When I was a teenager, I never read the classics my teachers assigned. Not “Romeo and Juliet” or The Outsiders” or “The Great Gatsby” or “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” or “Ordinary People.” I was too entranced with Jackie Collins and Sidney Sheldon and VC Andrews, and too busy smoking pot on the way to school, to crack “To Kill a Mockingbird.” And I hated being told to read the right books.
I didn’t listen to the right music, either. I might have been getting high in the parking lot before Home Room, but I was not one of the edgy, mouthy kids, and I was way too scared to try real drugs or skip school. A boyfriend who played in a band used to call me “Miss Pop Music” with my cassette tapes of The Cars and Madonna and Earth, Wind, and Fire. Still today, I can’t name a single song, a single lyric, by Lucinda Williams or Violent Femmes or Liz Phair. (I just googled Liz to make sure I could spell her last name.)
I wonder if I’m cool enough to be a writer. If I’m dark enough. If I’m too comfortable or too happy. If I spend too much time following sports or with my dogs instead of logging silent, alone-hours in the back corner of our indy coffee shop. If I should be letting my hair go gray or striping it with blue. Do I need to go Vegan or drink Oolong. Should I be wearing someone else’s broken-in boots. What if I’m still not reading the right books or listening to the right music. I’m still blasting EW&F in my car, after all, with my dogs riding in the back, on the way to plunk down twenty bucks for the latest Elizabeth Strout novel.
How about that Philip Bailey in his shiny gold pants.