The Men In My Life Turned Me Into A Geek And I Love Them For It

My dad started me on the road to a life of geekdom. To be fair, he didn’t mean to start anything except side A of Physical Graffiti to kick off a long car trip, or Johnny Winter in time to grill chicken for dinner. All he wanted was his favorite music to help him get stuff done, just like it had since 1974. All he wanted was a daughter who appreciated where he was coming from. Instead, he managed to begin turning me into Franken-dork, through the power of classic rock. In the beginning, there was the Beatles. More specifically, the Chipmunks covering the Beatles on one side of my first cassette tape. “Can’t Buy Me Love” was three octaves higher than the original—perfect for constantly singing along and getting those pop grooves carved into my pre-school brain. My dad gave me that tape, and the rest of my life has grown around those grooves to make sure that my taste in music will forever be thirty years out of touch with the rest of my generation. Thank goodness. I love him so much for that. Now, it sounds really cool and humble brag-y to write about having an encyclopedic knowledge of Rubber Soul and Led Zepplin’s guitar riffs by the time I was ten. Now. At the time, that knowledge came at the expense of the shared culture slowly emerging among my classmates. I only had so much space in my elementary school memory, and the rest of it was concentrated on how to tie my shoe. So when my best friend asked me to help her think of Backstreet Boys lyrics that would make good slogans for her student council posters, I drew a complete blank. “Huh?” I said. “You know,” she said brightly. “The Backstreet Boys!” I looked around for context clues in the neon poster board, the multicolor glitter, even the clumps of plain old white Elmer’s glue we were getting everywhere on her rug. I was forced to admit that no, I didn’t know about the Backstreet Boys. She might have gasped, or I might be making that up for dramatic effect, but she did in fact look at me funny before leaping up and turning on her stereo (a CD player that scared me a little because it didn’t have the spool-eyed face of my tape deck). “Oh!” At the first strains of synthesizer, I snapped my fingers like I had seen in a movie moment of sudden recognition. “Yeah, the Backstreet Boys. I just forgot.” But that wasn’t true. When my dad picked me up, he opened his truck’s door and Mick Jagger barking about satisfaction leaked out. I ran to that jangly guitar and took a deep, relieved breath. Here was something I knew, something connected to my dad’s big sense of humor and my mom’s smiles. The music took me in its arms, and it brought me home. Over the next decade as I realized the oceanic depths of my social awkwardness, I used this music as my first lesson in geeky isolation. Okay, so I’d never pull off being cool. I would always have to pretend I  “forgot” about the Backstreet Boys. But I could love the hell out of my favorite things, make them mine, and they’d always be there for me. And Dad would be right there howling along. It got embarrassing as hell for awhile. He was just excited that I liked the same music as much as he did; it gave us something in common when I was growing into something neither one of us understood, like, at all: a teenage girl. Early blues rock started standing in for difficult conversations. This is what pain feels like, kid, and here’s sex. Hear how it’s all mixed up with the pain? Remember that. Someday if you work hard and have some luck, you’ll find a person or a job or a thing, any thing, that makes you feel as complete as this Lennon-McCartney harmony. I’m handing all this knowledge to you. It made part of me grow up before my time in a way that I couldn’t express. The only explanation I could think of was to make people listen to the same records and hope they caught what I felt from them. That was extremely hit or miss, so I shrugged at people and went back to my music, branching out from the roots my dad planted and finally starting to amass something that felt like my own personality. And it only got geekier from there… (More stories of geekiness to follow next Friday)

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    • Jessica

      So were you named after Melanie Safka?

    • Melanie

      Nope. My parents just picked my name sort of randomly.

    • Melanie L Bowen

      Hi there!

      I have a quick question about your blog! Please email me when you get a chance.

      Melanie

      • Melanie

        Sure! If it’s about this specific entry or the book review blog I write (http://melanietheconstantreader.blogspot.com/), I’ll be more than happy to answer. If it’s about The Gloss or B5 Media, get in touch with Jenna Wright or Amanda Chantel because they’ll know a lot more (I’m just a contributor and they’re editors).

        It’d be easiest to ask your question here or let me know your email address.

      • Melanie the Constant Reader

        *Amanda Chatel, without the “n,” because my phone’s keyboard is as tiny as my brain right now.