Playing Second Fiddle – Six Short Interviews With Second Fiddle Players
Playing second fiddle
‘Playing second fiddle’ is a phrase we use to explain a person’s position when it is subordinate to the position of someone else, or in other words, to explain that a person is less important or in a weaker position than someone else.
The underlying tone of this phrase is bitterness, sadness, or ridicule.
However, in an orchestra the second fiddle player is just as important as the first fiddle player. Leonard Bernstein, celebrated orchestra conductor, explained: “The hardest instrument to play is the second fiddle. I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm, now that’s a problem. And yet, if no one plays second, we have no harmony.’”
Interviews with second fiddle players
Desmond is the father of two children. “Ever since the birth of the oldest I am playing second fiddle,” he complained quite agitated. “According to my wife, the kids are more important than I.”
My advice to Desmond: “Your wife’s behavior is known as mother’s instinct. You will see this everywhere in nature. The female attracts the male only when her body is in a state of oestrus, in other words, when her body is ready for insemination – or, in the case of humans, also when she has a psychological need to survive in a more comfortable environment. Whatever, when she gets what she wanted she will give it the first fiddle to play. Sorry, but she needs a good second fiddle player in her orchestra, and of course, you were her best choice. Now, dear Desmond, you, too, have a choice. Either you play the second fiddle properly in order to be first in line when those first fiddle players leave the orchestra, or you find yourself another conductor. Always remember, women seek harmony.”
Debbie fell in love with one of a pair of twins. “Carl’s twin-brother is everything in his life. There is absolutely no way I will ever get the opportunity to play the first fiddle in Carl’s orchestra. But, apart from not being first in his life, I have nothing to complain about. Whenever I need something, I get it from both.” Blushing she assured me that she only sleeps with Carl.
My advice to Debbie: “Actually, you have butter and jam on both sides of your bread. You will notice in reality that most men, once they have annexed half of a woman’s bed, stop dancing to a woman’s tune. Or let me stick to the orchestra – they take their position as first fiddle player in your orchestra for granted. Good for you, you have a second fiddle player in Carl's brother. So, conduct your orchestra, girl. Don’t be a fool. I know Carl’s brother is a plumber. Believe me, he will be too eager to renovate your ugly bathroom. Fact is, as long as men don’t share your bed, they’ll keep on impressing you with the tools you allow them to use.
Angela’s story is a bit complicated: “I play second fiddle to my boyfriend’s ex-wife and children. Please note, both children are adults. Although he lives in his own house – unfortunately across the street from his ex – she acts like a wife sharing his bed. Whenever she gets the idea that she is losing him to another woman, or whenever she doesn’t receive the support she needs, she turns his life into a hell by treating him in co-operation with their children with the utmost disdain. When her children visit, he has to pretend that he is still the man in the house, the perfect father, the perfect husband, as the in-laws may not know the truth. My boyfriend is not the type of man who can live with himself while his children hate and disrespect him. He will sacrifice his own needs in exchange for their love and respect. So I have no choice but to enjoy and appreciate his love and all the goodness he shares with me. To kiss him off would be like cut my nose to spite my face. After all, at my age I no longer need a husband or a father for my children, I simply need a friend with benefits.”
My advice to Angela: “Well, it seems to me you have no desire to play the first fiddle in your boyfriend’s orchestra. So, enjoy the music!”
Jasmin’s pets play the first fiddle, explained her husband, George. “I cannot take her anywhere, because according to Jasmin the pets can’t stay alone at home and nobody is good enough to take care of them on her behalf. I feel lonely and trapped, while my buddies tour the world with their mates.”
My advice to George: “For heavens sake, what is the world in your eyes? Only Jasmin? Get up and do what you feel like doing. Let her take care of her pets; I bet she doesn’t need your help. Come-on, don’t be her pet - a two-legged parrot in an open cage!” (I was so disgusted, I forgot to compare him with a lousy, discontented second fiddle player. After all, he should realize that playing in an orchestra is an honor and opportunity to make beautiful music.)
Carmen’s husband is a doctor. “I will always be less important than my husband’s patients. I am so tired of playing second fiddle to them,” she moaned.
My advice to her: “Practice your solos, girl. Just delight him with your ability to play the fiddle better than any other fiddle player. Prove to him that you are supposed to play the first fiddle, but that you are well aware of the fact that Someone Up There has given him an assembled orchestra to conduct. In other words, don’t be selfish and narrow-minded. You are blessed!”
Kathy complained: “At work I play second fiddle to another woman. I am better trained than she, and I have more experience, but our boss gives her all the important work while I have to take care of the boring stuff.”
My advice to Kathy: “The conductor’s score contains all the scores in the orchestra, while you know only your own score, which is but only a small part of an entire symphony. Without you, or rather without the part you are playing, the symphony may be tenuous. In other words, Kathy, shut-up and play your fiddle. Be grateful for having a fiddle to play with. My hat off to the conductor. Giving a magnificent performance that requires the co-operation of many musicians is a task beyond our comprehension.”
What prevents people from playing second fiddle with great finesse?
Egoism – Egoists are selfish and egocentric creatures who are not able to see themselves as part of a network. The pursuit of their own welfare, and even at the cost of others, is their mission in life. They want ALL or NOTHING. In their universe they want to be the only sun orbited by smaller suns and planets. This is the kind of people who demand - instead of earn - loyalty, respect and love. Egoists are most of the time unhappy and discontented, unless they are manipulative dictators surrounded by weak and chinless people.
Greed and Possessiveness – Greed is a little monster living in all human beings. It thrives on gratified desires. The more gratified desires it gets, the more it wants to possess. People who are not able to control this little monster will never be able to play the second fiddle in tune. In fact, they will not even be able to play the first fiddle in tune, as in the position of the first fiddle player their desire to be the conductor will keep them incompetent. Eventually they will be incompetent conductors, as they have never managed to obtain a sense of harmony.
Envy – For some reason some people never come to terms with their unique self and their true needs. Their personal circumstances always seem to be unfortunate, or even fortunate. When they are not envious of others, they walk with their noses in the air, looking down on the less fortunate, thinking ‘for the love of God there goes I.” Envious people are lousy fiddle players.
“Those who refuse to play second fiddle may wind up playing no fiddle at all.” - Mason Cooley
“It needs more skill than I can tell to play the second fiddle well.” - C.H. Spurgeon
“Be good friends who love deeply, practice playing second fiddle.” - Romans 12:10
© Martie Coetser
Reviewing my life, I must admit that I once had the marvelous opportunity to play the first fiddle, but then the conductor proved himself incompetent. I was compelled to take over his baton and allow him to play the first fiddle. But, oh dear, he couldn't cope. So I moved him to second fiddle player. Fortunately he decided not to play at all, and I was compelled to deliver a symphony with him sitting in my orchestra like a papule on a beauty-queen’s nose. Eventually my time to present symphonies came to an end. Ever since then I play the second fiddle in orchestras with finesse, because being in the limelight, either as conductor or first fiddle player, demands energy I now prefer to spend on myself.
As long as the conductor’s happy with my performance, I am happy.
But yes, being an esteemed first violin player is any person's dream!
© 2014 Martie Coetser