“Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide.”
When driving an eleven year old girl to school each morning you have to make some concessions. Ten minutes of pop music shouldn’t be so bad, right? The problem is (ask my ex-husband) that I find it impossible to take off my social critic hat. Movies, books, TV, ads are all fair game–all the time (I just sent an email to Diamond Crystal Salt praising them for their silly but cute radio ads about a husband and a wife who actually seem to love each other–and Diamond Crystal Salt, of course).
My soon-to-be daughter is beginning to find this part of my personality exhausting.
Oh, I don’t know what you’ve been told
But this gal right here’s gonna rule the world
Yeah, that is where I’m gonna be because I wanna be
No, I don’t wanna sit still, look pretty
You get off on your 9 to 5
Dream of picket fences and trophy wives
But no, I’m never gonna be ’cause I don’t wanna be
No, I don’t wanna sit still look pretty
Mr. Right could be nice for one night
But then he wanna take control
And I would rather fly solo
That Snow White
She did right
In her life
Had 7 men to do the chores
‘Cause that’s not what a lady’s for
The only thing a boy’s gonna give a girl for free’s captivity
After hearing Sit Still and Look Pretty by Daya about a million times I ask daughter if she understands what the song is about.
“Love?” she replies tentatively.
I turn the radio down. “Nope. It’s actually about hating boys and men.”
“I just like the tune,” my daughter says.
“Yeah, it’s catchy, but the singer has a warped sense of reality if she thinks: The only thing a boy’s gonna give a girl for free’s captivity.”
“What does captivity mean?” daughter asks.
“It means the boy wants to trap and control you.”
“I think that boy Josh in Ms. Wood’s class is nice, don’t you?” She likes to deflect to happier thoughts but I can’t let it go.
“So this catchy little tune is making you think boys are a waste of time and that looking pretty is stupid.”
Daughter looks as if I’ve robbed her of her dream. “So this doesn’t mean you won’t let me wear make up when I’m in high school, does it?”
“No, that’s not what I’m saying. My point is that you can’t believe everything a pop song says. If you think a bunch of elves are gonna clean up after you, you’re mistaken.”
“I like the dentist elf best,” she says.
She turns the music back up. Her favorite song Closer is playing and we both sing along (because it so super catchy). If you haven’t heard the song it’s about a guy and girl who haven’t seen each other for 4 years. They hook up for the night in the back of the girl’s Range Rover that she can’t afford like the tattoo on her shoulder. Later they spend time on a stolen mattress.
Just before we get to school this comes on:
And if you feel you’re sinking,
I will jump right over into cold, cold water for you
And although time may take us into different places
I will still be patient with you
And I hope you know
I won’t let go
I’ll be your lifeline tonight
I won’t let go
I’ll be your lifeline tonight
Cause we all get lost sometimes, you know?
It’s how we learn and how we grow
And I wanna lay with you ’til I’m old
You shouldn’t be fighting on your own.
Yes, this is a Justin Beiber song. It mentions getting high at the beginning, but you can’t have everything in pop music.
My daughter turns to me and says, “That boy Justin.”
I nod. “Yeah. That boy.”
*** Featured image from really funny article: UNHAPPY MOTHERS IN WESTERN ART HISTORY
AND . . . if you like reading stories about messy relationships . . .
Hetty Green was a famously shrewd investor on Wall Street when women still had to sneak “a growler” at the back door of a saloon. Having been to enough bars in my early 20’s to witness drunken women collapsed in dark corners with their skirts up I sometimes wonder if bringing the tradition of women drinking at home back might be a good idea. 😉
Hetty was a Quaker so maybe she didn’t drink. She was miserly, too, so probably wouldn’t have paid for a martini (invented during the Gold Rush, btw).
When her father died he left Hetty a fortune to invest. She’d opened her first bank account at age 8 and read to her blind grandfather all the financial news of the day so was well prepared for taking her place among the Wall Street warlocks of the day. Her dying father suggested that he’d been poisoned by someone seeking his fortune and that Hetty should expect the same.
What can we say about misers?
“Hetty Green’s stinginess was legendary. She was said never to turn on the heat or use hot water. She wore one old black dress and undergarments that she changed only after they had been worn out, did not wash her hands and rode in an old carriage. She ate mostly pies that cost fifteen cents. One tale claims that Green spent half a night searching her carriage for a lost stamp worth two cents. Another asserts that she instructed her laundress to wash only the dirtiest parts of her dresses (the hems) to save money on soap.” WIKIPEDIA
Eccentric men of history abound and some probably didn’t wash their hands. I fear women sometimes don’t like being harshly judged as men often are. My sons recover more quickly from dressings down by rivals and friends than my daughters do. It seems Hetty didn’t suffer fools lightly, but modern women tend to take real offense at being called horrible names. It’s as if they feel they should be treated better than men somehow.
Hetty made sure when marrying to get her spendthrift investor husband to renounce all rights to her fortune. Being such a cool-headed woman of finance who bought low and sold high, who kept tons of cash on hand to swoop in during panics to buy up other people’s heartache and who was even called upon by the city of New York to lend money to keep the metropolis afloat more than once, I wonder what the attraction to her husband was. I suspect she was drawn to his lack of control for a time. The marriage failed.
But as people say, the marriage wasn’t a complete failure. They raised two beautiful children (don’t you kind of hate that saying? I’d still prefer not to have had a failed marriage).
Hetty’s son broke his leg as a child. Hetty was rich but wanted to save money so she brought Ned to a free clinic for the poor. They screwed up his leg and after much pain and suffering (on the part of poor Ned) his leg was amputated.
An independent woman making wise investments on Wall Street is admirable (if you don’t mind preying on weakness, greed and stupidity in some cases), but being such a cheapskate with your own children seems kind of witchy to me.
MORE ABOUT HETTY GREEN
This is a hard thing to do, isn’t it? My characters struggle. They wonder if God is good. They wonder if people can be good. They often turn away from God (or try to forget about Him completely) like the first garden inhabitants who hid in shame with a new awareness of good and evil.
Even the best humans have dark hearts (some would take issue with the word BEST ). Anne Lamont once wrote how easy it was for her to slip from elevated thoughts of God down to heated arguments with her son over trivial matters.
Despite this I find real and imagined humans lovable. I wonder if I’d love them more without their hang ups and flaws. It’s a silly thought since perfection is impossible in this life. How is love so powerful even when we only do it fair to middling? The tiniest drop of it ignites huge cravings even in the steeliest of people (though some of us tend to seek love out in troubling and destructive ways).
There are a few characters of mine who seem to have fallen completely under dark spells, but in those dark places lie hidden hurts and desperate attempts at numbing those longings that have so often met with abuse and neglect.
I’m not so naive to think the world can change with a song and a Coke. Some people choose a path of darkness and willfully blind themselves to everything else, but most people just struggle. Those people are the ones I like to write about.
**featured image from Pinterest
ENTER THE GOODREADS GIVEAWAY! (The winner gets the much prettier new cover)
A fun link!
May I suggest a very American book?
I don’t believe in randomness. Without a plan, I’m a basket case. I tried living the free life of self-indulgence and ended up drunkenly climbing an eight foot, chain-link fence to retrieve my shoe, leaving much of my wrist caught in a bloody mess at the top when I jumped. I told my family that I’d just taken too much ginseng from the health food store. They believed what they wanted to believe.
When writing a novel I allow for randomness, but only as an exercise. The rough draft can have its self-indulgent freedom, but as the creator I know that at some point there’s something more purposeful going on–even if it takes me a bit of time to find it (after a while you know a writer’s style. Their fingerprints are all over it–intelligent design).
Randomly (or not) I came across two books that all at once have given me a deeper context for my favorite fictional twins–Fred and Buck Crenshaw. The two books have nothing to do with the Gilded Age and everything to do with how we view our lives in the 21st century. I don’t mind cliches if they’re useful. The notion of Fred and Buck moving into opposing philosophical camps didn’t come to me immediately. I was more going for strong twin leading weak twin, but Buck broke free (sort of) and now, upon second reading of book two, I have so much more juicy stuff to throw in. Fred is a modernist and Buck is a throwback to Christendom. Is one thing better than the other? As creator I have my suspicions, but here’s a few juicy quotes to ponder from one of the books I’ve read:
“Before Darwin, we thought that a benevolent god had created us. No intervening spirit watches lovingly over the affairs of nature. No vital forces propel evolutionary change. And whatever we think of God, his existence is not manifest in the products of nature.” Stephen Jay Gould
“Genocide, of course, is merely a shocking name for the process of natural selection by which one gene pool replaces another. Darwin himself explained this in The Descent of Man, when he had to deal with the absence of ‘missing links’ between ape and human. Such gaps were to be expected, he wrote, in view of the extinctions that necessarily accompany evolution. He coolly predicted that evolution would make the gaps wider in the future, because the most civilized (that is, European) humans would soon exterminate the rest of the human species and go on from there to kill off our nearest kin in the ape world.
“Modern Darwinists do not call attention to such passages, which make vivid how easily the picture of amoral nature inherent in evolutionary naturalism can be converted into a plan of action. Darwin’s foremost original disciple, T.H. Huxley, also had no sentimental illusions about the moral meaning of Darwinism. When he had taken a deep enough bath in the implications of the Darwinian worldview, Huxley emerged with the conclusion that morality consists of opposing nature rather than imitating it.”
“Even the nihilistic position that morality is an illusion and law should therefore concern itself solely with utility is a statement about “how things really are” and therefore a proposition of natural law.”
“The Christian story is one of human beings who are created by God, but who are separated from God by their own sin and must be saved from that sin to become what they were meant to be. the Enlightenment rationalist story is one of human beings who escape from superstition by mastering scientific knowledge and eventually realize that their ancestors created God rather than the other way around.” Reason in the Balance by Phillip E. Johnson
So I’m all ears. I’d love to know what people find the most appealing and/or appalling about either modernist or ancient theist thinking. Gut reactions are useful and no opinion is too shocking. What do you think?
And don’t forget to enter. 🙂 Don’t worry. The winner gets the new cover and new edition.(Goodreads is taking it’s time fixing the mistake of posting my new cover under a different author’s list of freezer meal books!) Random craziness.