When French-nerds got me to let go and listen to the Dixie Chicks

When I was younger, I was very serious about cultivating my image. Not good at it, but serious. There was this adolescent belief I wasn’t meant to enjoy things just to enjoy them.

Teenage Matt was a massive tool. I am still in recovery. Fortunately, they invented that anti-douche patch. It helps, but I fear I will always fight that personal demon.

Unfortunately, this shortcoming left me incapable of appreciating most of the greatest era of American music: The late 90s. I didn’t realize how much I was missing out until much later in my life.

When I look back with nostalgic regret, one song stands out as a missed opportunity for fun and joy:

Goodbye Earl by the Dixie Chicks

Now, back in the 90s, we hadn’t yet invented the term “emo,” so I didn’t know there was a shorter way to describe my angst-filled teen tastes.

I liked the music you want playing while you lay, lights out, staring at your The Smiths poster and crying about how forever alone you are.

Which is why I didn’t let myself enjoy the bouncy and homicidal song that is Goodbye Earl, despite everyone around me telling me it was okay.

I didn’t believe them. I’m writing this blog post right now to admit I was wrong.

Besides, the Dixie Chicks had several songs you can listen to while crying.

This repression came to a massive battle against my fear of the future during my senior prom.

By the time I made it to French V, there were only a handful of students still toughing it out. The exact number changes from day-to-day, based on my ability to remember names, but it was single digits. Looking back, it was more of a club that gave us college credit.

Before you ask, the only French I still speak is saying, “I’m doin’ okay” and “There is an emergency in my pants.”

Our French teacher was a fan of the Dixie Chicks and that bled over into the majority of the people in the tiny French-speaking clique.

I stood more-or-less alone. I actively—even proactively—fought against indoctrination. For the better part of a year, I did everything in my power to spread hatred and loathing for the Dixie Chicks.

This was before Congress declared them enemies of the state for calling our government out on their bullshit. Something a mere 15 years later has become the patriotic duty of the day.

After months of brainwashing, with graduation looming and the reality I’d never speak to any of these people again (until someone invented Twitter and Facebook), we got fancied up and went to prom.

Proms always deserve their own story. My senior prom was no exception. I will save that for once I am old enough everyone involved in the story is dead or incapable of remembering.

It is enough to say, I had a great time.

It wasn’t until late in the night when I was grabbed by a group of French-nerds as banjo music blared through giant speakers.

I faced a choice. Continue to proclaim hatred for a song I never gave a chance or have fun

I let it go.

I took years to learn to just enjoy something without questioning what it meant as a person. That night was a seed.

Unlike most of the music from my high school years, I don’t still listen to Goodbye Earl often. I much prefer the Dixie Chicks’ sixth album, Home.

It mixes well on my playlist with Mumford and Sons.

I am still just an emo kid.