the office?
Think, Lauren, think. How do I win her over with just a few snippets? Do I play one of the songs that first got stuck in my head — “My Shot” or “Hurricane.” Do I play the ones that are most indicative of the show’s energy and heart — “Cabinet Battle #1” or “10 Duel Commandments”? Do I blast the song that will impress them the most when I rap along in a French accent — “Guns and Ships”?
I did not throw away my shot. I played approximately 15 seconds of each of them. Heidi scrunched her nose up. “Maybe it’s not for me.”
“You have to listen to it the whole way through,” I pleaded. “Beginning to end. Here, I’ll clear your afternoon.”
A few days later, Tyler came to visit us in the office. I made a joke about how I had been coming on too strong and how I was going to blog about how I ruin everything.
He said, “Wait, Heidi still hasn’t listened to it?”
“NO, Tyler, because she doesn’t like things that are great!”
“I hope you include this part in your blog,” Heidi said. I couldn’t see her screen from where I was standing, but I’m pretty sure she was deleting the FREE Amazon link I’d sent her.
I don’t ask for much, guys. I just want someone to talk to about music and possibly high-five. I want to ask someone if they noticed the line “Nobody needs to know” is a nod to the musical “The Last Five Years.”
I want to discuss with someone whether fans quoting and tattooing “Talk Less. Smile more.” is as foolhardy as people quoting “To thine own self be true” by Polonius in “Hamlet,” because, HELLO, it’s the antagonist saying these things, you’re not supposed to look up to them and quote them. But then, was Hamilton’s big mouth his downfall? Maybe he should have talked less and smiled more, so he could have had more time.
I JUST WANT TO BE LATE TO A MEETING AND WALK IN LIKE THOMAS JEFFERSON SINGING “WHAT DID I MISS?!”
(Just kidding. I am never late to meetings.)
I guess I want to say: listen, friends. I know you WANT TO listen to Hamilton some day. I often take a long time to get on bandwagons myself. And I probably just need to lay off and let you come to it naturally. But the reason I’m being so pushy is that with these lyrics inside of me, I feel like A POWDER KEG ABOUT TO EXPLODE; I NEED SOMEONE LIKE YOU TO LIGHTEN THE LOAD.
Hamilton just applies to every life situation. I didn’t ask for it to be this perfect. I just ask for high-fives when I dance like Thomas Jefferson. Or Hercules Mulligan. Or Angelica Schuyler. Work!