Internet buddy and friend of the blog efgoldman expressed some surprise over my love of Saturday’s “Killing in the Name” cover, which reminded me that I’d written an entire piece for the Dallas Morning News about people being surprised by this side of me, which led me to look for it, which led me to remember that the DMN website is now so entirely changed that my old pieces are really irretrievable. So I decided: What the heck! I’ll re-key it (type it allll out again), and call that a post! And that’s what I did. BEHOLD. (Just please don’t hold me responsible for the headline).
THIS 40-YEAR-OLD WOULD RATHER BE A ROCKER THAN BE IN ONE.
(c) Dallas Morning News; August 14, 2005
Here’s a list of concerts I’ve attended, or will attend, this summer: Oasis, Jet, Robert Plant, Cake, Green Day, U2. Earlier this year, I saw the Donnas, Franz Ferdinand, the Hives, the Von Bondies. I’d go to shows twice a week, if I could, but once you add baby-sitting costs to the price of tickets….
To clarify: I’m 40, I have two kids (one in diapers), I carry a mortgage and a car loan, I worry about property tax increases, and more often than not, I’ve got a pacifier in my pocket.
At what point does it become pathetic to love rock n’ roll?
This is the question that’s dogged me most singularly since turning 40 last September (my husband, five years my junior, likes to remind me that I’m actually must closer to 41). When people ask me how I feel about having achieved middle age, I usually say the only thing that really bothers me is losing social relevance.
But what I mean is: At what point does it become pathetic to love rock n’ roll?
I am absolutely no less fanatical, passionate and obsessive about music than I was at 17. Indeed, as I’ve gotten older, my tastes have gotten louder, so that I never actually listen to James Taylor anymore, preferring the likes of Jet and Audioslave. And when I go to these concerts — at which most of the other 40-year-olds seem to be chaperoning preteens — I don’t just hum along! No, no, I apparently feel the need to lose all sense of propriety and dance, dance, dance my little heart away. I shudder to think what might happen the first time one of my children sees me.
All of this often comes as a surprise to people who know me professionally. Most of my writing is about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it tends toward the earnest, not to say tortured. I think people see me more in the Tchaikovsky vein. Or — oh, I don’t know. Some tortured classical guy.
I have wondered if my growing political anger has fueled a need for ever more raucous music, if I use other peoples’ voices to rant and rail in a way that I can’t. To quote the Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan: “Despite all my rage/I am still just a rat in a cage.” It doesn’t really work on paper, but when Billy screams it in your ears — well, I won’t say catharsis, but there’s at least a little validation. Especially when I scream it with him.
To my great good fortune, I’m married to a man who agrees with both my politics and the fact that CD purchases are a budget necessity. But, as I said, he’s younger — and, it should be noted, a man. Somehow, something in our society (or my head — who can tell anymore?) says it’s ok for him to still love a good bass line. I, on the other hand, have produced and nursed two babies.
Shouldn’t I be humming lullabies? Missing references made by 15-year-olds? Telling them that, um, I still like REO Speedwagon? (Yes, I once did. I’m sorry). More than once, it’s true, the baby-sitters have popped their dewy eyes wide open and said “Cooool!” when I tell them where we’re going, but I’ve begun to suspect that at least some teenagers I know may think I’m a ridiculous old biddy.
One could counter with a sizable list of middle-aged musicians who are still making music that matters: The guys in U2 come to mind, but so do Chris Cornell of Audioslave, Liz Phair, and Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They can jump up and down like idiots — why can’t I?
Oh that’s right: They’re rock stars. And I’m — what’s that word again? Oh yeah: Not. They have entourages and record deals; I have suburbia and a whole lot of Rescue Hero Action Figures. My friends almost never know whom I’m talking about.
The day will come, I’ve realized, on which I will be the only 50-year-old at the concert — and then, please God, the 60-year-old, the 70-year-old. If I’m not pathetic now, surely it’ll happen by then. It’s inevitable. I mean, look at Mick Jagger.
So I’ve recently begun to accept that I’m doomed: Either I can age gracefully or enjoy myself; suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous teenage opinion or be bored.
And, I remind myself: My father died at 35. I can only imagine what he would have given for the chance to be pathetic. Or 40.
But then, he was into baseball. That’s something you can carry into your golden years.
Emily L. Hauser is a freelance writer living outside of Chicago.
(Of course, Audioslave no longer exists, and at 47, the prospect of being a pathetic 50-year-old is bearing down on me with increasing speed. So it goes).