Merry. Marry. Mary.

You read these three words and, duh, obviously they have different meanings. (Oh, the joy of the English language and its many homophones!) But did you know that 57% of Americans pronounce these words exactly the same? Yep, according to a Harvard dialect survey, more than half of us utter all three of them as if they could rhyme with one another as precisely as they could rhyme with a wary, hairy, fairy. (You’re picturing one now, aren’t you? Ha!)

Any actor with a love of Shakespeare would cry foul, however, especially as relates to the difference between “merry” and “marry.” The former, they’d tell you, should have a “meh” sound to it and the latter should have a “mah” sound to it. (So, now you have something fun to try out the next time you go to a Christmasy wedding. You know you want to.)

For Mary Connell, protagonist of Ginna Hoben’s The Twelve Dates of Christmas, the conundrum inherent in these words goes a lot further. I mean, what if these words were hounding you through a year’s worth of holiday disasters? You can almost hear her being badgered by well-meaning yet sometimes overbearing family and friends:

“Marry, merry Mary!” – A command, perhaps?

“Mary, marry merry!” – Unsolicited advice?

“Merry Mary, Marry!” – A somewhat passive aggressive directive that suggests, Get married, yeah, but don’t forget to smile more!

As I’ve been getting to know Mary Connell to bring her story to the stage for Hoosier Shakes in November, I’ve found we have lots of things in common:

  • We both love food. (Um, is there any point in preparing for an event, activity, or just the day in general without planning it around a well-thought-out menu??)
  • We both rock at being awkward. (What is this “adulting” thing people keep talking about, anyway?)
  • We both do the whole actor’s life thing. (Ca-ching! Haha, I kid.)
  • Oh, and we’re both dating in our 30s. (Fun times, ya’all.)

Dating. It’s gotta have some end result, right? Marry, Mary! And boy howdy, dating and the holidays adds a whole level of extra-ness, doesn’t it? Because dating during the holidays means that you’re not just wading through the frogs on the way to finding the prince, but you’re also meant to be merry while you’re at it! And hey, don’t let any negative associations creep in from the frogs who have littered up some of those past holiday memories. Disassociate all that, be merry, and marry!

Mary goes on a bumpy ride through a year of dating, all while navigating holidays, complete with the expectations and rituals that come with them. Seriously, laughing at her dating mis-fires will be the salve to your own love life woes. Not assuming you have any such woes, of course. That would be rude. But if you do, or if 2020 has felt like a long, unhealthy relationship with a partner you just can’t seem to break up with, The Twelve Dates of Christmas will feel like a welcome tonic for all your grown groans.

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