His headphones are semi-permanently attached to the sides of his head. This is funny to me because – back in my “day” – nobody would be caught dead wearing headphones. Except in the privacy of one’s room or when forced to do so, like in French lab.
Which may be why despite three years of high school French I can’t speak a word except the entire first dialogue from my first year in Mrs. Liskey’s class:
Q: Ou est Philippe?
A: Phillipe est a la bibliotheque.
Q: Avec qui?
A: Avec Anne.
But I digress. At breakfast yesterday I asked my darling old-enough-to-have-a-driver's-license teenager to remove his headphones. Here’s how the dialogue went:
Him: Because I don’t want to talk.
Me: It’s just you and me. Please can we talk?
Him: Because I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t like talking to my parents. Sometimes I do. But right now I don’t want to.
Me: Well, that’s sort of disturbing. (Note: Here I am wondering – as any responsible parent would – if this sort of thing constitutes antisocial behavior that could be a sign of something serious.)
Him: What do you mean disturbing? (Note: He says this while squinting at me as if to say “You don’t really think I’m hoarding weapons and planning an assault on innocent tourists from atop Coit Tower?”)
Me: Well, that sort of behavior. You know, disturbing behavior.
Him: You mean typical teenage behavior? All teenagers do this. Nobody wants to talk to their parents. Really. (Note: He is shrugging, eye rolling, sighing. He repositions the headphones so that one earpiece is resting on his hair instead of his ear. A compromise.)
Me: Point taken.
Back in my “day” (yes, again, I know) I ignored my parents entirely during my four years of high school (and, come to think of it, for my four years of college and the four years after college, but that’s another tale).
And what was I doing during those four years of high school? I was in my love-bead-and-poster-laden room in the basement lying in bed with a pair of headphones on. Listening to the Rolling Stones, Parliament and Frank Zappa. If my parents had heard the lyrics to the stuff I was hearing they would certainly have been concerned. As I’m sure I would be concerned if I could hear the lyrics to the stuff my son is hearing under his headphones now.
But just because Mick Jagger was singing about hiding speed in his shoe and getting his nose blown didn’t mean I was going to smuggle or use drugs. Though I certainly fantasized about it.
And just because George Clinton advocated getting funked up didn’t mean I was seeking an interracial love affair. Though I would have said yes if anyone had asked, despite the fact that it would have caused quite a stir, given the place and time (the rural South in the early 70s).
And just because Frank Zappa described a zipless fuck on the floor with a Tarot-throwing rancid-poncho-wearing redhead didn’t mean I was going to dye my hair. You see, given the place and time, this would have caused a bigger stir than an interracial love affair.
The things I heard under the headphones revealed to me multiple alternative universes. Any depraved or wondrous thing I could imagine (or would never have imagined in a million years without my headphones) was possible.
After I took the posters down and put the headphones aside I made many, many poor choices, but it all worked out. I’m now a responsible adult with a life full of love and two beautiful nearly-grown children.
It’ll be interesting to hear what they have to say if and when they’re ready to talk to me.
**from “P Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)”