There comes a point in almost every relationship where the other person turns to you and asks what is, for me, the Great Dreaded Question. No, not politics, not religion, not whether you believe high fructose corn syrup is in actual fact the anti-Christ. My Great Dreaded Question is this: "So, what kind of music do you listen to."
Seems innocuous, doesn't it. But I have no response.
I've always enjoyed music, was pretty heavily involved in the performance thereof during my childhood and adolescence, and to this day, thanks to the vagaries of memory, can still sing in eight languages. But I've never been "into" music. In high school, when the boy I was madly in love with was waxing rhapsodic about Morrissey, I told people I thought Morrisey was the shit. (Don't think I've ever actually listened to Morrissey, at least not knowingly.) When the guy I was dating was into the Grateful Dead, lo and behold I was into the Grateful Dead. When the guy I was dating was a huge fan of The Replacements, I refused to even listen to their music and instead just mocked their name. (Like that little relationship wasn't doomed from the start.) Left to my own devices, I listened to show tunes, Billy Joel, Simon & Garfunkel. You know, stuff my parents had around, mostly. I was an innocent. I was busy with other things. I never felt the need to rebel through music. (Since my entire family reads this blog, and since I never got caught, we will leave the ways in which I did rebel shrouded in the mysterious fogs of history.)
Ok, I wasn't totally under a rock. I went to college singing Hunger Strike and Wooden Jesus, and once freshman year had a guy tell me I was the sexiest woman he had ever met because I knew all the words to Ten. But still, I listened to whatever was on, liked some, didn't like some other, didn't really care.
And then I met Chris. Chris who is, I don't know, what's the music equivalent of a foodie? Music is critical to him. He's deeply involved in it, he listens deeply and broadly and intelligently. He collects facts and figures. He has ideas and critiques and entire philosophies about music, and he's a rock star guitarist to boot. And he married me, and I never did and still don't much care.
But it seemed to raise the stakes for me, so that the Great Dreaded Question is even more dreaded. For a while, I answered by exclusion. "Well, I don't care for Country." Then I would try to make an effort and name something I had heard recently and liked. Until the day I offered up Sarah McLaughlin and was soundly mocked and ridiculed (by a loser, but still). It was then that I realized that this question isn't, or isn't entirely, about a swapping of musical tastes and suggestions, but instead is often a social barometer. Do we have something in common? Do you have good (as in, similar to mine) taste? Are you cool enough to talk to me?
I can't handle the pressure. The truth is that I can't even self-select music. The music on my iPod is whatever Chris puts there. I open up iTunes and am so overwhelmed (it is Chris's music, I assure you that it is overwhelming) that I just close it again. How am I supposed to find what I like? How I am supposed to find that one song I want when I don't know the title or the artist of the chorus but only that one line I loved that got caught in some grate in my head while all the rest went sluicing down the drain? What kind of statement is this music or that music making about me? I don't generally care what statement I am making, but it makes me uneasy to not have any concept about what it is.
When people ask me these days what kind of music I listen to, I tell the truth. Backyardigans, princess music, and the soundtrack for movies and musicals that Mia has seen. Mia is currently the sole arbiter of my taste. But someday, I won't have the children to fall back on any longer, and I will once again feel the need to run from any and all small talk, for fear of hearing The Question.
So instead, this is my confession. Hi, my name is Beth, and I don't care all that much about music.