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Youthful Indiscretions
April 30th, 2010

Do you cling to embarrassing vestiges of your youth?  Is your autographed New Kids on the Block poster still rolled up and tucked away in your parents’ house somewhere?  Do you still have the first CD you bought?  Do you wish it were something cooler than Poison?  Are your high school diaries collecting dust until you have the emotional fortitude to throw them out?  Do you still know every single word to “Ice Ice Baby”?  Are you ambivalent about your old prom photos, wishing never to see them again, but yet unable to discard them?

My answer to all those questions is Yes.  (Except for the New Kids poster.  I can proudly say that I was never a fan of NKOTB.  Also that I never had big bangs.  I made a couple of decent decisions.)  Our youths are full of poor, but harmless, decisions.  We look back and cringe at our fashion selections, musical tastes, romantic pursuits, and rampant overuse of the word “like.”  I am no exception.

But sometimes we stumble onto something in our more formative years that endures; something that initially smacks of a teenaged phase, but somehow holds on.  Either the emotional tether to that thing (bad hat, cheesy song, flavor of lip gloss, etc.) is so strong that no amount of humiliating hindsight can sever it.  Or maybe that thing wasn’t such a bad decision after all.  Sometimes, in spite of our adolescent selves, we managed to develop an affinity to something worth holding onto.  The novels of Barbara Kingsolver.  Baking.  Or the Indigo Girls

Yes.  The Indigo Girls.  These crooners of summer camp ballads and chick rock anthems found their way to me in the most predictable of venues: the Walkman of a seatmate on a 16-passenger van during a Spring Break road trip to a Mexican border town for a church mission trip.  It doesn’t get much more clichéd than that. 

Secure yourself to heaven.
Hold on tight the night has come. 
Fasten up your earthly burdens. 
You have just begun.

Those lyrics, sung in tight harmony over acoustic guitars, slid effortlessly into my melodramatic, 17-year-old brain and stuck.  Permanently.  I was hooked, and over the next few years I accumulated every album they’d produced since 1985.  Each song oozed with melody, harmony, and poetry – an intoxicating combination for an innocent Southern girl searching for dramatic depth and meaning in her happy and complacent little life. 

But as I outgrew many of my other youthful indiscretions, I never outgrew my love of the Indigo Girls.  Perhaps I no longer bathe myself in their lyrics looking for parallels to my own life.  But my initial affection wasn’t misguided.  They have, for 25 years now, created music that does in fact ooze with melody, harmony, and poetry.  And I’m not the least bit ashamed that I’m still lured in by it.

I thought about these things the other night as I stood on the floor of a concert hall, watching them perform live.  As everyone in the crowd sang along to our forever favorites I realized that while some of my reasons for loving this band have changed, the core reasons have not.  I love beautiful music.  I love eloquent words.  I love powerful messages.  And their songs weave each of those things together into an intangible tapestry that will always speak to me. 

It was a wonderful night.  Two girlfriends and I met up at my house, leaving our husbands and sons to fend for themselves.  And out we went for an evening of pizza, drinks, much talk of motherhood, and a date with the favorite band of our youth.  I loved every minute of it. 

I am grateful to have a life that is filled with pizza, and friendship, and beautiful music.

8 Responses to “Youthful Indiscretions”

  1. Anne Says:

    I’m so with you. And of course, you introduced me to the Indigo Girls, so I’m grateful for that. It’s fascinating how they are often portrayed as passe now, when all I hear is great lyrics and lovely harmony. Some things are definitely worth holding onto.

  2. TheKitchenWitch Says:

    Boy, do I remember summers where they’d be playing Indigo Girls tunes like crazy! I always HAD to sing along!

    I wasn’t a NKOTB fan, either! It’s one of my few proud moments when I look at my past :)

  3. Bridget Says:

    Beautiful poetry and music is timeless.

    It’s funny, while at the concert the song “Power of Two” carried so much more meaning for me than the last time I really listened to the words. Wow – that’s what marriage is all about, huh? Good to get a refresher every now and then. Yet another testament to the power of good music; on the 500th time listening to a song I was deeply moved by the message.

    (And the irony is not lost on me that the refresher came from two women who do not have the legal right to be married.)

    Long live Amy and Emily! Keep on making the music that speaks so well to the important things in life. If only more kids listened to them than Eminem we could all rest a little easier at night :)

  4. Gale Says:

    So true, Bridget. A little more folk rock and a little less gangster rap might make this world a better place.

  5. Eva Says:

    Music is so powerful, so visceral and moving and emotional. And some lyrics capture what I’m feeling perfectly, in a way I never could.

    Husband and I saw Tom Petty last summer and one thing I loved about it was the diversity of the audience. Generations coming together – folks nearing retirement, high school students, and us somewhere in the middle. Beautiful.

    As far as my youth, I’m afraid there are some things I’m still coming to terms with, some choices from my high school years I’d like to forget. But they are a part of me, so I’ll eventually accept them (although probably not share them widely).

  6. Holly Says:

    I love the Indigo Girls too, but am also a proud current fan of the New Kids. Loved them then, and I still do. ;)

  7. Gale Says:

    Way to hang tough, Holly!

  8. michelle Says:

    they do put on a good show :)
    ….although i didn’t get to catch them this time around.
    I think some of their lyrics are engraved permanantly on my brain.