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Saturday, December 02, 2006

This hairshirt is woven from your brown hair

In 1992, the Barenaked Ladies didn't have the backing of a record company, but almost everyone in Canada knew who they were. They were just coming down from the best form of publicity possible: Some idiot at Toronto City Hall had decided that they shouldn't be allowed to play at a city event because the name of the band objectified women.

They had a little yellow-labelled tape at the time, including this song and several others that made it onto their first official album as no-good sell-outs who worked for the man.

A friend of mine named Peter had this tape. I am still not sure how to describe our relationship, but "friend" will do. Wait, I take that back: the modern-day phrase is "friend with benefits". You kids have the strangest words. Things were much simpler in MY day.

We met at a conference when I was 12 and he was 14, and always lived in different towns. This was probably best: if we had seen each other every day, we probably wouldn't have liked each other at all. I am reliably informed that people in Clarenville thought he was a jerk. He would smoke while waiting for the school bus, and as the bus door opened he would take a long, final drag on his cigarette, get onto the bus, and blow out the smoke all over the person in the front seat. You can see why I would be enamoured.

Peter and I had a telephone relationship. We would talk for hours about nothing at all. By the end, I knew his friends in Clarenville and he knew my friends. I spent a couple of weeks in 1992 visiting him at his sister's house in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

His friends in Wolfville did not welcome me with open arms. For starters, he did not have friends of his own: he had a girlfriend who had friends, and he hung around with them. He told them that I was his ex-girlfriend and that I was coming to stay with him for a few weeks. As you can imagine, this did not go over well.

It took me some time to figure out what the problem was, because I didn't consider myself his ex-girlfriend at all. So they would say things like "Great, Peter's ex is here. I wish she would go away," and I would think "I've gotta meet this person and find out why she keeps coming around." After a while I put it together and realized: It's me. I'm the one they hate. That sucked. I can only guess that he either told them this to strengthen his carefully-constructed bad-boy image, or that he thought much more of our original relationship than I ever had. (I suspect that it was the former: even as a teenager, I was not exactly the love-'em-and-leave-'em type.)

Anyway, he had this tape. The Barenaked Ladies have become one of Canada's biggest musical acts (along with Loverboy and Gowan) and even have a following in the States. But whenever I hear them, I think about the summer of 1992. Many things changed during that summer. After that, Peter and I weren't friends. This was not what I had expected: I had thought we would still be friends or at least still talk to one another. We did not have an argument or any kind of falling-out, but things were always strange between us after that.