I’ve been way too intense these days, way too dramatic. My tendency to take myself too seriously or romantically—let’s call it my tendency in mid life to “fall in love with the first woman I meet/ Put her in a wheelbarrow, and wheel her down the street"—puts me in the Dylanesque category of wizened boy troubadour. It’s an insouciant masculinity based in lusty misogyny and ultimately timed to keep moving on. Though Dylan did once write “Tangled Up in Blue,” about the best most sustained plaint on companionate marriage ever sung. So good that I recognized it long before I ever married, long before I ever broke. I must have known it just from being born to woman and man. But for the most part, Dylan’s love sick blues are lonesome. He’s always showily singing to some idea of a woman and his anger is getting to sound more and more like stand up. “Hell’s My Wife’s Hometown,” another cut from Together Through Life, makes me laugh every time. Dylan stopped singing about real people and feelings a long time ago, though he still reaches me on the deep level of myth and song.
But any protection I might seek from the damage I do to other women and to myself in my wavering, weary boyishness and my inconsistency and bravado breaks down when I pay attention to Amy Ray. “Stand and Deliver” and “She’s Got to Be” are both relationship songs, and in that they are a dime a dozen. Cheesy, even. I’ve never enjoyed the feeling of being hailed by TV ads (phone ads are especially manipulative) or pop tunes. Of course part of maturing or becoming human for the queer child is becoming open to popular feelings, even feeling normal. And now that queer is a brand name, a new way to be incoherent and individual just like every other tattooed sexual deviant out there, I’m even more resistant to the sound track. But oppositional reading and selective insertion of my desires into even the greatest musical fabrics has limits. When I listen to Amy Ray I recognize my nonsense. I feel read, exposed, and even normal. I hear my own struggling voice.
Baby’s got a lot of tears
Enough to cry a thousand years
Enough to cry a thousand seas