Saturday, May 14, 2011

Scenes From An Italian Shut the Hell Up

It's time I took issue with something I should haven taken issue with a long time ago.

Billy Joel.

I have a love/hate relationship with Billy Joel.  His was the first concert I attended, with my then-boyfriend Aaron and his dad (my mom wouldn't let me go unless I had a chaperone) He would have also been my second concert, if that same boyfriend hadn't decided to give my ticket to his friend Mike and go with him instead.

So needless to say, since we broke up almost seven years ago, I haven't really listened to all that much Billy Joel.  Every so often I'll get a craving for, say, "Summer Highland Falls," which reminds me of a boy I was in love with at summer camp, or "Allentown," which despite the fact that Billy Joel is hardly the working-class hero he's always claimed to be (see also: "The Downeaster Alexa,") is a pretty awesome song.  But for the most part, I leave those albums on my shelf.  Joel seems like a parody of himself these days; I remember seeing him on VH1 Storytellers back at the height of my Billy Joel craze (I had yet to discover the Smiths or Tom Waits) and he claimed he never wanted to become a "Las Vegas version" of himself.  Well, I saw his concert at Shea Stadium on TV late one night in NYC when I couldn't get to sleep and Two and a Half Men wasn't on yet, and he was exactly that.  No, he was worse than that.  Las Vegas requires a little showmanship, so unless the show was Billy Joel puppeting a Billy Joel puppet clinking away on a piano in a whimsical fashion, what I saw was a tired old man trying to smile and clank out the same old tunes he'd been playing since 1984.  So much for retirement, Mr. Joel.

Since I don't have a picture
of Geza, this one of Cillian
Murphy will have
to do
No, what I want to take issue with today is "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant."  I used to sort of like this song because it reminded me a bit of my ex-boyfriend Geza, who, despite the fact that I dumped him in eleventh grade after three months of dating, still remembers my birthday and meets me for Japanese food whenever I'm in NYC.

But it got stuck in my head this afternoon while I was making dinner for my boyfriend's mom, and I realized something so utterly and unspeakably awful about it that I almost want to throw out all my Billy Joel albums.

Please, sample these lyrics, won't you?

Got a new wife
Got a new life
and the family is fine

This is a real sentiment of the baby boomers.  Just get a new wife, an new life and sure, everyone will be just f'ing fine with it.  What about the old life, Mr. Joel?  The kids you left behind, the wife you left?  Are they fine?

It's a sentiment that, as you can imagine, really pisses me off.  Baby Boomers think that the whole world revolves entirely around their happiness and only their happiness.  I can't tell you how many times I've heard "Well, if I'm not happy I can't be a good parent."  No, SCREW YOU.  I'm sorry that your kids and your wife prevented you from banging models or getting a Ferrari or somehow came along and made things not a never-ending party FOR YOU.

And here's Billy Joel, trubador of the Upper Middle Class, singing cheerfully to a woman he left about a woman he left and the new bride and the do-over family.  Fucking classy, Mr. Joel.

That's not to say I'm against divorce.  Sometimes things don't work out despite the best efforts of all involved.  I don't think people should stay in relationships that aren't working, especially if there's abuse of any sort, but all too often I see abandonment predicated entirely on selfish needs to "find" oneself.  I see parents abandoning their kids and taking on new "special friends" because being a parent no longer suits their immediate needs.

 Newsflash, Parents:  You are always going to be parents.  That's not to say you don't get to have fun, especially once you've got empty nest, but your needs NEVER come first.  Ever.  When you create a child, you are passing on your genetics and throwing away the idea that you are the center of the universe.  You're not.  And frankly, neither is your dumb kid, but that's not the point (of this essay).  The point is that you create something that is both outside of you and a part of you--and that part can't just be pushed aside when he/she interferes with your mid-life crisis party routine.

Even worse, and this is going beyond Billy Joel and into the realm of Baby Boomer Writing (because I'm on a tear and you can't stop me now!) is the idea that divorce, especially for women, is something to be proud of.  Like it's so brave to tear your family apart so that you can feel "free" again.  Because the kids that get left behind will never be free.  They develop complexes that inhibit their abilities to have meaninful relationships.  They settle down with men they don't love because at least it's something stable between the back-and-forth shuffle from one parent to another.  They go through the rest of their lives looking over one shoulder because if they can't trust a parent to love them enough to not exit their lives at the earliest convenience, how can they expect anyone else to stick around?

This is why I don't have kids.  Because I'm a flighty narcassist.  But I hope one day I can put my own needs aside to get up in the middle of the night with a crying baby.  To sit through a ballet recital or a soccer game.  To clap during a high school performance of Anything Goes and not be wishing I was somewhere, anywhere else but sitting next to other beaming parents watching a bunch of acne-ridden teenagers in cheaply-made sailor costumes clomp around to "It's De-Lovely"*.

That day may never come.  And I'm okay with that because I understand the sacrifice and as of this writing, I'm not willing to make it.  Maybe that makes me more selfish than Billy Joel, I don't know. 

But what I do know is that "Scenes from an Italian Restaraunt" sucks.

*For the record, I played Mrs. Harcort in my high school's production of Anything Goes.  I should have played the mobster's girlfriend, but I didn't . . . ah . . . give the right kind of audition, if you catch my drift.

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