Thea Lim is an MFA candidate at the University of Houston and a nonfiction editor for Gulf Coast. She has terrible taste in music.
Last week, the internet took a break from the civil war in Libya and the impending nuclear meltdown in Japan to hate on a tween. In case you were doing something important and missed the kerbloffle,1 Rebecca Black is a chirpy thirteen year-old Justin Bieber fanatic who somehow got a hold of a recording studio and a camera crew, and made what is being called the worst song and video ever:
Featuring such lyrics as Kickin’ in the front seat/Sittin’ in the back seat/Gotta make my mind up/Which seat can I take? and also Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday/Today i-is Friday/.../Tomorrow is Saturday/And Sunday comes afterwards, Black’s song has outraged the denizens of good taste; mostly because it is appallingly catchy and once you hear “Friday” it will be imprinted in your brain until you die.
But it’s not all bad for Black. On Wednesday Lady Gaga called her a genius. And I’m gonna go out on a limb and admit that I too think there is something profound about “Friday.” While it does invite a number of existential questions (Why is she waiting for a car at a bus stop? How can she choose a seat if every seat is taken? What kind of a thirteen year-old drives a convertible?) what I am really talking about is the fact that “Friday,” in spite of its foolishness – or because of it? – flawlessly documents what it feels like to be thirteen on a Friday night. If the task of memoir is to represent experience with as much truth and with as little censorship as possible, then “Friday” is a work of art. Yeah I said it.
When you are thirteen on a Friday,2 everything actually is we-we-we-so-excited and fun-fun-fun-fun, and in a way that it will never be again. The simplest things fill you with dizzy delight: being in a car without an adult, seeing familiar sidewalks by streetlight, having the sense that you are edge of the secret life of adults, and all of its infinite glamour.
The feeling that the world lies before you, full of unknown and uncharted happiness, is one of the greatest emotions we can have. And the older you get, the more difficult it is to replicate. In only a few years, going out at night will have completely lost its charm. Then, it becomes impossible to remember how such easy things ever thrilled you. And eventually, you forget altogether that small details ever pleased you.
This is the terrible Catch 22 of memoir, and especially memoirs of youth: by the time you have amassed the skills and sophistication you need to describe your life, you have also amassed cynicism, shame and regret. In this case, hindsight is more like 20/200; it becomes very difficult to describe your life the way it truly felt, when you are no longer capable of encountering the joys that defined your experience. We don’t even remember the emotional capacity that we’ve lost. Except if you are Nabokov, memoirs of early childhood and adolescence are most likely poor representations of the real deal. Unless said memoirs deal with trauma, which is more often than not the case.
Until I heard “Friday” last weekend, I had pretty much forgotten that squeeeee-y delight of being thirteen. I had forgotten that I had forgotten it. And I am sure, if we ask Rebecca Black to sing about being thirteen in five years, she will either flat out refuse (very likely), or she will not be able to do so with such unfettered dorkishness. In other words, the nature of innocence is that you can only talk about it truthfully when you’ve got it.
So don’t blame Rebecca Black for her lack of skill. She more than makes up for it with an authenticity that is now beyond us.
And now if you’ll excuse me. It’s Friday, Friday, and I gottagetdown on Friday, everybody lookin forward to the weekend, wee-ee-ee-kend. _________________________________________________________ 1 Kerbloffle: a blog kerfuffle. Obviously. Coined here. 2 Well, that is if you lead a middle class, relatively sheltered 13 year old life like I did.