|Source: Wikimedia Commons|
I mean the song, The Way You Look Tonight. Can we just talk about this song for a minute? It came up this week on my Discover Weekly Spotify playlist (which, by the way, have been getting more and more into the "adult contemporary" category - something I'm not sure how I feel about, but that's my burden), and I have some questions. My questions are all variations of "why is it, exactly, that everyone thinks this is some kind of super romantic song?"
Okay, so let's set the scene. It's a man singing to his lady (although I guess it could easily be reversed, it's famous mostly from dudes) telling her how beautiful she looks (tonight) and how he'll always remember it and (here's the kicker) that he hopes she'll always look like this.
I am going to make some assumptions, and my assumptions might be wrong, but judging from the situations where this song comes up, I think I'm pretty close to the spirit of the song has taken on.
I assume that the woman in the song is not hanging out at home after a long day's work in her leggings with her hair in a messy bun. I assume that this is on a special date night. One of those nights where you both put a little extra effort in. Maybe it's an anniversary or a birthday or an attempt to rekindle a little romance, but whatever it is, she's wearing a nice dress, maybe one she bought just for this occasion. She has put a couple of hours into bathing, exfoliating, and lotioning herself before even starting on the hair and make up, which she also took extra time to perfect. He is wearing a suit and, because this is how dressing up works, that and shaving is all he had to do to get fancy.
So it's a special night.
They go somewhere nice, like one of those restaurants with candles on the table, cloth napkins, and a jazz band playing with a dance floor in front where couples are actually dancing. I've only seen these kinds of restaurants in movies, so I assume that if they really exist they are in New York or LA. This couple is, therefore, in New York or LA.
They start dancing, and he is struck by the beauty and grace of the woman in his arms and how lucky he is to have her. He wants to tell her how he feels, so he quietly tells her that she is so beautiful.
That's very nice. She put effort into looking beautiful, so it feels good to know that he appreciates it.
Then he tells her he will never forget this night, how beautiful she looks this night.
That's nice, too. This moment will be emblazoned on his memory, that's how wonderful it is. Thanks, honey.
He keeps talking and slowly, she realizes that every time he says that he loves her, he follows it with "and the way you look tonight", and she starts to wonder - wait, does he love me, or does he just love the way I look tonight? Is his love for me wrapped up only in how I look? Specifically, how I look on this night when I put in hours of work to look this way? I kind of hope he loves me otherwise as well. Okay, okay, don't worry. He's just trying to be nice and romantic. Don't read too much into it.
Then, so caught up in her beauty, he keeps going. He goes on to ask her to never ever change, to keep this "breathless charm", and to "please arrange it", because he loves her, "just the way she looks tonight."
Hold on a second.
She pauses on the dance floor and pulls slightly away from him. Wait, she wonders to herself, did he just say "never never change"? Is he actually hoping I'll be like this forever? Because I'm going to change because a) I will age and that's just a thing that happens and b) this is an impractical amount of time to spend on my looks every day. The reason my charm is "breathless" is because this dress is a little too tight and I can only take very shallow breaths. Did he just ask me to "please arrange it" that I am always like THIS because he loves me JUST like this? Okay, I know he's still trying to be nice, but it's really starting to sound like he expects me to always be effortlessly gorgeous and charming and tender and never have any bad days or let him see me without make up, because I need to always please him like I do tonight. Because now I am really thinking that his love and admiration for me is, indeed, directly tied to how much work I put into my appearance and that seems not so cool.
Then he repeats a couple of times "just the way you look tonight", making it very clear that, yes, he is mostly just enthralled with her current appearance and hopes he never sees her in sweatpants with her hair in a messy bun again. While she's at it, could she never be grumpy and always be tender and have that cute nose-wrinkling laugh instead of that loud guffaw that comes out when she watches Kimmy Schmidt?
I mean, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe that song is really about her on a lazy Saturday morning when they've just woken up and are lounging in bed and she's wearing an oversized t-shirt with her hair all messy and a little bit of make up left over from the night before and is joking about spider farts and he just thinks "yes, this is the woman I love, this is all I want in life."
Except even then, he is kind of being demanding, don't you think, by asking her to always be this ideal version of herself? Isn't part of the point of having a life partner that you get to sometimes just relax around each other? Or am I way off base there?
OKAY, FUN FACT! I just finished writing this and then looked up images, and came across the song in its original context: in the film Swing Time, Fred Astaire sings it to Ginger Rogers to woo her while she is in the other room washing her hair. She is so touched by the song she come out, mid-wash, to listen. The joke, of course, is that after he finishes singing this song about how beautiful she looks, he looks at her, and (wait for it...) her hair is all full of shampoo! She doesn't look beautiful because her hair is no longer coifed! He is so surprised and she is embarrassed! HILARIOUS!