There is a moment in the first date after which it is either an only date or the beginning of something more. I sat there in the restaurant, across from this guy I’d first spoken to only 30 minutes before. I’d recognized him as the roommate of a former boyfriend and gone up to introduce myself to him after his performance in a musical play. He’d seen me in the audience and met me in the aisle before I could even make my way to the front of the small auditorium. All I knew was that he seemed attractive and interesting. I was quite glad to join him for dessert. So we went to a place where they served ice cream flambe. We traveled the well worn getting-to-know-you conversational paths until Howard resorted to describing the flaming dessert in order to keep the conversation going. He used large hand gestures and possibly sound effects. The question popped into my head and out of my mouth before I had a chance to filter it:
“Do you like the Muppets?” I asked.
It was the question that changed everything, because it led our conversation firmly away from careful territory and into geekland. We launched from Muppets into Battle Star Galactica (the original), through legos and into theories of creativity. Hours of non-stop conversation later the date finally ended, but the relationship did not.
Nineteen years and one month later Howard and I attended a late showing of the new Muppet Movie. It is a show filled with old corniness, new silliness, beloved songs, charming new songs, deep nostalgia for Muppet shows past, and stirring hope for Muppet shows yet to come. I laughed out loud and I cried, sometimes at the same time. Our kids can not possibly love this film as much as Howard and I do. They will completely miss the threads of nostalgia. They will not recognize the subtle details, like the fact that Miss Piggy’s outfits and hair styles where homages to Miss Piggy appearances past. Characters arrive without introduction because the film assumes the characters are all familiar. I greeted all these characters with delight, as long-absent friends, for my children they’re new. My kids will not instantly tear up by catching a glimpse of the photograph with Kermit and Jim Hensen. They will see this film with modern eyes and they may very well find it lacking. It is a very silly movie which only runs on Muppet logic. This is okay. They will have their own deep wells of nostalgia by the time they reach my age. Those wells will probably be sunk in other places. For tonight I’m just glad there is a new Muppet movie and I’m extra glad that all those years ago I happened to think of Muppets when watching Howard make an imaginary fireball using hand motions.