Achieving Greatness in the Year of the Goat

Last week, I got an email with the subject line “The Greatest Goats in Chinese History” and I couldn’t do another thing until I read it top to bottom. And I’m so glad I did because there was also a quiz: “Which Goat Are You?”

Before I get to that – because, trust me, it’s incredible – I’ll explain that the message was from Shen Yun Performing Arts, a Chinese dance company based in New York. I went to their show last winter and have been receiving fantastic emails ever since. This one marked the start of the Chinese New Year, which just so happens to be today, Feb. 19. As you have probably gathered, it is the Year of the Goat.

Anyway. Without further ado – what Goat am I? Cao Cao, the warlord and great military genius who is infamous for blocking a river with some 100,000 civilian corpses to avenge his father’s death. This, along with his adherence to the motto “I’d rather wrong others than allow them to wrong me!”, earned him a reputation as quite the villain. He’s not the best goat to identify with, but I’ll give him this: it sounds like he got shit done.

There’s this other Goat, Yue Fei, whom Shen Yun tries to pass off as the one you want to be. He was an especially courageous, charismatic general who also excelled at killing people in battle. Except, unlike Cao Cao, Yue Fei was able to win the “begrudging admiration of his enemies” and  lived by the principles of piety, humility and subordination. That’s all well and good – but guess what happened to Yue Fei? He answered a summons from his emperor even though he knew it was a trap and was executed. Say what you want about Cao Cao the villain, but I don’t think he would fall for that.

Anyway, my advice to you – besides taking the quiz to find out which goat you are – is to skip the Shen Yun performance. Even though all the ads say it’s “Spectacular!” it’s really not. At best, it is “Occasionally spectacular!” – and even then I would say you could probably get the highlights if you just watch the commercial.

Also, if you go the trailer route, you won’t risk having to sit next to a lunatic in the theater – which is what happened to me last year when the woman alongside me complained repeatedly that there was “too much Chinese” in the performance. As if to top herself, during intermission, she pulled out a paper bag, from which she then produced an  orange. You better believe she unpeeled and ate that fruit like a total goat right there in her seat at Lincoln Center.

Don’t think that’s an isolated incident. In December, when I went to see Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, I sat two seats away from a woman who suggested that I marry the man I went with. I have no idea why she thought he was such a catch because he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt at the time.

Now, in all fairness, the sweatshirt was at least partly my fault because I didn’t tell him where we were going that night and, also, I had texted him earlier in the day and told him to pack hiking boots, a towel and a whistle, if he had one. So, I understood his confusion, is what I’m saying – but this lady didn’t know any of that backstory. All she knew is what she saw – and that was a man who showed up at City Center wearing a zip up sweatshirt.

I wasn’t having her. And you know who else wouldn’t?

Cao Cao.

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