Going Up the Country: Why I Want to Abandon My Career
I have this fantasy for the future.
It involves moving far, far away from the city, dropping my job as a writer and ditching my musical career. I keep my husband though. He’s a very big part of this dream. We leave our Los Angeles life and move way out there into the economically reasonable pits of America, somewhere like Birmingham, Alabama or Pensacola, Florida or even Santa Clarita, California. We get a farmhouse. We adopt a labrador puppy from Craigslist and name it Coe after David Allan Coe (because, in our house, Penitentiary Blues never leaves the stereo for long).
I plant this world-class garden, the kind of garden that all the old farm ladies in our community flock to and congratulate me on. Something very Martha-Stewart-magazine with every vegetable and herb you could imagine. My husband builds a shed in the back 40 acres of the farmhouse property and starts making moonshine, just like his Southern ancestors did way before he was born. Occasionally we drive into town and sell the moonshine to hard-up teenagers who are loitering by the liquor store and, while we are there, we buy the essentials: meat, dairy, toilet paper, tampons, gasoline, gun ammo (we have a shooting range at our farm) and Windex.
We devote our entire lives to one another and our farm. My husband continues the concrete business he works for here in Los Angeles in whatever butt fuck town we land in and that’s how we make the most of our money. He keeps his 1991 Harley Davidson but we invest in a dirt bike too. I stay at home all day, gardening and spending my evenings writing a book that no one will care about until I’m dead and even then, maybe publishers will laugh it off because I’m a farm townie now and did not get as far into the spotlight as I should have. We use a landline phone and when we are out in the garden, it rings and rings and rings and rings. We do not have an answering machine or any children. We take a lot of motorbike trips and we leave Coe with the neighbours, because it makes their kids really happy to babysit a dog.
My husband is what professor and author Michael Kimmel would refer to as an “angry white man”. The type of working class, white man who, because of the sudden change in the economic system of value so that technological computer skills and communication skills are top-tiered over manual labour, is not reaping the benefits his nation promised him. (If economics were “The Bridge” of Scientology, he would be stuck at the bottom. He would not be an “O”). Kimmel’s latest book “Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era” argues that, suddenly, the most privileged race and gender in North America are at a disadvantage and they are reacting in a mix of political and emotional ways. Their perceived entitlement to work, their country and modest wealth is nostalgic, not aspirational, but there is a major difference between being disadvantaged and being discriminated against.
The Men’s Rights Movement is, in a lot of ways, stupid, especially in that it avoids any inward reflection and places all the blame outwards. For a start, why isn’t it called the Men’s Responsibility Movement? Because that would require the acceptance of accountability and self-awareness, but I digress, because we all know that the MRM is idiotic. Instead of trying to justify gaining memberships to female-only gyms and placing their rage about parental rights on their exes rather than the outdated judicial system, what these men should be focused on is how to join the public conversation about gender equality because it will, in fact, benefit their futures in this new economy, despite what their grandfathers or Andrea Dworkin would have had them believe.
I try to educate my husband and he listens. He’s a smart man. He has always believed in feminist ideology, he just did not understand that was what it was called. He called it respect and equality. He had great parents. At 13, his family lost everything and were forced back to a small town in Arkansas where the white people scared black people out of the community by burning crosses on their lawns. He lost friends that way. He was told he’d be expelled from school for his punk hair. This was the goddamn 90s. My husband may reap major privileges for his gender and race, but he grew up a dirt poor outcast in a redneck town. He has dealt with exclusion. I simply don’t believe in shutting white men out of feminism just because they are white men, especially when they are curious. (Most young, naive feminists would not agree with me but they see the world in black and white instead of seeing it as a Rubik’s cube that has had all the stickers rearranged).
My fantasy for a rural, simple future is considered grossly basic in my peer group, because educated, feminist women like myself are supposed to want more. Isn’t that what the generations of women before us fought for? I think, in the social media sense of the term, success is pretty lame. Let’s all get famous. Isn’t that what we should be doing? We should Tweet out our lives and get “big” on Instagram. I want the nice brand name bandaids, man and 50K followers. Who doesn’t want acclaim for their accomplishments, no matter what those things may be? Cat Stevens? Monks? Worms? I don’t know. But is it really fame in the lucid, pure sense? I don’t count bots as people, do you?
There’s such congestion today. The Internet is one big allergy attack: a head filled with all kinds of mucus fighting to get out the nostrils first. Who is going to be the booger with the most hits this week? It gets annoying. There’s a big middle class of fame: we’re all notable in our little scenes, but no one is hitting Lindsay Lohan status anytime soon. I wish she had a blog. I wish she published essays about her wants and fears, but she won’t because she can’t. So, we look at her carefully manicured Instagram account and point fingers at her genius thinning tricks.
Writers are underpaid, as are musicians. These are the two things I chose to do with my life. I can’t build houses or write code so whether the world explodes or not, I’m pretty much dirt. When was singing ever a life skill? The internet freed our rock dreams from the corporation, so to say, but not really. It’s harder now. I was out for drinks with Brody Dalle the other night and she lectured me about how much the music scene has changed since she was coming up with the Distillers, since her peak (“If it was the 90s, you would be HUGE by now”), how I should work on my career and not have children until I am ready. “You have so much more to accomplish,” she said. Do I? Why? Says who? What if my accomplishment is a husband who loves the hell out of me and the world’s best basil garden? I’m halfway there.
When my band, White Lung, was recording our 2014 album Deep Fantasy, our producer Jesse Gander and I were talking about “the normal trajectory of life”: get a good job, a house, a spouse and have some kids. Keep the human cycle going. Struggle, struggle, struggle. Gander said, “You know, Mish, the further you get off the main path, it’s harder to get back on.” Maybe I’ve been off on the shitty, side road for so long I want the pavement? The seemingly old notion of normalcy that everyone I surround myself with violently rejects has suddenly become the alternative. Maybe that’s why I want to get off the internet and into the rural?
So, if I disappear one day and no longer publish feminist articles about pornography, Pamela Des Barres and the ethics of threesomes, you’ll know what I’m actually doing. And yes, you can come over and take a bunch of my basil. You did hear right. It’s the best in town.
Photograph by Anne Marie Vassiliou