I've been listening to the Indigo Girls since elementary school, turned on by my best friend Sasha, who was turned on by her older sister Sarah. Sasha might insist that she came upon them independently, but either way, I still associate them with Sarah and the older-girl mystique she had: lipstick, high school, tampons, etc. I also associate them with summer days in Sasha's garden, and drives to Yosemite with the windows down when you get the first fresh breath of mountain air.
One thing I could never imagine is a guy turning on the Indigo Girls. If you happen to have one in the front seat of your car, a fun game is to blast the Indigo Girls and bask in your own girliness and try to catch them cringing. It's a good way to feel like a separate species from the thing sitting in the seat next to you. I've had boyfriends with a broad appreciation for music who insist that they think the Indigo Girls are great, but I'm not sure if I believe them, and even if I did, I'm quite certain that their appreciation does not run deep, like mine, like Sasha's, like Sarah's. When I turn on the Indigo Girls, it's because I want to hear the aural extension of a part of my soul that I'm pretty sure guys don't have.
I didn't identify with the Indigo Girls so strongly until I started having the kinds of experiences that once gave Sarah her worldly air. It offered a kind of escape for the times when I'd done too much and felt sullied. Their music takes me back to a world of prepubescent innocence—pre-guys, pre-sex. On second thought, this world isn't really pre-anything—unlike puberty, it's not a free-fall of teasing and flirting that finally culminates in the crash of intercourse. Boys are peripheral in this world; it's like an infinite extension of the peaceful afternoons I spent sitting in the garden with Sasha, licking sugar off lemons. Is this what Lesbianism is like? I wouldn't know, but I bet the Indigo Girls would.
There's one glaring exception for me to this theory of Indigo-girlhood Eden: Jonas & Ezekiel. The song is tribal sounding, rhythmic, heavy. Sasha put it on a mix tape for me that I played constantly on a family trip to Israel when I was 14, and so it was in my head when I found myself in the hotel room of a fellow young American Jew—Zach—whom I'd met by the pool. I was delighted with him when he flirted with me on the lounge chairs; I was in awe of myself as I sat on his lap on the swing set, my little sister watching from the adjacent swing. I imagined seeing myself in her eyes: old and experienced like Sarah had seemed to me. But I was far from experienced, and the half hour I spent in his hotel room left him unsatisfied, and me disgusted.
Apparently this is what they call a cock-tease. But I didn't do anything! Exactly.
As he fumbled with belt buckles and bra straps, I felt myself slithering out of my body and hovering near the ceiling over this mess of two teenagers. Look—he's doing this to her and he thinks she likes it. Idiot. When will this be over?
It was the first and most definitely not the last time I experienced the uncanny sensation of being two girls at once: the girl on the bed with her eyes half closed and her head tilted to the side in mock pleasure, and the girl in the air dispensing sardonic commentary on the coupling occurring below.
There is hardly any more lonely feeling.
Despite how icky the little tangle made me feel, I became fixated on it in the weeks that followed. I'd fast-forward my mix tape to Jonas & Ezekiel, close my eyes and let the drum beat and melody take me back to the hotel room and our awkward fumbling. With the music on, it was easier to recreate the scene in my head in impeccable detail: freckled shoulders, tucked-in sheets, the texture of the ceiling one that you could pull shapes out of—and I did.
It wasn't exactly what you'd call fantasizing, since the whole thing revolted me, but it was strangely similar…