Sugar, We’re Going…Where?
Confessions of a Future Rock Star’s Mother
Being the mother of an emerging rock star can pose several dilemmas. When it comes to the hair, how long is too long? When it comes to the music--how loud is too loud? The attention from the opposite sex--how much is too much? Granted, some of these quandaries are beyond a mother's control, but my maternal instincts tell me I should exert every last ounce of parental power I can before my influences are drowned out by the next “bigger is better” amp purchase. Call it intuition or just plain common sense: When my son's amplifier is taller than I am and outweighs me by fifty pounds, my days of motherly control are over. But until that day arrives, I plan to buckle up and hold on, trying my best to enjoy my son's proverbial ride to stardom. And if this past week is any indication of my ability to do just that, I think I can get through it—hopefully without puking.
Our week began with a conversation I should have had with Lane long before he and his buddies began practicing. However, staying true to my typical (lazy) parenting style, my opportunity for a preemptive strike had long since passed and I was left feeling two drum beats behind--like a singer off key, a menagerie of confusion, a tempo that was all wrong (I'm not sure where these metaphors are coming from...but you get the idea). It went something like this:
Me: (Closing my book of scripture, feeling uplifted, full of joy...and completely unprepared for the irony that was about to unfold) So, what song are you guys singing for the Stars Assembly audition?
Lane: It's called “Sugar We're Going Down.”
Me: (Long pause, accompanied by a look of motherly constipation)
Lane: What? Mom, why does your face look like that?
Me: Do you have it on your I Pod?
Me: Go get it.
As I waited for him to emerge from the basement, my head began reeling. The lyrics to a popular Def Leppard song from my youth were made readily available in my mind. Something about pouring sugar on me…name of love (ooh)…hot-sticky sweet, from my head to my feet (yeah)…
Was I really going from reading my scriptures one minute, to explaining the sexual connotations of “sugar” and what “going down” can mean the next? Just as I was beginning to taste bile in my throat, a moderately annoyed 15- year-old returned, handing me his earbuds. Hoping for the best but expecting the worst, I listened to the song, my eyebrows raised, trying to hide any signs of prejudice before the last note ended.
Me: (Turning to Lane and maintaining a hollow look of nonjudgment) Hey, I need you to go print the lyrics for me.
Lane: (Rolling his eyes and muttering under his breath as he makes his way to the office) No swearing......can't believe it......nothing wrong with it......so stupid...
Again, in his absence I was able to collect my thoughts: Okay, the “going down” reference isn't sexual but rather, suicidal. Not that there aren't plenty of other sexual innuendos that need to be addressed, but they aren't as graphic as what I had initially anticipated. Nevertheless, I have to divide my brain between an anti-sex and an anti-violence mindset. Here he comes...
Me: (Ignoring Lane's sighs of impatience and perpetual eye rolling as I read through the lyrics. Looking up at him, grilling commences). Okay, do you know what it means to be a notch in someone's bedpost?
Me: It means you have had sex with them.
Lane: What? Nobody will know that!
Me: Do you know what voyeurism is?
Lane: It doesn't say that! I've never even heard that word before!
Me: It means that you watch people do private things in private places without their knowledge. It's creepy. And illegal.
Me. So this song is about a guy who is stalking his ex-girlfriend (with whom he has had sex) and watches her and her new boyfriend do naughty things in her bedroom. Then, to top it all off, he is threatening to shoot himself in the head...and you want me and your father to approve this?
Lane: But it doesn't say those things! You are just reading into it. Nobody else will get that stuff.
Me: (Feeling both confused and delighted at my son's naivety but wanting to prove my point). You don't think junior high kids will know what it means to, and I quote, “be the friction in your jeans?”
Silence. Point made.
Obviously, this was not the only conversation we had about this song. There were several. We also talked about the need to approve upcoming songs with parents before the band spends weeks practicing them. I then took it upon myself to inform the other band members' parents that I would be responsible for lyric censorship in the future, since, according to Lane, I am the only adult on the planet who reads into words and analyzes their "hidden" meaning...
As for the 'Sugar' song, we fought back and forth and finally reached a compromise. They could perform the song after changing the “friction in your jeans” line, as it was deemed the most overtly crude and offensive. It was a weak compromise, I know, but somehow I felt okay about it. Perhaps I justified it by promising myself that from that point on, I would take a more proactive role and be more diligent in policing lyrics and song content. Another justification stemmed from the fact that I had witnessed, first hand, how much these kids wanted to perform for their peers, and I wasn't willing to thwart their efforts by ignoring the countless hours of practice and the determination they had invested. So at the risk of seeming more like a groupie than a mother, I conceded.
On the morning of the Stars Assembly, their first 'official' gig, I walked into the school auditorium, wondering whether or not I had made the right decision. Ten years ago I would have said that any mother who would allow her son to perform a “Sugar” song was an idiot, a naive dunce who was practically leading her child to the path of moral corruption. But, when that curtain opened, and I watched Lane and his friends live what they had deemed their “junior high dream,” all doubt washed away. With every strum of the guitar, with every flip of the hair, with every croon of the indecipherable lyrics, I knew I had made the best decision concerning my son. I didn’t need a roaring crowd of rowdy junior high students to confirm it, but admittedly, their screams of affirmation only echoed the pride I felt. And, when Lane wouldn't let me leave his school that day without hugging me in front of his friends and whispering, “Thank you, Mom,” another little voice told me that my motherly influence is, and perhaps always will be, louder than any amplifier my rock star can ever buy.
I know. I know. Who's being naive now...