Why Kathleen Edwards and I Should be Best Friends
Kathleen Edwards is one of those artists I would have suspected of stealing my diary, if I had one. Ever since Failer came out in 2002, I have thought she was explaining my life exactly. I’ve written about this a little bit before, because she’s one of my faves. But before you go thinking that I’m taking another step up the stalking ladder with the title of this post, let me give you a few reasons why she and I would be like the bestest friends evar.
1. We’re almost the same age. I found out from reading Michael Bialis’s post a few weeks ago that KE is 34. Hey, me too! Actually, when I read that, I looked her up on Wikipedia and found out she’s only a week older than me, which may explain why I think she’s so much like me, that is, if you believe in astrology and all that stuff. What’s more likely is we were exposed to the same TV shows and clothes and songs growing up…it’s always easier to talk about Today’s Special or The Elephant Show with someone your own age, right? I bet she even had My Little Ponies or Pound Puppies.
2. We like cats.
Here’s my cat:
If KE were writing this blog, I bet she would put up a picture of a cat. She always talks about her cats in concerts and on facebook – isn’t her twitter even something to do with cats? Well, pretty much all I do is talk about my cat. For instance, the other day I took her out on the back porch and her boyfriend was there (ooh!), laying under one of the chairs. He’s the orange neighbourhood cat, known to hiss at her through the screen at night (I tell her all boys act like they don’t like you at first). She didn’t notice him for ages, even though she was standing right beside him. I guess she was pretending. Anyway, when she finally did notice him, she kept looking from me to him, like, can you believe that thing looks exactly like me? I thought I was the only one! She doesn’t get out much.
3. We have this thing, right now, about babies.
Ever since I turned 34, this exact conversation has happened in every social situation:
Me: How are you?
Other Ignorant Person: Good, how are you?
OIP: So, are you and the husband…thinking of…um…are there gonna be…have you thought about children?
Me: Yes, we’ve thought about it.
OIP: Oh boy! You better not wait too long, you know. No time like the present.
Me: There are times other than the present. For example, when either my husband or I have a permanent job and regular income.
OIP: Oh, sure. But you can’t let that get in the way. You just gotta do it, right? If you let every little thing get in the way of having kids, you’d never have them, right?
Me: Income is not a little thing. Plus, we’ve only been married for a year.
OIP: Yeah, but I don’t know what else to ask you about since you got married and there’s only one thing left for you to do in life.
Me: Actually, I’m working on two books right now. And I edit a journal. And I’m teaching three classes in the fall. And I just want a bit of time to do my own thing before I have kids.
OIP: Oh, well, having kids will take all that selfishness right out of you. Besides, you’re 34, right? Did you know you can basically die if you try to have a kid after 35? It’s been well-documented.
Me: Yes, I’ve heard that.
OIP: Don’t waste time! You’ll regret it. You don’t want that regret on your mind for the rest of your life, now do you?
Me: No, I suppose not. *pours another glass of wine*
The thing is, lately, I look at babies in their strollers on the subway and instead of thinking, oh gross, I think oh my god, so effing cute! It looks just like my cat! Even if they’re crying, I feel sympathy toward them rather than rage. I think about things like folic acid and who’s going to swipe my job away if I take the semester off. We had my friends and their twin daughters over last week and it was the most hilarious time. They asked questions like, “Is that you?”, pointing to our gold-framed velvet Elvis on the wall, and “Are you going to sell Pumpkin?” (the cat), and “Why don’t you have a downstairs?” When I answered “because we’re poor” I was met with a blank stare.
I guess there’s something to this whole biological clock thing, something I scoffed at even just a year ago. It’s like your body wakes you up the morning of your 34th birthday with the announcement that “This is it! YOUR LAST CHANCE.” and it’s so loud that the 12 bottles of wine your friends brought over (not for you, to celebrate with you) can’t drown it out.
Edwards makes little comments here and there that suggest a family might be the next item on her agenda, but despite what appear to be overt wishes, I suspect there’s a little ambivalence there. Her last record got such a good response, and although she has mentioned that she keeps thinking it might be the end of the road for her and music, it would be tough to ignore the fact that she affected people so deeply.
The thing is, how do you reconcile ambition with a desire to settle down? I know, I know, it’s the age-old (or two generation-old) question of ‘how do women have it all’, but when you get to your mid-thirties and your own personality and issues are just beginning to get easier to deal with, and you are used to being selfish and having a routine the way you like it, it’s not so easy to introduce a kid into your life. And yet, there’s a serious terror when you consider the 40 or 50 years down the road where you may not have offspring to find you a home and take you to Red Lobster once every two weeks to escape the other old woman who sits at your lunch table and wears the same pants every single day.
4. She says all the things I’m thinking but am too afraid to say.
I won’t list those things here, given that this is a public forum, and I still have no courage, but let’s just say when I listened to “Westby”, I was like, “Dude.” Well, not seriously, but I like how she puts things. I have a tendency towards bluntness that has upset basically every person in my life at some point (at my wedding, I introduced my four bridesmaids to the room with an apology for the separate times each of those girls saw me lose my mind and say the craziest shit).
Kathleen is the only artist I’ve ever encountered who blatantly says, for example, how it feels to get married. Granted, she said it after her divorce and in the nicely poetic context of a wistful song, but she said it. She constantly breaks whatever stupid unspoken rules exist for female musicians by telling the truth, in a way that normal people can actually relate to. How many other women do you hear with lyrics like hers? Not many. We should be hearing them all the time.
5. We’re kinda sentimental. She loves her friends and family. She says it all in Bialas’s article. I won’t repeat it here, because he did a great job of telling her story.
To reference this event again, I was pretty annoyed through the planning of my wedding a couple years ago. I was mad at spending money, at the politics involved in who-to-invite-who-to-sit-where, at having to stick to traditions that made no sense to me, etc. The day after, the wedding I thought, ‘wow, that was nice.’ You know why? Everyone I loved was there. It was the coolest thing ever to see all of my family and friends in one room, something I had never quite envisioned before. The several nights before that too, where family members trickled into the city one by one and we had dinners together and drank and I found out crazy things about my husband’s elementary school years, were among the best days of my life. It started a long trend towards neglecting other areas of my life (namely work) in an effort to recognize that they aren’t doing me any good emotionally or mentally (or actually professionally either).
The cat is lying on the pillow next to me, purring. OMG so cute!
See? I’m not letting work distract me from – I’m just going to pet her for a couple minutes –
6. Music almost wrecked our lives.
A dramatic way of putting it, but the few interviews (also this one) that I read this year indicate that KE found little solace in her career path, especially when things were at their worst.
What a shitty life choice music can be. It doesn’t matter what area of music you’re in, although I think performing it is a far more tenuous and subject-to-criticism existence than teaching or writing about it. But you do realize by the time you get to your thirties that you’ve followed this so-called passion to a point that doesn’t necessarily make you feel like it did when you were 20 and belting out tunes in your bachelor apartment. Now you’re in this world where your friends have bought houses (I typed hoses there; I don’t know if that was some kind of psychological slip, but I suppose they’ve bought hoses to go with their houses), reproduced, secured stable jobs, and you’re still fooling around with music? You’re travelling again? Don’t you want to stay at home and decorate your place and watch reruns of The Office? Well, don’t worry dear, soon everything will be better and you’ll remember this and laugh.
But see, the thing is, people like us, we can’t really function without music. Making that decision at 17, the only choice that seemed available at the time, forever set us up to be somewhat dysfunctional without the presence of music in our lives. You know, I did have a diary at that time, and I took it out a few years ago and read this passage of frustration against my mom. “She wants me to go into something that will make money like business or science. Can’t she see that I’m no good at those things! That music is my life. I can’t have a minute where I am not making music.” So bloody teenagery and dramatic, but then I really did follow through (and my mom was really good about it after the initial shock. She did, after all, put me in piano lessons.)
The problem is, music has also been my greatest source of despair. And I’m not referring to economic despair here, although that is also significant. I’m talking about self-confidence problems, thwarted ambitions, listening to something 3000 times before I understand it, practicing it 7000 times before screaming into my pillow, giving up plans and dreams and reforming others; in the end, however you interact with music, it gives you the unconditional love whose equivalent you can probably only find in a cat. No matter how many times we vow to quit, it won’t quit us.
Trite words, maybe, for someone who has been trained to view music objectively, but every once in a while I feel a bit like Kathleen Edwards and I would have something to talk about.