The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess just took home a Tony award for best musical revival. If you were lucky enough to see it, you’re probably still thinking about how incredible the music, dance and acting were. But, did you ever think about why Bess gave up the good thing she had going on with Porgy down on Catfish Row in South Carolina?
Here are 3 reasons why Bess may have decided to leave Porgy which could also help you think through whether or not a good man could really satisfy you. If you don’t know the story line, the once-controversial opera, which depicts rural, poverty-stricken African-American life during the 1930’s, tells the love story between a crippled beggar (not everyone was getting the polio vaccine back in those days…) named Porgy and a sultry and beautiful but loose woman with a drug problem, Bess. When Bess’ no-account, abusive lover kills a man, Bess is wanted by the police, and she seeks refuge in the small, coastal community. But, no one will take her in except Porgy, who has never had a woman before in his life. Porgy offers Bess a stable relationship and a decent life, remaking her into a model citizen. Bess even takes on raising an infant orphaned by the hurricane, to complete her new family life with Porgy. So, why does Bess leave Porgy (and the baby) only after a few weeks of a blissful relationship to follow Sportin’ Life, a drug dealing, violence-prone pimp, to New York? And what does this have to do with you?
1. Feeling of Unworthiness – Bess seemed very happy with Porgy. Or at least, that’s what the musical makes you think. But, deep down she probably felt unworthy of Porgy’s love and kindness. And the community’s as well. She was a round peg in a square community. Bess had some issues with self-loathing and she probably felt she deserved to be treated badly. Yes, a little like the Battered Woman’s Syndrome. Bess wanted to move on but just couldn’t overcome and kick her past. Are you really ready to give up all those bad boys you’re dating? Deep down, do you feel that you deserve the love of a good man?
2. Sex with a cripple wasn’t all that great- Not to be cruel and insensitive, but maybe Porgy didn’t have the physical prowess to sexually satisfy Bess over the haul. Everyone in the community kept telling Porgy, “The Cripple can’t keep Bess.” Obviously, Porgy’s goodness and kindness had captured Bess’ heart. But, could it keep her sexual appetite satisfied? Bess was an experienced woman. She had had probably more men than you and I ever will and had known men who had given it to her good and rough. Soft, patient love might not have been Bess’ cup of tea. Can we really change our sex habits even for a good guy?
3. A stable relationship is great but do you really want to stay “down on the farm?” Who knows what Bess found when she followed Sportin’ Life up North. The opera leaves us guessing. Bess may have become a star at The Cotton Club for all we know. If she had stayed down on Catfish Row, Bess may not have reached her true potential. Good looks and strong seduction skills can go a long way in the big city. The constant go-go and thrill of New York City may have been able to keep Bess happy and away from drugs. Staying with Porgy and the orphaned baby might have held her back from reaching stardom. They say you can’t have it all: a great marriage, a successful career and a family. Something has to give.
Are you ready for the sacrifices having a good man may entail? Sure, the right guy could be supportive and encouraging enough to help you overcome your insecurities and bad habits. Security and stability could compensate for a ho-hum (or at best predictable) sex life as well as keep you satisfied with routine family life. But, successful relationships are built on compromise. A good man will want you to be good to him, too, which means giving up a few things on your end. And if you feel you need to completely devote your attention to you to reach your true potential, hanging around with a good man may not be good enough for you.
Think about it.