January 30, 2015

You Didn't Know Me When

I was dating this guy who liked to be right. It was more than that. Being right was everything to him. The only thing better than being right was winning a game.

Here's a fun fact: I don't care about winning. I never have. And I don't have to be right. I'm wrong a lot. We should have been perfect together, a match made in lunatic heaven.

But here's something else you might not have known about me. When I buy music (in any form—tape or vinyl), I listen to it over and over. I memorize the songs. I read the liner notes. I'm crazy-obsessed like that. In my late teens/early twenties, I listened to everything. My music box overflowed. I had old blues. I had Acid Rock. Rap. Rock-a-billy. Punk. Alternative. Hardcore. Acoustic. Medieval. I didn't care. I was like a musical sponge. I wanted to understand it all.

One day, the boyfriend and I were driving together listening to Harry Connick Jr.'s new album. My man turned to me and said, "I didn't know Harry Connick Jr. was from Canada." That was the way he would phrase things. He wouldn't say, "Is Harry Connick Jr., from Canada?" He'd make an off-the-cuff statement. I'd heard that HCJ was from New Orleans, but what did I know? This was before Wiki, Google, cell phones. If you were driving in a car, you were driving in a car, cut off from all forms of information except each other. Imagine that. This was like the Dark Ages.

I said, "I thought he was from New Orleans."

"No, no, didn't you hear the lyric?" the boyfriend asked.

"The lyric?"

"He just said he was in an Ottawa broke-up band."

"Out-of-work polka band," I said, without hesitation. I'd listened to the album backwards and forwards. I could have recited the songs in my sleep.

"Nope. Ottawa band," insisted Mr. Right.

"Rewind the tape," I said. Because I knew the answer this time. "It's out-of-work polka band." And here's what happened: he wouldn't back it up. Why? Simple. He couldn't be wrong.

Later on, I thought, what if HCJ had said Ottawa broke up band? That still wouldn't mean he was from Canada (not that there is anything wrong with being from Canada). But it's a fucking song lyric. We don't honestly believe everything in songs, do we? When we listen to The Kingsmen sing "Louie, Louie," do we really think they have to go now? Is Otis Redding actually sitting on the dock of the bay? Did Elvis check into the Heartbreak Hotel? Does Robert Plant really want you to squeeze his lemon until the juice runs down his leg? (Well, maybe that one is legit...)

The HCJ song came on the other day, and I sat and smiled. I thought about how I was twenty-mumble years ago. How I worked to keep the peace. How I wouldn't push back or argue. Not that I would push back too hard on this issue in any case, because who the fuck really cares? But I wouldn't stay with someone who did. That's the difference.

Maybe that's what age gets you.
Maybe I didn't know that then.


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