My edgier friends roll their eyes.
“Oh, fuck Blink-182! They suck.”
I disagree. I disagree because of one very important song.
“Wait, which song is he talking about,” the reader mumbles to herself.
I’m talking about the third single from the CD Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, “Stay Together for the Kids.”
This is, of course, a biased choice in that it speaks directly to my experience. For I am one of the many adults—living in America today—whose parents stayed together way, way longer than they should have.
A lot of our parents were like that in the 1980s. We all knew it. We all talked about it with our friends in school. We all knew whose parents were getting divorced, or had just gotten divorced, and which were staying together for the children—a decision that never did us any good, ever.
In fact, I can say with a swell of certainty that I, and most of my fellow statistics, would have been much better off had our dysfunctional families broken up sooner.
Trust me: if Karen and Charlie had only been married for seven years, instead of sticking it our for the full eleven, Little Charlie would not be on so much medication today.
But I digress. My point is that, as a veteran of this very common type of dysfunctional family, I can attest to the power of Tom DeLonge’s lyrics.
Actually, I would go so far as to say that any survivor of dysfunction who can scroll through these verses without being moved needs to find a couch to lie on—for the next five years, or so.
Talk about mommy and daddy’s fighting, my friend. It’s time.
The more courageous among us will remember the “house is haunted” feeling, “when the shades have been pulled shut” — and are kept shut — to hide the spectacle of the family from the world.
By the time I was five or six, I was on the same page as DeLonge.
“This house is haunted,” my cousins insisted whenever they slept over. They just felt unsafe. My father’s violence had raised the psychic tension to poltergeist levels. We all flinched at loud noises. I developed nervous tics, and became very quiet and brooding. I would hide in the dark corners of the house for hours. My younger brother became the performer, making everyone laugh to ease the panic. My baby sister cried a lot. She was only three.
“It’s so pathetic,” I told my friend, Jack, from down the street. “It makes no sense at all.” He didn’t know what to say.
The song collapses into a laundry list of my childhood confusion. If these two people hate each other, I wondered, why don’t they just get away from each other?
The children always see it. The adults make no sense. Instead of talking to each other, they sit silently and pray to be saved. I’ll let DeLonge’s lyrics take the stage.
I’m ripe with things to say
The words rot and fall away.
Because no one listens to the opinions of children.
If a stupid poem could fix this home
I’d read it every day.
Pray? That’s your fucking advice, Father? When my dad is hitting my mom, I should pray?
And every Christmas, every birthday, it was love, love, love—a cease-fire in the war between my parents. They actually touched each other a few times. They kissed quickly, every year, on Christmas morning. It made me angry. It made me want to burn the Christmas tree down, shred the stockings, and flip over the holiday table.
To this day, I imagine traveling back in time—a visit to the Bivona Christmas, 1981. I could bring Blink-182 with me in my time machine. Tom and I could scream a duet of the song’s chorus, with both of our middle fingers held high.
So here’s your holiday
Hope you enjoy it this time
You gave it all away
It was mine [my childhood]
So when you’re dead and gone
Will you remember this night,
twenty years now lost.
It’s not right!
It’s not right. It’s selfish. It’s arrogant. It’s religiously misguided. Whatever the cause, staying together for the kids is destructive. While the parents wage their silent battles — their endless cold war — the children get hit with invisible shrapnel, displaced anger, and an emotional tidal wave of silent tension. This will become their conditioned feeling of home.
Tom’s poetry mimics the clear, rational, shared understanding — the helpless confusion — of the children in this “traditional” American family.
Their anger hurts my ears.
Been running strong for seven years.
Rather than fix the problems,
they never solve them,
it makes no sense at all.
I see them every day.
We get along so why can’t they?
If this is what he wants,
and this is what she wants,
then why’s there so much pain?
The song rounds out with two more screaming deliveries of our chorus—directed at the entire past generation of parents. Here’s your holiday, assholes.
In three minutes and fifty-nine seconds, the song is over, and, if I open myself to it, I can experience visceral memories — body sensations. I can feel the confusion, the anger, the disappointment I felt towards my parents for not getting divorced much, much sooner.
So, in conclusion, the moral of this analytical fable is manifold.
First, enlightened family values would, and should, value all different types, sizes, and sexualities of families, equally, and celebrate in the genetic and cultural diversity—instead of obsessing over this one rigid model, but that would be in an enlightened society, so…
Second, divorce should always remain legal, it should be socially embraced as part of the relationship norm—stigmas never help anyone—and it should be a much easier, cheaper, community supported process: especially for the children.
Which leaves me, very nicely, with my final and most important point. Which is this: don’t shit on Blink-182.
to my ex-wife
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Poetry & Poetics w/ Charles Bivona
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Sang Lee is dead.
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