My three year old is a bundle of testosterone-induced energy. He spends most of his time covered head to toe in dirt, food, and bruises. If it doesn’t have wheels he’s not interested in playing with it. He laughs at farts and belches, chases the dogs, and shakes it off when he falls off his bike. At the risk of sounding sexist, he’s all boy. He fits just about every stereotype of an alpha-male you can imagine. Except for his unusual taste in music.
Let me explain.
My son was born with eclectic and particular musical taste. Goodness knows my husband tried everything to educate him in the subtle art of British Indie music snobbery. Hours of Radiohead, Massive Attack and Underworld went in one ear and out the other. Joy division held no joy for my busy little bee. He ignored it, but then, so did I.
I, on the other hand, wanted him to grow up worshiping rock stars like Jon Bon Jovi and Def Leppard. Okay, maybe I also wanted him to travel back in time to the 80s, but he would look so cute in leather pants. Logistical difficulties and time-space continuum aside, I faired no better than his father. Once the discerneing toddler realized Axl Rose had nothing to do with cars, trucks, and wheels, he couldn’t have cared less. Appetite For Destruction? No, thanks. He prefered cookies.
There has been only one true musical love in my son’s life since the day he was born. There wasn’t a rock star alive who could compete with the sultry and seductive Liza Minnelli. Yes, that’s right. My infant son was obsessed with burlesque dancers, gender indeterminate lounge hosts, and bawdy musical numbers. Life was a cabaret, and he wanted in on it. Should I have encouraged my child to watch risqué broadway musicals? Perhaps not, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
At three months old, my baby was a colicky nightmare. The days were an endless blur of bouncing, crying, shushing, crying, vacuuming so I couldn’t hear the crying, dancing, and more crying. There’s nothing like the desperation of a chronically sleep deprived, highly strung, first time mom to bolster creativity and ingenuity. So when I found something that soothed the squirming child in my arms, I jumped on it like a starving person on a sandwich.
The first moment Liza spoke to him, he stopped crying. He watched her dance masterfully across the stage wearing nothing but lingerie and a bowler hat. I waited, scarcely breathing, for the waterworks to resume. Liza twirled around and sat playfully in her chair. She winked. He laughed. We tried other musicals, but he only had eyes for Liza.
Cabaret became a part of his daily routine for almost year. While other children were learning the words to The Wheels On The Bus and Itsy Bitsy Spider, my child was listening to pidgin german spoken by half naked show girls. That’s almost educational, right? For a while I seriously wondered whether his first word might be Willkommen.
I came to terms with the fact that he might never grow up to share my love of big hair, leather pants, and bad air guitar. All that mattered was that he was listening to music and it was bringing him joy, and me some peace and quiet. In time, he outgrew his colic and eventually outgrew Cabaret. If you asked him now, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t remember any of it. Sometimes I wonder if he would still like it if I played it for him. Would it seem familiar, like an old lullaby?
To the rest of the world, he may always be the poster child for all things masculine. He’ll probably be the star linebacker in high school, who tinkers with cars on the weekends, rides motorcycles, and watches sports on tv. He’ll be big, hairy, and probably smelly. He’ll hang out with his big, hairy, smelly friends. They won’t know who Liza Minnelli is, and they won’t care.
I will keep his secret. I won’t tell them how he giggled when the master of ceremonies playfully spanked one of the dancers’ backside. I won’t mention how he would smile every time Liza kicked her stocking-clad legs or batted her heavily made up eyelashes. I won’t remind him that, thanks to Liza, he refused to wear pants at home until he was two. I won’t say a word.
I just hope they can’t read…