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Lyrics and Life

 

By Caitlin Ward

04/27/2016

Please Decide
The Slackers

Darling please, please decide
I can’t wait any longer
See the night is long and I ain’t getting any younger

Darling please, please decide
I’ll obey as you order
See I’m running dry and baby you got all you wanna

When I look in your face
Something deep happens inside
If you could stand in my place
Girl you know I need to be satisfied

Oh please, please decide
I’ll obey as you order
You see the night is long and I ain’t getting any younger

When I hold you in my arms
Girl you know it feels so good
You say you wanna do me no harm
But honey I wish that you would!

Oh please, please decide
I can’t wait any longer
See the night is long and I ain’t getting any younger

I say the night is long and I ain’t getting any younger (x2)

So, my friend’s band is looking for some new songs to learn. They have a cool laid back 70s soul vibe, but they’d been thinking about adding something a little more dance-friendly to the mix. He remembered a song from his younger days, something in keeping with the band’s sound but more upbeat than what they’ve been doing. Listening to the lyrics, though, he wasn’t as sure he wanted to cover it.

“It’s a little . . . it seems kind of non-consensual.” he said.

He’s right. The song, Faded by soulDecision, is about the singer getting ready to make a move on a woman he’s known for a while. That in itself is not a problem; it’s the way he talks about it that makes one feel uncomfortable. The thing has something of a creep vibe, but the most obviously troubling part is probably the last line of the chorus: “at the end of the night when I make up your mind you’ll be coming on home with me.”

I suppose one could read a turn of phrase like that as merely confidence, but that would be to ignore a lot of other problems with it. There’s no real indication how this woman might feel about the situation, and it’s not clear if the singer cares about her feelings, anyway. Despite the fact that the song is ostensibly about her, she doesn’t have much say in what’s going to happen.

I agreed with my friend about Faded’s questionable nature, but I was much less incredulous about it than he was, and I wasn’t sure what to say besides something to the effect of, “yeah, that’s definitely a thing.” As sexual aggression in songs goes, I’ve seen worse.

I thought about the conversation again later, though, while watching a television show that generally I like but has some irritating subplots. There’s a male character, for example, who is infatuated with a female character, and the general theme of the now three-season arc is that if he just stands there long enough, eventually something is going to happen between them. That’s not a particularly unusual plot for a sitcom to have, but what got to me that day was a throwaway joke about how this character was hiding in the back of her car. It was supposed to be funny, and we’re supposed to like this character, and we’re supposed to be rooting for the female character to end up with him, despite the fact that up to that point she’s never expressed interest in return. Like the song, though, what she wants is pretty much irrelevant. Him hiding in the back of her car is just funny and maybe a little cute.

But if we take that moment out of its comedic premise and put it in our lives, what does it actually look like? If I told you that some guy who’d been making gross sexual comments about me for years was hiding in the back of my car while I drove over to my sister’s house, how funny would that actually be?

And yes, I know. It’s just a television show. It’s just a joke. Faded is just a song. But shows and jokes and songs reflect our culture, and they inform our culture, as well.

And I wondered at that point if the conversation we had about Faded was in some ways tied back to the previous week, when a group of us had been together at a show. Toward the end of the night I was alone at the bar with a female acquaintance while my friend gave someone a ride home. The difference between how we were treated when he was there and how we were treated when we were on our own was palpable. We went from having a perfectly normal, pleasant night at a venue to studiously avoiding eye contact with everyone, turning toward each other and shielding ourselves from the rest of the bar. I didn’t think much of it at the time; that’s just what women do when they don’t feel safe in a place. When my friend returned, he was surprised that his presence made any difference to how our night went, and insisted that he wasn’t an imposing enough presence to scare anyone off.

Oh, but he was. In the 20 or so minutes he was gone, I was groped five times. The point was not that he could or would beat up any of the guys in that venue. The point was that he was a guy, and to many of the other guys in the venue, that’s all that mattered. They respected him in a way they clearly would not respect us.

While we were talking about it, I said something that almost exactly mirrored what I would say to him about the song Faded a few days later: “yeah, that’s definitely a thing.” And as with the song, I wasn’t nearly as incredulous as he was, and not as distressed by it, either. The next day, when he said he was sorry there were so many creepers there, I replied flippantly, “eh, no worries. Occupational hazard.” As sexual aggression in bars goes, I’ve experienced worse.

It took my friend’s distress about the situation and the song to make me realize I had got so used to all of those things that I had stopped being angry about them. I was becoming resigned to the creepy songs and TV characters that perpetuate a culture that damages and objectifies women, and the creepy men in bars and on streets who embody it. In conversation, I will tell you everything that is wrong with those practices, and why, but in practice, I have just come to accept them as the price of being a woman.

But I know it doesn’t have to be like that, and that’s why I’m not going to leave you with the song Faded. I’m going to leave you with a different song about the same sort of night. It might be read as more raunchy or suggestive than other songs, and perhaps it is, but I love it deeply. Unlike so many other songs written by men on the subject of sex, this one is invested in what a woman actually wants.

Ward is a Saskatoon-based freelance writer who spends her days (and most nights) working at a small Catholic college. Her less eloquent thoughts can be found at www.twitter.com/newsetofstrings