There are concrete reasons why I believe that I am mentally fixated. That I haven't bridged some important stage of development that most people bridge at, say, 11. That I am a victim of arrested development; that I am not fit for this world; that I am a child.
One is that I am horribly, incurably, egocentric.
I always thought this was only something that, like Veronica Lodge is (Archie comics? Anyone?) Except I'm Veronica without money and stunning beauty. It's like I got all the lame parts of the Riverdale females.
In psychology, however we learned that egocentrism is a term they use for the mindset of little kids. We put, for example, a little stuffed bear and stuff owl on opposite ends of a book, but so the kid could see both and asked if Bear and Owl could see each other (were their little stuffed bodies filled with anything other than cotton, they wouldn't have been able to see each other). They kid would reply 'Yes'. I mean, if I can see it, they reason, THEY must be able to. Me, me, me.
Anyway, that's how I think of the world developing. Like me. I mean, if I developed like this, THEY must have. Me, me, me.
I must have listened to music before fifth grade, but it musn't have really impacted me because I don't remember. Other than my sister's Troll Radio tape. Man, that was sweet. Those little diamond-navel-ed trolls running a radio show and doing troll-ized versions of hits like La Bamba??? Sweet, sweet, sweetness.
But in fifth grade, it was all about the Nsync. And the backstreet boys. 98 Degrees and I had a brief flirtation, but we parted pretty soon. Spice Girls rocked it for a while too. I think of it as the Age of Poppy Bands. I feel like they dominated the world! Because, I mean, they dominated mine.
When my hip sister got into things like Mxpx and Blink-182, my tastes shifted a bit. I didn't ever go the hip hop/r&b route. Interestingly enough, I find this a very logical step. Blink and Backstreet both are hook-y, catch-y. They're about boppin', you know. God, I'm sure I just pissed off a thousand people comparing those two.
In middle school, I also got into the mainstream radio alternative fare: stuff like Tonic, Nickelback, Third Eye Blind, Nine Days, Vertical Horizon. I remember thinking they were edgier than the pop fare I was used to. Deeper. There were, like, emotions. And thoughts. They challenged the world!
In eighth grade, the advent of the internet and my own growing awareness of peer pressure 'the cool kids' nudged me into exploring things that weren't so 'lame and mainstream'. The first non-mainstream band I got into was The Detachment Kit. I still think they're awesome. They still hold a special place in my heart. When the iStore came out, I rebought all their songs from They Raging. Quiet Army. I lost CDs a lot. The next were Source Tags and Codes by And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead (I know, I know - but trust me, they're amazing), The Argument, by Fugazi, and The Glow Pt. 2 by the Microphones. Emergency and I by the Dismemberment Plan soon followed. I remember that flush of excitement - being in a new frontier, really opening myself up completely in a way I hadn't before that - hadn't really thought to, actually - and actually, hardly have since.
It was just so NEW. New things were being challenged, not just the content of the lyrics, but the whole structure of the song! The way the music was made! What even constituted music! It's similar to the way I felt when I discovered Stoppard and metafiction - these guys were, to me, metamusicians. And that made the music all the more memorable.
Sometimes I think that I've actually regressed in my exploration. I have definite niches I go into - the easy-listening band that are-or-were-once indie kinds of things. (and indie: phew what a dangerous word to use nowadays!). Nice acousticy Joshua Radin stuff on one end, big-time rockers like YYY on the other, fluffy sort-of-weirds like Say Hi. In general; easy stuff.
I miss that feeling of new, that feeling of free. When I didn't know about what indie or weird-rock or even emo was - when I didn't know about categories and so couldn't put myself into one. When I couldn't trace the similarities and influence between bands, when I didn't know backgrounds, similar artists, label names, or hometowns - when none of that affected me except the raw - sometimes abrasive, always exciting - music. When I was a blank slate.
One of these days, I'm going to empty myself all over again. I'll listen to Strangelight for the first time. I'll watch Napolean Dynamite without knowing any of the jokes. I'll read Lord of the Flies and not know what's to come.
To be born again would be a beautiful, beautiful thing.