I've learned to embrace it: I like shitty country music.
Rob likes to say I was "musically abused" as a child, but the fact is my parents just listened to country music a lot because that's all there was. I grew up in a town of 140 people that at the time had approximately one radio station that came in well, and even that one was based in a town two hours away. That radio station played one thing and one thing only, and that was country. I won't waste your time with hipster qualifiers like "it was only real country like Johnny Cash*," this was the country that everyone refers to when they say, "I like all music...except for country."
I know every single word to most of Alabama's songs (especially this one, which I'm totally listening to right now). Tim McGraw's song "Can't be Really Gone" still makes me cry just as it did when I was 9 years old and my best friend had just passed away. The first non-Raffi song I can actually remember enjoying was a Hank Williams Jr. song and when I rediscovered it a few months ago I listened to it approximately 10 times in a single day. The first cassette tape I ever owned was Lorrie Morgan. I went ballistic when last fall GMC had a week-long series devoted to the best country songs of the 1990s--and I could sing every last one. When my iPod is dead and won't play in my car, I find a country station; I may roll my eyes at lines like "go together like a pair of bookends," but secretly my blood is pumping, both to the older songs from the 1990s and more recent ones.
Country music is the music I grew up to. It's the music I bonded with my sisters over as we were dancing to "Romeo"in our living room. It's the music that defined various life events for me. It's the music that reminds me of my dad and my mom, and the music I'm sure will make me think of them long after they are gone.
Though I wouldn't admit it at the time, it's the music that I turned to when I fell in love with Rob.
Rob's trying to shake the love of country music out of me.
It's also the music I forsook in fourth grade when I changed schools and most of my new friends hated it. I pretended to like rap and also went through an embarrassingly obsessive period with the Beatles, which was more about trying to be unique and interesting among my fifth grade peers than an actual love for the music. It wasn't until high school when I met my unrepentant music snob husband that I opened the door to music that had some of the same qualities as country, but admittedly with a lot more talent and soul (like this and this). This music now makes up the bulk of what I listen to.
Modern country is saccharine and terribly written and cliched, I know you guys. I know it's basically pop music with a southern accent and a steel guitar. The model upon which country music is built is by far a model that I think should be replicated; attractive men and women are essentially plucked from various sources, trained to hold a guitar and fed songs about Amurrica and small towns and lovin' one another and the flag and the flag troops. Some of it could even be considered downright offensive (if you can't stand it that long, fast forward to 2:24 for the "reggae" breakdown). Though I think these conventions aren't unique to country music, they somehow seem more obvious and to many, less forgivable.
Putting all of this aside, I still rock out to it and it still makes me happy. Though for a long time I felt shame for my affinity toward country music--helped in no small part by my husband's incessant mockery--as I've gotten older I've begun to slowly pad my iTunes collection with songs from my childhood and new country songs I have found in my covert car missions. Rob may always skip past them on my iPod when we're driving, but I know they're there if I ever want a trip down nostalgia avenue.
So here we are, friends. My name is Caitlin, and I like country music. And if I don't express much enthusiasm your Bon Iver-packed playlists, it's because I'm probably too busy listening to "Honky Tonk Ba-Donka-Donk" and "Hillbilly Bone."**
*For the record, I also really really like Johnny Cash and so-called "real" country. Also, bluegrass is the shit.
**Also for the record, I know these songs are objectively terrible, but you can't deny that they're catchy as hell.