Yesterday, a dear friend asked me if I would come and play at his daughter's birthday party. She was turning seven. I am used to being invited to parties with the added request that I bring my guitar. No one asks my actress friend if she will do a monolog from a Law & Order SVU she was once on. No one asks my pal, a plumber, to demonstrate sink unclogging techniques - although I would like that a lot.
Eight-year-olds are not my normal audiences. I sing topical or political songs, depressing songs with a hopeful twist at the end, songs where I cuss a lot, and my specialties - songs about the apocalypse and repressed childhood lesbian attraction. My usual crowd consist of jaded middle-aged people who are so relieved when a show starts at 7:00 PM, as opposed to 10:PM. So, I was a little worried. I had never played a kids birthday party before. What songs do I play?
I asked the dad to tell me a couple of things that his daughter thinks is funny. I had the idea to write a little spontaneous song for her. He said, for some reason, she had been using the word "Banana Butt" lately. He added that she is obsessed with Abby, her Pony. So, I started with some uptempo songs like "Karen By Night". I told them she was a secret spy - not a lush who dressed in drag to sneak into gay male leather bars. So far so good. I had their full attention. I was a regular Raffi. Then, I went into the made-up song about how Abby the pony was a banana butt.
Well, all of a sudden, our birthday girl looked at me with such rage. I thought lasers would shoot from her eyes and strike me dead. She pointed and yelled that Abby was nice and not a Banana Butt! Then she got up, ran to her mother and cried. The performance ended.
I don't think in all my years of performing have I felt like such a failure! I made a seven-year-old birthday girl cry. I ruined her party, her birthday, possibly her life. I am a monster! I am the evil birthday clown that the parents hired. I am John Wayne Gacy!
I was stunned and couldn't help bursting into tears. The birthday girl skipped off with a couple of friends, then everything seemed to focus on me. I didn't mean it to be. All the parents, one by one, assured me that I did nothing wrong, that it was not my fault, that kids are, well... tricky. A couple of guys grumbled to me about cancel culture running amok. I have no idea how that correlates, but I got the idea that they say that about everything and as much as they can.
I waited for someone to take me home. I noticed that the birthday girl seemed okay. I spotted her laughing and grabbing another girl's hand to whisk her off to show her something. I, on the other hand, am scarred for life.
I once thought about doing a kids record. It would be so fun. I think I have a good lyrical and melodic sense for it. And I love kids! I actually do. But now? I think I will stick with adults, and I will never ever call anyone's pony, a Banana Butt.
As always, I will add a song here. This is I Hate Horses from the Dottie's Charm record
Bobby was a cowboy Liked to roam the Range It's a bar near Great Neck The man sold vans and he was strange Found a stirrup in the gutter Did a bourbon stumble home Laid the thing beside my pillow Smelled like garbage and an ice-cream cone I hate horses All my friends drew horses Never looked that free to me Scared and crazy as can be I hate, I hate horses Marina mimosas Another dude another time Said the stirrup changed the world Like the printing press or Patsy Cline He took me home to his pick-up We drank booze and watched the stars Said he team-roped in the rodeo That's code for something people do in cars I hate horses All my friends drew horses Never looked that free to me Scared and crazy as can be I hate, I hate horses But I got one stirrup to my name Cracked and dirty stirrup for my claim Trick rider, won't you lean down for me? I'm dying in this dust Oh, I hate horses All my friends drew horses Never looked that free to me Scared and crazy as can be I hate, I hate horses I hate, I hate horses
Jill Sobule / Adam Levy / Sam Lipsyte