Did you ever tell your girlfriend (or boyfriend, for the estrogen-inclined among you), something you’re sure you’ve told them before, only to get a response along the lines of, “that must have been your other girlfriend”? Of course, there is no other girlfriend, and they’re not Catholic either. Guilt, like jealousy, is something we would all be a lot better off without.
All sympathy points aside, the life of a writer – any artist, for that matter – is generally not an easy lot. You’ve already got the ideas in your head, but there is no finite measure of time which applies to the task of stretching it out into a full-fledged work you can be satisfied with. And mind you, this is even before some editor (internal or external) gets their mitts on it, trying to second-guess the often-elusive and fickle tastes of the anonymous audience you’re hoping to connect with.
Although I’ve yet to see any statistics on the subject, I suspect that writers – music writers, specifically – may well be the highest ranking demographic among single males in the United States. That’s a fairly glum speculation, coming from a guy who has written – compulsively and obsessively, for nearly three-quarters of his life so far – but a quick rundown of some of the oft-cited reasons for these breakups does imply a set of rather limiting options.
On the surface, we critic-types probably look like a happy-go-lucky bunch, who have nearly unlimited access to a variety of cultural events – concerts, movies, gala parties – and generally have wildly eclectic music collections. Sounds like fun, right? Well, yeah – it is, as a matter of fact. Keep in mind, though, that these are all perks of a vast industry we also pay lip service to, and the picture changes slightly. Every writer I know has to schmooze in public a bit, and that in itself seems a small price to pay for the benefits we reap from the music industry at large. The person who is dating the writer doesn’t always see it that way, however, and that can be a problem. Personally, I don’t see what’s so hard about behaving graciously, in exchange for all that free entertainment, but it’s amazing what kinds of fits can be thrown when a date has to spend a few more minutes in a room than they want to, while their benefactor chats up a label rep. Speaking as a male, the story of Lysistrada comes to mind – so does celibacy and bachelor hood.
No, not that kind. Well, not exactly, anyway. Call it “sleeping with the enemy”. A former partner of mine once told me, “you spend so much time with those people, you might as well be seeing someone else”. It’s true, we hacks tend to spend a lot of time hanging around with bands, A & R guys, and other industry types, but technically, schmoozing is a part of our job. If a music critic is able to actually make money doing what he does, he has accomplished something that precious few are able to, and chances are, he’s worked hard for it. Again – consider that all those freebies do have a price tag attached to them, and since we’re footing the bill, it’s not really that big of a deal, is it?
Wanting the unattainable.
This one’s as old as time itself, and in my opinion, causes the most damage for everyone involved. It goes something like this: the writer – like a lot of creative types, appears to be this deep, interesting, adventurous spirit (hey, I’m just trying to create a scenario here, okay?) Most of the time, it seems that what makes this person so attractive, is that the observing party has none of these same qualities themself. That’s not to say boring, just that their own motivations may have led them down a different path). Viva le difference, right? Except that in real life, it usually comes down to the attracted party complaining that the object of their desire was not what they expected them to be, or at least, not what they really wanted at all. You may want to stop and scratch your head in bewilderment, here – I do it all the time. Uh …expectations? Pure evil, bottom line.
Y’know, in general, most people seem to be attracted to things that they don’t already have, which lends a degree of excitement to the pursuit of one’s pleasure. The key to not screwing this up is knowing what you want, before you try to claim your prize. Think really hard, before you start chasing something you don’t actually want. Put it this way – if you don’t know what you’re going to do with it once you catch it, why go after it in the first place?
Of course, everything I’m talking about here only applies to people with healthy agendas. If you’re just in it for the potential conquest, or you have deep-rooted issues (like class differences, or with the opposite sex), then you leave a trail of broken hearts and bruised egos in your libidinous wake. Just remember that none of us are young and attractive forever, and you always get what you pay for. Nature exacts its’ own particularly cruel manner of vengeance that tops anything we can do to each other. Maybe I’m biased, but I think it goes even worse for those who trample the hearts of artists, because we can ultimately turn our personal tragedies into more commodified art, and maybe even turn a buck talking about the people who think they want to be like us, but have yet to take the first step.
J.Free is a Mpls-based music critic who has been dumped twice in the last year by the same woman, who was herself a Catholic the first time, and an ex-Catholic the second time around. It seems somewhat unlikely that they will try for round three. J. himself remains non-denominationally single, and stubbornly refuses to give up his wicked lifestyle, even though it has left him with more ex’s than the Russian alphabet. He has never used the word “girlfriend” before this past year, although he has had plenty of experiences with dating Catholics, which he will undoubtedly do again.
[General Disclaimer: that tag at the end was also written several years ago; I did in fact manage to keep most of my wicked ways, and find a very nice girl with a Catholic background, to whom I am happily married.]
© J.Free / The New Puritan ReView; 2000; 2022