It was a day just like any other. My mother picked me up to go for a ride through the countryside to enjoy the sunshine and the open air. She was always trying to feed me, as any mother tries to feed their child, and told me to grab something out of the cooler in the backseat as we whipped around a sharp mountain turn. While trying to balance and not spill everything out of the cooler, a large padded yellow envelope flew my way from the opposite side of the car. “What’s this?” I asked her. “Oh, that’s for you too. I was going to surprise you. If you don’t want it, that’s fine, but I thought you might like to have it,” she replied with a grin. Skeptically, I opened the envelope, and could not believe my eyes when I realized what had just been bestowed upon me.
It was an iPod. I had always been a critic of the portable MP3 players and digital music format. I had always said that I would never pay money for something that was corrupting and ruining the experience of music as an art form. I had always been opposed to the capitalistic insensitivity of the new hipster generation, and the god-awful dancing silhouette commercials. I despised every trendy soccer mom who had an iPod strapped to their arm while running with their 3 posh poodles through the park. The Apple generation, in my eyes, was the downfall of all that was good in the world, and my mother thought that I might like to be a part of this new-wave technological culture?!
Trying to graciously accept what I knew my mother felt was a generous gift, I found myself feeling strangely intrigued by this new little gadget. It was so tiny, I could take it with me anywhere, I thought. My mother would never give me something that she felt could harm me in any way; maybe this was a sign that I needed to get with the times and start experiencing the world as it was developing around me. I could try to resist the fact that I was a part of this new era, or I could continue dreaming that the technological boom was merely a phase and sooner or later everyone would realize that I was right all along. Twirling it around between my fingers, I began to realize that I would test it out to see what the big deal was all about. I felt I couldn’t criticize something if I had never experienced it myself. Perhaps it was just my way of justifying the hypocrisy I felt, but after all, I did not pay for it, so I did not sell-out to the system.
Upon returning home later that evening, I rushed to my computer with anticipation and anxiety of trying to figure out how the hell to install iTunes and learning about the horrors of reformatting digital files. As I sat at my desk, scrolling through the how-to help menus, an overwhelming sense of guilt came over me. I turned to face my record player and the wall of LPs that I had been collecting for at least a decade. I felt like I had been caught red-handed cheating on the love of my life with a new, hot, easy, convenient toy. Busted. I knew if no one else would call me out on giving into the instant-gratification social complex, there was no hiding from or fooling the one who knew me best.
I can honestly say that my record player has been the best boyfriend I have ever had. I refer to it as him, because we have spent so many intimate nights together that, in a sense, he has given me more pleasure than any real man ever has. As I sat facing him that night, I wanted to apologize that he had to find out that way. I wanted to explain that I was just experimenting, and that the hip, pretty, little thing didn’t mean anything to me. I longed to tell him that he was my first and only true love, and that nothing could ever replace him.
In an act of longing and sorrow and pleading for forgiveness, I went straight to his favorite record to play in times of such emotion. I had brought this specific album home one day, promising him a peaceful night in with candlelight, just the two of us. I reminded him of this night we spent together. I had cuddled up next to him on the rug, cozy in pajamas and slippers, my head propped up on an oversized pillow just high enough to watch the multi-colored vinyl rotate around like spin-art as the flame of the flickering candle reflected in rhythm to the crackles of his breath. I was hypnotized into a world of pure being as he serenaded me to sleep. That was what it was like to really feel and experience the music. I reminded him of when I woke the next morning to find him laying still beside me as if time had paused in that moment of truth. My fingers gently kissed his needle good-morning, and slowly turned his knobs to off as the perfect thank-you and end to a wonderful date. I assured him that no iPod could ever make me feel that way.
It’s not that I expected the album to skip or that the record player would suddenly break into loud scratching screeches of hate, rage, and jealousy, but I couldn’t help thinking what it must be like to be him. If I were him, what would I be feeling in that moment? Then suddenly all of my guilt subsided. It was like a voice in my head, not my own, was telling me it was okay to expand my horizons. I realized that I was not turning my back on something I loved, and that he would always be there for me, waiting in the same spot amongst rows of records. Instead of having feelings of contempt and inadequacy toward the fresh constant companionship of the iPod, I believed that my true love wanted me to be able to enjoy the portable satisfaction of always having music around, even when he couldn’t be the one playing it for me. That was when I knew more than ever that I was, had been, and always would be an analog girl in a digital world.