When I was in my 20’s, I worked out at a gym in the city, and almost every day I’d see this woman. She always looked frazzled, jamming her stroller into the elevator, dropping her kids off at the babysitting service, and rushing out to the gym floor, where she’d sit on a bike for 45 minutes. But as soon as she’d put on her headphones, she’d start to sing. I mean head rocking, body moving back and forth, eyes squinting with emotion, singing to herself. Clearly she was crazy. All the youngsters there were exercising like normal people, paying attention to their breathing and form. But she didn’t care. She was singing like no one else was there and I couldn’t understand why.
But now I do. You see, 15 years and 4 kids later I get what was happening in that woman’s head. Everything changes once you have kids, and no matter how wonderful life is with those little angels, there’s a piece of you that misses those days of rockin’ out at a party and dancing wildly at a bar. And unless you’re Gwen Stefani, you’re not really getting the chance to go back again. Like, ever.
But when it’s just you and that music, headphones on and eyes closed, blocking out the reality of exploding diapers and the six loads of laundry awaiting you, you can go back and no one can stop you.
It happens a lot in my car, once I drop my children off and I’m free. When no one is screaming at me to keep the Selena Gomez song on or making me feel ancient as they belt out “we ain’t never getting older”, I take back my car radio and I can’t help but sing along.
So that middle aged mom you just passed in her seven-seater, she’s not yelling into her speaker phone. She’s listening to “Sweet Caroline” and screaming “so good, so good, so good” between the verses, remembering when she would sing karaoke with some beers and friends. She’s shouting “it’s like rain on your wedding day” with Alanis and joining Garth Brooks in the chorus of “Friends in Low Places,” just like she did at those basement mixers. She’s lightly banging her head to “I Wanna Be Sedated” and remembering the school dances where she’d whip her hair around like she wasn’t a teenager in pleated pants. She’s catching a Meatloaf song, and screaming “do you love me, will you love me forever, do you need me, will you never leave me?” She’s whistling to “Patience” and wailing to “You Shook Me All Night Long” with ACDC. She’s dancing on a bar with her big 90s hair telling the empty car to pour some sugar on her. She’s belting out any Stevie Nicks song she hears and trying to rap the parts she knows of Marky Mark’s “Good Vibrations.”
And I guarantee you, when A Tribe Called Quest asks her if they can kick it, she’s shouting “yes you can.”
All those Generation Y and Z kids are still partying in real life without having to wake up at 6 am to make waffles. They don’t need to close their eyes and remember, but for us parents, music can recreate a life we used to have. So hey, 20-something, the next time you see me with my headphones on at the supermarket, playing a fake drum set on my wagon and singing out of tune, don’t think I’m crazy. It’s just that there’s a pretty wild party going on in my head. And you’re not invited.