I dropped my third child Nicky (who at 12 prefers Nick, though he’ll always be Nicky to me) at a co-ed birthday party a week or so ago. I pulled up to the house which was on a hill and lit up with many strands of Christmas lights and candles. Much to Nicky’s dismay I turned off my engine and announced I was coming up to meet the parents. This soiree was hosted by a girl who attends a different school than he does, and I didn’t know her parents. Before I even opened my car door I could hear the chanting. Because I am a mom who uses my children as an excuse to indulge my guilty pleasure of listening to stupid pop music, I immediately recognized the Wiz Khalifa song and some of the lyrics that were being chanted. In order to share the lyrics here though, I had to google them because I don’t know them well enough to quote them directly. Ignorance is bliss. These lyrics are completely and ridiculously inappropriate for a 12-year-old audience. I will start by saying that the name of the album is “Rolling Papers”.
When I was in the seventh grade, there was a boy in my town whose parents were either brave enough, or perhaps oblivious enough to allow him to have regular co-ed parties in the basement of their home. Since this was approximately 1978, we were grooving to pop hits by groups like Earth, Wind and Fire, and the Brothers Johnson. We were basically chanting the same message, but it was blunted. And I don’t mean blunted in the Wiz Khalifa sense of the word. What the heck was “Strawberry Letter 23” anyway? And what did that guy with the astonishing falsetto in Earth, Wind and Fire mean by “I have a magic box”?
In the basement of this boy’s big old house in downtown Corvallis, there was a special little room we referred to as the “bear room”. In the bear room there were built-in bunk beds and bearskin rugs. What on earth were these parents thinking leaving us all unattended in this basement free to utilize this room at will? I don’t remember ever even SEEING an adult at these parties! What were MY parents thinking?
As I briefly lingered on the porch to chat with the mother of the girl whose party Nicky was attending, alarming visions of the bear room drifted through my mind. This mom was very nice and seemed somewhat frazzled. She had a bob and was wearing some kind of bland mom uniform which reassured me. She didn’t seem like the type of mother who would promote the use of a bear room. The house was throbbing around us with the energy created by the chanting, and the delighted feminine squeals of “Nick!!!!!”. I introduced myself and she took my hand and held onto it just a little too long with a beseeching look on her face that seemed to say “please! don’t! leave!” As I abandoned her with the tweens and walked back to my car I could hear “when the DJ! Play the right song! Gon’ drink, gon’ party all night long!” Yeah, sure you are. I’ll be back at 10:30 to pick you up.
The underlying message may not be any different than in the 1970’s, but it is unceasingly expressed more graphically and more immediately to my children through a plethora of devices ranging from the car radio to their iPods. So how important are these specific combinations of words that are continually flowing directly into my children’s immature pre-frontal cortices? This is what concerns me. My children have argued with me on several occasions that “words don’t matter”. A wishful adolescent perspective indeed. Words are sacred, they represent thought forms. Language is one of the most important means we have of expressing our deepest feelings. I watched my mother-in-law struggle with her complete loss of language as a result of Lou Gherig’s disease, and it is one of the most profoundly difficult experiences I have ever witnessed. In yoga teacher training I learned about and practiced mantra. A mantra is defined around the web as “any often repeated word, formula, or stock phrase; slogan” or “a prayer; an invocation; a religious formula; a charm”. Repeating a mantra is a powerful tool for spiritual transformation and is practiced in the various spiritual traditions I have studied including Catholicism and yoga.
Let me reel back to the Wiz Khalifa mantra the children were chanting at the party:
“The drinks is on me, the bitches, the hotel, the weed is all free, get high, I mean so high we gon’ see the whole street, we fly, I mean so fly we need a whole wing”
Maybe I’m just turning into a cranky old lady, but I think I prefer something like the Strawberry Letter 23 mantra of my youth:
“Hello, my love
I heard a kiss from you
Red magic satin playing near, too
All through the morning rain
I gaze – the sun doesn’t shine –
Rainbows and waterfalls run through my mind”