Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Anniversary (04/11/05)
TITLE: Anniversary Hair
By Lisa McMillion
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It was the time of the Cold War, when living like it was nineteen ninety-nine suggested both the tentative nature of existence and that we could do whatever we wanted until the counter turned a few zeros. Why would God forsake the obvious oompf associated with a doomsday ninety-nine or double "0" for the denouement of an eighty-something end of days?
It was a time when baby gen-exers dreamed of what they would become… a teacher, no, a doctor, well… It was a time of music-video etiquette, when you could, in theory and Hollywood, wear frill-edged bobby socks with three and a half inch heels and not be thought a woman of ill repute or insanity.
The eighties was the video music generation, visual evidence that rock musicians really did mean what you swore to your parents they didn't about the lyrics you listened to on the family car stereo. It was in that same medium, amid the towering hairdos, spinning guitars, and male artists who transcended the need for physical rhythm or beauty that an astounding biological revelation emerged: if one had enough money and/or fame, one really could marry outside one's own species. Such unions created the most inspired love songs. Skipping like smooth stones across the surface of deranged hits about tearing the legwarmers and already ripped shirts off of complete strangers were tunes about the innate qualities mysteriously bonding us. Love was true, blue, and still kind of groovy. Love would bear you up to mountaintop heights on eagles' wings, or it could deputize you as somebody's official and eternal flame, while it talked well-bred women into becoming, if not Good Samaritans, at least redeeming kissers of guys from the wrong side of town. Love, as we were young and learning it, was defined by the words and the very public experiences of the artists who made them famous.
I remember one video in particular where the erstwhile rocker turned temporary grease monkey changed tires alongside the heart of his real-life fiancée. Her long hair waved like fields of ripened grain as they rode off into a hand-painted sunset.
I heard a song by the same singer/pianist recently, now an oldie, and waxed nostalgic at the permanence of the meaning pledged in those refrains despite the long since failed state of the "love" that inspired them. Having just remarried to a woman hailing an hour from my hometown, and after an extended absence from the limelight, he was bathing once again in its outer tendrils. The official wedding photo shows the model groom and bride entering their limo but, just when you're about to check the crowns of their heads for telltale seams and the bottoms of their shoes for cake icing, a face familiar and yet not booms into the foreground. His young adult daughter, like his songs, becomes the focal point of the shoot. Her father's dark features softened and feminized, she was spared the cruel genetic combinations spoofed on late night comedy shows, but you remembered who her parents were. It made me wish I were at the reception with three-dimensional bangs and a sign of protest. Whether his daughter could carry a tune in a bucket, the average onlooker wouldn't know, but she crooned his first love's promises by simply standing there, being. She unintentionally stole the moment with the remembrance of the union that made her, more so than she could've had she shown up in the better dress. Or bobby socks and heels.
The songs remain, their original intent as anemic as a ghost and just as mournful. Love is a stubborn angel, refusing to acknowledge the decision weaker human elements make to orphan it. Despite the artist's new reality, his lyrics run like a river to the ocean, calling the imaginations of the masses back to the failure of humanity to honor commitment and love's permanence, and our adeptness at creating numerous, fragile anniversaries in our own strength.
His songs are on Broadway now. I imagine he doesn't sing any of the old ballads to his new love, guarding himself in the shower, confining his whistling to an innocuous repertoire of television theme songs. I imagine that letting the grease-monkey lyrics slip into the homestead today, though his new bride is probably too young to remember it, could be likened to her finding an old, busty sweater in the attic, or a strand of luscious blonde hair embedded in the sofa.
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