I don't do it often. Maybe once or twice a month. But it's not something I'm proud of. It's not something I would confess to in polite conversation. I only do it when I am alone; mostly, I do it in the car coming home from an evening meeting or an after-dinner, child-free workout. That's my favorite time, really; there's something relaxing about doing it at twilight, completely alone in my car, in the afterglow of cardiovascular stimulation. I would never, ever, do it when I thought I could get caught, though I guess someone would suspect me easily enough by looking at the presets on my car radio.
I, my friends, am a closet "Delilah" listener. What did you think I was talking about?
We all know who Delilah is, right? No, not the "Delilah" in that song that got endless airplay on pop stations this summer. I actually wouldn't be ashamed to admit I listen to that Delilah. I am talking about the one with the syndicated radio show that usually airs from 7pm to midnight on soft rock stations across the country. Her show is kinda like the old American Top 40 shows with Casey Kasem, except that there is no countdown and the whole thing is one long series of long-distance dedications.
I first started listening to Delilah in high school. It seemed cooler then. I have always been a bit of an insomniac, and for a month or so in the fall of my sophomore year when it got worse than usual, I became determined to stop the cycle by getting myself into a regular homework and bedtime routine that had me settling down into bed around 10 every night. I would still find myself keyed up and unable to relax, so I started trying to find music that would knock me out. Delilah's "all ballads, all the time" format was easy listening for my sleep-deprived brain, and it usually helped me sleep. Sometimes, though, it just depressed the hell out of me because I hadn't yet had a serious relationship, though my best girlfriend at the time had had several, and I was wondering what the heck was so wrong with me. Sometimes the relentless onslaught of 70s and 80s over-produced love songs got to me and caused me to stay awake feeling sorry for myself and my loveless state (I was all of 15 at the time.) But mostly it was a nice way to ease into sleep.
Years later, it's still my go-to station those rare evenings I find myself alone in the car between the hours of 7 and 12. Maybe it's because of the cheese factor; there's something amusing about those people who want to impress that special someone they've been on three whole dates with by calling them out on a campy radio call-in show. Maybe it's because of Delilah's song choices; I crack up every time someone tells their sob story, and tearfully asks if Delilah can play a very special song, and she comes up with something horrifying like "Crimson and Clover." Other than that, I don't really know why I can't stop listening to this show.
Yes, I do. I just wish I didn't have to write it out loud.
Here's the thing: deep down, in places I don't like to talk about at dinner parties, I like cheesy, overwrought love songs. There. I said it. Are we all happy now?
I actually don't want to change the channel when "My Heart Will Go On" comes on. I have been known to sing along to "Wind Beneath My Wings." I get a little misty-eyed when I hear a Linda Ronstadt/Aaron Neville duet. Faith Hill singing "Cry"? Sure! The Bangles' "Eternal Flame"? Certainly! Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up"? Definitely, but pass the Kleenex. "Precious and Few"? No way. Gotta draw the line somewhere.
I realized how ashamed I am of my Delilah problem last night. Because of Ainsley' concussion, she can't go to Silverlake with me to play while I work out. So I had to wait until the family was fed and the hubby was fully in charge of the kid's bedtime rituals before I could try to squeeze in my last workout of the week. It was a nice bit of "me" time, and with no kid to pick up, I could get a shower up there and unwind a bit. I got finished at dusk, and walked out to a gorgeous night. I rolled down the windows, turned up the radio, starting surfing my presets...and landed on Delilah (on Wa-arm Ninetyyyyyy-Eiiiiiiight!) As soon as I started listening, I found myself cranking up the windows and not singing along when I hit stoplights to avoid discovery. I had to laugh at myself. It's not like I was in there smoking crack or anything. Why was I so ashamed?
After all, I am a person who went into labor after cracking up over Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs. I know that 90% of the crap I am going to hear on Delilah is flat-out bad music. I don't listen to schmaltz all the time. But goshdarnit, I occasionally do like to fill my brain with cliched and hackneyed crap. There's something very comfortable and predictable about Delilah's playlists; while I'm listening to those songs, I don't have to think very hard. You know where the song is going by the end of the first verse. And there is something cathartic about the completely over-the-top emotionality of pop ballads. It's cheap emotion, sure, but emotion never the less. Just like sometimes I need a good, easy cry (cue Steel Magnolias), sometimes I need a love song.
In the 15-minute drive home last night, I pretty much got my fill for a month or so. I won't be tempted to tune in again for a while. I'll be able to stay on the straight and narrow path of acceptable music listening. It will be weeks before I hit the soft rock station again. I promise.
Though if I need a fix, there's always the "Night Music" playlist I made on my iPod.
I can't believe I just admitted to that.