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Music has some unique challenges in my life.

If I don’t listen to enough music on a regular basis, I get grumpy. Also, I have two kids, a 15-year-old girl and a very smart 6-year-old boy. Both of these things make my proclivities toward the vilest, most-brutal death metal and blackest of the black metal both awkward to explain and difficult to conduct. While many of you enjoy the sanctity of your cars while you commute, blasting Iced Earth, Darkthrone, or Impaled, 90% of my car time involves one or more children and They Might be Giants records.

My daughter tries to understand the appeal of this music. Here’s her overture:

“I just completely don’t get what there is to like about bloody, sweaty guys screaming dumb lyrics that you can’t understand over music that sounds like a headache.” My reply: “Well, honey, you hit it out of the ballpark with that description. Which band was it that made you think of that anyway because that sounds really cool?”

That really gets her steamed.

I can’t leave a copy of Decibel anywhere around the house where she might see it without her chasing me down. She chastises me for reading “gross and disgusting” metal mags and not the “nice, happy magazines like O and Sunset.” For the record, I’ve worked for years in magazine journalism and I read those magazines too, it just happens to be the ones with the bloody chainsaws and dead zombies on the cover that she notices.

My son recently walked into my room while I was checking email and listening to a black metal band. He walked over and said, “This sounds like a cow being killed with a bloody spear.” He didn’t seem particularly disturbed by that. Later, I told my husband what he said, looking for some understanding laughter, to which he replied, “While that really makes me want to hear the song, perhaps you shouldn’t play it where he can hear it.” (The song was “No Room For Debate” by Welkin Dusk, recommended to me by our Chicago correspondent, Carmelo Espanola).

Is it really so terrible for little tots to be listening to this kind of music, even in snippets heard when they invade an adult’s private space? How does a metal parent get their fix with sensitive ears everywhere in the house? Also, how the fuck does a 6-year-old get the vocabulary to describe music that way?

I’m aware of the reversal of experience that most kids and parents have. When I was growing up, I knew several punks with christian parents. The lucky ones just got their tapes and t-shirts thrown into the trash while they were at school. The unlucky ones got sent away to “correctional facilities” and even if they did come back were not quite the same.

In my case, I had to hide my music and if there were cuss words in it, I knew better than to play it when anyone was home. I’m still hiding, but in a weird twist of fate. My daughter likes today’s hip-hop hits that are played on pop radio. But she also plays rap from her Pandora station and makes not even a whit of effort to prevent me from hearing the f-bombs that drop in every line. Why should she? Maybe she knows that the stuff I listen to is waayyy more socially unacceptable, so who am I to criticize? Who’s the square now?

I know that many of you are parents and probably even have significant others that don’t approve of your listening habits and/or reading material. How do you find satisfaction without listening through headphones when everyone else in the house is sleeping?

Vanessa Salvia

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