sophcw at gmail dot com
Scrape your knee, it's only skin.
fish for compliments
drink until I’m happy
wonder what you’re doing
But I won’t call
—Waxahatchee, “Grass Stain”
And I will grow out of all the empty bottles in my closet
And you’ll quit having dreams about a swan dive to the hot asphalt
And I will grow out of all the empty words I often speak
And you will be depleted but much better off without me
And we will find a way to be lonely any chance we get
And I’ll keep having dreams about loveless marriage and regret
—Waxahatchee, “Swan Dive”
When I was writing my review of Waxahatchee’s excellent new album Cerulean Salt, I kept thinking about this line that Mary Timony sings in the Helium song “Superball”: “Everything I say ends with ‘and.’” I take “Superball” to be this sly and surreal little poem about the elasticity of identity, and in particularly about a femininity that can house all sorts of contradictions. “I’m small, like a superball/Throw me at the wall/I’m fragile, like an eggshell/I’m mad as hell.” With each line she morphs into something different, with different physical properties, different strengths and different weaknesses; she is up on some serious Alex Mack shit. To be small and fragile and mad as hell. And…
A more precise description of a Waxahatchee song might be “Everything I say begins with ‘and,’” but still. I really like the rhythmic structure of Katie Crutchfield’s lyrics, she never goes for the easy or obvious end rhyme, there are a lot of interstitial words spilling over between lines, and the sense you get from that approach is that these words are pouring out of her almost faster than she can get them down. (Seriously, listen to her music with an ear for the soft-spoken, hidden “ands,” it’s like an egg hunt.) They all feel like run-on sentences, thumbing their noses at grammatical rules and containment, existing somewhere between stations, capturing both the anxiety and the joy of endless possibilities, the youthful feeling that there will always be more. I felt that way in my early twenties; a lot of people have felt that way in their early twenties. Small and fragile and invincible and huge. It’s as disorienting as it is empowering and if you’re lucky you never grow out of it. I saw a quote going around the internet yesterday, an interviewer asked Margaret Atwood what her favorite word was. “And,” she said. “It is so hopeful.”
Never thought I’d be linked to in a comparison to Taylor Swift (or maybe it’s Lena Dunham, but that’s cool. Also yes to all of this.
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I was jealous because my life felt like a series of false starts and this girl had gotten her footing before I had and when you’re a girl that means everything; the first one across the finish line gets to be the ingenue with her portrait in the New Yorker and the one who stands a chance of being listened to or getting that career doing what she loves. “As more women achieve in a given area,” the filmmaker Sally Potter once observed, “They are forced to compete with each other for the same space rather than the space itself expanding.” To the second one across the finish line they’ll say, “We all saw that Lena Dunham movie, why would we want to hear what another 23 year-old girl thinks about the world?”
Now I am older than Keats was when he died and I live in a room whose walls somebody else painted this very soothing shade of taupe and I’m still the same age as Lena Dunham but I’m not jealous of her anymore. I am making a living doing a different thing that I love and I feel as lucky as she has probably at some point felt, and I catch myself whenever I start buying into a worldview that mandates I see anyone a little bit like me as my competition. So good luck to her. May she make the space expand.