Humor me. I know you’re tired of hearing about it. The charming duet Buddy the Elf sang with his love interest in the department store locker room. The old classic that makes you want to pour an Old Fashioned and curl up on some uncomfortable vintage furniture. The controversial tune that has been described as “rapey.” But let’s talk about it just one more time. Because something changed for me a little bit this year. And it isn’t because radio stations in Cleveland and Canada (well, not ALL of Canada.) banned the song this season.
I have to say, the first time I heard the song described as “rapey” I didn’t disagree. I mean, “How can you do this thing to me?” We all know he’s talking about blue balls. “What’s the sense in hurting my pride?” Um. And of course the obvious, “What’s in this drink?” But here’s the thing: while I nodded my head in solidarity, especially in light of #MeToo and #TimesUp, I also still sang along with it when it came on my Pandora holiday station.
Because I like the song. And also, because I don’t really believe it depicts a lack of consent. In fact, it took me back to my youth, to all the times I really didn’t want to leave but knew I probably should. It sounds to me like two people who don’t want the evening to end, and the woman is trying to find a way to talk herself into going home when she doesn’t actually want to leave. At its core, when it was written, I believe it was just a nice song about two lovebirds.
But yeah, it’s still rapey, especially when integrated into our current climate. But it wasn’t written in 2018. I love this article written about an English teacher (Tumblr user Teachingwithcoffee) who takes the whole thing apart. (I’m a music therapist, so lyric analysis is my jam.)
See, this woman is staying late, unchaperoned, at a dude’s house. In the 1940’s, that’s the kind of thing Good Girls aren’t supposed to do — and she wants people to think she’s a good girl. The woman in the song says outright, multiple times, that what other people will think of her staying is what she’s really concerned about.
This makes sense, yes? This was written a long time ago!!
Teaching With Coffee goes on to say:
But she’s having a really good time, and she wants to stay, and so she is excusing her uncharacteristically bold behavior (either to the guy or to herself) by blaming it on the drink — unaware that the drink is actually really weak, maybe not even alcoholic at all. That’s the joke. That is the standard joke that’s going on when a woman in media from the early-to-mid 20th century says “hey, what’s in this drink?” It is not a joke about how she’s drunk and about to be raped. It’s a joke about how she’s perfectly sober and about to have awesome consensual sex and use the drink for plausible deniability because she’s living in a society where women aren’t supposed to have sexual agency.
So that puts a different spin on it, yes? But guys, I’m not done. Because the upshot of this conversation is that we aren’t currently playing this song in my house. When it comes on, we skip it. And here’s why.
One day, my 12-year-old and I were listening to this song and she said, “You shouldn’t let a boy try to pressure you to do something you don’t want to do.” ((Mind explodes)) She has been listening! She is integrating all the stuff we are trying to drill into her head with DEEP deep conversations (awful, uncomfortable ones as well as empowering, rallying ones), martial arts training, discussions while watching old 1980s movies (yikes, you guys, for real), and analyzing current music and TV shows. But it’s been working! She really gets it.
So when it comes on, we skip it. And the reason I haven’t said to her, “Now, wait a minute, this is just a cute song that was written a long time ago!” is because I want her to continue to be empowered and confident and fierce and UNAPOLOGETIC above all other things. And because the women who are fighting like hell to make their voices heard, to enable their daughters to not become sexual assault, rape, or harassment victims like they were takes precedence over any “Oh give me a break, we are so PC offended by everything it’s just a freaking song” argument. It. Just. Does.
Singing about leaving a man unsatisfied or with wounded pride does not work anymore. It does not resonate with the generation of girls we are raising. So maybe we skip this cute, nostalgic, old-fashioned tune, even though at its essence it was sweet and just a little saucy, even though it may have actually depicted a progressive, modern woman who was in touch with her own sexuality and breaking her own societal molds.
It might be kind of a bummer to leave behind this song I’ve enjoyed for decades, but it’s a small price to pay to leave it off my holiday playlists. It’s more important to me that my daughter feels secure in her knowledge that, hell no, we don’t let a boy pressure us to stay when we really want to leave. Ever.
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