It was 2000and I was twenty years oldand I was in love with Pete Tunney.
OK, maybe “in love” is too strong, but not by much. In that indelible summer, when I interned at Knitting Factory Records and discovered the island of Manhattan, Pete was the sun: the main source of light and heat. He was the star around which I orbited. When I was with him, I was preternaturally attuned to his every utterance and expressed preference; I silently and invisibly took mental notes on how I might behave to gain his acceptance. I’m sure the other interns did the same—there was an unspoken but palpable competition among us for his approval—but I knew that he loved me best. I wanted nothing more than to enter the palace of pop-musical wisdom, and I knew, I just knew, that Pete was the one to take me there.(more…)
I promise a more substantial post later when I am ready. (Cryptic is sort of fun, though.)
Suffice to say, I moved on from the University of Tennessee, and I am enjoying the alternating sunshine and rain of Florida with my partner, the big girl, the old dog, the young dog, and the mean kitty.
So, the big girl and I have a new song for the summertime dance parties (which unfortunately for all of you are invitation-only). Lately, we have both been listening to and singing along Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” and we aren’t the only ones. NPR’s Ann Powers tackles the song’s infectious appeal:
Every note vacillating between major and minor chords along the tonic; every slice of a string section that seems real but’s just a synthesizer dream; every one of Jepsen’s hopeful, tossed-off “maybes” and time-muddling lines about how “before you came into my life / I missed you so bad” — these details add up to make “Call Me Maybe” one of those pop songs that doesn’t just describe or recall innocence, but aims to reproduce it, putting you smack inside that state of possibility.
Perhaps, its upbeat nature, and its repetitive lyrics that appeal to both a thirty-something and a three year old. It is fun to sing. But, I think it also the emphasis on the “maybe,” the potential of something not quite there, which resonates too. The almost potential, the possibility that Powers evokes, proves to be fleeting, charming and fun all at once. The optimism appeals, and smiling seems guaranteed. And folks on YouTube seem to agree considering the proliferation of “Call Me Maybe” covers from bikini-clad cheerleaders, baseball teams, Jimmy Fallon, middle school boys acting out the lyrics quite literally and even a rendition of what President Obama’s cover might sound like.
Powers finds the middle school cover to be the most endearing. She writes:
It’s just adorable. And though the makers intercut insistent testimonies to the group’s heterosexuality — “This is dedicated to the GIRLS WE LIKE!” — these young men are utterly comfortable acting out same-sex desire. Teaching tolerance may not have been Jepsen’s intention with “Call Me Maybe,” but she’s given these kids a forum to learn it together.
….This aspect of the “Call Me Maybe” phenomenon gives us pause to reflect upon how often bigotry is rooted in personal pain and disappointment. It’s worth it, sometimes, to try to reach back and remember what it felt like to not know somebody — or something, like a belief system — might let you down.
Right now, this gentle message feels very important. Public discourse abounds with hate speech and snap judgments as the political cycle heads toward a showdown. In the midst of such a cycle, small gestures like the responses to “Call Me Maybe” are a gift: that gift of a tickle. Wake up, be human, be happy, don’t turn your back on love.
My semester is over! Grades are in! An article went off to an editor! All of these are exciting developments, but most exciting is that I am not teaching this summer for the first summer in years. Summer school, as you might well know, is intense, fun, but often time-consuming. I always imagine that I will teach a couple of hours every day and also write. This never happens. So, I decided to not teach this summer, but instead take, what I am calling, a “writing summer.” My students were not impressed by my summer plans, which sounded remarkably like work in a time of sun and fun, or some nonsense like that.
So far my writing summer is going well, though I always over-estimate my abilities to get things done. This means that my various summer writing projects do taunt me: another article, revisions to a previous article, a book proposal and piled-up book reviews from previous semesters. While talking to my youngest sister on the phone (people still do that), she asked if I was going to have any *fun* after I recounted my big writing plans. The answer is yes. I am already having fun.
I get to write, people, for hours at a time, which feels like a luxury after getting writing done in fits and starts during my semester. A paragraph between classes, a blog post early in the morning and editing whenever I found the time. Some days, I get to write all day. It is glorious. And I get to read. I am reading not for my classes but for my very own research and writing. This is not to say my teaching and research aren’t related because they are intimately, but it is to say I get to enjoy being a writer and researcher. It is joy. Dwelling in what I love to do for a couple of three months reminds me why I wanted to be an academic. More importantly, I have the breathing room to think about my projects to live with them and nourish them, rather than think about them in the fleeting moments when I am not in a classroom.
The ability to write, to think about my work, reminds me how much I miss it when I can’t. Not being able to write makes me twitchy. It feels like a part of me is missing, a part that I like and admire. This absence haunts me during the year. It erodes my confidence and makes me question why I do what I do. It hurts. But, when I get to research and write again, the confidence returns even in the agony of writing, the work, the failure and the ceaseless revisions. Being able to comment on my field of inquiry, my specializations and my subjects reminds me that there is something at stake in what I do. My work matters. Academic work matters.
As I return to research and writing, I have again found the joy it brings, and I hope all of you do too.