Woke up with the oddest song in my head. Odd to have a song in my head at all; there’s no grocery store music or elevator music or other-people’s-car-at-a-red-light music to overhear, out here.
Had a few beers, gettin’ high, sitting watching the time go by, uh-huh — it ain’t no big thing
(It’s still a pretty awful and awfully-sung song at this point, but then it gets kind of magical:)
But I know what I like
I know I like dancin’ with you
And I know what you like
I know you like dancin’ with me
Dancin’ with me
(Then it gets kind of awful again for the chorus, but in a forgivable way:)
Kiss me once! Kiss me twice! Come on pretty baby, kiss me deadly!
Lita Ford. Sometimes I wonder if I have more music loop through my head than the average person. I was just brushing my hair out, yesterday, and realized consciously that, unconsciously, a sing-song refrain had been running through my mind for who knows how long, and it wasn’t very good, and I don’t know how it got there. I used to whistle a lot, especially in the kitchen, in a way that was initially natural but then silly and performative after it was commented upon. I would just whistle little tunes that organically arose, and I was rarely on the nose with pitch. Then I got braces (my turning-40 gift to myself) and since they were removed, I haven’t been able to whistle more than a few shreds.
Anyway, the interesting thing about waking up with Lita Ford in my head is that she’s not very good, the song is not very good, but there is this wonderful moment in it. I mean, her actual voice, singing about sitting watching the time go by, is a bad singing voice. Then, when she talks about dancing together, her actual voice becomes better, only for that moment, because that’s the best moment of the song. It’s odd how we can like — not even entire songs, but tiny fragments of songs, in such a powerful way.
Another song I spent way too much time thinking about, on a fire — I’d forgotten all about it and then it re-occurred to me, so I pulled it up on YouTube — is Redneck Crazy. Nick, and probably the rest of the world, takes this song utterly at face value, and is bemused that I’d feel into it whatsoever. I really do, though. It’s a typical modern country offering, a little more up-tempo than a ballad (country songs are intended for country dancing, and once you realize this, they somehow make more sense), with the almost mandatory verse / chorus / verse / chorus / bridge / chorus chorus structure. If songs on the radio don’t have that structure, then it’s because they’re winking at that structure and whatever part is left out is simply implied: like verse / chorus / instrumental / bridge / chorus chorus chorus maybe.
Nick used to make me laugh so hard in the gym, in Albuquerque — they subjected everyone to god awful music (and I’ll get back to Redneck Crazy, don’t worry). Nick would “call” the next gesture of the song, on songs he’s never heard, simply because they were so formulaic: “Quarter notes; eighth notes; 32nd notes; 64th notes; 128th notes; BASS,” and then he’d make a big farting sound with his mouth and turn his attention back to the exercise. That’s pretty much how those “club mixes” go. As usual, my default was more prone to accept that songs commercially viable enough to somehow have made it to the gym mix were probably good in some sense, and if I didn’t like it, maybe that was just me — I’m so hyper-subjective by accident sometimes, it doesn’t even occur to me to just say something sucks — and so the acid bath of Nick’s disdain about music in the gym, in Taco Bell, coming out of other people’s cars, was alarming at first but then got pretty funny, to be honest. “Ah, the clickin’ bullshit,” he’d say, faux-appreciatively. “Now the mumble lyrics come in. One single line repeated over and over. Can’t understand a fuckin word of it. Yeah. Perfect.” He’s right! Like half the music I overhear is exactly that. Gah, what a world. Or, the egregious vocal heroics of the…is it this generation’s version of R&B?…not sure what to call it, honestly, but with female vocalists. The male vocalists are, as in the example before, simply mumbling incomprehensibly, but the female vocalists are just…doin’ it as hard as it’s ever been done. “The turkey gobbling song” was one frequent flyer on the gym’s playlist. It was a female vocalist doing things that vocally are…impressive?, but also like why? Just perfornamentation (kind of like my silly whistling, of yore — also, I just coined that word), to the point that it actually sounded like a turkey gobbling, during the chorus. Which is interestingly coherent with gender messaging on social media platforms, particularly Instagram, which has been self-tasked to be our cultural gender messaging HQ. Women: hair augmentation thingies, eyelashes out to here, sparkly eyeshadow, sparkly contact lenses (that’s a thing now), glitter skin powder, exaggerated (literally with editing) hourglass proportions, layers of jewelry, tatters of clothing, padded undergarments that actually make your ass and haunches look bigger. We’ve exited the era of mere pushup bras and we’re in the era of actual styrofoam ass enhancement, for those who can’t afford actual surgical ass enhancement. I’m not hating, just observing. Then for men, it’s like: here’s my hoodie. Struttin in my hoodie. So, vocal styles parallel exactly that. Mumbling unintelligibly versus turkey gobbling.
Anyway, back to Redneck Crazy, by Tyler Farr, there’s something so interesting about this song about a jilted lover’s masculine performance of his hurt emotions:
I’m gonna lean my headlights into your bedroom window
Throw empty beer cans at both of your shadows
I didn’t come here to start a fight, but I’m up for anything tonight
You know you broke the wrong heart baby
And drove me redneck crazy
The bridge goes:
Did you think I’d wish you both the best
Tender love and happiness
You know that’s just not the kind of man I am
I’m the kind who shows up at your house at 3am
I think this song delights me so much because, well, from a craft standpoint it’s just a solid country offering, well-conceived and well-executed. You know — the basics, where a comfortably formulaic structure imparts a single emotional message you can authentically feel. But more importantly, I can somehow just imagine being in a classroom full of feminists ten and fifteen years younger than me — the “Women and Women’s Literature” class I had in grad school comes to mind, where it was not okay to reference Ayn Rand, or to apparently be any version of myself — and the evisceration that this song would receive, the layers of toxic, threatened masculinity and implied violence and sexual possessiveness, and, and, and.
Aw, he can’t amount to much
By the looks of that little truck
Well he won’t be gettin any…
I can’t explain why, I just love it. I love this song about a man who’s been thrown over, showing up and essentially bullying the furtive couple, creating a dilemma for the new male — whether to take the “high road” and hide in the house, probably losing a degree of the female’s interest as a result (no matter what women say, they’re not into that), or coming out and fighting with an understandably enraged wounded party, which might not go well.
Thank god I’m not in college right now, or expected to be woke in any fashion, as a function of my job. I just couldn’t make it. Loving Redneck Crazy is proof of that.
I remember the first time in my life an aggressive male ever stood up for me. I was in Texas, walking out of a country bar after last call, I’d been dancing all night, and it was like 2 in the morning. My large handsome date was behind me. A guy catcalled me, and between one heartbeat and the next was being aggressed by my date. It all ended up fine, but this was entirely surprising to me. I’d been getting catcalled since I was fourteen. I remember walking into the high school building as a freshman, where some construction was going on off to the side, and a ZZ Top looking dude yelled, “Don’t tempt me, darlin’! I just might grab ya!” Super inappropriate, and I had no idea what to do. Actually, I remember even years before that, being like seven years old, and me and my friend Amy were at the skating rink. My mom had dropped us off — gotta love my mom, lolll, she was just like, “Y’all are seven years old wearing tube tops and short-shorts, here’s the skating rink, I’ll be back in three hours!”
We were having a lot of fun but then this group of boys, probably about nine, started catcalling us every time we skated past and it made me miserable. Amy wanted to keep skating — I think she kind of liked it; she did go on to have a baby when we were both like fourteen so, just sayin’ — but anyway, I felt so trapped by it, I didn’t feel I had any options. I don’t remember what she did, but I just sat off to the side for the whole time until my mom came back, and tried to exit the building without them seeing me. And then moving to the Rez and growing to more maturity there, and — you know I love Navajo guys, they’re so funny and circumspect and wry and capable, but it is a cultural matriarchy and it would just never occur to them to, you know, step on a woman’s toes about anything. And if you’ve ever met Navajo women, this makes a lot more sense. They can roll pretty fuckin hard, let’s just say. Men cue off of women, which is not a bad thing, but certainly no catcall interventions can be expected, unless there’s alcohol involved, in which case it will all be so insane as get shunted into a whole different category of discussion.
And then, I’d completed my bachelor’s by the time of this anecdote, and had spent quite a lot of my by-then adult years in Flagstaff, where men wear beanies 24/7/365, and aspire to live in vans (which I’m not knocking), and aspire to move to Colorado, and aspire to get really fuckin stoned all the time, and perform just the right brand of watered-down masculinity to get into girls’ yoga pants in that cultural milieu. I’m sorry if I sound shitty, I’m just calling like I experienced it. So that was my twenties and early thirties, and now I’m walking out of a Texas dancehall at 2am, a guy catcalls me, and is being roughed up in literally the next fucking second by my date. I was just in shock. And as soon as I recovered from my shock, I was in awe. Something deep within me was like, Yes! Yes, make that guy shut his pie hole! It was an epiphany I can scarcely convey.
When men advance this unsolicited, brute sexualization routine with women, they thrive in either being ignored (you stuck up bitch, you’re probably a lesbian!) or angrily engaged (got her [negative] attention!). There’s no recourse. Except there is, in the form of an even more aggressive male that goes in swinging, which solved the problem faster than you can say “oops”. After being catcalled since I guess age seven, with perfect clarity about how no response I was in a position to offer would neutralize the situation, and a default dull misery, limited-freedom response, I really liked this alpha male thing.
And you know, it occurs to me — and just keep in mind, my blogging is occurring in the very early, dark, cold morning hours of fire camp these days, and I’m even more stream of consciousness than usual, which I actually love — this is actually a lot like gun control. We think criminalizing guns will prevent gun violence. As I’ve blogged previously, I’m in the camp that says, criminals will get guns one way or the other (and we all collectively pretend they don’t have help in high places with this, as we secretly arm terrorist factions), and so let’s not take guns away from the white hats, since black hats are guaranteed to have them. To me this is just realistic; I don’t get how it’s so contested. It holds true with like every other goddamn thing. So now in terms of toxic masculinity, we want men to act right around women, and gosh, it’s just crazy how some can’t, won’t, and don’t. Let’s not disarm the white hats in that situation, you know? And by disarm, I mean culturally castrate.
I get that men and masculinity have been the driving force behind, you know, the entire human history of violence, and so I get that it’s easy to equate individual impulses towards violence with the most tragic episodes of civilization’s stuttering progress; hence the interest in re-directing the violent impulse wherever it emerges. But at the same time, I wonder what “safe spaces” — ahaha, just cracked myself up — we’ve created for the masculine violent impulse? Culturally sanctioned, socially healthy, unsafe spaces, let’s call it. The history of dueling is one example. Seems insane, right, to have two males meet at dawn and pace off and attempt to blow one another away, in this well organized public event. Usually over a woman, I’d guess. We don’t do that anymore. We pay money to watch avatars fight — wrestling, boxing, UFC. That’s def not sufficient. Nascar is kind of violent, often deadly. Rodeos — ugh, just abusing animals for sport. I’ve never loved a rodeo so much as the time I was in Gunnison and the bull first bucked off the cowboy and then somehow jumped over the entire enclosure, into the crowd — abject pandemonium — fortunately on the other side from where I sat with my relatives, at our family reunion one year. Surrogate violence is our resort, it seems. Is it enough, though?
Two interesting interactions from yesterday come to mind. Nick and I have been lifting with my friend and former coworker Shad, who’s on this same incident. Shad is a big strong guy, 25, entirely mellow, peaceful, and energetically composed. You meet some guys that age who are a seething mess of frustrated impulses, and Shad’s quite the opposite. One semester away from finishing his pre-med degree, grew up farming, entirely competent, comfortable in his skin. I forget what the conversation was, while Nick was doing his reps, but I told Shad, “I’ve never been in a fight. Have you?”
“Oh yeah,” he said. “I kind of like it.”
“Yeah. It just…feels good, in a way. I don’t know.”
Second interesting interaction, with my friend Rich on FB. I posed this question to everyone:
If I didn’t actively follow pages documenting the ongoing rioting, I would have no idea. No one’s talking about it or reporting it. People come to my page to call Candace Owens a token black but nothing about the violence. For the BLM-sympathizers, are y’all still going with the “peaceful protests co-opted by criminal elements” narrative, or have we just switched now to a “tear down the whole system bc it’s all bad” angle, or…? Does it make y’all uncomfortable? Do you agree with it? Are you watching it like I am? Are you watching mobs of people scream at homeowners in the middle of the night, who are standing with their kids huddled around them, ready to defend themselves but scared to make a bad situation worse?
My friend Rich (a career musician and applied-spirituality mentor of mine for years) commented, “If the perps don’t fear the law then they will learn to fear the victim when the victim has had enough.”
It’s common to lump all violence in together and call it “bad” — and goddamn, if that’s what we were doing, that at least would be a big improvement over the current political schizophrenia, right? — but that’s too sweeping. I think males who have retained the ability to access their own personal Redneck Crazy are a bulwark, a brake, a much-needed check on the coldly orchestrated, broad scale violence (colloquially called “war”) that begins with a pencil, or a desk, or a pencil-necked man at a desk.
I guess what I’m saying is: ask your doctor if violence is right for you. BLM/Antifa is functioning, right now, exactly as that gaggle of nine year old boys did at the skating rink, years ago, and the American populace is reasonably and understandably functioning as seven year old me, sitting off in the corner and waiting for my mom to come pick me up. I can’t stand a bully, though. I just can’t stand a bully. They come in all shapes and sizes and colors and ideological high horses, upon which they canter around until some flavor of redneck, somewhere, comes out swinging. That’s rarely been my impulse — I am a card-carrying girl, for better or worse, and it’s never occurred to me in the moment to just go up and smack the cat caller, which in hindsight might have been a better impulse. I’m about as removed from all the violence as a person can be, right now, and the fact that it makes me so angry, just to contemplate it, spells bad news probably for America, in the sense of civil war I mean. I would just be seeing red if this was unfolding in my neighborhood, where I was financially and emotionally invested.
So yeah, I guess we can’t be totally assured that our Women and Women’s Literature classes will cover all the emotional contingencies for every social situation lmaoooo. I know I’m probably getting some kind of reputation as a regressive thinker, through my blog, and if so I guess that’s okay. My mostly dormant sensibilities have become neon arrows pointing more and more blindingly towards my core values, as each new cultural outrage emerges. The individual impulse towards violence can never, and should never, be fully squelched in a society, because when we need it, we really fucking need it. And it’s not Redneck Crazy that embroils the world in war; that would be the Sanitized Fanatic.