I loved this book. I mean loved, loved, LOVED!
I am not a guy’s guy. If you want to make fart jokes and snap towels in the locker room I won’t be there, or I’ll be standing in the corner, detached.
Not that I don’t like a good fart joke. I’m just referencing the way guys interact, with sexual innuendos, talking about people’s appearances, what they’d do to so and so, however laughingly. I guess I’ve been put down enough in my life that I’m unwilling to put down another. And I’ve been made to do so much I don’t want to that I won’t force anyone to do anything they wouldn’t want to. In other words, I’d never get arrested for sexual harassment. Or as that old shrink once told me, I’d rather talk to women than screw them.
Which is all to say this is not a book for most men.
Men like to read books that get them somewhere. Biographies, business books. They want to improve themselves, they want to see themselves as members of the group, participants in the game. And even though music is very much an independent business, where individuals thrive, inside the halls of the corporations, the labels, the radio stations, the promotion outfit, it’s very much about getting along. That bro behavior I referenced above. It’s anything but being vulnerable. You can be vulnerable in your music, but that does not work if you’re a cog in the machine. And in this machine, the music business, if you’re not going up, you’re out. Which is why all the successful acts have managers, because they themselves can’t interact with the suits. The better the artist, the less they’re able to be compromised. They can’t go through the mental machinations of negotiation, they don’t have a tolerance for it.
Women are different.
Then again, our entire culture has changed. You can express vulnerability if you’re on your way to rehab, or giving a mea culpa, otherwise everybody is a winner, at least on the exterior. And groupthink is rampant, whether it be on the college campus or amongst your own little circle. Challenge the precepts at your peril.
In the seventies it was different. Sure, we had the personal development programs like EST, but after the tumultuous sixties, people were looking inward, trying to figure out their problems, and that’s when Sara Davidson’s “Loose Change” came out. It was a rage amongst my older sister’s friends. It told the story of girl friends from the sixties and how their lives played out. I read it, I’ve never forgotten it. Even though I’ve never read it again. I don’t understand rereading, watching movies over when there’s so much stuff left to check out for the first time.
But life, it’s a mystery.
Today I had a long conversation with my mother. In December, she’ll be 94. You think you want to live that long, but you don’t. All your friends are dead, you’re forgotten by society, at best you can play cards and go to the movies and to a great degree just wait to die.
You don’t want to be old in America. First and foremost because you might be broke. This is what I don’t understand about people taking social security early. You’ll want more dollars if you live that long, because you won’t be able to make any, there’s no place for you in the workforce. And I’m willing to die with some money on the table, letting the government beat me, but in a world where the government is the enemy and it’s everybody for themselves that’s anathema. You blew your money on a fancy car and now you want someone to rescue you when times are bad. I feel for you, but how come our entire country can’t save for a rainy day, assuming people can do more than make ends meet. Meanwhile, the rich get mad when the public hoards its money, because by not spending they’re hurting the economy, the stock market, the rich are not continuing to get richer.
And if you’re over sixty, wait for it, you’re instantly irrelevant. Younger people make fun of you. You’re happier and have earned wisdom but that does not matter, you’ve got lines on your face and are subject to derision. So how many people can be true winners, have all of their dreams fulfilled? Very few, if any at all.
So “Mrs. Everything” is the story of a family, from there to here, essentially from the nineteen forties until now. The two sisters are a little older than I am, and that matters, because what was acceptable in the seventies was not in the sixties, but people are people, as Depeche Mode sang.
So you think you’re in charge of your journey. But if you keep the reins too tight, you miss out on opportunities. And if you loosen them too much, you close doors. I didn’t want to get married, because I didn’t want to get off track, I didn’t want to sacrifice my vision. Buy a house, have kids, and you’re working to support them. Then again, family might be the most important thing, who knows.
And your choices…
Talk to anybody and they have dreams. Some times puffed-up, false dreams. Oh, I was pre-med before I dropped out and became a musician. Yeah, right. I went to college and I know that organic chem separated the winners from the losers. If you didn’t get an A, find another career track. I’d see it in slow motion, students’ dreams getting dashed.
But you’ve got to pay your bills and you end up with a job that becomes your life. It started out temporary, or maybe you prepared for it in graduate school, and now it’s unfulfilling, it was your safety net, but you’re making too much money to start over and you certainly wouldn’t be able to pay your bills so here you are, this is your life.
This describes many huge music fans. They use their bucks to feed their addiction. They couldn’t risk coming to Hollywood and trying to make it. It was too dangerous. Or maybe their parents would not have been supportive. Which is to a great degree why entertainment is run by individuals, entrepreneurs, oftentimes college dropouts, who are so unique that if they didn’t run their own organization, they wouldn’t be able to get a job. That’s what they don’t teach you in school. As a matter of fact, school teaches you to conform. It’s very hard to break out of the system, just like it’s very hard to be anti-bro amongst bros.
Kids never turn out the way you planned. The one with straight A’s drops out of school, or gets pregnant. Or loses their job.
And who is your responsibility to? Your parents or your siblings or yourself?
And what if what you’re doing is taboo? Kind of like trans rights today. But that was just like gay rights back then. And gays are still fighting for equal rights, look at what Thomas and Alito said just this week.
So, life is complicated, daunting, and you wake up one day and you find out you’re too old. Hopefully, before that, you found out you don’t matter. Even Sumner Redstone died, even though he believed he never would.
So I grew up in a female dominated household. My dad earned the money, took care of the financial issues, but my mother and two sisters steered the softer issues, the social issues. So, I’m quite comfortable hanging with women, I know what they’re interested in. However I have learned, that despite their delineated preferences, their yearning for softer men, they frequently like the exotica of the opposite, the bros. For every woman who wants to forge their own path, there’s another who wants the door opened, the chair pulled back and the man to bring home the bacon.
I’m not laying down the percentages. I’m just saying it’s complicated, not that we can discuss any of this out loud, because chances are we’ll fall into a politically incorrect pit, where we’ll offend someone and when you’re the target of slings and arrows, those bros won’t come out and defend you, no way, they’re staying silent behind the scenes, which is also to say that despite Harvey Weinstein many men are still unconscious sexual abusers.
So, “Mrs. Everything” is the story of women. Sure, men play a part. And they’re sometimes what they appear to be on the surface, but…
You’re in high school and you’re hyper-aware, everything is important. And then you get old and laugh at yourself. You’re hung up on someone romantically and you get older and you can’t believe you were. Or you get married and wake up one day and realize not only does it not solve all your problems, it hinders you and you’d rather be somewhere else.
These are the questions, the issues you won’t find in business books. Or biographies. The issues of life. The choices, the mistakes, the successes, the willingness to accept where you are, even if it does not match your dreams.
And life never works out how it’s planned. Hopefully not, it’s the accidents that deliver rewards. But a lot of bad stuff happens along the way.
This is what “Mrs. Everything” is about. Life. How it’s rough and tumble. How you make snap decisions that have you turning left and end up somewhere where it’s impossible to turn right.
I looked forward to reading it every day. It’s a treat.
For a special kind of reader.
Maybe that’s you.