Baby you can drive my car

4 11 2013

Scapegoats are incredibly useful.

Not when they’re people—then scapegoating is horrible—but when they’re an event or a thing, they allow you to compartmentalize and carry away a whole carload of bad feelings.

Emily Chapman scapegoats Taylor Swift, in particular Swifts’s song “Twenty Two.”

The first time I heard Taylor Swift singing about the carefree fun of being 22 after I realized that my mother was really going to die, I punched the radio off. Like, actually hit my radio dial with some force. I regretted this later, since I drive a Civic and it’s not really built for punching.

“Fuck you,” I yelled at her, at the song, at the stupid top-40 radio station that was playing it. For good measure, I repeated it: “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.” Then, in the parking lot of the Tex-Mex restaurant nearest to what was still my parents’ house, I broke down and cried.

A pop song is a fine target for one’s anguish: plenty of opportunities to express one’s loathing, and to deal, however indirectly, with whatever drives that hate.

I was mad at the cancer for killing my mom, and I was mad at myself for not being better at helping my family take care of her, and I was mad at Taylor Swift for reminding me of all of that.

But I couldn’t fix any of that. So instead I developed intense fantasies of stealing Taylor Swift’s weird smashed birthday cake, and continued to bruise my hands on my car’s dash.

I created a scapegoat to deal with my far-less-traumatizing memories of New Mexico. I don’t regret my year-long sojourn in Albuquerque, but it was a terrible decision to move there, and I dealt with all kinds of (relatively minor) shit while living there.

I also had a lot of fun and met some great people, so how to keep the shit from stinking up the good memories? I put them in a car—a Volkswagon, to be exact.

I’d bought a 1973 Volkswagon while I lived there—3 or 4 gears, I can’t remember—and sold it before moving back to Minneapolis. I was a jumble during this entire period, and didn’t know how to deal with that jumbledness.

The solution? Pack all of my negative New Mexico experiences into that Volkswagon, and get my hate on for that brand.

And it worked, beautifully. I could hate VWs to my heart’s content: I no longer owned a car and was in no position to buy one, and the car I did regularly drive, one borrowed from my friend J., was a Nissan.

“I hate Volkswagons/Volkswagons suck/blah blah/mumble/snore.” It kept me from letting any anxiety over that terrible decision bleed into, well, into the regular anxiety I had in returning to grad school. It was a useful distraction.

And then, after awhile (okay, some years), the hate faded, and VWs became just another car. The scapegoat served its purpose.

It allowed me to offload some dread, and kept that dread away from me long enough for it to shrink into a kind of bemused rue.

So it was stupid to move to Albuquerque. Ah, well. It was worth it.

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4 11 2013
4 11 2013

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