Sunday, December 9, 2007

Learning to face the music

A few weeks ago I did something that would have mortified my teen-aged self.

I listed as one of my favorites, a song performed by a *gasp* country music group.

It was in this post in which I responded to a Crazy Eights meme by revealing eight songs I could listen to over and over. One of them: Landslide by the Dixie Chicks.

Now that might not seem like a shocking or mortifying admission to you, but for me it was a big deal indeed. It meant I was finally free of the notion that my social status and my very worth as a human being was inextricably linked to the genre of music to which I listened: yes, aging does have its advantages.

I grew up in a tiny village north of Toronto where many teenagers, including me, spent their formative years dreaming of bright lights and the big city. In our eyes, the more you disdained small town life, the more likely you were destined for something better. And in our small town country music ruled, therefore hatred of it was automatic and unwavering.

No matter where you grew up you'll probably agree that the genre of music you listened to during high school and the years following was a powerful way to establish your identity. Professing a love of a certain type of music and becoming knowledgable about it was like slipping on a pre-fabricated identity that clearly said to others: this is what I value, this is whom I am.

For a lot of high school I adopted a hyper-preppy persona in honour of a girl a few years older than me who I thought was the coolest thing to walk the planet. ( Echo and the Bunnymen or Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, anyone?). In my senior years, I became more comfortable in my own skin, settling into an image of myself as a rebel, rocker chick who naturally favored Led Zeppelin and Ozzy Osbourne.

When I set off for university I hit the road for a city five hours distant with a massive beat-up pickup truck and a finely-honed rocker babe persona. I blasted Guns and Roses and Metallica all the way there and my arrival caused a minor sensation among the girls I was rooming with.

Even into my 20s music continued to define me and the people I surrounded myself with. The coolest of the cool guys were always up on the hottest indie bands and their preferred mode of seduction was an invitation back to their place to hear the obscure Icelandic export they had excavated from some dingy, alternative record shop off Yonge Street.

I'm not exactly sure when the music itself started to become more important than what the music represented. I remember having a revelation about seven years ago when Rob and I crowded into a small downtown club during the North by North East music festival. It had been a while since we'd made an effort to check out the latest thing and I had it on good authority that the band playing that night had the hipster stamp of approval.

We had a few years on most of the brooding, street-wise crowd in the dark, smoke-filled room (yes, you could still smoke in bars back then) but I was flush with excitement and convinced we fit in just fine.

Until the music started.

A few minutes passed before we realized it wasn't a sound check we were hearing. When the singer started shrieking the third song in atonal Japanese we exchanged a long glance.

"Let's get the hell outta here," Rob said. "This is crap."

Ten-dollar cover charge be damned, we headed for the door where the oh-so-young and stylin' guy at the door smirked dismissively. Rob looked him right in the eye.

"Buddy," he said. "I know music. This is just crap."

As good as it felt to walk out that door, I felt a little sad later. I felt sad because I knew I was walking away from a crutch that I had relied on almost all my life. In saying that I was mature enough to discern whether I actually enjoyed the music the cool kids were listening to, I was walking away from that gloriously, youthful part of myself that would happily be swept up in the excitement of the next big thing.

I am now officially too old to be swept unthinkingly away by music or anything else just because I aspire to be the type of person associated with it.

In fact, very little can sweep me away these days - I'm too strong. I have roots and a foundation. Perspective. A unapologetic sense of what I like and what I don't.

I like the Dixie Chicks. I love the White Stripes. I also like Jamiriqui, Jimmy Buffet, Eminem, Stevie Wonder, Blink 182, Green Day, the Dance Hall Crashers and a hundred other great musicians and bands from every genre.

But I do not like atonal Japanese poseurs. That's just crap.

*Cross-posted in Shooting for Hip at Mommyblogstoronto. Have you checked out that site yet? It's got tons of great stuff. Go look. Go on - Git!*

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17 comments:

Kellan said...

This was a great post and so true! I have always listened to country, but as a kid and young adult I did also feel that part of my identy was wrapped up in the music I listened too. I love my twins because they just listen to the music they love and it is a little bit of this and little bit of that - they don't seem to care what others think of their choices and often turn their friends onto their favorite music or artists - that's cool. Hope you had a good weekend - see ya. Kellan

slouching mom said...

I thought Dixie Chicks was only SORT OF country.

Kristen said...

Gosh this is some terrific writing! and something I can relate to. My music tastes have never been more eclectic than they are now, and I love the freedom of age to be myself.

Laura said...

Funny how we broaden our listening pleasures as we get older...and perhaps wiser? I love how you hit the right note (hee hee) with the fact that we sometimes define ourselves and our identity with our music...demonstrating how that medium is so powerful.
Awesome post!

Family Adventure said...

Brilliant post.

That's why I try to go easy on my kids and their one-track minds when it comes to music now. I'm just waiting for them to come around...

Heidi :)

MommyK said...

My husband was mortified when he learned that one of the first songs I downloaded from iTunes was 'U Can't Touch This' by MC Hammer. I guess he doesn't get that the song totally reminds me of a simpler time in my life. Besides, it's funny and my three year old thinks it is a riot!

I transferred from private Catholic school to public school in the 6th grade, and I knew no one. I remember faking it that I knew who Nine Inch nails were, because to admit that I didn't know would have been an automatic admission of uncoolness.

GoMommy said...

I think alot of what I listened to/wore was influenced by the "cool crowd". God, it probably makes me a dork by referring to it as the "cool crowd"-at least I didn't say "square" or "clique". Sometimes I think I'm uber-cool for loving songs by Fallout Boy or Panic! at the Disco...then I listen to my Elton John Greatest Hits CD...Don't go breakin' my heart!
PS-Colds are cool..hope you feel better!

Anne said...

Isn't it funny how music, when you are young, is like fashion? The group I hung out with listened to a lot of punk and ska music and made fun of anyone into mainstream anything. Even then, I was like, "hello? You are all conformist non-conformists!"

I have The Carpenters Greatest Hits. Don't tell anyone!

OHmommy said...

Awesome post. I can relate. Brilliant writing!!!

crazymumma said...

I love the Dixie Chicks version, but nothing can beat Stevie Nicks.

As for country. Love it. Lucinda Williams brings itt o the tanle like no one else, and how about Mr Cash, and Bonnie Raitt and Neil young and Fred Eaglesmith.

But i likes me a music mix up as well, some hard rock and nasty eminem makes my world go round as well.

Beck said...

For me, letting go of my musical image of myself was one of the big signs that I'd grown up/gotten old.

Mac and Cheese said...

I started struggling with about five years ago. Suddenly, I hated all the "alternative" stuff I lisented to every day in my car. Now I like what I like, and often feel a little embarrassed about it. My husband's tastes are even worse, so we're just waiting until our daughter is old enough to make fun of us.

painted maypole said...

that sounds terrible!

one of the great things about living near New Orleans is discovering all the local music. there's a lot of good stuff here!

Laural Dawn said...

I can totally relate to this! And, I have to admit that I'm super excited that Spice Girls have reunited. And, at the ripe old age of 29 I'm finally admitting that!!!

MBA Mommy said...

I gave up this battle a long time ago. My mom always listened to country and I'd think...man, what IS that noise? Now I have two country stations programmed into my car radio. Go figure. I've become my mother. Which is frightening on so many levels....

Gabriella said...

Ok since we're all sharing some of our musical choices that we may not have told anyone, in between my metal and goth albums I have Britney & the Spice Girls. Shameful haha..but I love it!

Karen MEG said...

What a great post!!!! I've always sort of defined myself by the music too (yeah, I guess I would have been one of those seniors in High school who loved Echo & OMD... but I was already in university then, I'm that ancient!).
And now I'm into all that hip hop, top 40 stuff, which is really bugging my husband (although he does admit to liking some Kanye west). This is from Cure Afficionados.
But I also love Landslide by the Dixie Chicks. And not afraid to admit it, dig?
You're too funny!