Music to Pout By
At nearly 34 years old, I should be way too evolved to pout. I should handle disappointment with grace. Keep a stiff upper lip. Put on a happy face. Oh, yeah. Anyone who knows me knows I'm more dramatic than demure. This is, I might add, an improvement over my melodramatic youth. Jules Shear has a song, "Windows and Walls", with the phrase,
"You may not learn the lesson but
the lesson will be taught."
I must have been the poster child for this idea. A recent experience gave me a chance to do three things: eat crow, pout, and compile a list of artists and songs as a soundtrack for both.
A few months ago, I announced a scathing opinion about a couple I barely knew. I'm not saying opinions are a bad thing, but let's just say mine was more than a quick mention. I never treated these people badly -- mainly because my job requires me to squelch my bitchy impulses -- but I never treated them nicely, either. Let's pretend, for a minute, that this couple owns a business or two. Hey, let's really go out on a limb and say they threw a huge party, a grand opening, if you will. Just to be wacky, let's say that by some miracle, or coincidence, or karmic reaction, a celebrity agreed to be the main attraction at this party.
Yes, folks, it's true. It seemed like most of my friends and co-workers were to party with Robert De Niro [editor's note: the Robert De Niro thing turned out to be a big hoax], while I was stuck at work, listening to the likes of Tori Amos and The Counting Crows. To be fair, I was offered an invitation, thanks to the machinations of a swell friend. I realized, however, the only thing I could do in good conscience was politely decline.
What kind of message would I be sending if I suddenly began "liking" certain people just to reap this kind of benefit?
Lesson #1 (which should have occurred to me long ago) -- keep unsubstantiated negative opinions where they belong -- with yourself.
As if that wasn't reason enough to keep Lori Carson on the CD player, yeah, there's more. But who, you ask, is Lori Carson? Once a vocalist with the Golden Palominos, her solo album Where It Goes is acoustic, and very melancholy. If you want a good 50 minutes or so of feeling sorry for yourself, this is just the collection to achieve it. Tori Amos is really great, too, but her music is more passionate than Ms. Carson's. Listen to Tori when you feel you might have a spark of righteous indignation. If female vocalists aren't your thing, then pop in the Counting Crows. These boys really know how to whine. I love them.
If you want to list a few specific songs to start a great pouting collection -- or to add to an existing one -- try these. "Wish We Never Met" by Kathleen Wilhoite has the line:
"When I don't get what I want The spoiled child inside breaks down."
Doesn't even matter what the rest of the song says. If you like to pout, this sentiment holds water.
Dar Williams "When I Was A Boy" is a bit more contemplative. In it, she talks about having to say good-bye to childhood, and through her lyrics we see things from both a chick and a guy's point of view. Her statement "I've had a lonesome, awful day" can really sum things up, no matter what's making you pout.
Jann Arden's song "Hangin' By A Thread" says it right there. Her voice, though pretty, is laced with weariness as she admits,
"The salt inside my body ruins
everyone I come close to
My hands are barely holding up my head,
Oh I'm so tired of looking at my feet
And all the secrets that I keep
My heart is barely hangin' by a thread."
Very dramatic, wouldn't you say? There are pathetic male vocalists, too, but I usually commiserate with the chick singers.
I listen to the guys when I want to feel better. Luckily, I don't pout for long periods of time -- it takes too much energy. Saturday night, when everybody in the world was at the grand opening but me, I decided to try to be happy for my friends and co-workers. I sang along with James Taylor, and Billy Joel. Old James and Billy, from my childhood. The familiarity alone made me feel better. I also recommend John Denver, Des'ree, and Neil Diamond's soundtrack to "Jonathan Livingston Seagull." Carefree music that reminds me that while pouting is sometimes a necessary evil, dwelling is not. Get over it!
In a seemingly unrelated incident, I was taking a walk a few days before this magical weekend. Mavis Staples was belting out a few gospel tunes on the headphones, and I was feeling pretty good about life. I was recalling a conversation I'd recently had with a woman whose made some really wack choices with her life. No matter, I like her anyway. Who are any of us to judge others' for their mistakes? It hit me mid-stride -- that's exactly what I'd done with this couple. Suddenly, "Music To Be Pompous By" became "Music To Eat Crow By."
Lesson #2: Judge not, lest ye be considered a freakin' dolt.
This story doesn't have a happy ending -- it doesn't have an ending, at all. I'd be an idiot if I thought I would never make snap judgements ever again. As my dad says, "Some people live and learn. Others just live and live and live..."
Maybe, though, I'll remember to stop and think before announcing my opinions in public. Maybe, occasionally, I'll remember to stop making judgements. Maybe I'll be writing Volume 2 of "Music to Pout By" in the next issue of The Excuse. Who knows? The point is, the lessons were taught. And the next time Robert De Niro is in town, I'll deliver a copy of this magazine in person.