every finger in the room is pointing at me
wanna spit in their faces, then i get afraid of what that would bring…
i can’t think of a woman in her thirties who was an alt-rock girl in her teens who doesn’t at least partially identify with tori amos’s little earthquakes, released in the winter of 1992. i remember very clearly watching MTV in sixth grade and seeing the video for crucify. aside from being a really gorgeous song, i had never seen any woman in music videos behave quite like tori. i didn’t understand it; i wasn’t quite 11 yet, so complex, adult sexuality was just right the hell over my head. i didn’t quite understand why sir mix-a-lot sang about butts yet – i just thought baby got back was hilarious, though i didn’t know what his pet snake had to do with anything.
every so often, i miss being that wide-eyed and oblivious. not very often, but sometimes.
but ANYWAY. for my eleventh birthday, in july of 1992, my grandmother bought me four CDs: the B-52s’ good stuff, mariah carey’s emotions (to replace my cassette tape), TLC’s ooooooohhh… on the TLC tip and little earthquakes. this is the same grandmother i’ve been talking about lately, the one with the racism problems and the deep personal relationship with a really twisted concept of jesus. but she didn’t pay any mind to the subject matter of those CDs… until my older cousin started teasing me about the lyrics of little earthquakes. thirteen-year-old boys FTW. so them my grandmother took the CD and read all the lyrics.
and then she collared me, stood me up in her dining room, and yelled at me about every dirty, sinful thing in the album. i mean, she explained every single word. now keep in mind – i just told y’all that i didn’t get the oh-so-subtle mystery of “baby got back,” so tori’s actual literate english writing was lost on me. well, until my pious, righteous grandmother explained everything to me. (this, by the way, is the irony of these repressive jesus-types; they can wallow in the so-called sin-trenches, relishing every single filthy, perverse detail, under the guise of needing to know what temptations the deceiver is trying to set down in front of you. hell, whatever delusion you need to enjoy your kink, you go on with it. but i digress.) i mean, i was in tears for an hour – i was a goody-goody little kid who hated disappointing people.
i went home the next week, CDs in tow. my grandmother called daddy the day after i got home and explained to him how she’d had to intervene to protect me from all that horrid, sinful smut on that tori amos CD. daddy was in the other room, and i heard his voice raising. ma. seriously? why did you do that to her? hold on a second. he came to the doorway of my room and said, tara?
he had the phone in his hand and he looked kinda mad. can you tell the difference between fantasy and reality?
well, that wasn’t what i was expecting. of course, daddy.
of course you can. that’s what i thought. he put the phone back to his ear. ma, she’s keeping the CD. don’t ever do that again; i will decide what my daughter can handle, not you.
that conversation was one of the most formative moments of my life. i have been tight with my daddy since birth, but that was the first time i had a clear, stark example of the unbelievable amount of faith and trust my daddy has in me. he trusted me to accept and process something sophisticated. he also understands that art is not a corrupting influence. to know that your dad has your back, especially when the one coming after you is his own mother, is a really reassuring thing to have.
i’ve got something to say, you know, but nothing comes
yes i know what you think of me – you never shut up
yeah i can hear that
i say all that to say this. i’ve always loved tori. but now, in this season of upheaval, i’m starting to appreciate that album from a more mature perspective. the album is all about feeling small, dealing with loss, marginalization, and meaningless sacrifice. it’s about giving something or someone your all when that something or someone may not be worth the effort, and coming to the realization that all the time you’ve given may be wasted time. there’s a resignation in the lyrics that hits me where i live these days.
i think i’ve hit a wall when it comes to bleeding myself dry for people who don’t appreciate the sacrifice. i think i’m tired of tilting at windmills. i think i need to change everything. and i think i know what i have to do to make it happen. it’s going to be hard as hell, too. my life is nothing but little earthquakes these days. it doesn’t take much to rip me into pieces; there’s so much uncertainty, so many questions. at least i have some touch points, some old reassuring friends, to fall back on and work through some of this with. and tori’s there for me, again.
so i drove all the way home last night with little earthquakes at top volume, just like i’d done in high school a thousand times. and even though there’s nowhere to drive in DC where i can get enough space to drive out the angst like i could back then, i could at least get a little venting and a little comfort. it’s good to find some identification in a classic piece of art. i mean, i’m no closer to an answer on any of the big questions. but at least i have memories to fall back on while i work it out.