My favorite song in the world is The Lonely One (White Hen Version) by Wilco. That puts me in the rarefied air of true indie. Flannel, big beards, thrift-store 90s jeans, craft beer, vinyl – all stereotypical Venn diagrams to obscure Wilco songs that are released only through “rare tracks” albums. I own it on CD – strange enough – but I will own it on vinyl someday. I read all the liner notes the same day my husband brought me the CD.
I can only listen to Wilco songs in private or in the car with my family. Because they make me cry. It is a near Stendahlian experience when I hear some Wilco songs. Wilco are musical geniuses and always have been – making new things out of tradition, out of curiosity and admittedly, more than a little white-man confidence. Beyond the genius of the compositions, it is Tweedy’s voice. To me, it is the most perfect sound in the world. I do not know enough about music to understand why it is so beautiful. Why it makes my heart bounce. I don’t know, and that is ok. Life needs mystery.
Loving Wilco is my private life. I was never brave enough to try to break into a “cool” circle of friends. There are lots of superficial reasons why cool people might not like me. My “style” has always been basic suburban. I have never had the interest in expressing an alternative view, or any view, via my clothing, make-up or hair. I like to blend, blend, blend. Always have. No one cool would look at me and think that I have depths. I am a book constantly judged by her cover. I think alt-awesomes should reevaluate how they evaluate people. In my day, I have seen a lot of husks embraced into indie cool because of SUPERFICIAL reasons – tribal tattoo, purple hair, combat boots. While I was listening to Uncle Tupelo and reading Hannah Arendt atop my pink rose comforter in my dorm room. I am not cool. And I am not a husk.
Oh, and I am fat. Cast your mind back to high school or college. Were there a lot of fat female alt-awesomes? Not in my world. There were a lot of thin girls wearing black and too much makeup or no makeup. They so hit the bullseye of the white, cis, thin beauty standard that they could reject it and play with it and still have the earnest attention of all the men. Good for them. In my day, that was not an option for social success, or even social survival. Blend, blend, blend. And in my case, maybe more like hide, hide, hide.
At almost 46, I love what I love. Kendra Scott. Big, pink roses printed on things. Louise Penny novels. And Wilco. It is a revelation to not have to fit in. To not care about hiding. To have nothing riding on my choices other than my own happiness.
Lindy West, Roxanne Gay, Lizzo. Fat women who are defining cool. Choosing what they want to wear. Being the coolest in a room. In all rooms. I should have found my voice rather than blending. Maybe it isn’t too late. But I will always have my Wilco. On headphones in the dark reading philosophy books.