Remember when Ann & Hope was a thing? You could find anything and everything there. My mom would take me there for new school digs. When I was small she would let hang out in the shopping cart, even though you weren’t supposed to. And ohmygod, remember the food court?! My favorite thing about A&H was the shopping cart lift which let the carts go up to the second floor or down to the first. Chiga chiga chiga chiga, it would say. I was always so tempted to jump back into the cart and go along for the ride. I would have even settled for being the lift operator. But no, haters gon’ hate.
I must’ve been in that age where you’re still young but learning and becoming curious about adult-like themes and rules and trends. I was kinda sheltered when I was younger, so I didn’t know much about “cool” or “controversial” music. And then Eminem came onto the scene. That guy blew my motherfucking mind. Whaaaa? He can say those things? Is he serious? Is he kidding? Is this acceptable? If not, why does it sound so fantastic and hilarious to me? So many questions.
Anyway, I went to A&H with the sole purpose of buying one of his albums, the Slim Shady LP. I slinked my way around the electronics department, and then I saw it. Something inside of me told me that if my mother knew who Marshall Mathers was, and if she could completely understand the utterly amazing travesties he had to say, that album would not have even made it into my hands. I timed it so that she’d be farther away when I approached the cashier.
I can’t remember his face, nor what he was wearing, or the timbre of his voice. All I know is that he was trying to ruin my life:
Does your mother know this CD has a parental advisory label?!
Son. Of. A. Bitch. I just stood there, money in my hand. For a moment I considered becoming the youngest murderer in Rhode Island history. Then I heard something that made my stomach drop.
“Que pregunta el?” What is he asking?
Think quick, Jax, think quick. I looked at my mother, blinked my eyes into a smile (think Tyra Banks) and used the mousiest of voices:
“Que si estoy segura que quiero comprar este disco.” He’s asking if I am sure I want to buy this CD.
“Pero claro, si!” she said to us. But of course, yes!
I gave that douchebag of a cashier a look of triumph as I gave him my money and waltzed the fuck outta there. He kind of tarnished my A&H memories, however.
That moment is one that I always think about. Why was this guy trying to parent me? Who made him the hip-hop Gestapo? Was he trying to save me from a life of debauchery and raunchiness? Too late dude, I was all in. You can’t grow up with two sisters, both about ten years older than you, and not have a twisted sense of humor and a warped understanding of things. Even then I opposed, abhorred, and detested censorship. Words have always been important to me, and having to tame it down or not be entirely honest is blasphemous. There is no place for walking on eggshells in the world of words. If we decide to say dirty words or insensitive things, we should be able to say them. I am not saying that those statements would be okay or alright, but we should have the choice to say them if we want. And we should be able to listen to them or not. I firmly believe this.
So I’m not quite sure why I tell my nephew to change that now! when I hear him listening to not-so-PG songs. Does Jonas, like me, have the right to listen to what he pleases? Of course he does. But something about it just doesn’t feel…right. Am I getting old? Have I become a prude? Or am I like that cashier, trying to keep a kid’s innocence intact even if just for a few more days?