“Would you still love me if I wrote you bad songs?” one of your legion asked me once, theoretically, I suppose. Well, theoretically speaking—
Wait, actually, I guess I could. Especially if I met you at a party where I was really drunk and you didn’t mention that you’re in a band. Of course eventually I might let it slip that I write poetry and am learning to play the guitar, because I am dumb like that, and then you would get all excited and tell me you’re in a band.
I would probably ask you would kind of band, and you’d say “rock band”—unless you have some pretentious label that sounds cooler, which is fine. I’m obviously all for the pretentious if it’s done artfully enough.
But sooner or later the moment would come when you’d give me a burned CD of your band’s music, or maybe even a mix. Perhaps you’d be coy and say that your band is at its best live and would ask me to refrain from listening to recordings of your music. Somehow, I’d fall in love with you anyway. Love is mysterious and who knows why, but let’s say I would.
Then, after weeks of anticipation on your part, and weeks of busy indifference on mine, that fateful weekday in a dive bar would come when you would be the headline band. Since you really wanted me to have the real [insert your band name here] experience, you wouldn’t let me hang out while you set up. Oh no! You’d put me on your comp list and tell me to come at 10pm.
I’d show up and the bouncer would say I’m not on the damned list, or else I’d be there but my name would be all misspelled and he wouldn’t believe I’m me. It would be one of those bouncers who takes things mighty literally. He’d refuse to even call you over to prove my identity. I’d end up having to pay the $5 cover while secretly wondering if this wasn’t a deliberate scheme of yours based on some asshat speed seduction technique.
I’d come over to say hello to you on stage, and you, in full rock star mode, would give me one of your drink tickets. I’d debate whether I should tell you of the comp-list debacle but refrain.
Then I’d go over to the bar and try to order a Guinness, only to find out that the drink tickets are good for well drinks and beer on tap, which the Guinness is not. WTF? Well, whatever. I settle for a Miller High Life. It’s free beer after all. Then I realize, hey waitaminute. It’s not really free beer! I paid the freaking cover! Suddenly the cheap beer just doesn’t taste as good and the seeds of resentment are planted in my ungrateful soul.
At least I’m in a cozy dive bar. Ritzy bars always make me feel out of place. Give me sticky tables and dirty couches any day.
I settle into a pleasant dark corner on a couch that used to be orange once, I think. I tuck my feet under my butt, lean on the arm rest, and drink the beer as quickly as I can to properly prepare my blood-alcohol-level for rocking out.
You step in front of the microphone. It screeches as you try to dramatically remove it from the mic stand. Was that on purpose to make you seem rough and wild? You introduce [insert your band name here] and enjoin everyone in the bar to prepare him or herself to rock because this will be one wild show. I look around and it mostly looks like people who’ve come here after work —I’m not sure that anyone is actually ready to rock. I try to finish my beer since—did I mention this before? —I hate rock and roll. I would say scrap the whole thing if it were not for the Velvet Underground.
I prepare to rock, in as far as a lady who is not from this country and lives in a hole in the ground, pop-culturally speaking, is able to.
One, Two, Three, Four!
And you suck. Oh my God, does [insert your band name here] suck.
I’m glad I’m in the dark corner because you can’t see me cringing. After about three songs I get up and order several Tequila shots. After all, it’s not just some crappy bar band I don’t care about. It’s the crappy bar band of the man I love! You can’t possibly imagine how uncomfortable I feel.
After I’ve returned to me seat with another crappy beer to chase down the tequila, I feel that the situation has become vaguely tolerable. And then it turns out I was wrong.
You’ve been giving cute intros in between songs all along so it takes me a moment to process that this one is different.
Wait, no, you’re not actually trying to pronounce my name? I guess that does sound like my name if you squint and turn your head sideways.
You what? You want me to come on stage. Oh no. No way. No fucking way man!
You’re coming here? You’re getting off stage and actually dragging me there with you?
Can I at least take my beer?
You make me stand next to you on the “stage” while you sing a song ostensibly dedicated to me. Thank the pain of its badness reaches me only dimly, through a dull haze of alcoholic anesthesia.
You’ve stuck to the radio-play formula and your song is hardly more than 3 minutes long after which I’m allowed to return to my seat on the dirty couch. If I were you though, I wouldn’t have asked that question. I mean the question “Would you still love me if I wrote you bad songs” because I’m forced to consider it seriously now.
I do still love you, but I have to admit that my love is mixed with pity and contempt.
It’s cute that you have a rock band that you’re passionate about. It’s cute any time someone is passionate about something, even if it’s kind of bad. But at the same time, your complete lack of ability to see how awful you are is pitiable.
Depending on a number of factors I might love you for months or even years after hearing your terrible songs. My contempt and pity will only grow, but as H.L. Mencken wisely points out, contempt is the feeling a woman must have for a man to marry him, and so we’ll probably get married and heck, even have a couple of kids.
I’ll still love you and rock band will still suck. Over time I won’t love you any more, but we’ll stay married because of the kids, who I will love.
When we’re both in our 40s your rock band will get picked up by a major label and you’ll be surrounded by groupies who love you and think your music is pure sex. Kids these days! I’ll say. You’ll insist you have no interest in the fresh 18-year old bodies they throw at you, but you’re only human and eventually you’ll hook up with one or a dozen of them.
One day I’ll discover I have crabs and you’ll be forced to admit your infidelity. Not only that, your love for the other woman, a 22 year old brunette with oatmeal for brains.
Since by that point my love will have turned entirely to contempt, we’ll part on pretty good terms. I mean, I don’t care if you sleep with your groupies. Good luck to you. The kids are in college and they’ll be just fine. Especially since you’re now rich enough to afford the very best in psychotherapy for them.
The only point of contention will be the money. Your lawyers are going to do their best to screw me out of it, but guess who was smart enough to sign a pre-nup about you making it big and not having to share the earnings with your ex-wife? No, not you! You were a dumb romantic and now you’ll have to give me money for the rest of my life.
Then I’ll realized that heterosexuality was just a passing, experimental phase of my life and live with my lesbian lover and her pit bulls in Noe Valley. We’ll go to wine tastings and Long Now Foundation talks. Our kids will be torn whether it’s more uncomfortable to have a rock star dad or a frumpy lesbian mom. Your dad sleeps with people your own age or your momma wears combat boots (and sleeps with a woman her own age)?
Anyway, maybe you’d be better off dating someone who doesn’t hate rock music.