At some point in high school, “I Want to Be Happy” became one of the songs my friends and I sang to each other. I’m not sure how we picked it up — there was no production of No, No Nanette in our area — although it somehow originated with me.

It’s a pretty simple song — verse, chorus, bridge with the simplest of rhyme schemes and rhythms. The message is pretty straightforward: “I want to be happy, but I won’t be happy, till you can be happy too.” What a lovely sentiment.

Of course, that’s not so easy. For one thing, in the context of the play, it’s used as a totally insincere pickup line. But in real life, there are times when the happiness of others works against our own.

I think you know where I’m going here.

When any of us cares about someone, of course we want him to be happy. Unless his happiness is contingent on our own unhappiness. If his happiness means, say, breaking off a relationship with me, then my happiness might depend on, say, him being totally miserable with that decision.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve always preferred Rodgers & Hart to Vincent Youmans.

(Too dark? Of course, I ultimately hope that if I can’t convince him that he will be happy with me, I want to find a way to be happy with his happiness elsewhere. But I believe today is the day I’m moving from denial to anger (what up, EKR!), so there you have it.)

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About itsdlevy

I live in Brooklyn with my cat, Rhoda Morgenstern. I work in Manhattan as the marketing director for a Jewish non-profit organization. I spend too much time at the theater and at brunch and especially at 54 Below. Find me on Twitter (and pretty much anywhere else) as @itsdlevy.

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