On the way home from dropping Miss V off at work (yes, 15 and productive—more on that another time) CFOX radio announced a song we LOVE.
Only, CFOX announced it as: “Vintage CFOX.” As though CFOX ever played this song back in the day when it came out. Which it did not; it was strictly a classic rock station.
This may seem like no big deal. But it illustrates the impulse that all individuals, organizations and institutions have to scramble to the right side of history after the fact.
More nefariously, it illustrates how simply history can be rewritten and never questioned. While it’s arguably trivial if CFOX wants to claim it used to play the Cure and Depeche Mode and Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Public Image Limited and the Smiths—the historical fact is that it did not. If you were nerdy enough to like those bands, you had to discover them on your own back then.
Now, don’t get me wrong. We love that CFOX played this song today. But it isn’t a “vintage CFOX” song.
Why is this important? My fellow inebriates, it’s important because this stuff is happening in front of us all the time. With larger issues. With more complex issues. We’re currently seeing pendulum swings on topics like gender medicine, the origins of COVID, whether Justin Trudeau ever called anyone a misogynist for refusing a vaccine, and much more. And each time a swing happens, people scurry like rats to the “right side.” Sometimes the internet catches them; sometimes it doesn’t. Rarely is everyone paying enough attention for it to register that history is constantly being rewritten.
If this feels unsettling, it’s because it is. Personally, I prefer the brand of “unsettling” that comes from downing a bottle of middling Chardonnay. Slow Press is a good example. On sale for $15.99 at my local booze store, this Californian white is big and bold and hits all the proper oaky, buttery notes. But it also has an overly yeasty profile that overtakes its subtle tree fruit notes and leaves me with almost a cream cheese aftertaste that I don’t really love. On top of that, it feels unnaturally acidic.
The unsettling part of all this is that I can’t decide whether I like it. I mean, I like imbibing anything with 14.1% alcohol. But would I buy this particular wine again? And what if I say I would, and I tell you I would, and then I do go out and buy it again, and then I decide I don’t like it so much, and instead of telling you I’ve had second thoughts, I just edit my blog post to say I never cared much for it in the first place? This way, I can be on the right side of Chardonnay…
But I wouldn’t do that, my fellow inebriates. I’m much too incompetent to edit my own history. So I leave to your own impeccable judgment to buy this wine, or not, and to listen to the Cure, or not, and to partake in political discourse thoughtfully and kindly, without straw-manning other people’s arguments and before consuming an entire bottle of wine. And to change your mind freely, while having the bravery to acknowledge what you thought before and explain the path to your new thinking.
According to my local booze store’s write-up on Slow Press Chardonnay, it goes well with fish tacos, so you could try eating some of those too, while listening to the Cure (which you never heard on CFOX in 1992)… or not.
The song is inane, the video even more so, but all the elementary school kids are still singing it: “I’m Sexy and I Know It.”
Huddled in the rain today waiting for their turn at parent-teacher meetings, parents, grandparents and kids alike were bored. Entertainment was wanting. But when Miss V’s fellow kindergartner Prescott* launched into the famous LMFAO song, nearby mom Chandra wasn’t happy. “That’s not appropriate,” she said.
Prescott’s grandmother Barb, who regularly encourages Prescott to regale her with such songs, challenged Chandra. “What’s wrong with it? It’s just a song.”
But with a dozen kids bouncing off each other, asking for juice boxes, and generally interrupting, a debate never got off the ground. From the musty and crumb-stained confines of Miss V’s backpack, I listened, but whatever Chandra felt was inappropriate about a five-year-old singing “I’m Sexy and I Know It,” she didn’t explain.
Now, I was jonesing for alcohol, people. It was our first day out after a four-day plague. The whole family was fragile and my mother hadn’t had a conversation with anyone over six and/or not barfing in at least that long. Whatever jones I had for a glass of wine, she had it twice as bad for a good argument. But she emerged from her parent-teacher meeting moments too late to reignite the controversy and could only weigh in with: “So what if the song has the word ‘sexy’ in it? It’s just a word. My kids sing it all the time.”
Yes they do, although more often they sing “Party Rock Anthem,” usually at the top of their lungs in the car, making Dad play the song eight or nine times in a row. When our parents get fed up with that song, they will settle for “I’m Sexy and I Know It,” albeit as a distant second.
“This band that sings it, LMFAO,” said Chandra. “Do you know what that stands for?” She mouthed the words: “Laughing My Fucking Ass Off.” The offensive words she didn’t say aloud.
In over a year of singing and dancing to LMFAO, neither P nor V has ever asked what the letters stand for. And even if on one of their car rides they asked one day, “Daddy, is LMFAO an acronym?”…So what?
When they first started singing along to “I’m Sexy and I Know It,” the kids weren’t even correctly saying the word “sexy.” They didn’t know it, so they were approximating the sounds, ending up with nonsense syllables like “sutsy” and “supsy.” One day Mum reflexively corrected them to “sexy.” She couldn’t help it.
It’s not like the kids could have avoided hearing the song. LMFAO radio mixes are ubiquitous on radio and satellite; you hear them in restaurants and businesses, streaming out the windows of cars on the highway—and every time we hear them P and V rock out because the songs make them happy. Like every innocent kid who ever danced on American Bandstand, they like the beat.
They’re not unique in their appreciation of LMFAO—but apparently they’re lucky their enthusiasm hasn’t come under the magnifying glass. In May an Aurora, Colorado first-grader got a three-day suspension from school for singing “I’m Sexy and I Know It” to a fellow student—i.e., sexually harassing her.
Is it just me or is there a bit of a disconnect here? Children aren’t sexy, nor do they—under normal circumstances (and obviously it’s important to realize when we’re outside of normal circumstances)—have exposure to adult sexual situations. They don’t really know what “sexy” means. The word is as meaningless to them (or more so) as the phrase “This is how I roll.” Where exactly does the Aurora Public School officials’ discomfort, and that of parents such as Chandra, come from?
By using the word “sexy,” are children inviting sexual predators?
Sexual predation is one of the top fears parents have for their children. They protect them, they watch them, they coach them on which adults to trust, they drill them on what to do if approached by a stranger, they scare them so they can feel less scared themselves. And they have to, because the sickos are out there. But do you think for a moment the sickos are scoping for that kid singing the LMFAO song because that will make their predation okay?
What if the kid doesn’t just sing the word “sexy” but gyrates as well?
Parents teach their kids appropriate behaviors. As V’s kindergarten teacher puts it, it’s not okay to break other people’s bubbles. We keep our hands to ourselves; we keep our private parts private; we don’t hug if it’s unwelcome. What constitutes a sexy dance when it comes to a six-year-old? I’m thinking nothing if all of the above rules are observed. Anybody who sees something different might be tapping into some personal repression. Children are not sexy. Anyone who finds children sexy did not get the idea from LMFAO.
Is it uncomfortable for us to see children describe themselves in adult terms—terms we associate with sexual behavior?
Yes! Yes, it is. It is if we assume a context that mirrors ours. If we decide V and her little friend E are shaking their booties to attract sexual partners, then yes, it’s uncomfortable. Are they? We don’t need to ask them; they’ll tell us if they are. They look ludicrous dancing; it’s hilarious to watch them; they like the beat. If they start verbalizing a wish to attract males by directing attention to their bodies, should we have a talk? You bet. But did the general (and underexamined) idea that women make themselves alluring to attract men originate with one song by one band? Come on.
Sooner or later kids will learn what “sexy” means. Could this be happening earlier and earlier?
Undoubtedly it is. But we know our kids, and at ages five and six they tend to be pretty transparent. If they’ve acquired some notion of what “sexy” is, isn’t this a teaching opportunity for us? Maybe we could tell them how silly the song is, and arguably how it makes fun of the way adults relate to each other (going into as much or as little detail as preferred)? The kids know about all sorts of other adult and therefore off-limit activities: driving, staying up late, drinking coffee or beer, going to a job, getting married. At some point teaching them about sex will be appropriate—and ideally this time will come long before they consider having sex. Until then, sex is in the future and it doesn’t make sense to pretend it doesn’t exist.
Is the word “sexy” itself simply off-color?
Is it? The word “sexy” has numerous contexts. Ever heard of a sexy news story? What about sex chromosomes? What about same-sex marriage? Do we really want to lump the word “sexy” in with “motherfucker”?
By making a big deal of lyrics that mention sex, aren’t we drawing attention to words that would otherwise go unnoticed by small kids?
Is there some age when we should start worrying about “sexy” behavior?
This year’s Halloween costume guidelines specify that boys and girls at our elementary school must not wear “revealing or ‘sexy’ [their quotes] costumes.” There is an age at which a kid is capable of looking provocative. Not five or six, but possibly 12 (not an unheard-of age for high-fashion models). So the rules exist to protect those kids, and because you’d never want to single out those kids, the rules apply to everyone. And fortunately for any parent who has a ten-year-old who looks 15, they can cite the rules.
We’d be idiots if we didn’t think that one future day V or P (or both) will scoot off to school in some nasty outfit deliberately designed to offend adults and distract the opposite sex. They will be trying to look sexy, and it will be a parental nightmare. Their parents know this will happen because they did it themselves way back when. Before MTV, before YouTube, and before LMFAO.
How harmful can a song be?
Age-old question! Ask any old curmudgeon who ever freaked out about Elvis’s gyrations. But I’d rather ask Elmo.
When do we get to review some booze?
OMG, I hope soon. Everybody’s been so sick with the flu that liquor hasn’t made an appearance. Soon, my fellow inebriates.
I guess when you spend a lot of time passed out, the world marches on and all the great ideas come from other people. That’s okay with me, because I barely have two brain cells left to rub together.
Case in point: drinkify.org. “Created in twenty-four boozy hours,” by Lindsay Eyink, Hannah Donovan, and Matthew Ogle, Drinkify “automatically generates the perfect* cocktail recipe to accompany any music.”
What a brilliant idea! In my house there’s always music on, and I don’t always feel qualified to pick the exact right libation to go with it. Perhaps Drinkify could help me take my drinking up a notch.
So…right now we’re playing the ATLAS SOUND. Let’s see what Drinkify recommends…
1 Brooklyn Lager -Serve cold.
Now I’m typing in BJORK.
1 Blue Paddle -Serve cold. Garnish with fire.
☻ OMG, so awesome!!!
Let’s try something different…I’m typing in WAGNER.
1 Pilsner -Serve cold.
😦 Hmmmm…not so sure about that. Let’s try something else on the dramatic side. Typing in TOM WAITS.
1 Sierra Nevada Pale Ale -Serve cold.
😦 😦 No way. Inadequate. Let’s try one more….ROLLING STONES.
10 oz. Rum -Serve on rocks. Garnish with cocktail onions.
😀 Now that’s more like it!!!
Okay, let’s try something that actually plays a lot in my house: THE WIGGLES.
2 oz. Old Rip Van Winkle Bourbon
2 oz. Coco López
4 oz. Rum
Combine in shaker and strain into cocktail glass. Serve.
:DD My faith is returning. For a second I thought randomness was playing a role in Drinkify’s selections. But this last selection can be no accident—the people at Drinkify must realize that when the WIGGLES are playing relentlessly in your house, copious amounts of alcohol are called for.