Saturday, February 11, 2006

It's Up To You

A few occurrences and recent conversations have made me ponder the whole rock and roll male/female thing, and I want to get it down in some cohesive fashion, if only to get it clear in my own head:

I love rock and roll boys, as do most of the women (and some men) in my friend list. I have enjoyed a long and hearty career as a lover of this particular type of man, and I wouldn't change that for the world. But I feel that there are so many more layers to it than initially meet the eye.

There is nothing more exciting and ego-gratifying than being the girl in the soundbooth at a crowded music hall while the hero on stage sings a song written specifically about you. There is a great thrill in going backstage and being chosen as the person a rock star (major or minor, could just be a small show in a club somewhere, I'm speaking in generalities) most wants to lavish his attention upon. It's fun to walk into a room holding the hand of the person everyone is there to see. And if you really hit the jackpot and form a relationship with one of the more successful of these boys, you also get to quit your day job to travel around, staying in hotels and on buses living the rock and roll life vicariously. You get to sit in green rooms of late night talk shows and you get to wear all your coolest clothes with frequency. If he's nice you get good presents. Lord knows I love a good present! And your day-to-day existence is a more exciting when you are with these boys. People treat you better, you don't have to buy tickets for shows, you get backstage everywhere. You are special. It is heady stuff. 

I decided I wanted this as a kid, and I managed to succeed occasionally at attaining it as an adult. I think that when I was a teenager I just secretly assumed that I would marry a rich rock star one day and lead a very glamorous life and not have to work out any messy details on my own. Actually, come to think of it, it wasn't that secret. At age 14 or so my best friend and I wrote out what our lives were going to be like and I detailed the master plan then. She just wanted to get married to some nice guy and have babies, I thought that was preposterous unless that guy had long hair and sang into a microphone covered in scarves. Luckily it never happened, I don't have the gentle personality required to make a good rock wife, I'm far too paranoid, crabby and controlling, and thusly have been forced to create my own glamour.

While I wouldn't have it any differently, and while I still choose to make my life with a musician, the reality of the experience is heavier and there are often more moments of loneliness and confusion than there are of feeling like the most special woman in the room. Which is an illusion that is impossible to sustain 24/7 anyway, there is always someone younger and prettier than you waiting in the wings, and if you don't have enough of your own life and self-esteem to handle the moments when you are not the It Girl, it can be a drug you can't get enough of in the end. 

At times we females claim that we are the muses and other times we claim to have been used. It is my contention that though this is sometimes true, oftentimes we are the predators and users ourselves. We are one side of the coin that makes up the dynamic. We choose to seek out men with star quality who perform on stages because it makes us feel grander. It's exciting to stand in the dark and feel a connection to the music and to the people who make the music that moves us so profoundly. Sometimes we genuinely fall in love with them, sometimes we just really like being with a rock star. I realized this about someone I was involved with once. I didn't really want him, but I really wanted the lifestyle that was attached to him, so I hung on longer than I should have. I kept thinking of that line that Bernadette Peters says in "The Jerk" when they realize they're bankrupt: She whines sadly: "I dont care about losing the money, but I don't want to lose all the STUFF."  You said a mouthful, sister.

I am lucky to have had each side of the experience. I had my moment as a minor rock star and I got to pick up boys and throw them down as I saw fit. I got to be the one that people clamored to hang out with because I held the backstage cache. Don't let anyone tell you differently, it's cool to be that person. It's really, really fun. When people ask me if I miss being in a band I always say that I don't miss lugging gear or bartending to support it, but I do miss having record company dough and people telling me I'm brilliant and sexy 20 times a day and handling all the boring details for me while I play shows and then run off to get drunk and chat up some hot Swede in a hotel bar. I've been called a man-eater and at times it's been true. Of course in the end I am still just a total girl and I carry huge amounts of guilt for the cavalier way I treated some people, I'm sure far more than the guys who have mistreated me ever carried. But again, I'm glad for the experience. I understand what it's like to be on the road, to be getting attention, and to just want to have fun with people without turning it into a responsibility.

Lately I am weary of listening to women brag about their conquests, weary of watching women hurt each other in competition over this stuff, and weary of feeling the urge to defend my own bit of turf. I have a great guy now but he still goes on the road regularly and it is a fucking pain in the ass to be at home cleaning out the cat box while your significant other is rocking out in some other country and getting hit on by hot girls who don't give a fuck whether he's in a relationship or not. I enjoy my solitary time but if he's gone for a long stretch and I'm feeling especially hormonal I start getting paranoid about everything and use it as an opportunity to torture him via telephone. Luckily I have enough experience to know when I'm veering into crazy-town and I have someone that works very hard to make sure I feel safe. And obviously there are still some things about the rock and roll world that I crave, because this is the lifestyle I continue to choose and I can't imagine choosing any other.


But it can be rough and for the first time in my life I have started thinking, "Hmm, maybe there would be some downsides if he was a hugely famous rock star..." I never even considered this until recently. The assumption has always been the bigger the rock star the bigger the prize. But lately I am just really loving my guy for who he is and feeling grateful for what a stand-up, solid, beautiful, special man he is, and that has nothing to do with his status as a musician.

The competition factor is just grossing me out right now. Women are absolutely rotten to each other when it comes to competing for attention, and it's such a bummer sometimes. Firstly, as far as I'm concerned, there are no real rock stars left to fight over anyway (it was my opinion that Marilyn Manson was the last one standing, but he's too busy being happily married to do anything too interesting anymore). And secondly, rip her to shreds if you don't feel you owe her anything and you absolutely must have a particular man, but keep your friends sacred fer Chrissake. Those boys get old and lose their luster just like the rest of us. Tara and I had a really funny conversation about all the superhot guys who had record deals and girls tearing each other apart for them in the 80's, and who are now ordinary, paunchy, balding regular guys. We just didn't know back then that the everything changes with time. Those boys are often wonderful, exciting, beautiful, sexy, and worthy of our attention. But they are also totally human and have all the annoying habits that our dads and brothers do.


And as I've said, there is a lot about the whole trip that can have more to do with filling insecure egos than with actually connecting to a particular person. Motives need to be examined in order to stay clean and clear.

Shit, I guess I'm not exactly sure what I'm trying to say. I just feel like some of us, myself included, spend a lot of time talking up our groupie status and not getting real about what it actually says about our own selfish and sometimes shallow natures. I've been listening to The Jayhawks all day long (yes, I know, there's an alt-country phase happening, so sue me). maybe their lyrics below are inspiring the thoughts...


I heard you bragging 'bout the boys you took
Are you a victim or a small time crook
Or just a little fool
You know, you know it's up to you

You're no princess you're a prima donna
Can't understand why the world wasn't handed to you
You know, you know it's up to you

Yeah, when you're deep inside your head
Justify the blame

Six green olives and a champagne basket
Paid the bill with your boyfriend's plastic
What a little fool
Takes one to get to two

Yeah, when you're deep inside your head
Justify the blame

Stirring a tin cup with a silver spoon
Tell me honey, who is possessing who
You know, you know it's up to you
You know, you know it's up to you

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