Feeling a little agitated today. I know what’s got my goat. Trying to get past it, talk myself through. Doesn’t always work. Sometimes only musical immersion therapy helps. So I’ve cranked Zeppelin.
I still remember the first time Kevin played the Houses of the Holy album for me. An actual album, vinyl. It was the late 80s. I was listening to Madonna, Cher, Cyndi Lauper, the Bangles, Fine Young Cannibals, Roxette … and I was on a country kick because it made me feel a little closer to home to listen to Shenandoah, Clint Black, Rodney Crowell, The Judds, Ricky Scaggs, Kathy Mattea, Holly Dunn, the Desert Rose Band and of course, my mom’s favourite, Alabama. I was in no musical frame of mind for Houses of the Holy. Perhaps if I had toked, but that was never my thing.
I remember sitting on the floor as the needle grooved along the record. “I don’t like this,” I proclaimed shortly. He was astonished, how could anyone not like Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy?! “It scares me,” I continued. “It’s too dark. I can’t listen.” He pretty much dismissed my musical tastes as being nothing more than “bubble gum” from that moment on — we could share a love of Billy Joel, but I’d never “get” The Tragically Hip. I meant that Zeppelin was too emotionally overwhelming for me on that particular day and time, not that it was bad. I just didn’t want to be melancholy, to think too deep, to be too happy, to feel too much … because if I felt too much I would cry, and I most definitely did not want to cry in front of this man who was so perfect and godlike in my eyes.
I never bothered to correct his incorrect perception of me. I let it drop, let him think I didn’t like Zeppelin. So I suppose I probably shouldn’t have been surprised many years later when he didn’t get my irony as I teased that Alanis Morissette’s lyrics were nothing but “bubble gum.” We had been separated and hadn’t seen each other for a few years, but I guess I thought he knew me better. So what was supposed to be a playful personal joke hearkening back to the early days of our love, turned into a “I can’t effing believe you and your high horse” lecture from a man I didn’t recognize. Again, I didn’t correct him. My silence confirmed his perception.
This is something I do. My sense of humour type is ironic/sarcastic. I deliver a line that is directly opposed to my personal belief, which I believe is completely obvious to anyone who knows me, and most times I think is so generally absurd as to be completely obvious to anyone who isn’t some sort of religious or right-wing extremist freak.
I do it without thinking, it’s an automatic reaction … but I’ll deliver this completely absurd line without flinching, without cracking a smile, as if I honestly believed what I was saying (hence the irony of the joke). And I would stop doing this all together if I could, but out of everything I do this is the thing that is the most natural and unconscious, like breathing, like sneezing … I don’t seem to be able to do anything to stop it because it happens so quick … I have no freaking idea where it comes from.
And more often than not, although it’s probably really only 25% of the time, people take me at face value, like Kevin did with Alanis. And I don’t correct them. I just let them think whatever I’ve just said, which is the direct opposite of what I really think, is what I think. I let people’s perceptions of me get skewed. And I’m not just talking strangers, colleagues, general acquaintances, I mean my best friends, my parents, my sisters, the people who are closest to me. When it happens I say nothing, and people take my silence as reinforcement.
Why do I do this? I mean with strangers and general acquaintances, it doesn’t really matter one way or the other, and I really shouldn’t be expecting them to understand my sense of humour anyway because they don’t know me from a hole in the ground, so I get what I deserve if they think I’m arrogant or twisted. But close friends? Family? How come I never speak up and say, “I was kidding.” Maybe I do sometimes, but generally, I don’t. I just don’t. I sit there like a ninny and generally take whatever tongue lashing they’re dishing out or listen to their argument for the “other” side … which is really the side I’m all ready on … oi! It’s complicated, I know.
As I sat quietly listening to Kevin tell me what an unimaginative uncreative non-artistic soul I must be if I couldn’t see the poetry in the lyrics of Alanis, I felt like I had been slapped in the face. At one time this was the person I was closest to in the world, and yet here was proof he didn’t really know me very well at all. Obviously, he didn’t remember how he used to tease me about my “bubble gum” music. He didn’t get that Alanis was such an amazing talent that for anyone to say otherwise was absurd and therefore, “Isn’t it ironic?” By the time I came around to the point where I could speak without crying because I was so upset, it seemed too late to say, “I was kidding you freaking moron.”
It hurt me on a very deep level and I never thought of him in quite the same way again. To be honest, I never really enjoyed Alanis much after that either. I always associate her with the hurt of this memory.
It’s funny how such simple little things can have such an impact on our lives. I have an ironic sense of humour. A lot of people don’t. A lot of people don’t get the irony in my humour, or they only get it some of the time. A lot of the time it doesn’t matter if people get me or not, but sometimes it does, when it’s my family and close friends. Maybe I can’t control the jokes, maybe they’ll just spill out unannounced and unpredicted like always, but I should at least be able to speak up and say I was kidding. If I could get past the shock and hurt and “I’m all alone in the world” feelings just a tad bit quicker, I wouldn’t be five minutes into a heated argument and saying, “I was kidding,” would be a helluva lot easier to do. I can work on that. Maybe all it takes is setting the record straight one time and not letting people walk away with a completely ass-backward skewed view of me.
Years ago I was out at a party with a friend and I did it, I made an ironic joke. After an awkward silence, I was just about to fess up (because it’s easier to say you’re kidding if the other people are not close friends and they are silently standing there passing their judgment rather than trying to bring you around to the right way of thinking) when my friend laughed, “She’s just kidding.” My silence confirmed his theory, as I turned and looked into his eyes with amazement. “Wow! I think he sees me, he really sees me!”
Somewhere in the world there is a man who thinks he has known me as well as I know myself. We shared our most intimate secrets and loved each other deeply for many years. He has no doubt that I hate Led Zeppelin, The Tragically Hip and of course, Alanis Morissette. Somewhere else there is a man who knows very few of my secrets and has no idea he knew me like nobody else.
Mood: less agitated having written this
Drinking: coffee, black, water, wet
Listening To: eyes without a face, billy idol
Hair: headbanded like an 80s Olivia Newton John