Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of the pain and hardship of the past to really appreciate our present and future. Also, Tom Jones is a little bit of a guilty pleasure, but I do so enjoy his music–probably more than a sane person should.
My first introduction to TJ was his cameo in the film Mars Attacks! where he and a handful of lounge lizards were attempting to escape the exaggerated onslaught of alien invaders bent on the destruction of humanity. Of course, I had no clue who this guy was or why it was funny that he should be in the film, but that extremely catchy tune playing over the end titles was the cherry on the sundae for one of the oddest little films that I love to watch from time to time.
That’s probably not relevant to the story, but it’s okay. Let’s fast-forward slightly to my early 20s.
The Ex (of course, she wasn’t The Ex yet) and I were at her parents’ house doing a bit of laundry, as was our custom at the time to spend a day with her mom and little sister visiting while we ran about a month’s worth of dirty clothes. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ran on the television playing in the background, and I think you can imagine what came up.
I was still working at Borders (Borders still existed), so the next day I started flipping through the music section on my break and I grabbed a copy of Tom Jones: Reloaded, a greatest hits compilation featuring some classic tunes and a few collaborations with some contemporary artists. The album got a lot of heavy rotation in my driving collection as The Ex and I both enjoyed the boisterous sound of Jones’s belting baritone (to say that she enjoyed it was notable itself as she wasn’t a “music person” like me). We spent many, many hours driving across the north metro area listening to the album–often on repeat!
“What’s New Pussycat” kinda became our de facto theme song, and evolved into a sort of call-and-response variation of “I love you”:
“What’s new, Pussycat?” I would ask.
“Woah, woah woah!” She would sing back and grin.
To say that the song still brings up bittersweet emotions is an understatement. Those were the good days, the happy days before life as we knew it started to fall apart. We were happy-go-lucky kids very deeply in love and trying to find our way in the world, but optimism and mutual support can only hold a couple together for so long. Sadly, it all came crashing to a halt in June of 2008–the beginning of the Dark Times. I didn’t listen to Tom Jones for years after all hell broke loose that summer, and that song still takes me back to the mid-2000s and driving all over Cobb County in that old Windstar or my Nissan Sentra (Betty I) and I look back on those nights fondly even though I know how the film ended.
I say that I’d rather forget her, but she did make an indelible impact on my life. I think that I’d rather like to forget what happened and pretend that she just disappeared after 2007–like she faded away. Instead, I remind myself of the good that came after. My life is far more interesting, more robust, and more fulfilling than it would have been with her. There are people that are married and children that are born that may not have existed otherwise. I have valuable friendships that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I would not have the opportunities that I have today, leading the lifestyle that I do, nor would The Barbie and I be together if it weren’t for the Dark Times.
We all have our trials to go through. It’s the hero’s journey.
What’s new, pussycat? Everything.