Thursday, March 19, 2015

What do you think of today's "angry young men"?


I can't stop listening to the Father John Misty (Josh Tillman) album, even as I become more and more convinced the guy's a minor asshole.

"The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt" is about an affair with annoying, silly person. During their time together she says a bunch of dumb shit, "hoovers" his drugs, and winds up "naked with her best friend in the tub."

I've always had a soft spot for a cranky crooner. And during your "angry young man" years, you leveled some pretty mean lyrics at silly people, many of them women who could sit alongside Tillman's conquest in her tub. So I was initially delighted with lyrics like, "She says like literally music is the air I breathe," or, "every insufferable convo features her patiently explaining the cosmos / of which she's in the middle," or the bit where she compares her own singing to Sarah Vaughan ("I hate that soulful affectation white girls put on / Why don't you move to the Delta?") HAH.

But the more I listen, the hollower it gets. I'm starting to wonder about her, and wonder why Tillman was bothered enough to write an entire song about her. She's just a kid, saying stuff she'll remember in her thirties with a shudder. What's *his* problem?

Even at your meanest, Elvis, you always seemed to be criticizing the institutions/culture that have created the subjects of your ire, more than the people themselves. The silly person was part of something biggerthe "doll revolution" that had inspired her to "tear off her own head." She doesn't escape blame entirely, but criticizing her is not the whole point.

Maybe it's not Tillman's whole point either, but it seems like most of it. And he really seems to enjoy making it. Maybe that's okaymaybe it's just a funny, catchy tunebut, for me, it comes with a side of ick.


UPDATE, weeks later:  I no longer feel the ick. What I've realized is that so much of the album is loving and devoted and almost sickly sweet (never an issue for you, Elvis), so in the context of the whole album, songs like this provide some balance. Together, the songs provide a portrait of an asshole falling in love, and this song is the "before" picture.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Do you have a night doula or some shit?

Hey Elvis,

I'm tired.

Maisie's head is filled with so much mucus she can't breathe, and when a person can't breathe, a person can't sleepespecially a person who is too young for NyQuil.

I haven't been this tired since the early days, the first six months that my memory has retained mostly as a series of 10-second clips:  her tiny wrinkly face, hiccuping; a white-noise app on an iPhone in an otherwise pitch-black room; her body shaking in my arms, screaming, fists at her face.

At six months we sleep-trained her, against the advice of the attachment-parenting books that had been our lifelinesand overnight, I felt like myself again. Sleep is a big deal, Elvis. I haven't taken it for granted since. Every night as I get under the covers, secure in the likelihood that I won't have to wake up until 6a.m., I can feel a half-smile flitting across my face.

But now the mucus has descended, and I'm back in the fog.

It's not the same, of course; I don't have to breastfeed for hours every night. And it was scarier then, because I didn't know what I was doing, and I didn't know if I could handle it. But physically it feels the same. Some mysterious extra-strength gravity is pulling at my limbs; my thoughts feel like they're wandering in the dark, groping desperately for their own logical conclusions. It was hard then and it's hard again, Elvis.

I rarely get jealous of wealth because I have what I need, and because the handful of truly wealthy people I know don't seem happy (cliche reasons, but good ones, no?). But I'm jealous of anyone who can afford a night nurse. That is the true meaning of fortunate, right there. I once saw an interview with Alanis Morissette wherein she sung the praises of attachment parenting, and then later I heard her "night nanny" was suing her for not paying her overtime, and that is some serious bullshit, Elvis. We'd all be attachment-parenting our faces off if we could afford night nannies.

Honk shoo.


Photo by me, 2013, peak-fog.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Do you tell your kids they're smart?


One of the many, many, many (too many) parenting theories that have besieged my consciousness via the internet and books and judgey mommy conversations is this:  if you want your kids to succeed, you should praise their effort, not their ability. ("Good job!" vs. "You're so smart!") I take every parenting theory with a massive grain of salt, but this one is growing on me.

As a lifelong "smart girl," I know it can be a bit of a burden. I've never liked doing things that might make me look dumb (which includes basically anything new) because it threatens my very identity.

I'm not blaming my failures on the fact that my parents told me I'm smart, because my parents are the best, and because that would be an embarrassingly first-world complaintand mostly because my "smart girl" identity was shaped by so many influences, including pop culture and teachers and friends and my own damn self. (Recent related epiphany: of the dozens of people from my MFA class who have published novels and memoirs and story collections, none are among the students who were most vocally praised as "talented" by our professors). But I would like to do what I can, anyway, to make sure Maisie feels free to explore and experiment and be dumb.

What do you think of this theory, Elvis? You seem like a man who sees himself as smart, but it certainly hasn't held you back at all. Maybe if a person has the "smart identity" but is actually really REALLY smart, like genius-level smart, they don't have to carry the baggage. In which case I don't have to worry about Maisie because she's obviously a genius.