Revenge of the Rock-Hating Teen

February 12th, 2013 posted by Susan Heyboer O'Keefe

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What’s one of the worst disasters to befall a teen?


A mother who likes loud rock music.


How can the situation be worse?


When the teen hates rock music himself. There. Our role-reversal secret is out. I like rock music. I like the VH-1 oldies variety. (In our house, Meatloaf is respectfully addressed as Mr. Loaf). I also like much of the newer music — not rap or hip hop, but good old rock. Give me a driving base, a hummable melody, unintelligible lyrics, and I’m happy. This presents a problem for my seventeen-year-old son. The prime directive of all teenagers is to drive their parents crazy. It’s in their contract — right in between “Thou shalt not wash thy gym shorts more than once a year” and “Thou shalt not wear a watch when given a curfew.” One of the most effective ways of driving parents crazy is through contemporary music. Indeed, this method has a long and honorable tradition. Even eighteenth century moms used to complain, “Do you have to play that Bach so loud? You’re going to break the harpsichord!” So what could my son do when faced with a rock-loving mother? His only recourse was to find a musical alternative I would hate. After dabbling in the Baroque, Rococo, Classical, and Romantic periods, he moved on to swing, jazz, and doo-wap. He started to get to me a bit with these but after a while abandoned them for the ultimate weapon. Gilbert and Sullivan. Yes, the pirates, the gondoliers, the gentlemen from Japan, the little maids from school, with all their cunning puns and tongue-twisting lyrics. Gilbert and Sullivan — cranked up as loudly as if my son were a head-banger listening to Megadeath. Not only am I forced to listen to G&S seemingly 24 hours a day, I’m bombarded with pithy comments and constant queries as to whether I “get it” and “like it.” I dare not answer yes. I dare not answer no. Assuming the mantle of Gilbert & Sullivan aficionado with more gusto than Frasier Crane, my son has memorized an unbelievable number of lyrics. It’s difficult to believe that the same teen who can’t remember to hand in a note to the office can sing, wholly from memory, all of “I am the very model of a Modern Major General.” And that’s just the beginning. He also warbles, with much delight, the song of “The Lord High Executioner,” who has put all the nuisances of the world on his execution list — including women writers. However, like Dr. Frankenstein, my son has discovered that the monster he created has turned on him. How? He’s begun to actually like the stuff. He now spontaneously sings Gilbert & Sullivan when he thinks the situation “calls for it.” With so many lyrics from so many operettas, there seems to be a G&S response appropriate for every occasion. Well, okay, maybe not appropriate by common standards. But twisted to fit. I suppose I should feel a hefty measure of smirking satisfaction that what began as something to annoy me now holds such critical importance in my son’s life. But what will happen during his upcoming college interviews when he’s asked for his name? Will he break out into swelling song and declare — in falsetto, of course: “I’m called little Buttercup, dear little Buttercup, though I could never tell why; “But still I’m called Buttercup, poor little Buttercup, sweet little Buttercup I.” Yale has its own Gilbert & Sullivan Society right on campus. Perhaps they’ll understand.

Susan Heyboer O’Keefe is a Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club and Scholastic School Book Club author, servant to two very demanding parrots, and mother of a teenage son who desperately wants to remain anonymous. See for book info, embarrassing personal stuff, and great parrot photos.

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Susan Heyboer O'Keefe (1 Posts)

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