The Enduring Message of South Pacific

It’s how we were raised, WWII American Navy nurse Nellie Forbush and U.S. Marine Lieutenant Joe Cable bemoan their newfound loves, so seemingly different from themselves.  I saw South Pacific on the Muny Opera stage last month for my first time ever, a production of stirring music and lively dance numbers, fraught with the intensity of raging war and uncertainties of new relationships, and an underlying message for us.

We insist on a partner whose education and socioeconomic level, background, looks, and interests are almost identical to, or better than ours, cursorily rejecting potentially ideal matches.  Refusing to consider those whose professional profile and lifestyle don’t fit our exact preconceived mold, we limit our options to an often diminutive group, especially today, even with the expanse of the World Wide Web. 

I am not referring to seeking someone outside of our religion:  homogeneity of religion and intelligence is statistically essential to predicting future marital success, and the lack of that homogeneous factor can create insurmountable barriers to forging a deep bond.

I am referring to excluding someone from consideration because they do or do not wear jewelry or makeup, do not have the right hair color or length, or because of where they are from, what their interests are, which degree they have, or what they like to eat.  We pass up people who aren’t dressed in the manner we have in mind.  We pass up suitable partners, sometimes without even meeting them.   Most of these factors can be adjusted, anyway, and they are no guarantee of marital security and happiness.  Even initial attraction and strong chemistry, such as that of Nellie and Emile, and of Joe and Liat, can dissolve under the duress of daily life. 

As Nellie and Joe (tragically) realize at the end of the timeless story, the sheltered way they have lived so far is not how they must necessarily continue to live.  AND WE DON’T EITHER.

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