“You’re not the first to have told me this,” I retorted as fourteen-year-old Thing1 turned down the volume on my paleo-tunes playlist to get me to stop tapping my hand on the steering wheel to the beat.
He was right of course. I have bad taste. It’s been confirmed not only by my kids but people who have actually paid bills, and I try to enlighten people when I hear that accusation. I don’t actually have bad taste; I have no taste.
I mean, I can taste a lot of things. I’m just not that picky. I believe you shouldn’t be picky about anything except your battles, of course. But when it comes to the good things in life – music or dessert – I don’t pick; I go all in.
Once upon a time I was embarrassed about my inability to discriminate, but a week ago, after Giant Gadget Co. Inc added the digital equivalent of cupholders to my smart phone, I gave up drinking while I drive.
Allow me to explain.
My complete lack of taste has created an odd collection of music. If I know I like it, I buy it. If I’ve heard it on the radio and not hated it or it’s on sale, I download it. If the record cover is shiny enough, I add it.
Some days I hit the shuffle button and end up happily listening to a bubble-gum sweet death metal tune followed by an operatic miss-terpiece. Most of the time, though, I try to feng-shui my music into themed playlists (it has to have a theme). I had a list for work and writing, for driving, and even for thinking about fitness (I find a nice new age list pushes those thoughts right out of my head).
Thus the stage was set for the ultimate battle between nature’s arbiter of taste – the teenager – and the truly tasteless – the parent.
As Thing1 wrapped up the liberated tween years, he was no longer content to sink down in the front seat when my dino-tunes were playing. Now he insisted I feel his painful self-consciousness or at least pretend to worry about what the person in then next hermetically-sealed air-conditioned vehicle thought about my music.
Hoping that faking sympathy for the predicament of his adolescence would make me feel sympathetic, I gave in, creating Teenager-approved Tunes lists as well as Annoying Animated Soundtrack Lists for passengers under ten or for those want to study music-induced stress disorders. I even let myself feel enough shame to make a list with a little something for everyone in the family but containing none of the really bad music that mom likes.
And then there was a shrinking list of music that mom was allowed to listen to in the car for the few minutes a day it wasn’t being used as a taxi.
Last week I learned that the music-aphone’s new feature was about to revolutionise the world by letting Thing1 make playlists from playlists. This was news.
“Meh,” said one of my co-workers. “Who needs lists? Doesn’t the driver make the rules?”
It was a slap in the face, and I needed it. I realized I was having a sympathetic second adolescence, and it was waxing hysterical all because I’d forgotten one of the golden rule of motherhood:
She who chauffeurs the kids is too busy unclogging toilets to worry about what their friends think. About anything.
And anyway, who else can teach a child the humility that only comes from the experience of watching a dumpy middle-aged mom – your mom – dance to Earth Wind & Fire in the checkout line?
So the next morning, without warning, I gave up the digital cupholder.
We got in the car and I tapped the shuffle button on my music-aphone as we headed to school. I drove and drummed, humming along with some Whitesnake song from nineteen-eighty-I-could-still-zip-up-a-size-six.
“Mom. Please.” I hadn’t heard a cork pop which would explain the absence of any whine, but I could smell Thing1’s mortification. I smiled at him and launched into the next pitch-imperfect verse as we turned onto a busy road full of witnesses.
“Here I fold more laundry on my o-o-own,” I crooned.
“Mom, it’s bad enough you don’t have any taste” My teenager moaned as I mangled another line, “but don’t you have any dignity?”
“Oh no, honey” I answered. ”They make you drop that when you check into the maternity ward.”
“But what about me?” he asked as we got closer to school.
“Oh don’t worry, you don’t have to go to that extreme,” I said. “Most hangups have an early expiration date, and then you can enjoy life again.”