Caroline and I pulled into the parking lot for swimming lessons yesterday afternoon blaring and singing Loudon Wainwright: “That’s my daughter in the water…” which was the designated riding-to-swimming-lessons theme song this week.
Another woman who was arriving at the same time with her kids smiled at us and asked me what song we were singing and whether it was a children's song.
The instant I told her the song was from the movie “Knocked Up,”I knew I'd made a mistake.
(Tiny frown of disapproval) “See, that’s why I never put the radio on in the car. Every song is about sex,” she said. "It's all Wiggles all the time for us."
I was going to tell her that we were actually listening to my iPod and the song we were singing was not about sex but I opted out of the conversation saying we were running late.
I also didn’t want Caroline to suddenly bust into one of her favorite songs on the radio these days: “You and Your Hand” by Pink. I was in no mood to be judged by someone wearing a Vera Bradley backpack.
Most parents have no problems admitting they’re completely clueless. Then there are the rookie cops of suburbia like Vera here. They’re probably just as paralyzed by parental insecurity as everyone else but can’t bear to admit it. They pounce on any opportunity to share their rules with you. In 10 years, I guarantee this lady will be burning Leaves of Grass in a barrel bonfire outside her kids’ high school.
Still, these run-ins, which thankfully are few and far between, usually make me second guess myself (which is the rookie cop’s intent). But this time, I didn't feel conflicted, I felt smug. This woman clearly has zero recollection of her own childhood.
Little kids don’t process song lyrics the way we do. They have absolutely no interest in what the song means. They just enjoy the music.
For instance, Caroline actually thinks the name of the Pink song is “You and Your Hair,” but even if she knew the right lyrics, she still would have absolutely no idea what they mean and I’m under no obligation to explain such things to a four year old. That’s all ahead of us. In my experience, making taboo of something she isn’t capable of understanding yet only raises more questions.
Also, when in our lifetime have there not been songs about sex on the radio?
Growing up, we’d go to the Cape every year with a bunch of my parents’ friends and their kids. When we were about 6 or 7 years old, we played “Solid Gold,” and put on lip-syncing shows for the adults. My favorite song to perform was Alicia Bridge’s “I Love the Nightlife.”
Here’s a sampling of lyrics:
I want to go where the people dance
I want some action,
I want to live
Action, I got so much to give
I want to give it
I want to get some too
(Only now can I appreciate how hilarious this must have been for all the parents parked in lawn chairs drinking Schlitz.)
I don’t recall, at seven years old, analyzing what the song meant but I probably thought it was about dancing or staying up late to watch the Love Boat -- not trolling the clubs for anonymous sex.
My friend Heather’s song was Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls.” In her six-year-old mind, she was singing about mean girls in Fayva shoes, not about prostitutes.
My brother’s song was “I was Made for Loving you” by Kiss which starts: "Tonight I wanna give it all to you. In the darkness, theres so much I wanna do." Knowing six-year-old P, he probably thought it was about camping.
So, I'm not concerned that my kids are being tainted by pop music. My only concern is them belting out certain songs in public places ala the "He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus" epidemic of 2006. Lucky for us, the "clean" versions on the radio and iTunes automatically omit words like“dickhead" and "motherfucker."