Tuesday, November 20, 2007

In Defense of the Indigo Girls

Not that they need it. But I feel compelled to respond to the scurrilous attacks on the best female rock duo 'out there'... and I use those words deliberately.

There's a letter on a desktop that I dug out of a drawer
The last truce we ever came to in our adolescent war
And I start to feel the fever in the arm air through the screen
You come regular like seasons, shadowing my dreams...

When I was a young married woman with two small children, the causes of my restlessness were no different from any other woman in my demographic, in one sense. I too was overworked, and didn't get enough sleep, and hungered for adult company and conversation above and beyond the successes and struggles of potty training, and felt terribly guilty that I adored the hours when my children were in their pre-school program. I was also struggling with my call to ministry, which took a number of forms before settling in the present one.

Then my husband gave me an Indigo Girls album for my birthday, "Rites of Passage." From the cover art I knew I was in virgin territory for me. From almost my first listen to the album, songs like "Ghost" took me, and grabbed me by the heart, and threw me down.

And the Mississippi's mighty, but it starts in Minnesota
At a place that you could walk across, five steps down
And I guess that's how you started, like a pinprick to my heart,
But at this point you rush right through me and I start to drown.

I had a friend I'll call Delta, for her more than passing resemblance to a curvy, funny as hell actress from a TV show of the 80's. Except my Delta was brilliant, brilliant as a poet is brilliant. Brilliant as a PhD in physics is brilliant. She had a sister who was on the path to ordained ministry, though D's proclivities ran more towards Buddhism. Delta and I became friends through my ex, they were colleagues. And she and I took a liking to one another. and started to spend time together as friends, independent from her relationship with my family. She threw a baby shower when my daughter was born. She invited me to go to her health club, and we swam together and sat in the sauna afterward and talked, and developed that weird intimacy that happens because you're out of breath and exhilarated. My husband had to travel for his work, and Delta became a fixture in my home when he was away; we would cook together, we would take the kids to the park.

One night, while my husband was on an extended trip, D and I were sitting on the couch drinking wine after the kids were in bed. As we sat there it dawned on me: I didn't simply like her, I was attracted to her. I had a fleeting fantasy of simply kissing her, which I did not act on. From that moment my life got much more complicated, and the music my husband had given me provided the soundtrack.

Dark and dangerous like a secret that gets whispered in a hush
(don't tell a soul)
When I wake the things I dreamt about you last night make me blush
And you kiss me like a lover, then you sting me like a viper,
I go follow to the river, play your memory like a piper
And I feel it like a sickness, how this love is killing me
But I'd walk into the fingers of your fire willingly
I am baptized by your touch, but I'm no worse at most: in love with your ghost.

The story doesn't have such an interesting ending. Only pain and alienation and distance. But through it all the music of the Indigo Girls provided me a language for a new world of experience. I was stepping off a plane into a new country; they helped me to know and recognize the local customs and culture. They made me feel that I was not alone.

I can only imagine what the MadPriest must think of all this. I've no doubt cemented every caricature he has about lesbians and their loves. Let it be said: this music was important to me. It still is.


more cows than people said...

it was and is important to this straight woman too.

God Junkie said...

Been there, still love them too. Stereotypes, heart-breaks and all. Amen sister.

Catt. said...

The Indigo Girls... What can I say? You either love them or plain out hate them. Their music has helped many people, female and male, gay and straight "get through" whatever. I used to belong to a group that traded their music (b-sides, outfakes, recorded shows and the like). There were stories after stories of peoples love for them and their music! Musically their range is so diverse. You can't match how they touch someone emotionally.
Sidenote: if you want some b-side/tour stuff let me know!

don't eat alone said...


I don't know who MadPriest is or what he/she said about Emily and Amy, but I'll stand in their defense right along with you. I drove from Mass to Alabama singing, "Get out the map, get out the map . . ." among other things.


Suzer said...

I adore the IGs. Their music brings me closer to God. And it's damn good therapy. I can't do a steady diet of it - - sometimes I need music that isn't so deep, and is just fun. I've met Emily, and hope to meet Amy someday. Luckily, living where I do, one is occasionally presented with the opportunity of bumping into them on the street. :)

jledmiston said...

Who's mad at the IGs? I love them too?

Jane R said...

You know one of them is the daughter of a clergyman/ theologian, right? They now do workshops together.

LittleMary said...

why the hell would someone hate the indigo girls? they give a soundtrack to our lives. lovely post.

Caminante said...

Well, my partner identified me from across the block my first week in seminary 17 years ago. How? Because I had on birkies. It couldn't be the way I walked because I had jammed a toe moving to seminary and was limping. Whatever else I had on (undoubtedly a skirt and polo top or tshirt because it was NYC and hot), and my braid wouldn't have automatically screamed lesbian. But she and a friend were watching all the new seminarians to see if they were 'family' or not. And they identified me before I really had for myself.

[I have the IG albums from the late 1980s.]

Anonymous said...

There you go again, C. My BP and I shared the indigo Girls as our sense of ourselves grew into love, and as she left her marriage.

Why don't we both agree we're both afraid and too afraid to say
If I say count to three and move toward me, would you meet me half the way
There are a thousand things about me I want only you to know
But I can't do it alone, you've got to show

Oh yeah.

And as we have become a partnership, we continue to have the Indigoes as part of our soundtrack.

So I'm with you again. :-)