Have you ever listened to the lyrics of country music songs? I mean really listened. You can pick pretty much any song that you like, whether it was written 40 years ago or this morning. If you're like many of the characters in my book Southern Fried White Trash, your life reads like country music lyrics.
Oh this isn't necessarily a bad thing; in fact I imagine it's very entertaining.
I've often thought that I could churn out country lyrics like a vending machine. They're so simple, so profoundly simple. And people just can't seem to get enough of them. Take, for example, a Randy Travis song I heard when I was a teenager. I never listened to country music – still don't, unless my daughter's in the car with me. But my dad began listening to it when he started dating years after my mother passed away. The woman was into it, so she bought him several CDs. Anyway, Mr. Travis was belting out a song about a heart-wrenching breakup. There's a line in the song that has always stuck with me. I found it so funny, but it's so simply profound:
"And since that phone ain't ringin', I assume it still ain't you."
I mean come on. That line is both sad and funny, admit it. Stupidly clever. I doubt that I'll ever forget it.
I heard another country song that is indelibly etched into my psyche, but I heard this one under more serious circumstances. In fact, I explain the circumstances in detail in my book. Long story short, I was at the funeral of a long-ago boyfriend a few years back. He had been killed in a car accident, and it was at his funeral that I had the opportunity to meet both his wife and his mistress. These two women made such a spectacle of themselves at the funeral home, and at the peak of their disorderly display of conduct, I clearly remember a George Jones song twanging in the background. Jones was wailing about a "deceivin' woman beatin' his poor heart to death." I'll never forget that one, either.
The characters in country music songs are simple people, with apparent learning disabilities to boot. The songs are always about the same thing – love gone wrong. The phone may not be ringin', your heart may be gettin' beat to death, or your ex and your best friend done hitched the trailer up to his 4x4 and skipped town, but the theme is the same. "I got screwed."
Maybe these songs are so widely popular because people can relate to them. I could write one, I suppose, not much different from the hundreds already out there about spoiled love. In fact, I have two ex-husbands. I could release a 2-CD set. Only I actually own some of the responsibility. The first marriage derailed because we were both about 12 years old. Not really; we were both fresh out of college, but emotionally, we were 12 years old. The second is partly my fault too. I married as a direct result of an overly-active biological clock. As it turned out, I was so bent on creating a family that I apparently didn't care that the male partner I selected was a selfish creep with a flair for pathological lying. That marriage lasted a little longer, but I'm not sure that counts. For the last 6 or 7 years of it, I fantasized about all the painfully gruesome ways a man could die. I have two beautiful children from that union, but I still fantasize about weird, horribly painful mishaps. My current (and last) husband is a wonderful man – talented, funny, smart and he adores me AND my children. I guess the third time really is the charm.
Hey, maybe I could write a song about that.