On one end of the beach is a girl. She’s running with a huge smile on her face, her braces catching the light of the sun, the green rubber bands in her mouth strained to capacity. She’s wearing a plaid kilt, navy and dark green with thin lines of red and yellow, and an oversized white oxford shirt, tucked in only at the front. On her feet she wears knee socks pushed all the way down and loafers with one penny tucked in on heads, one on tails. The girl believes this to be a clever way of beating the odds of life. Under one sock around her ankle is a thick band of multicolored woven friendship bracelets. Months later when she grows tired of them she will cut them off and sew them to the pocket of her jean jacket. She is sporting a formidable lion’s mane of dark permed curls, scrunched to perfection, redolent of Vidal Sassoon styling mousse, bouncin’ and behavin’ as if they have a life of their own. She wears dangly earrings and a gold class ring bearing the Sacred Heart of Jesus, but is otherwise unadorned, save a scrunchy around her wrist. Her face is tan and line free. Everything is either a joke or a drama.
A woman is running toward the girl, if you can even call it running because she hasn’t done any cardio in ages and is a bit winded. Also, she’s wearing tall boots and skinny jeans, neither of which is particularly conducive to the long gazelle-like strides of the girl. No matter, thinks the woman, she’ll get to me eventually, running’s no good for my joints anyway. She watches the girl’s knock-kneed gait, her flailing arms, and wonders when she lost the unselfconsciousness, the joy of pounding the earth with the soles of her feet. Probably on this day, the day that sports died. The woman has gobs of gold jewelry stacked on her wrists and around her neck, some of it real, most of it faux, all of it gaining a certain je ne sais quois by virtue of being piled on in a more-is-more-mish-mosh, or so she thinks. One of the few perks of growing older, she believes, is the freedom to over do it with the jewelry and fur. Subtle, be damned, she thinks as she feebly slogs through the sand. Understated be damned. The woman’s hair is straightish, her future husband having extracted a vow in 1992 that she would never again perm her hair. Her face is no longer tan, no longer line free. Everything is still a joke or a drama, only less so. Or maybe more so.
There is no way to be sure anymore.
One thing and one thing only has brought the girl and the woman to the beach and set them on a collision course for each other: Jay Z’s Young Forever featuring Mr. Hudson.
CUUUUUT! That’s a wrap!
Holy buckets, Jay Z! This song is just TOOOO much! Do you know how much I used to love Alphaville? Do you have any idea how much I had to finagle to get Sister Church (her real name, no joke) to agree to let us sing this for our class ring ceremony Junior year? Do you know that she made us replace “are you gonna drop the bomb or not” with “are you gonna sing the song or not”? Do you know that we stood in the chapel in our blue blazers and plaid skirts, our arms around each other, singing our hearts out in a teary crescendo until we were all sobbing in a florid display of adolescent group-think copy cat feminine hysteria? No, seriously, it’s true. This kind of stuff happens all the time at Catholic all-girls’ schools. Apparently, we wanted to be forever young, really really bad.
Listen, Jay Z, you better believe I’ve been trying to figure out my fascination with hip hop because, frankly, it’s vaguely unbecoming for a mother of three to drive around in her minivan with heavy base shaking the bumpers, my childrens’ heads, barely visible through the tinted windows nodding in rhythm to some seriously unsavory tunes like a bunch of bored hoods. I actually considered that I might be doing it out of peevishness. That I might be doing it because I like to imagine Lil’ Wayne standing on a corner and the look on his mug when I drive by with a little Mrs. Officer on deck. What’s that you say? Lil’ Wayne is totally down with Minnesota housewives? Good to know. I suspected this went beyond peevishness anyway.
With this song, you helped me figure it out. Sweet Jay, you have managed to take the addled, melodramatic, swelling synthesizers of my teens, the anthem to long drawn out sighs, daydreaming and feverish journal writing and mash them up with your song (a doozy, by the way, well done). In a genius bit of alchemy, every thing I love about hip hop rose to the top like thick beautiful cream: First of all, it’s collaborative and creative. I love that artists are constantly showing up on each other’s tracks. It actually seems like the norm and I’d love to know how it happens. Do you guys text each other? Dude, I think you introduced me to Santigold with Brooklyn (Go Hard). I love that sampling is one of the building blocks of hip hop – there is nothing like decontextualizing something to give it a brand new shiny veneer, new legs, new life. I love that it’s about beats not tears, stories not drama (for me anyway). And sometimes it’s just about a party, unobscured hedonism. I love that it’s quick and dirty: the fastest way to a good time, to shakin’ my booty, to a laugh and a drink.
When I was a teen, the emotions were big and sweeping and all my synth pop seemed tailored made to wrap me up in a big blanket of ennui, all the better to wallow in. I’m done navel gazing. Now, I’m looking for a little relief from the monotony of emptying the dishwasher, of that umpteenth drive to soccer, of that mountain of clean laundry that needs to be folded. If a song makes me dance in my kitchen with my kids, makes me laugh, makes me blush, makes me lunge at the pause button so my kid doesn’t hear the rest of it, then that song is doing exactly what it needs to be doing for me.
So let’s dance in style, let’s dance for a while. Thanks for the memories, Jay.