I'd like to start this month's column by giving a shout-out — accompanied by a heartfelt throwing of the horns — to my parents. They've tolerated my musical obsessions with an amazing amount of grace. In fact, tolerated is probably not nearly a strong enough word, considering the depth and breadth of my devotion over the course of the past four decades and then some. They bought me my first Close N' Play phonograph, and when I graduated to high fidelity, a turntable console with a built-in eight-track player. They supplied me with a steady stream of transistor radios, which I snuck under the covers for late-night listening to WGOE and WLEE. My 15th birthday got me a Sony Walkman; my first post-college apartment-warming gift was a CD player. On my birthday this year, they continued with the theme and presented me with a hot-pink iPod the size of a pack of chewing gum that — somewhat magically — can hold every song on the several hundred LPs I've spent my life amassing. I think this means that they have officially given up on waiting for me to outgrow my rock ‘n' roll phase.
I'm excited about the iPod. But I am not the most excited one in the house. You see, the iPod is a mystical and forbidden talisman that not only belongs to Mama (cool thing one) but is also shiny metal (cool thing two) and electronic (cool thing three). And just in case it wasn't tempting enough, this shiny metal electronic thing of Mama's is capable of emitting a steady stream of what The Boy refers to with utmost seriousness as "rocking-out music." And rocking out is extremely high on his list of priorities these days. It falls just below robots, somewhere between Star Wars and M&Ms. I would say that he does me proud, that he takes after me and that I had a hand in shaping his enthusiasm for the arts. But I can't, because The Boy's musical taste is, without putting too fine a point on things, total crap.
I've tried since he was a baby to introduce him to music that was good for his developing brain and, just as important, his baby-sized soul. As I've mentioned before, I'm not into the whole hipster parent fauxhawk schtick of trying to create a musical mini-me capable of spouting Ramones lyrics in a squeaky toddler voice. Instead, I gave him a smorgasbord from which to sample. Bhangara in the playroom, Patsy Cline in the car and Beethoven at bedtime. I still listened to my favorites, so he was exposed to the punk and psychedelia that is dear to my heart, but I didn't push it (OK, I admit I did park him on a blanket in front of the TV when he was a baby for an entire PBS special on Parliament-Funkadelic, but that was spiritual ). So tell me how, in spite of my nurturing hand, my son prefers what I have caught myself referring to without irony as "that garbage that kids listen to nowadays."
Here's what The Boy looks for in a song. It has to be plodding, the chords repetitive and simple. The vocals need to be grating — the whinier, the better. Something about not being understood, or being lonely, maybe something about walking alone or a dark night or a black soul or any combination of the three. And then, as if he is trying to torture me, he insists that this horrible dreck be played only at top volume, because "rocking-out music has to be loud for rocking out, that's how I rock out!" And he sits in front of the speakers with his tiny fists balled up and his 3-year-old brow furrowed and scowls to the beat .
"That's all you," my husband accuses as we stand helplessly by and watch him rock out to his current favorite song.
"How is that me? I would rather listen to cats fighting than this," I wince.
"Just like your parents would have rather listened to cats fighting than Alice Cooper, or Iggy Pop, or the New York Dolls. That is you ." And then he leaves me to suffer through more Disturbed with Mister Rocking Out.
I have to admit he may be right. Which isn't exactly encouraging if I was hoping The Boy would outgrow it, which I wholeheartedly was.
So much for waiting it out. Instead, I take a cue from my own parents. I order him his own iPod knockoff and load it up with post-grunge video-game-inspired crap .
I may be resigned, but I refuse to give up hope. I'm saving all my P-Funk records for him. Just in case.