In the dating world, we encounter people who have patched together their personalities and their behaviors through events that have occurred throughout their life. They bury one thing, repress another, and yet remain under the influence of their collective experiences. They may be dealing with open wounds, scabs, and emotional trauma that is beneath the surface of what they choose to consciously or unconsciously expose to us. Despite this, we all judge other people. We judge their quirks, their actions, and their words without getting to the heart of what made them the way that they are.
Fiona Apple is the perfect example of what happens when judgment occurs without fully understanding the story behind the person. When Fiona’s first album, Tidal, came out, I instantly fell in love. She bottled every heartbreak, unrequited love interest, and every relationship I had into brilliant verses. Her lyrics left me with a sense of envy that I hadn’t come up with them first. To this day, it is one of my favorite albums because of the synchronicity of imagery, emotion, melodies, and chords with the cadence and color of Fiona’s voice.
When the video for her amazing song, Criminal was released, critics clamped on to the images of her demure, sullen frame in camisoles and underwear. They targeted her for ‘glamorizing skinny’ and for reinforcing ‘heroin chic’ imagery and supermodel thin fantasies in the minds of young girls.
As the years progressed, Fiona Apple took on the persona of a misunderstood and troubled musician. Her in-person interviews resembled one long stream of consciousness without the guidance of periods and commas. When she took the stage in 1997 at the MTV Video Music Awards, her acceptance speech was peppered with emotional impromptu language: “Everyone that is watching this world, this world is bullshit…Go withyourself…and it’s just stupid that I’m in this world.” Her brilliance was bogged down in these moments. People paid more attention to the time between her album releases, the length of her cd titles, or the men she dated…without seeking to understand what was behind her run on sentences, her weight, or the depth of her song lyrics. But Fiona had a childhood that influenced and affected all of that.
Is that why they call me a sullen girl -- sullen girl
They don't know I used to sail the deep and tranquil sea
But he washed me ashore and he took my pearl
And left and empty shell of me.
Sullen Girl is the second song on Tidal. It’s the story of twelve year-old Fiona; the paintbrush that colored the woman we see today.
In the hallway of her mom’s apartment, the day before Thanksgiving, as she struggled with the last of the three locks on the door, she was approached by a man who would later be the cause of her violent dreams. He followed her home from school and caught the door to the entryway, just as it was closing. He walked up the stairs as she took the elevator, and cornered her outside her front door. As her dog barked hysterically on the other side of the day, he erased her happiness and innocence at the age of twelve.
In the recording studio for Tidal, she couldn’t even sit too close to men, because they all reminded her of that day. And her weight remained stalled and stunted at around 100 pounds. It was her own way of preventing unwanted advances or attracting anyone close to her through the silhouette of her breasts and hips. It was the only semblance of control she had over the violent dreams and memories that pursued her without permission. That moment is the contributing factor to the Fiona Apple we know.
All of us are Fiona in some way. We all have triggers and wounds. We all have cards that we play close to our chests, to prevent someone else from seeing our hand. So the next time you feel like judging someone for the tale they unconsciously show to the world, think about this moment, and dig for their story, instead of the summary on the back cover, or the blurb that someone else relayed to you in a bit of gossip, a tweet, or a status message. We all have a story that makes us who we are and in some way has prevented us from who we could have been.
©2012 Kristen Crockett