Unequivocally Ambiguous

Humorous Stories on Parenting, Culture and Life

Sharing Complications of Unreliable, Lyrical, Guilty Pleasures

by | Apr 14, 2024 | Relationships | 0 comments

The criminals in our lives we can’t help but love

Sometimes, I listen to songs I don’t want others to know I’m listening to.

I’m afraid others will hear the lyrics and get the wrong impression of me.

Do you ever do that?

I guess the equivalent of it would be women reading “Sixty Shades of Grey” on their Kindle. Maybe. Maybe not.

After all, I’m not listening to a folksy song with a bland story and explicit instructions on S&M.

Every now and then, I’ll get obsessed with a song, and I would only listen to it with my headphones on and do my best not to let anyone know I’m listening to it. Until I get the courage to share it with the people I like sharing music with.

I don’t know why I feel this way.

It’s just music.

It’s not like I’m blasting rap about shooting my enemies dead for wearing the wrong color or for signing the wrong area code.

I remember when this happened with Todd Snider’s “Broke.”

I found that song a few months after I graduated from college. The song’s first line is “Credit complications at the check-out line.” I was hooked.

Come on! That’s so relatable to so many people across the world. But more importantly, it was relatable to me.

I had worked through college. I had, at several points during those years, two jobs. I had my fair share of credit complications at the check-out line. And in 2009, I graduated in the middle of the Great Recession with very few job prospects.

Besides, Todd Snider is masterfully and erratically walking you through the twists and turns of what people do when they are broke. For me, it led me to sell educational loans for a terrible online education to poor, uneducated people. A decision I still feel shame about.

But for the protagonist in Todd Snider’s song led to more unsavory crimes.

I showed that song to my wife and my college best friend separately, and they both had the same reaction, “Really? You like that song?”


A few months later, I found “All the Debts I Owe” by Caamp. I played it nonstop for a month before I finally decided to share it with my wife.

This time, my wife understood the charm of the song because we all have those people in our lives.

When you listen to this song, you get the impression it was written from the perspective of a petty criminal on the run. That’s probably why I felt ashamed for liking it.

Society tells us we shouldn’t like criminals.

But when I look into the layers, into the nuances, of the lyrics, this criminal is someone we all know.

In your life, this person might not be a criminal, but it might be that person you love and who loves you back, but they can’t offer you more; they can’t offer you what you need because they are incapable of providing it.

It is that person who is charming but unreliable and flaky, who comes and goes out of your life even when you wish they would stick around. They don’t know how to answer a text message or a call or show up to dinner when they say they would.

But they are charming, nonetheless, and when you are with them, you love them for all they are, and you have a blast.

But the moment they leave, they are gone. You can never count on them for more than their fleeting appearances.

And in some cases, they are criminals.

And you struggle with accepting that and accepting them.

They struggle with it, too. They know they could be more; they wish to give more, but they just can’t. They don’t know how. They don’t have that introspection. They don’t have that commitment. They might even say they want to change, but they don’t.

They just are who they are. And sometimes, that’s infinitely appealing.

The battling of the guitar and the banjo on this melody does a superb job of reflecting the dynamic of that troubled character.

The tune is joyful, but there is a palpable sadness — the sadness of being flawed and incapable of more.

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