1976 Poster (Wikimedia Commons)
Did you ever watch someone acting like a fool in public and wonder, ‘Do you KNOW how you sound?’” One day I was watching a Hasidic couple on a very awkward first date in Barnes and Noble. In our local B and N, this is a common sight—it is such a safe and public place for two young people from an old-fashioned and proper society to meet during the day. For the entire date, the young man yakked constantly while the charming young lady was reduced to responding “Oh really?” “My goodness.” “Realllly?” “That’s amazing” for two hours. I wondered when he was going to ask HER a question about herself. I’m still waiting.
I thought about this date, because I am someone who got married at an early age and have long been off the market. Yet if I ask my beautiful female friends who are still single what dating is like, their number one complaint is that the guy never asks them a question—or if he does, he doesn’t listen to the answer. I know many women are like this as well, but as I am on Team Girl, that is what I hear. And I suspect that men are generally bigger blabbermouths on first dates anyway, so they don’t look weak, and they can “sell themselves.”
However, as annoying as it is not to be asked a question when you are meeting someone, it can be even more foolish for the loudmouth not to find out what he’s getting himself into in a relationship. As some famous person and a million mothers have said, “When people tell you what they’re like, believe them.” What if the wide-eyed young lady was asked who her favorite hero was and she answered “Lorena Bobbitt,” for instance?
You may wonder what this has to do with Cat Stevens. Well, yesterday I was driving my car, which my younger son commandeers most day to go to cooking school, and I found the secret compartment where he stashes the shameful Mom Music. I found a CD of Cat Stevens (with one hand on the highway making an abrupt turn) and thought I’d wander down memory lane. The first song was the aggravating Ohrwurm (earworm to you Americans) “Hey Baby, it’s a Wild World.” I listened to it and SCREAMED back at it. Because I hate hate hate that song. Not that I think it’s a bad song—it has his unique voice and style, it tells a story, it’s catchy, it’s concise, the speaker has a definite persona, and it kicks the bejeesus out of half the songs my sons like to listen to which seem to all have the same lyrics: Girl, let’s get out of this club and have some fun tonight, I’m going to do things to you like
alright.” When I hear these songs I don’t know whether to give my Martin Luther King died for THIS? Speech or my Elizabeth Cady Stanton worked her entire life for THIS? Speech. I like to mix it up a little. I know that there are hip hop and rap artists who can use their verbal flair for telling a compelling story, so I feel like a disappointed schoolmarm when I hear the same old story about having meaningless, impersonal sex over and over. Because I DO think words have meaning. And I do not think that kind of short-term thinking is helpful. There are so many serious issues in the world today—and there are even so many joys. So . . . Cat Stevens.
Okay, the story in this song is that a guy is singing a song to his ex-girlfriend, who is leaving him. The lyrics are here in case you forgot them: http://www.metrolyrics.com/wild-world-lyrics-cat-stevens.html
So he sings this song about his hopes and concerns for her. But he does it in a way that makes her seem weak, shallow, stupid, childish—there’s not one allusion to anything but her looks. He wishes her “Hope you have a lot of nice things to wear” and later, warns, “It’s hard to get by just upon a smile.” Is that what he thinks she did with him? I mean, it is true that you can’t just get by with a smile. You also have to talk.
But the man doesn’t see her as a talker or as an actor in any way. “I’ll always remember you as a child, girl.” He says. No kidding. As if she wouldn’t know, he tells her repeatedly that the world is wild, it’s full of bad things, that even nice things turn terrible, that “friends” can be deceptive, etc. I get that he’s heartbroken and he is trying to make her afraid so she won’t leave and he’s feeling mean because she’s rejecting him, but jeeez. Does he KNOW how he sounds?
The one thing that keeps me from wanting to throw the CD out the window is, well, I still love the song Peace Train, call me corny but I do, and also, I can’t figure out if the man in the song is supposed to be Cat Stevens or if it’s supposed to be a persona of a man like the blabbermouth I witnessed on a date at Barnes and Noble. A man who never bothers to find out what the inner world of his lover is like, so he can only be utterly shocked that she would flee from under the wing of his protective goodness.
What kind of woman is leaving the man in the song? We don’t know. She’s like Mona Lisa. Enigmatic. Someone who can make a decision. Someone who can elide being controlled by others. All I know is, if anyone sang that song to me, I’d pack my bags twice as fast and have the taxi on speed dial. Because this dude is self-centered and a creeper. I might tell him, “You’re an idiot to remember me like a child. I’m a grown-up person, and it’s your loss you never figured out who I was. In fact, if I were a CHILD I’d still dislike you for not knowing who I was.” (Children are not fools, either).
Writing Prompt: 1. Is there a song that you hate (or love) and why? 2. Have you ever had experience with anybody who hasn’t listened to you at all?