Least Complicated

I remember very clearly the first time I heard the song "Closer to Fine". I was 15 years old and was in Strawberry's buying a Johnny Clegg & Savuka CD when it came on the store's sound system. I stood there and listened and felt something I had never felt before. I couldn't explain it then, and I'm not even sure I can now, but it was as though someone was finally speaking my language for the first time. I asked the guy behind the counter who the song was by, and he told me it was some folk band from Georgia called Indigo Girls. He said the album was due to be released the following Tuesday, and offered to put aside a cassette (!!) for me. I gave him my name, thanked him, and walked back next door to the grocery store to find my Mom. The following Friday, I conned my Mother into taking me back to the record store (a 50 minute drive from our house in the middle of nowhere) so I could buy the tape. I brought it home and played it continuously.

The following week, I brought the tape with me to play for my music teacher, who had also become my friend. Ellen had bought the tape the same weekend as I and and she said she had the same visceral reaction to it as I had. For my birthday that year, Ellen gave me a book with the sheet music from the album, and I spent so much time with it and my guitar that Ellen started calling me the third Indigo Girl.

I saw the video on VH1 that summer when I was visiting family who actually had cable. Watching those 2 women on the TV for the first time provoked an entirely different visceral reaction that it took me another 4 years to figure out. I was absolutely fascinated by Amy Ray- her raw, raspy voice, the lyrics she wrote that I didn't quite totally understand but still rang so true to me, the way she looked ever so slightly androgynous in her 501 jeans and cowboy boots, and that tattoo on her forearm! There was something so mysterious but still familiar about her.

I think I was 17 the second time I saw the Indigo Girls at Dartmouth College, and someone near me in the audience said the word "lesbian". I don't know what the person was talking about, but that one word just rang out and echoed around my head all evening. On the drive home, I asked Ellen if she thought Amy and Emily were lesbians, and she just shrugged. At the time, Ellen didn't even know she was a lesbian yet, so I don't know why I expected her to have any more insight than I did.

I was nineteen when I saw the Indigo Girls for the 7th or 8th time. The show was at UMass Amherst, and I went with a bunch of friends. Emily introduced the song "Least Complicated" with the story of how she gave a ring to a boy named Danny when she was in junior high school and knew immediately that it "wasn't the cool thing to do". And then she launched into another song that I practically knew all the words to because I could have written it myself. Right then and there, the realization that I was completely in love with my boyfriend's sister hit me like a ton of bricks, and it all became totally clear to me. (Boyfriend took the news well, and his sister and I were together for 9 years before we went our separate ways)

Last night, I sat next to LT in a small ampitheater in my hometown and watched the Indigo Girls sing all the songs that I knew by heart. It's been about 6 years since I saw them for the twelfth time (at Great Woods in Mansfield), but it felt like it had only been a few days. I sang along and cried and danced for the first time since my wedding and I felt just like I was visiting with old friends that I hadn't seen since that day in the record store. I don't know how I managed to go all this time without that feeling, but I guess I didn't know that I had missed it until I had it back again.


Bubblewench said...

Came over from Charlitan.. what an awesome cool post!

Dr. Brokeback said...


I apologize for being terrible about leaving comments in general, but felt it necessary to drop a line. Lovely post. Reading it was like sipping lemonade on the porch in the summertime.

As our lives parallel each other, the Gin-Soaked girls and I went to see the I.G.s at the Melody Tent in Hyannis. (I believe that was the concert immediately before the one you saw.)

I, constantly torn between trying to be cool and actually being the dork that I am, initially tried to express disdain for the women who wrote the songs that were the accompaniment to my coming of age drama. This ridiculous farce lasted less than one song, and before I knew it I was singing, dancing, arm waving (we were in the fourth row), and, possibly, shedding a few tears. During a bathroom break, I met a cute girl and got her number. (We've since talked, but she's a bisexual vegan technophobe, so...I just don't know. Moving on...).

As the Gin-Soaked girls and I left the concert, revitalized, Katy turned to me and said, “See, drbb? You can’t help but love the anthems of our youth!”

Ah, yes. That's what that feeling was. Youth.