My children seem to genuinely not much care for pop music, which is a blessing, since if I ever do flip on the radio I can get through one song, maybe two, even on the “soft rock” station before I have to dive for the buttons over something inappropriate (Your sex takes me to paradise?  Seriously, who is okay with that?).  

I guess it’s no wonder since we spend most of our time in the car listening to audio books, hymns, or classical music for school (or saying a rosary).  It’s quite a jump for them from Brahms to Bruno Mars.  Bobby and Gus, especially, always complain from the way back that this music sounds “weird.”

But, alas, I do not share their dislike for pop music.  I really, really like it.  The catchier the better.  No mournfully important indie rock for me.  I like The Lumineers, I like Taylor Swift, I like Maroon 5, I like Fun.

Jack with our shiny new iPod circa 2004.

But I rarely indulge in any of it, and when I do, I pretty much always regret it.  And here’s why: I think listening to pop music cuts me off from the people around me while I’m listening to it and for days afterwards.

On longer drives with the kids I almost always put on an audio book, but on short drives and usually before I start the audio book we have time for conversation in the car.  And I have found that it’s in the car that my kids are most likely to bring up big issues or things that have been troubling them.  I think it’s the combination of my being a captive audience, but unable to look directly at them that facilitates the tough discussions.

That never happens if I turn on pop music.  It seems like we can think and talk over classical music, but never over pop music.  When I turn on the “regular” radio I’m basically cutting off conversation.

We still call these “ear listeners”
because that’s what he called them.

And then comes the secondary issue, which is that I absolutely cannot get pop songs out of my head.  I sit down to write, or to pray and all I can think is: I KNEW YOU WERE TROUBLE WHEN YOU WALKED INNNNNNNNNN . . . for days and days and days.  I don’t know how other people do it.  It’s kind of brain-crippling for me.

It makes me feel that for me, at least, pop music is this anesthetic that numbs my brain and keeps my thoughts away from important things because it’s busy thinking over and over and over again: YA BETTER TELL THE GRAVE DIGGER THAT HE BETTER DIG TWO.

And, let’s be honest, these are hardly beneficial messages I’m voluntarily drilling into my head.  But at least those are thoughts of something.  This country (myself included) spent an entire summer with a song stuck in our heads that was total gibberish: HEEEEEEEY SEXY LAAADEEEE, OP OP OP OP OP OPPAN GANGNAM STYLE, successfully preventing any thoughts at all, even unimportant ones about whether poor Taylor Swift will ever find love, from entering my consciousness: EH EH EH EH EH OPPAN GANGNAM STYLE.

This photo has nothing to do with this post,
but it was in the same folder as those iPod photos
I was looking for.  Behold the awesomeness.
He put these on UPSTAIRS and came down
to ask for my help . . . with his SHOES.
The pants he was fine with.

So every Advent and every Lent I institute my “nice quiet” policy.  I have a “nice quiet” Advent and a “nice quiet” Lent without my conversations and my thoughts drowned out by pop music and it’s really lovely.  And then come Christmas or Easter I get to thinking it couldn’t be as bad as all that and surely I can handle it.  But really, I can’t: DARLIN’ DON’T BE AFRAID AAAYYYEEE HAVE LOVED YOU FOR A THOUUUU-SAND YEARS . . . see?  Wait, where was I?

Oh yeah, nice quiet.  It’s time for me to turn off the music and listen to my kids instead.  Anyway, I’m pretty sure my three year old has considerably more profound things to say than any of those former Disney Channel gals I keep hearing on the radio.