#TBT: The Time I Accidentally Played A Lesbian Sex Anthem With My Dad In The Car

You CAN die of embarrassment. TRUST ME. Just listen to a lesbian sex anthem in front of your parents.

If I had to think of the most textbook, cringe-worthy, coming-of-age moments of my life, there would be three, all of which involve me somehow (accidentally) subjecting my poor parents to some sort of lesbian sex song or scene. Today we’re going to focus on, by far, the most harrowing one. As you read this essay, I strongly encourage you to listen to the song “Drive” by Melissa Ferrick. It will provide you with context. And context is everything.

*

The year is 2003, and I’ve just come back to my preppy home of Westport, Connecticut after spending a summer at a liberal arts camp tucked away in the Berkshires.

 

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At camp, everyone was from Tribeca or Soho or Williamsburg and was very cool and open-minded and just hip to shit us suburban kids were not hip to, like underground venues in the East Village, shops where you could buy authentic punk rock clothes (Hot Topic was for mallrat posers from the suburbs), how to pierce your own nose without rendering it wildly infected, and — most importantly to yours truly — the crazy, wild-west that was lesbian culture in the early aughts.

There had been a posse of out and proud teen lesbians. Some had shaved heads. Some had girlfriends back home. Some were in the throes of a massive summer sapphic love affair.

It ruled.

By the third night at camp, I had loudly proclaimed to everyone that I, too, liked girls.

“Are you sure you’re not trying to just be trendy and rebellious?” a fabulous teenage gay boy asked me. He was straightening my hair with one of those oh-so-coveted “Sapphire” hair straighteners (the Chi would be all the rage the following summer). Around his neck was a giant gold nameplate, and his hair was bleached acid blonde. I had never met anyone quite like him in my life. (He’s now been deemed “Instagram’s foremost fashion historian” by Vogue Magazine).

“I’m sure,” I said. I wasn’t sure if I preferred my hair wavy or flat ironed to a crisp. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to move to New York or LA after high school. I wasn’t sure if I authentically enjoyed the Marlboro Lights I forced myself to suck down in the woods after school with my friends. But I was sure that I liked girls. More than sure; I was certain.

A quiet girl who had overhead me confess my baby dyke tendencies tapped me on the shoulder the next night at dinner. I was holding a tray full of lettuce leaves because I was on a diet. (Another thing the city kids had taught me: dieting. Real dieting. Lettuce leaf dieting. The kind that makes you drop a quarter of your weight in two weeks).

“Zara, do you like Ani Difranco?” the quiet girl asked me, pushing her mousy brown hair behind her ear, revealing impressively stretched earlobes. They looked painful which made them look even cooler.

“I love Ani! I’ve seen her in concert, like, ten times!” I squealed. My tray quivered in my hands. Eating like a baby fawn will make a girl shake like a college student who has just taken a handful of Adderall before finals.

“I think you’ll love this artist Melissa Ferrick. You should get her album ‘Freedom,'” the quiet girl said as she winked at me and walked away. I had this intrinsic feeling she had been sent into my life by my guardian angel and that I should immediately make my dad drive me to Sam Goody and buy me the CD the moment I got back to whitewashed Westport.

*

“Dad please take me to Sam Goody. PLEASE!” I beg. We are about to embark on a long ride to the Trumball mall, a good forty-five minutes from Westport. “PLEASE!” I wail, because I am fourteen and that’s what you do at fourteen. I am convinced I will die right then and there if I don’t get this Melissa Ferrick record, right NOW.

“Okay, okay,” my dad says. This is still when I am somewhat sweet and thus still have my parent’s wrapped around my fingers. (This would change around sixteen when I turned into a total, sneaking-out-of-the-house, failing-all-of-my-classes, pot-smoking-combative nightmare).

Exactly fifteen minutes later, Melissa Ferrick is BOOMING through the speakers of my dad’s car. We are both loving her prolific, acoustic lesbian folk songs.

“Wow, she’s fantastic Zara. Reminds me of Ani Difranco!” (My dad has always been very supportive of my unabashed love for forlorn women channeling their sorrow through the acoustic guitar.)

And then suddenly, the vibe sort of shifts. A drumbeat starts playing followed by a few seductive strums of a guitar. Before the lyrics even begin, I can feel my cheeks going beet red. I haven’t had sex with a woman yet (that time my friends and I went down on each other whilst drunk on New Year’s in the seventh grade does not count), but I can tell this song is going to be, um, sexual. Sapphically sexual. Which, as a fourteen-year-old with a hot pink glitter retainer riding in the car next to her DAD, just might be the most mortifying thing that’s ever happened to anyone. Ever.

via GIPHY

My dad doesn’t seem to notice anything at all. He strums the wheel with his right hand as he soars down the I-95 with the windows down, his mop of Jewish curls swaying in the North East wind.

I squirm in my seat and brace myself for lyrics that are probably about kissing a girl or something equally as controversial. Right as I bite into my nail, the breathiest, deepest, most confidentially sexual voice I’ve ever heard erupt out of a woman began not singing, but speaking. Speaking. SPEAKING. 

If you want this
If you want this
If you want this, you’re gonna have to ask
Nicely, please
Yeah if you want this
You’re gonna have to ask me
You’re gonna have to ask me

I forget that my dad is in the car. What the hell does this Melissa Ferrick character want me to ask her to do, and why do I oh so badly want to give her the right answer? And give it to her nicely? Purr.

Whatever you want
I’ll give it to you
I’ll give it to you slowly
Till you’re just begging me to hold you
Ya whatever you want
Whatever you want
But you’re gonna have to ask me

I descend out of the car and am residing on the isle of Sapphos. I have no father. I am not enrolled in a boring, dismal, straight high school made up of lacrosse playing sheep in the wealthy Connecticut suburbs. I am not on my way to the Trumball mall to buy clothes from Hot Topic that I’ll lie about and tell everyone I bought on St. Marks Place in Manhattan. I am not wearing a hot pink glitter retainer.

No, I am a heavily tattooed femme with dark red lipstick, rolling around the sand with a shaved head butch dyke in lesbian mecca.

Your mouth waters
Stretched out on my bed
Your fingers are trembling
And your heart is heavy and red
And your head is bent back
And your back is arched
My hand is under there
Holding you up

Her hand is under there? “There” as in under the ultra low-rise Frankie B jeans I’m wearing? And I was worried this song was about kissing?

In the kitchen
In the shower

Suddenly, I am pulled back into my body. The dark terrifying reality that a lesbian sex song is vibrating through the speakers with my f*cking DAD driving the car dawns on me. I awkwardly clear my throat, but it is too dry to make a sound. I am too scared to look at my dad. This is a reality too bizarre to face. Finally, I sneak a peek of him out of the corner of my eye, certain he is ANGRY with me and thinks his precious fourteen-year-old is a demented perverted dyke that needs to be sent to therapy instantly. That, or he is planning on making fun of me later and will gab to everyone in the family about how I insisted on buying a lesbian album, which means my wicked, sarcastic siblings will tease me and call me a dyke for the rest of eternity. I will never be able to attend a family gathering again. I dream of lonely Christmas dinners locked in my bedroom.

For some reason my dad’s face was is in neutral. Not numb neutral — chill neutral. There’s a stark difference.

And just when I think it can’t possibly, possibly get any worse, the lyrics take on an even more hypersexual turn.

And in the back seat of my car
I’ll hold you up
In your office
Preferably during business hours
‘Cause you know how I like it when there’s people around

I AM FOURTEEN, BUT I HAVE WATCHED ENOUGH SKINAMAX AFTER DARK TO KNOW ALL ABOUT WORKPLACE SEX FANTASIES. Suddenly I am seething with irrevocable anger at Melissa Ferrick. I am angry that she didn’t warn me that this album I innocently purchased of hers, the one with adorned with a pretty picture of her looking like a very tame ’90s lesbian sporting a white tee (it’s not even low cut!) and one of those bob-pixie hybrid haircuts, didn’t come with a warning to queer teens everywhere, cautioning us not to listen to this album with our PARENTS present. Didn’t she know most of us didn’t have a driver’s license yet? That we depend on long boring drives to shopping malls with our parents to get our musical fixes?

I can feel steam coming out of my ears.

And your head is bent back
And your back is arched
And my hand is under there

I am frozen in fear and humiliation. I am praying to the Indigo Girls that maybe my dad thinks that I don’t get it, that I’m still a kid and all of this “your back is arched” nonsense has gone right over my childish, virginal head. Like, maybe I think she’s talking about gymnastics when she mentions an arched back. After all, I have just quit doing gymnasts a year ago, and I was once famous at my local YMCA for breaking out into a flawless backbend.

I conclude that if I *do* skip the song, I’m sending a clear message out to my dad: I’m a GROWN UP, and I know this song is ABOUT SEX. LESBIAN SEX. If I play it out and pretend I, like, so don’t understand it that I’m now bored and daydreaming about something else (like back to school shopping?), we can both remain in the safe, cozy delusion that I’m fourteen and asexual. No dynamic loves denial more than the father-daughter dynamic. Had it been my mother in the car, she would’ve launched into a lecture about safe sex and droned on and on and on about how sex is normal and nothing to be ashamed of and would ask me a hundred times if I was a lesbian or bisexual and assure me (overly assure me) that it was OKAY if I was, and that she loved me unconditionally, and do I understand AIDS and consent and date rape drugs, and have I been the one purchasing porn on pay-per-view because someone in the house has been and she’d assumed it was my brother but if it was me it was all okay, because sex is natural (for the record it was both me and my brother, but neither of us knew the other one was doing it at the time). And that sounds like real hell to me. So I allow our sapphic anthem to play out, even though the breathy sex sounds seem to go on forever and ever. I slam my mouth shut, and gaze out the window, and pretend not to be shell-shocked, mortified, turned-on, shaken, shooketh, never the same again, and teeming with feelings I’ve never felt. I make a big show of yawning and twirling my hair and looking at the trees as we speed down the last innocent car ride of my young life.

I’ve always been an excellent actress; I truly missed my calling in life. By the end of the song, I am pretending to have drifted off to sleep even though I’m very much awake. Probably more awake than I’ve been in my whole life. But I pretend to peacefully nap until we pull into the Trumbull mall. My dad makes no mention of the most outwardly sexual lesbian sex song that just blasted through the speakers. We just go to Orange Julius and talk about how Leonard Cohen is the greatest poet of our time. We have fun. But in the back of my mind, I can’t wait to get home, slam the doors of my room shut, and really listen to “Drive” by Melissa Ferrick. Alone.


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