Archive for the ‘Adventures in Parenting’ Category

So if your teenager goes and gets a tattoo without telling you, is the offense at all mitigated by the fact that it’s a literary tattoo?

tattoo, black cat w/red scarf


(I’m curious – were these books generally well known, or are they an obscurity particular to my family?)

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Somewhat by accident, I took 14-year-old Seconda to her first rock concert this past December.  It was one of those radio-station-sponsored affairs, with a lineup of ten bands and a running time of seven hours, and I bought the tickets assuming 17-year-old Prima, usually an exemplary sister, would be willing to go with her.

Bad assumption.  Prima had no interest in seeing any of the bands, no stomach for the seven-hour ordeal, and insufficient sisterly devotion to just grit her teeth and go anyway.  Reason didn’t sway her.  Strategically applied guilt had no effect.  She would not even consider a bribe.

Assuming (again with the assumptions!) a 14-year-old would rather wade a mile through leech-infested waters than go to a rock concert with her mom, I proposed other escorts.  Cool childless aunt?  Guitar-Hero-playing cousin?  Maybe… Dad?

No, no, and no.  For reasons I still can’t fathom, my daughter had made up her mind that, if her sister couldn’t be persuaded to go, I was the escort of choice.  And so it happened that I went to a seven-hour, ten-band rock concert.  Nine hours and ten minutes, actually, counting the time we spent standing in line and the twenty minutes the thing ran over (and believe you me, I was counting).


Picture of rock band

I saw these guys, but I have no idea who they are. In my day, the people onstage at a concert looked like Boy George, or maybe Prince. Nowadays they all look like this, and you can't tell one from another. (Edit 2/1/11: Alert reader Karen has plausibly ID'd these two as Martin Johnson and Paul DiGiovanni of the band Boys Like Girls. There was indeed a band called Boys Like Girls in the lineup, so I'm going with it. Thanks, Karen!)

The headline act, and really the whole reason for going, was Seconda’s favorite band, Paramore.  And towards the beginning of the show, in one of about a billion attempts to pump the audience into a frenzy, the concert overlords reminded us of the lineup, with pictures on the big video screens:  “Coming up:  Blah-de-blah, blah-de-blah, blah-de-blah… and Paramore.”

And when they said “Paramore,” my fourteen-year-old daughter squealed aloud, entirely without irony, like a kid half her age.  It was as though, until that moment, she hadn’t quite let herself believe that Paramore was truly going to be there.  Like it all might prove to be some elaborate bait-and-switch somehow.  Anyway it was ridiculously adorable, and it made me glad no other escort had panned out.

I’m also glad I went because partway through Paramore’s eventual set, there came a kind of goosebumpy moment.  They played this one number – a quieter love song that had been a radio hit – and the audience, most of whom seemed to be young women and all of whom seemed to know the words, sang along.  And when the chorus came around for the second time, the singer stepped back from the mike and the audience kept on singing by themselves.


Paramore! These guys I can recognize, because the singer was tiny, red-haired, and female.

I suppose this isn’t uncommon in rock concerts, but in that moment, it just seemed like such a clear and lovely illustration of the audience’s role in realizing – completing – a piece of popular art.  The artist writes the song, records it, sends it out into the world, and it’s not really complete until it’s received by someone to whom it means something.  The audience gives it that last little spark; makes it real, like the Velveteen Rabbit.

I don’t believe all art works this way, or all artists.  Some artists, I’m pretty sure, create what they feel compelled to create, and put it out there, and, while they certainly hope people will like it, that’s not really the point.  Maybe they’ll be appreciated in posterity; maybe not.  Doesn’t matter.  They’ve answered to their muse.

But in the romance genre, as in pop music – I guess I should speak for myself here but I’ll go out on a limb with the gross generalization anyway – it doesn’t work like that.  Posterity and the muse take a backseat, I think, to actual people alive on the planet right now.

Does that make the product more transitory?  More disposable?  Well, maybe.  Think of the Billboard Hot 100, or the romance shelves at Barnes & Noble.  There’s always something new coming along to push whatever’s there now out of the way.  Whereas nobody’s ever going to shoulder out Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, or War and Peace.

Nevertheless there’s a value, I think, in that personal connection.  In that special, quasi-collaborative relationship between artist and audience.  And to see it so vividly enacted – to witness this crowd of young people laying claim to this song, with its resonant-to-them impression of love – gave me chills, and reminded me of what a privilege it really is to write the most popular of popular fiction, romance.

Am I off base?  Did I go too far out on the limb? Is a comparison between pop music and romance legitimate?  Or do you think the seven-hour concert might have impaired my critical faculties?

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Yesterday my elder daughter (code name Prima) and I watched New Moon.  Prima is a persnickety reader, and the Twilight books are not actually to her taste.  Snarking over movie adaptations of those books, however, is very much to her taste, and after four-plus hours of taking the SAT, she was in the mood to rent New Moon.

Since I’m the one with the Blockbuster card, I went out to get it.  And I did not realize that its actual title is The Twilight Saga: New Moon, so I went to the N section of New Releases, and did not find it there.  Checked the Top 20 Most Popular New Releases section; it wasn’t there either.  Maybe it didn’t count as new anymore?  Went into the Drama section; no New Moon.

I had to approach a clerk.  He told me about how its title began with a T, and pointed to the far corner of the store, adding, “It’s right under the poster of Jacob.”

And suddenly it became very important to me that this Blockbuster employee, with whom I may never interact again, not believe that I was actually renting New Moon for myself.

So I gave a sort of vague, no comprende shake of the head and said:  “I don’t know who Jacob is.”  Right.  Because I have been living in a CAVE!

He explained, not only which poster was the poster of Jacob, but who Jacob is in the story world (“secondary heartthrob”), and suggested maybe I wanted to start with Twilight and progress to New Moon.

I said, “No, I’m supposed to get the one called New Moon.”  Like a befuddled sitcom husband at the supermarket with a shopping list.  Because I am only following orders for teenagers awaiting me at home, Mr. Blockbuster!

That did the trick.  He said, “Oh, this isn’t for you,” and I muttered something about teenagers, and paid for the DVD and got out of there.  At the time I actually thought I was pretty convincing, but transcribing my lines up above, I realize it doesn’t come off as very convincing after all.  Anyway I told the story when I got home.  Prima and younger sister Seconda thought it was hilarious, but I think my husband found it slightly odd.

About New Moon, I don’t have a lot to say.  We laughed and snarked at all the gratuitous shirtlessness, but the truth is I came away feeling a little bad for Taylor Lautner, the kid who plays Jacob.  Because of course not only do I know who Jacob is, but I know that the producers considered re-casting the role with someone manlier, and that Lautner worked to bulk himself up in order to be a credible rival to Edward, as the story sort of demands.

And honestly, to see all that bulk and muscle definition (seriously, that kid must have made a full-time job of it) on a boy who’s about my own daughter’s age, made me kind of… sad, behind the snark.  When he first pulled off his shirt to reveal it (conveniently standing up from his previous crouching position, with the camera positioned low so that he’d sort of loom over us in all his muscle-bound magnificence), it felt a bit like watching a 17-year-old girl reveal new breast implants or something.  Breast implants gotten in desperation because all the roles she auditioned for kept going to “sexier” actresses.

Anyway, that’s my take.  Prima gave a thumbs-down to the CGI, smirked at all the “You’re the only thing in the world that makes my life worth living” dialogue, and could not believe Bella’s friends would put up with her constantly blowing them off.

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