Keeping My Hand In

 There is a scene in the film adaptation of Truman Capote’s novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s where Audrey Hepburn’s elegant Holly Golightly leans over to Paul Varjak and whispers:

“Hey, did you ever steal anything from a 5 and 10, when you were a kid, I mean?”

To which, he responds that he didn’t because he was a “sensitive, bookish type.”  And, then Holly tells him that she did steal and still does, every now and again.

“Just to keep my hand in,” she explains.

That’s kind of how I feel about music these days.

In last week’s Follow the Prophet post, Jessica commented:

“There is certainly something magical about finding the music that speaks to you in your youth, nothing compares! I have recently been grieving this very thing. Although I’m only 32, I’m a full-time working mom living in a conservative, unimaginative community. I don’t pay as much attention to new music as I used to. My subscriptions to Spin and Rolling Stone have long-expired, replaced by ‘Parenting’ (how could I resist? Couponing made it only $3.99 for the whole year!) and my husband’s “Backpacker” … I’ve spent a lot of time searching out the best live shows, or new music, but it hasn’t even crossed my mind in years.”

I like to think I am still passionate about music, still interested in searching out amazing live performances, still on top of all the albums destined to make end of the year best-of lists, already listening to the bands and albums that will keep music interesting and exciting. When we moved to England four years ago, we were ecstatic. The MTV2 here played videos! And, they were videos from bands we loved! Every Wednesday, my husband would pick up a copy of NME Magazine on the way to work and we’d devour it, searching for new bands. Each night, we’d gather as a family around the television to watch the MTV2 Rock Countdown. The kids stomped around the living room doing their wild, freak out dances to “Knights of Cydonia” by Muse and “Bones” by the Killers. My boy, branching out from our taste a bit, stood on the couch with the wooden mast of a toy pirate ship which he made into a microphone; perfectly mimicking Gerard Way’s every move in the video for “Welcome to the Black Parade.” My husband and I were keeping our obsession with music alive and passing it on to the next generation.

However, four years on, I’m in a slump and I’m really just keeping my hand in. The truth is that I haven’t been to a live show since I was pregnant for my now eight-year-old son (Weezer, Jimmy Eat World and Tenacious D — I felt enormous and old and gave drunken frat boys a hard time for smoking around me). I still get e-mails from Ticketmaster every week, telling me which shows I can’t miss. I still pick up the occasional NME and look through the listings and I still feel the urge to go and see this band or that band. However, it’s not long before reality intrudes on my plans. I realize that poverty, or children, or child-induced poverty will keep me from seeing Arcade Fire, the Yeah, Yeah Yeahs, or The White Stripes. I live a little over an hour from London, but the thought of buying tickets for the show and train tickets and getting a babysitter that I can trust all night sends me straight to the couch where I numb myself with TV or Sudoku.

I’ve considered venturing out alone, going to shows without my husband so I can solve the babysitting problem and halve the money problem. His taste has always been more spare and Teutonic than mine. And, it’s a proven fact that he never met a funky bass line he could resist, while my taste skews more towards singer-songwriters and jazz. It is increasingly difficult to think of a show we would be equally willing to overcome money and parental obstacles to see. But, I can’t do it. Our passion for music has been a shared passion. If our taste has not always been completely in line, the strength of our love for listening to and finding new music has been. I can’t go it alone.

This apathy has rather depressingly leaked into my listening habits as well. I’ve only picked up a few new albums this year and nothing that’s really moved me. Like Jessica, I’ve been reaching again and again for comfort food – music that I discovered young and have loved for a long time. Last week, Jessica went on to say: “I realize that I stick with those same tunes that spoke to me when I was 16, cuz they still speak to me. I may not have the time or need to sit in my room listening to Tori Amos while writing in my journal. But she still gets frequent play on my iPod while I work in my office, because I have the same emotional responses. And that’s ok – I’m in good company.”

How do you feel? Do you still listen to the music you found at 16? Has your taste remained the same? Are you still looking for the thrill of finding the music that speaks to you?