A JANE EXTRA: Desert Island

Liza PalmerA Guest Blog by Liza Palmer

I have this game I play. Yes, it’s usually a sad attempt at flirting. And yes, I’m usually mildly intoxicated. Nonetheless, it’s not the game’s fault I’m socially retarded and can’t hold my liquor so let’s not hold it responsible for my bastardization of it.

You sidle up to someone you want to learn more about and after a few awkward moments of small talk you hit them with the good stuff:

Imagine you’re stuck on a desert island forever. You can bring 3 things to listen to, 3 things to read, 3 things to watch, 3 things and have one emotion erased.

I know this isn’t a new game, but I’d like to think I’ve tinkered with it enough to really give me the most insight into the potential father of my children. The truly interesting phenomenon is whether or not the person answers honestly. And whether you answer honestly when they inevitably ask, ‘and what would you take?’ Am I going to admit that my most comforting album is probably the old Xanadu record my sister and I played until we’d learned every lyric – with coinciding roller-skate moves? Am I going to own up to this to someone with pooly blue eyes and broad shoulders?

We all have our albums, books and movies we think are “acceptable.” You attempt to pass off the Britney Spears track as either your daughter’s or something you downloaded solely for your workout mix. It has a great beat and it’s so mindless, you assert, it’s perfect to run to. Uh-huh. My sister attempted to make this argument when she downloaded Usher’s, Yeah – a song that is as contagious as the common cold. It wasn’t long before she confessed to being caught by an entire fire engine filled with men singing at the top of her lungs, “Next thing I knew she was all up on me, screaming…Yeah! Yeah!”

The risk, of course, is that your answers will fall down some bottomless well of epic uncoolness. You’re on the playground again with your Le Tigre shirt as the little alligators and polo ponies taunt you.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve begun relishing in the things that make me…well, me. I love that the first records I ever bought were the 45s of Elvira by the Oakridge Boys and Reunited by Peaches and Herb. When there’s talk of people loving No Country for Old Men I state with certainty that I hated that movie and couldn’t get through it to save my life. I’m then regaled with testimonials about its quiet elegance, usually culminating in some horrible Javier Bardem impersonation where I’m dismissed in hand and called Friend-O with disgust.

The key to the Desert Island game is in its honesty. Does he answer that the emotion he would like erased would be fear? Loneliness? Envy? Or does he peacock around like he has no emotion that would need erasing because he is A MAN AND THEREFORE AFRAID OF NOTHING! HUZZAH! Uh, next.

As I think back on the evolution of the Desert Island game, it’s mind-boggling how little we show of ourselves sometimes. How little we tell the truth – even to those who are closest to us. Sure, there is a time and a place to reveal the well-loved Xanadu record, but why are we so embarrassed by what makes us truly happy?

Liza Palmer's third book, due out October 29, 2009My list of Desert Island necessities evolves from year to year. Maybe I’ve found a new album that’s now on heavy rotation. Will it make it into the pantheon or is it just a passing fancy? Who knows? I read a book and am blown away by it– as was just the case with Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground. I don’t know how I’ve lived without reading that book earlier. I’ve re-read The Color Purple and found things in those pages that have changed the way I see the world. And what would a Desert Island be without Where the Wild Things Are as the nightly bedtime book. I am going today to re-watch The Reader and have a sneaking feeling it just may be Desert Island worthy – along with my old standbys: Old School and The Princess Bride. I don’t think I could get through a day on my Desert Island without Fumbling Towards Ecstasy by Sarah McLachlan or Wincing the Night Away by The Shins. I go back and forth between In My Tribe by 10,000 Maniacs and Automatic for the People by R.E.M. as the third choice depending on how badly I want to hear Verdi Cries. Depending on the day (and whether I’ve decided there are monsters under my bed), I’d probably erase either loneliness or fear.

I hope I’ve finally gotten to the point where I would be honest – however broad his shoulders are or however vehemently he argues in favor of The Pixies.

So…what would YOU have on YOUR Desert Island?

Liza Palmer

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