I just realized that I was a dick. I might still be but at least I now realize a few things. So, I’m a dick. Here’s my story…
About fourteen years ago, in my early twenties, I worked at a pizza joint as a cook. The work was easy, fun, and would offer subtle challenges during the intense weekend rush. It wasn’t much but it paid the bills and I wanted to make the best pizza I could.
There was a jukebox.
In it was a mighty selection of music that I apparently hated at the time. I can’t even say why now. I would react violently to certain songs. They would start playing and their brutal acts of aural savagery would drive me to utter madness. Not something I like to admit. But it happened.
One particular song infested my being more than any other, “Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears. I would bump the jukebox as I passed with a steaming pizza, making the CD skip, which the jukebox thought was the signal to play the next song. I thought I was pretty clever.
A woman worked there, late thirties, married, three children. She loved that song and she would play it all the time. We got along well on every other subject except that one. Over our time working together we got to know each other pretty well. One evening while cleaning up the kitchen she broached the topic.
“Why do you hate that song so much?” she asks, wiping away rogue sliced peppers and sausage.
“Which one?” I pause, pepperoni lid in hand.
“The Britney Spears song.”
“Oh,” I say, ready to instill the wisdom of youth, “because it talks about getting beaten and liking it.”
“But that’s not what it’s about at all,” she says with a hurt look in her brown eyes.
“It sure sounds that way from the chorus.”
“You haven’t listened to the whole thing. She’s talking how abusive relationships are difficult to leave.” She shuts down the stove. The rolling grate comes to a stop. “It’s positive.”
“Well,” I say with bravado, “I still don’t like the song or her image.”
She never broached the subject again.
Later, I learned that her husband was arrested for domestic violence. I knew him, but never thought he was like that. But that’s how it seems to work; you never suspect the ones that are doing it. I’ve learned much about violence and control over the years. It’s a topic of study that I’ve become interested in, probably because of talking with her.
To the best of my knowledge, she was the first woman I met that was in an abusive relationship. I can’t help but think now that that song, “Baby One More Time,” helped her out somehow, and that my hatred of it was an endorsement for domestic abuse. Sometimes we just can’t or don’t want to see the truth that is staring us right in the face. We think we know but our ignorance and arrogance thrusts us ever further away from the truth.
Fourteen years later I find myself sitting alone in a small box of an apartment on a rainy day in a foreign land. For some reason, that song shows up as I browse the internet looking for new music. Rain assaults the window. I remember. I remember and I am shamed.
It is not worth the effort to slander something because you don’t like it because it could be the best thing ever in the life of another.
I am a dick. I was too busy thinking about myself and stewing in hatred to listen. Undermining her love of that song was just as bad, if not worse, than what her husband did to her. I may not have physically abused her, but I psychologically abused her. There is no excuse. All I can do now is ask for forgiveness and remember so I do not repeat it.