“Break Your Heart” by Barenaked Ladies

GrouchoThis is the sixth in my “With Music” series, where I look back at some point in my life and a song that had an impact on me. The other entries included (with links to the posts) Ben Folds Five, Sheryl Crow, Beth Orton, Dean Martin, and The Verve.

I have always wished that I was smooth. There are many things I am in this world, and smooth is not one of them. Even today, when I try to say something like right out of a romantic movie my wife will roll her eyes. I just can’t pull it off.

The fact is before I was happily married, I was worse. I was a dating disaster with a smile. I was just a fast-talking, highly-judgmental and awkward disaster. I could be charming from time to time, sure (we all have our moments), but I could also be very frustrating. And, typically, if I could tell where the “story” was going in the relationship, I was already looking for the next thing.

In a way, I blame books.

They make love seem so complete, don’t they? A person falls in love, gets in a strong relationship and the story might as well end there, right? Life is complete! Now where is the epilogue?

So the problem with me in the single days is I would get bored, especially if a relationship got predictable. I liked to be surprised, feel like I was part of something outside the ordinary. I was the weird conundrum of wanting something stable but something crazy as well.

You know what the biggest turnoff for me was back in those old single days? Actually, liking me. I was the dating equivalent of that quote from Groucho Marx. You know the one: “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.” Well, that was me in dating. And when you are continuously seeking out people not interested in you, there is no possibility of happiness for anyone.

This is not a story about an embarrassing moment. This is a story about when I realized I wanted the embarrassing moments to end and the song that got me there.

Yeah… I don’t want to share embarrassing love stories.

I really don’t. God, I’m squirming just thinking of the idea now of doing it, and here I am, happily married and those stories are decades old. I mean, that is the past and… I mean, I could, easily. We all have them, each of us. Stupid things we did to try and get someone’s attention, or unwise things to help lose someone’s attention.

Okay, I’m being a wimp, I get that… Wimp, wimp, wimp.

Let’s try this. I can give a handful of helpful nuggets to my fellow writers who are working their way through the dating world. I will let your imagination wander from there on what I might have done or experienced, or what others I know tried to me or others.

  • For the young readers, never, ever leave a short story or work of fiction in someone’s locker. You might be the next Mark Twain in your mind, but really you are the weirdo leaving a story in someone’s locker.
  • Never send someone poetry in the mail. And if you do (which you shouldn’t) include your name on it. It’s weird if the name isn’t there, almost as weird as sending freaking poetry in the mail.
  • Don’t try to put a subtle message to someone you are interested in a story. It isn’t subtle. They will get it and it will not have the effect you hope for.
  • Never, ever, ever dedicate a work of fiction to someone. It will not change their opinion of you no matter how good it is. All it will do is give them the image of you spending hours and hours scribbling away while thinking of them. It’s creepy… No seriously, it is very creepy. Don’t. Just don’t.
  • If someone has different book interests than you (they like to argue with you in a college course, for example, and you might be starting to interpret it as a form of flirting), don’t assume things will work out better during a date. Life is not a romantic-comedy film. Common interests are a good thing.
  • Don’t pretend to like someone’s work just so you can get “points.” It will backfire.
  • If someone shares a story in a class or in a writing group about suicide, it is not a good idea to ask them out.
  • Did I mention the poetry bit?

We writers can live in the heart, and, honestly, logic is rarely a visitor.

Even in my teenage years, when other of my friends were in long-term relationships, I rarely dated long (I remember one that lasted a few months, but I am pretty sure that was my attempt to make someone else jealous… didn’t work). Most of my life then really revolved around my writing and jazz. I used to play saxophone, mainly soprano and alto, but gave it up in college when I felt like I had nothing new to say. I never had that problem with my writing so it was an easy departure.

Yes, I have memories of first kisses and other rites of passage, but nothing really equaled what was in my writing imagination. Where was the music? Where was the blinding lights of realization? So this is… hmmmm…. You see why I was considered quite a catch in those younger years? And with my facial expressions and my inability to hide anything I’m feeling (still true to this day)… No, I was never smooth.

When I think of first attractions, my mind always goes back to fourth grade. Every Wednesday I had to attend catechism at my Catholic church. I wasn’t particularly religious (never was, even then), but my cousins went to the classes and my mom wanted me there, so I was there. This was not moving me any step closer to God, if anything it gave me the tools to really question some of the stories I was hearing. I’m pretty sure as well the teachers hated me. Personally, I found the classes boring and I would spend most of my time daydreaming and counting down the minutes until it was done. After the class I would always have the evening with my grandparents and it was awesome. They would take me out to eat and maybe to an arcade with a pile of quarters to use. Sweet! Hail Mary, full of grace!

Hail Mary? Let’s stick with that name since I can’t remember the girl’s real name. But Mary joined our class in the middle of the year and I thought she was fantastic. She didn’t talk much, but she dressed and acted like she was three years older than all of us. I would never have had the courage to hold her hand, but I was interested in that hand and that was something new.

It must have been pretty obvious that something was changed with me, because my grandparents figured it out after one of my classes. When someone is making your grandson smile like that, you take notice. My grandfather was an interesting character; when I think of him now, usually I think of the show Mad Men. He wasn’t in advertising (he was in insurance), but he had that greatest generation slickness about him. He was funny, sometimes inappropriate (okay, usually), and for some reason he was known to our family as “Head Rooster.”

(Seriously, he has been dead for years now and we still refer to him in our family as “Head Rooster.”)

Anyway, when Valentine’s Day came around my grandfather got an idea for a joke to play on his little grandson. I’m sure it all felt innocent on his part, but for me it didn’t. He sent me a card pretending to be from Mary.

Broken HeartLike any other kid with a first crush I was thrilled, and spent all of class that Wednesday wondering when she was going to say anything to me about the card she sent. But there was no eye contact, nothing different. What was going on here? When my grandparents picked me up, my grandmother knew something was wrong. And after I explained about the card, everything came out.

My grandfather was immediately embarrassed. He thought it was silly and fun, not realizing that with kids emotions can be as big deal as they are for adults, and when they are new it is something else.

I couldn’t tell you how this got resolved. I know my grandfather always felt guilty about the card and I can remember that empty feeling of knowing that Mary didn’t send the card and probably had no interest in sending me a card like that. A feeling like that sticks and maybe that is why I made so many bad choices during my dating years. If I was a shrink I probably would start the stories there.

Oh, and I remember her pigtails.

I was always a fan of Barenaked Ladies, I was a fan in the 90s before everyone else was and they were filling up the stadiums. I used to see them at small venues, throwing mac and cheese up on the stage at the right moment during “If I had a million dollars.” I was even in the audience when someone next to me threw up a green dress. Even the band stopped and laughed when that happened.

My favorite of their albums has always been Maybe You Should Drive. I still put it on from time to time on the weekend, but when I think of me being irresponsible and making reckless dating mistakes I always think of this one moment and “Break Your Heart” from the album Born on a Pirate Ship.

“Break Your Heart” is the story of a breakup. Steven Page is singing both parts of the break up. One makes excuses for leaving, justifying the breakup, and then the other responds. It’s a great song and totally powerful. When I saw him perform it live for the first time he was screaming by the end and it was just amazing. We all erupted in cheers.

I can’t remember which relationship was ending (or not starting) with me at that moment, but I was feeling down. I was up in my bedroom of parents’ house and I had my headphones on. And I listened to that song over and over again for at least three hours.

I’m not joking. Three hours, nonstop.

Did I even want a long-term relationship? What was I hoping for in life? What was I going to do? Who was Scott?

Well, this is the song I listened to when I really broke this down for myself. And later that year, I would be planning to travel through Europe by myself and then I would be off to graduate school. A corner was turned.

That is not to say I still didn’t do stupid things in dating (from standing someone up to being stood up), but at least I felt a little more sure of where I was going and what I wanted out of life. That afternoon and that song helped in some way. Being confused and messed up over dating wasn’t the first thing on my list anymore.

If my kids were to ask me for dating advice (and I would not recommend it), I would probably say first and foremost, when you meet the right person, you know… And before that you are going to make a lot, a lot, a lot of ridiculous asinine mistakes.

One last thing- I did have a weird moment when everything came full circle for me, with the single person I was and the married person I am now.

When my wife and I were planning our wedding we went to meet with the reverend (no, it was not at my old Catholic church). His office assistant was one of the girls I dated in high school, the one I took to senior prom. I remembered that relationship, from when it started to when it ended. She was married now, older, and had kids; still I recognized her and that smile. It was like worlds colliding. And there she was meeting my fiancée.

I think they even shook hands.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Permanent Spring Showers by Scott D. Southard

Permanent Spring Showers

by Scott D. Southard

Giveaway ends October 28, 2015.

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New book! New book! New book!Permanent Spring Showers

My latest novel Permanent Spring Showers was just published by 5 Prince Books. You can find out more about my novel as well as my other books (including A Jane Austen Daydream and My Problem With Doors) and grab a copy via my author page on Amazon.com here.

Need an editor? Dream of finishing that book but need some help? Learn about my editing services by visiting this page on my site. Or you can contact Rebecca T. Dickson and request to work with me by clicking the image below.

Rebecca T. Dickson, Editor

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3 responses

  1. Pingback: “Hey Jupiter” by Tori Amos | The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

  2. Pingback: “Any Love (Cassandra Et Lune)” by Ken Stringfellow | The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

  3. Pingback: The With Music Series | The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

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