diary-of-an-alt-pop-mother - blog 6 -
Recently my 8 and 10 yr old came up to me and said hesitantly
"your music isn’t really…um…cool is it mum?"
I, slightly taken aback, answered “Ah….well… what do you mean by cool?”
"Like… Rock music"
I say “well I … ah”
My son says “you know like Robot Rock”.
Ha! Not very accurate little music critics after all! He is referring to Robot Rock by DJ’s ‘Daft Punk’ - who are NOT rock - they are um…kind of electro break beat … but yes they ARE cool (we bought him their CD - pretty cool for his ‘first album’ hey …mine was Mary Poppins.)
Then my daughter offers
Oh. Not as cool as Harmony. Of course. Auntie Harmony. My own little sister. Well yes they have something there. I guess having a pretty, punkesque auntie all dressed in black, up on stage with a loud band pounding, then suddenly jumping off stage to give them both hugs hello when she sees them as they come into the gig up close to the stage with me - to then jump back up on stage and start singing (and at times screaming like a banchee) IS pretty DAMN COOL.
Plus they have also probably picked up that we all think she’s cool too. I’ve even joked to our friends I think saying “I could never be as cool as Harmony, it just comes so naturally to her”.
It’s backfired. They were not meant to hear that! We cannot be compared! I am cool in my own right damn it! “Mother in band” equals COOL! Doesn’t it? Doesn’t it?
So then I say to them
"well I used to play some rockier music” (admittedly the use of word ‘rockier’ is an embarrassingly bad start
"and there’s one where I even scream like her…I’ll have a look for the song." I’m desperate.
I quickly go downstairs and find the song ‘Picking Daisies’, I haven’t heard it for absolute ages, and realise I have not actually ever shown my own children this very old record of mine - the only one that was ever actually (friggin-well) released by the record companies. And there in the most dramatic as close to rock punk-ness song I have - there are my screams and wailings in the background. I used to almost cry on stage in this song, collapsing to my knees dramatically at the end. It exhausted me. I would sit there kneeling by myself while they played a short instrumental pause. The two songs always went together, like a ‘piece’ for the audience, for the story-line.
AGHHH…..You drive me insane so that I’m like you, but if I start to change, well, who will you run to? And you keep asking me if I, if I… love you……
I loved the drama and I do miss that a bit, as I seemed to ditch it from my over use of it for a while. But it takes confidence to ‘go there’ you have to be ok with yourself, ok with being ‘a bit over the top’. Disturbing the mid tones of an easy listen or of an audience just expecting a fun night out.
I called the kids downstairs and played them the song
…and I feel like, and I feel like I have to, I HAVE to love you AAAAAAAHHHHH (shouting, loud guitar, drums, angle grinder!)
"See!" I said, hoping for some re-assurance.
I’m not sure they were convinced. But I think they found it intriguing. I think they find the whole thing a bit mysterious. I’ve heard my daughter say to her friends ‘when mum was famous’ - which is another word a bit like ‘cool’. Undefinable.
It’s funny, ‘cos I noticed at least in a few of our earlier Belle of the Ball shows last year - that I had a sudden never felt before panic -while performing - thinking suddenly “am I cool? am I cool? do the audience think I’m cool?”
It just came in and kept going through my head, even to the point of making me forget lyrics.
On this particular night the audience appeared to mostly consist of teenagers and I think it’s that - that threw me.
Our world seems to idolise “young people”. To want to impress them, be like them, have them on your side, understand them. But if anything they probably care more, wonder more about what everyone thinks of them.
Many years ago when the said sister was a budding teen I said in jest ‘stop trying to be cool Harmony' and to my horror it turned out she carried that silently for years. I couldn’t believe it when she told me. I felt so bad! Ah the irony. It seems this same vulnerability comes back later.
At this show there was a moment where I thought “ok lets just stop. This song is really not going well, really not working, let’s just stop it and do another one, or just give up and go and sit down! Yeah let’s just…” and the song would be over, we would have got through to it’s end and people were clapping! It was ok!
Wow… what was happening to me? I had never felt this stuff before, mid show, this little devil voice whispering 'you are not ok, you are not good, you suck'. Why now after all these years of confidence and true belief in my music and ability were there doubts coming into my mind mid song, in front of everyone.
At the beginning of my career the only coolness we cared about was 'not selling out' - you know like all true alt/indie musicians. I'm sure we were not hugely cool but others seemed to think so, and really that is what defines cool anyway I guess. Other people's opinions. Perception. Once again, just like fame.
I know being a mother is not cool per se and it is why perhaps this blog was scary to start, stupid but true, but the fact I am one had already leaked into my songs anyway, in dark ways mostly. Songs of housewife - stay at home - mother - type sorrows, emptiness, wailing, well no not wailing…
Don’t leave me here darling I don’t think you should,
beetroot soup, nothing here but beetroot soup.
And what about the children, what should we do about the children?
Where do we go from here?
Actually yes, that is a bit wail-y. I always try to sing this song in a calm voice, understated, but it takes me over and all the frustration of this new life, now replacing my younger self’s life, my younger self’s lyrics, takes a hold and makes the song quite frantic and it expresses what I’m carrying unknowingly still, the mother vs work vs art vs marriage vs time - conversation that continues on inside me, without me.
Beetroot soup do you want some beetroot soup,
there is nothing left except for me to cook for you.
I have not cooked beetroot soup in a while. Nor baked a cake. For - to write a song - I have to sacrifice non run of the mill food making.
To have time with my children - I have to sacrifice answering a music booking agent’s email.
To give all of my heart back to music like I did before - I’d have to sacrifice some of the bit that my precious family has now.
This is the challenge. I think we parents can have both, but I would because I’m a product of our generation. I’m a woman post the feminist movement… I have a husband who shares the housework…I’m a middle class…self employed, low income artist and I think I can have whatever I want, but it turns out …hmmm not so sure. Who’s going to show us how to do it?
When you leave, what will there be left for me, beetroot soup, beetroot soup.
I want more than the making of beetroot soup to be the highlight of my day. More than hanging out at playgrounds to while away the hours so the kids are happy. More than only folding clean clothes and doing dishes ‘cos it’s the only thing that allows me to stay open to being happily interrupted by my children. More than just surviving and hanging around.
It gets boring.
I love being with my children but sometimes I get bored of endless ‘kid things’ too. I am an adult. I missed doing adult things, My 'other' things. Like creating, like work. That's all, that’s not so bad is it? It's natural. Isn't it? To get a bit bored?
But it causes trouble. Trying to do more. Trying to achieve ‘other’ things as well as vaccuming.
I think sometimes the constant tidying and cleaning just makes me feel too ‘base’. If I was achieving more fancy things too I would like the base stuff - a welcome ‘break’ from fanciness - but if all your week consists of is ‘base’ and boring tasks - then you resent it, like you feel like it is somehow beneath you, like you have a right to not JUST BE DOING THIS. That there is more to me than this.
My friend once said she also wants her kids to see her doing other things. So they know she can. I feel my children watching me as I try to DO OTHER THINGS. Watching the back of my head, looking carefully at my eyes - the emotion they are revealing, trying to work it all out. Is it cool? Is it fun? Can I do it too? What is it like? Sometimes I’m not sure I want them to know what it really is like. Being an adult. Trying to follow dreams or create a good balanced life for ourselves.
It might just be too much to hold.
Sometimes I think that I held my parent’s adult-ness and alternative, driven ideals for life in my heart from so young an age that at 15 I’d reached an early onset midlife crisis of expectation from seeing life in such a way. Each birthday bringing home to me what I hadn’t done yet. I was only a child! 14, 15, 16, 17 yrs old. But I could sing! This was my talent! I should be singing! I was wasting my life!
I have gone full circle.
I am back to that bit again.
I should be singing! I’m wasting my life! drama! failure! days, weeks, years ticking away! agh!
I feel in-between two places - the first place was me (younger) ‘finally’ (by 19) doing the things in my heart - it was hard work and disillusioning and sucked and all that but it did feel good, deep down in my gut that I was doing it.
And the second place that feels ominously still ahead of me - is the bit where I am doing something like that again. But differently.
I know I am not actually in between - because my small steps mean that I have started the next bit already and for that I am very grateful - (as for a while there I would not touch music with a barge pole) but it is excruciatingly slow and at times I really do not want to bother. It means too much, so I get stuck. And sad. And want to quit.
My daughter sometimes looks at me and says “Mum… have you been crying?” I have an eye allergy so no I usually haven’t been - it just looks like it - but sometimes when I had been - (you know! at least once a month!) I realised I was hoping she wouldn’t catch me out. Why? I don’t mind them seeing me cry but I didn’t want them to know about some things. About deep disappointment. About unfinished goals.
I want them to know that life can be difficult, yes, but do-able and lovely too.
don’t want them to want too much.
And I want to fool them into thinking that Mum, apart from a few tears is ok. Maybe I am ok. I don’t know anymore. I’m so used to the mantra inside me saying things are undone.
But it seems writing about these things is somehow making them less undone. Less of a secret. Less bad, less how I truly feel now.
Wow. I never thought it would happen.
Maybe it is about just allowing them to keep asking questions, they are good at that. They will find out what they need to know. Like me. I feel like I am slowly finding out.
Actually, the end of that story above about my show is a good one. The one where I was the ‘old’ person who was not cool and who’s music wasn’t cool and who may never write a good song in her life again….one.
At the end of the night out of the ‘group’ of young people so intrusively and undermine-ingly sitting in the audience (how dare they) - a boy/man with an afro comes up and says to me
"Hey, um, I really loved your music…yeah… I…um (looking around him nervously) liked your band the best"
As I was packing our instruments back into the car (including my electric guitar and amp - yeah pretty cool huh? huh?) - the guy walked past again thanking us for our ‘cool’ music and the girl with him - to top it off and completely render back to me, a woman, a confident sense of self with nothing more to be said -
“And you’re really pretty!!”
HA! Karate kick that yo.
Harmony and I in a who is the coolest (disco dance) battle. I have a yellow jumpsuit on. Say no more.
Singin and playin next to my man on the piano stool (just like I used to with my big sister Dani who I thought was very cool indeed and I liked it when she played music with me and we made up stuff).
Me as Perfect Housewife Barbie - for Halloween (can’t work out which photo is scarier).
Finally, the infamous beetroot soup - I even took a photo of it!
(next to that - a mini spanikapita - oh DO ask me for the recipe!)