After having spent the last 18 months with the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat, the girls have finally allowed me to play DJ and put on the radio during our treks to and from school.
The other day, I picked up M and her friends from the middle school and spun the dial to pop station. Inevitably, something from the T. Swift catalog came on.
If you haven’t experienced a handful of tweenage girls belting out “Look What You Made Me Do”, each verse peppered with commentary on the hidden meanings in Tay-Tay’s video, while you navigate after school carpool loops, then really, what are you doing with your life?
After switching out the middle schoolers for my 4th grader and kindergartner, we began the drive home. The radio was still on, Swifty having been replaced some other chart toppers from a an indie rock boy band, followed by the new banger by American Idol’s very first winner. A song that I didn’t recognize came on and as I made to switch the channel (as one does), the girls implored me to leave it.
Through the speakers, a woman’s voice began to coo about things she couldn’t explain and how it was all complicated. As the girls hummed along, my ear started picking up some of the words.
“Am I out of my head?
Am I out of my mind?
If you only knew the bad things I like
Don’t think that I can explain it
What can I say, it’s complicated
Don’t matter what you say
Don’t matter what you do
I only wanna do bad things to you
So good, that you can’t explain it
What can I say, it’s complicated”
By the second refrain, I started to wonder, “Why do all three of my children know this song and what do they think it means?” So, I turn to the 10 year old and ask her.
“I don’t know,” she shrugs.
“So why were you singing the song then?”
“I wasn’t singing, Mom. I was humming!”
Okay. . .
I catch my 12 year old’s eye in the rearview mirror and ask her the same question. “What do you think she means when she says bad things?”
She then went on to add, “Or maybe giving him drugs, or intoxicating him or. . .” and here she lowers her voice to a stage whisper, “Or doing S-E-X.” Pause. “I don’t know, making babies? Slapping him around? Punching him in the face?”
I’m pretty sure I had a mini stroke in the front seat.
When I recovered, I laid down a few laws.
- Don’t sing song lyrics if you don’t know what they mean.
- If you don’t know what the lyrics mean, ask a grown-up before you belt them out.
- If you think the lyrics aren’t appropriate for you to be singing, you’re probably right.
- “Bad things” is a broad subject that could include, but is not limited to, all of the things that M listed, so we don’t need to be singing about them at the top of our lungs.
Wheeling into the driveway, I re-iterated the list and had them repeat it back to me before I let them get out of the car. As for what I think “bad things” are (because you know they asked me what I thought), I said something like “being aggressively romantic” before changing the subject.
And while they’re mulling that one over, I’ll be switching all the radio presets to classical music channels and NPR.
Also published on Medium.