A Return to Headphones

This is not necessarily the most Chrismassy or jolly of posts, but it is something I have been thinking about; and I’d like to get it out in case anyone is inflicted with similar thoughts – especially around such a decidedly “merry” time of year.

***

A friend and I were discussing a few weeks ago why a journalist he knows, and whom I admire, is, as my friend described the journalist, “prickly”. He suggested that it’s because the journalist has always received a barrage of virulent criticism, and consequently has, over the years, become reflexively defensive.

This idea stuck with me and put a particular song into an entirely different light for me, and it has led me to reach conclusions about myself.

***

Less Than Jake are my all-time favourite band, and I have loved them for over a decade. Their music has gifted me solace in the most difficult of times.

screen-shot-2016-12-23-at-18-53-54

The opening track of their 2003 album, Anthem, ‘Welcome to the New South’, has always been, to me, one of the album’s highlights. This notion of building up a defensive exterior through past experience, however, has struck a chord with me when coupled with this song.

Welcome home outcasts, because
I know how you have felt
over the years
The truth is that looking at me is
like looking in the mirror
And I know how it feels to be the
best part of a running joke 
to all of your friends

And to be on the edge of your bed
With your head buried in your hands
Wishing that everything would end
I know how it feels to be the loneliest

Welcome back, outcasts because
I’ve told myself that
it would be alright
Probably about a million times over
every minute of all of my life
I know how it feels to be so confused 
that you’re so far out of control

And to be on the edge of your bed
With your head buried in your hands
Wishing that everything would end
I know how it feels to be the loneliest

So you sit and wait for a sign
That the coming days will be alright
And you drink so you can forget
another night
Bruised from the blackouts 
and your blood red eyes
Try to start looking for the brighter side
Wait for a sign, wait for a sign,
wait for a sign
Welcome home, everything
will be alright

Welcome home outcasts, because
I know how you have felt
over the years
The truth is that looking at me is
like looking in the mirror
And I know how it feels to be

the best part of a running joke
all of your life

Welcome home,
outcasts, welcome home
Outcasts welcome home,
outcasts welcome home
Welcome home

Does this resonate with you?

If you’re wondering what bit resonates with me, I’ll tell you:

And I know how it feels to be
the best part of a running joke
all of your life

Very simply, I think this is why I can be somewhat defensive at times. Make no mistake: I can give as good as I get; and I brook barrels of criticism. In fact, I choose not to discuss politics because I get labelled as “weird” or “angry”. Rather, the perceived “weirdness” is seemingly evidenced by the fact that I read lots about what become the topics of discussion – the endless reading about such things is “weird” – and the “anger” is merely a sometimes animated, but always clearly stated, set of opinions backed up with cited facts/quotations/examples. This is interpreted as “aggression” because those on the opposing side tend not to have a similarly-developed position.

[In case this is coming across as arrogant, I promise I’m not; I simply pick my conversations carefully.]

Anyway, it is experiences such as this example which, I think, have led me to become defensive. People at times seek out my opinion because they presume they can wind me up on the assumption that I do indeed have an opinion on something. These days I never begin these conversations, for the reason outlined above.

But there is more to this, and that is: it’s a joke to everyone else – I am a joke. Both this presumption and my person are a running joke; one which is regularly exploited whenever the context (apparently) calls for it. Even my choice of words and use of language is seen as something to be derided; some sort of demonstration of a sense of superiority I apparently feel towards others who tend not to be so particular with their words. And it’s nothing like that – nothing like that at all. I just simply, as I have mentioned, really love words/language. Also, I try to be as clear as possible because I know whatever I say is destined for derision, so I’d rather leave available as little ammunition – by way of being coherent – as possible.

All this indeed leads – as the song suggests, and as I’ve personally written elsewhere – to a very lonely existence. So lonely, that even when in a room full of people, in fact, I would rather be upstairs alone in my own company, away from that place wherein I cannot seem to be anything other than a target of attention and ridicule.

***

This has ended up being far longer than I anticipated. My point really, is to put this down to type, and to put it out there in case anyone else similarly feels like the best part of a running joke. I would bet the mortgage I will never be able to afford, that a scene like the one painted above will not raise its bastard head at some point over these coming Christmas days. The congregation of friends and family renders it almost inevitable.

If this is you, please know that you are not alone. Indeed, I am always only a message away (@whateverwordsuk). If, feeling smothered by miserable surroundings, you ache for the brighter side like a wilting flower aches for sunlight, then let me try and offer a little solace in the form of another lyric – one which brings this piece full circle. For it is taken from another Less Than Jake song; the very one from, and with, which this post takes, and shares, its name.

Even black clouds have silver lines
You better bet there’s always a bright side

2 thoughts on “A Return to Headphones

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