Music is My Bag: Confessions of a Lapsed Oboist, Embracing the Band Geek Within
In high school I never actually delved into the realm of band geekdom; however, Meghan Daum’s Music is My Bag: Confessions of a Lapsed Oboist shed enlightening amounts of detail into this oft stereotyped world. Daum begins her examination by playing within the realm of gossip-tainted stereotypes when she describes one of the band member’s clothing as “an unsuccessful attempt at a personal style, [he] wears a fedora hat and a scarf decorated with a black-and-white design of a piano keyboard” (517). A fedora hat always incites some mocking (prior to it becoming the hipster flag that it is now), and as depicted, this fedora-wearing man is the stereotypical geek with his instrument clutched in his hand who wears jeans that rise just a little too high over his highly polished loafers.
Moreover, the “Music is My Bag people have a sexlessness to them, a pastiness” (518) that makes them easily identifiable from the average Joe. here, Daum is suggesting that they can be spotted roaming the streets because they are like eunuchs, walking around with their pasty faces and horns strapped to their backs. The stereotype, here, is a bit extreme and may actually offend the actual pasty-faced geek that loves music. However, her word choice also implicates herself, and she uses it to show a reader possible reasons for leaving this world behind.
She also points out that the band experience is “euphoria brought on by a sexual awakening centered entirely around band [that] is all he needs to be delivered into the unmistakable world of Music is My Bag” (518). From this, a reader can get the insinuation that being in the Music is My Bag world would be great. Although, sexual awakenings are better left for the bedroom, with a lover, than happening during an obo solo with a thousand watching audience members. But it is clear that being in the Music is My Bag world is a very special and coveted thing for those that can make it with any sort of talent. In this case, they would not care that they have pasty faces or sexual experiences only at band camp. They do it for their world.
In a hilarious self-digression, she remembers, “the embouchure [that] puckers the face into an unnatural grimace, an expression well documented in the countless photographs from my childhood that suggest some sort of facial deformity; the lipless girl” (519). A reader can understand the pain of geekdom in this instance, and can be more understanding of her stereotypical uses. She was caught on film in that horrible moment with her puckered face and her precious obo. She became the stereotype. Maybe that was a shocking moment for her. It definitely tugged at the heartstrings.
Moreover, she strikes a sadness, a reminiscent quality at the past that so traumatized her when she comments that “when I look back…[I was] a person who was given a gift, but who walked away from it because of piano-key scarves and fedora hats and all those secondary melodies that eventually became the only thing I could hear” (524). In fact, the best aspect of this memoir was Daum’s ability to work within the stereotype, the self-deprecating humor, and incorporate a reminiscent quality. I admired her use of stereotypes in combination with her reminiscent little tales. She can mock the world because she lived in that world for so long. Her ethics, here, are not in trouble, and in fact, her ability to handle that thin line was impressive.
Daum, Meghan. (2000). Music is My Bag: Confessions of a Lapsed Oboist. The Harpers Monthly, 64-69.