There are some songs from youth that are so inexorably tied to specific memories that every time I hear them, it's impossible not to remember. Bonnie Bell Blueberry Lip Smacker smell also has this effect. We all have these songs.
One of the songs that is like this for me is "Tainted Love," by Soft Cell. Back in high school, when I was even less cool than I am now, my friends and I had a thing for 80s music and oldies and anything that didn't require us to try to stay current with the music that was then being released. This was wise for several reasons: (A) there was no way we'd ever be current enough to compete with the music hipster set, (B) in the days before napster, new music was pretty expensive, (C) we were able to have a radio show on our local high school station that specialized in oldies music and people (our friends' parents, mostly,) would actually listen because the music was stuff they knew and liked. Anyway, we liked this song Tainted Love a LOT, and I have very specific memories, which may or may not be clouded by the soft romantic glow of hindsight, in which we danced around on someone's parents' couch in our pajamas singing into wooden spoons. Then we all had a pillow fight in our undies.
Okay, I made that last part up, and I may be romanticizing this a bit, but that didn't make it any less traumatic when, driving home the other day, I turned to the hip hop and r & b station to hear that someone named "Rihanna" has SAMPLED "Tainted Love" for use in a VERY BAD SONG. (If you scroll down and click "play audio," you can hear the carnage.) And she only sampled like 3 measures which play over and over and over and you never get the feeling of musical resolution that comes from the chorus, and it's just AWFUL. And I felt old, and a little betrayed.
Driving home from somewhere the other day I heard a new song by Garbage that sounded, for all the world, like this song that I have recently learned is called "They" by Jem. "They" seems like a weird name for this song because all it says, over and over again, is "I'm sorry, so sorry."
Three days before my wedding, my mom booked me an appointment at an incredibly swanky spa place downtown to have my eyebrows plucked. Apparently, this woman who does the plucking is a GENIUS with eyebrow shape, and it will revolutionize the way you look at your face, and she's been featured in the Chicago Tribune, and you have to book weeks in advance, etcetera. It also costs $100 to have her pluck your eyebrows, which is something that women who are committed to eyebrow topiary do EVERY TWO WEEKS. This price seems astonishingly, achingly, I could feed a small developing nation for a week on this amount of money extravagent, but it was a nice gesture on my mom's part, and I can see that the "fuzzy caterpillar" approach to eyebrows that I had been sporting was perhaps not going to be quite so hot in wedding pictures, and I hate the idea of hot wax that close to my eyes.
The reality, though, was kind of a nightmare.
I get to the place on time, only to learn that Ms. Eyebrow Shaper to the Stars is going to be late because she is in court. Thus, when she walks in, I, the dippy law student who DOES NOT THINK BEFORE SHE TALKS, GOD, ask cheerfully, "I hear you were in court! I'm a law student! Were you a witness or something? Was it cool?"
"I am going through the most horrific divorce that has ever taken place," she replies curtly.
Right. Well, now I'm even more excited to have you poking at my sensitive eye region with a sharp implement.
I lay down in the chair, which looks unmistakably like a dentist's chair, with the little adjustable light on a swivel arm above it and everything, and as I lie down, the piped-in music starts playing. The song? "I'm sorry, so sorry."
If you can't click on the link to hear this song, which is possible because I am a technological nitwit, suffice it to say that it is a repetatitive, trance-like tune that says over and over that she is sorry, so sorry, and for whatever reason, the piped-in music in the eyebrow torture chamber had this song stuck on repeat, so for the entire 25 minutes that I was sitting in the dentist's chair having the woman who I've just pissed off with talk of her divorce poke and yank at my eyebrows with the world's most surgical looking pair of tweezers, all I could hear was "I'm sorry, so sorry."
Yeah, you have no idea how sorry I was. My eyebrows did look great, though.
Yesterday, a group of roughly 42 went to the world's loudest restaurant to celebrate a dear friend's birthday. This restaurant is terrific in the sense that it is festive, serves huge margaritas, and because it's usually gringo-free, you can kind of pretend you are on vacation. The restaurant has a major drawback, though, especially for groups of 42: it is louder than any place I have ever been before, including the time I went to a Jet concert in a club the size of a broom closet and my ears rang for 3 days. So, it's kind of hard to have a conversation with anyone except the person sitting immediately next to you.
The reason it is so loud is that there are several rotating musical acts that stroll through the restaurant and serenade diners. There are at least two mariachi bands, some trumpeters, and a woman who carries a portable microphone and dances around and looks an awful lot like she could fill in as the hostess of a Mexican tv variety show without even needing to go into hair and makeup because she's already all gussied up.
I must REALLY love this friend whose birthday we were celebrating, because somehow, by some horrible coincidence, the person I ended up sitting directly next to is a woman I used to be good friends with who told me three years ago that she doesn't want to be friends with me anymore, called me a slut, and continues to badmouth me to mutual friends behind my back. Needless to say, we don't get along. And she just got engaged, and I've known her now-fiancee since preschool, and the whole thing is just kind of unpleasant.
But because this was a birthday party and we are grownups, and when you are a grownup it is less cool to hijack a friend's birthday party with your own silly drama than it was when we were teenagers, we sucked it up and played nice and had strained conversation over the loud loud loud mariachi music for THREE HOURS. And then, just as it was looking like the ties of civility were straining and our efforts at mutual kindness might crack, the Mexican tv lady saved the day: she started singing something that sounded so familiar, and yet so different, that we all stopped and looked thoughtfully at her, trying to figure out why we knew this song, we knew we knew this song, how did we know this song?
Then it hit us: she was singing "Achy Breaky Heart." In Spanish. And there were dozens of people dancing. At those moments, there is nothing left to do but laugh. And order another margarita, because this is going to be a long night.