We are in a time of great uncertainty due to the COVID-19 virus running rampant through the lungs of our country. Some, like myself are in self quarantine due to a positive test result from a fellow coworker. We all quietly await whatever horrors we may face in the coming months from this pandemic while praying for the best. Our world has been turned upside down but within all of that, I have an inner need to stick to some type of normalcy, to continue on with writing and other creative projects that uplift the spirit. So, I’m tackling what right now feels like a fairly frivolous subject. We’ve recently passed the one year anniversary of Ryan Adam‘s career death by the hands of cancel culture. A year ago, I shed some emotions on paper regarding my thoughts. Today I figured a follow-up seems a good enough challenge assignment and use of the time.
I have not followed his career since the New York Times article where they announced Adams was under FBI investigation for engaging in sexually explicit communication with a minor, via the dreaded internet. As if that wasn’t newsworthy enough, the cowritten piece mainly focused on misconduct with love interests and fellow musicians, an ex-wife and past relationships. Emotional abuse of romantic partners they called it. If you’re not completely familiar I’ll save you some time. Long story short; he was a major jerk, asshole, creep (insert your favorite expletive here) to up-and-coming female musicians, allegedly dangling false opportunities in order to have sexual and romantic relations. To quote the NYTimes “I think as we’re moving into Year 2 of #MeToo reporting, often it’s not the R. Kellys and the Harvey Weinsteins of the world,” he said, referring to two men who have been accused of rape or sexual abuse by many women, “but people who are abusing their power in more complex, but equally pernicious ways.”
By the information the article shared, I never doubted that Adams was writing to an underage girl. If nothing else, the New York Times wouldn’t lie about holding proof of thousands of texts. That was both wrong and illegal so if they find he’s guilty, he should do whatever punishment the law requires and hopefully get some much needed counseling. Unfortunately, there has been absolutely zero follow-up so who knows what became of that and the girl remained anonymous due to her age so unless she shares her story or he’s convicted, we may never know. I find that part of the story much more intriguing because they texted for years, and that sounds like grooming to me. Ava, the minor, was a bass player he found on YouTube that he admired but never met. We’ve never seen a pedophile like him, a needy doughy-faced famous indie artist musician. We could learn a lot about what drives that behavior from a modern example like Adams. Ava’s story was also more intriguing because she was not a groupie, nor did she seek him out.
That got me wondering if the whole young groupie scene has naturally died out. It’s uncomfortable to admit that we all watched on for years as clearly underage models hooked up with our favorite band members. Where do I sign up was my only question. Then about 30 years later, as if the fog cleared we all stood staring at the elephant in the room, this skinny 14-year old in a garter belt, drunk and sitting on our favorite guitarist’s lap. How did we not recognize this for so long? You certainly wouldn’t get away with that now in the broad light of Instagram. That awakening if you will, is a great example of how we are all connected. Individually we are flawed, ignorant, complicit and at times show extreme laps in judgement. These legal lines are essential to mark the difference for society. But its equally important for us to handle more complex gray-area failings with more compassion and less judgement.
That the Times used the same voltage on Adams as they did to bring down Harvey Weinstein was my biggest issue with the piece. They knew the weight and impact of their influence. I think they took the easy way out by acting as the kindle needed to ignite the social justice warriors. Unfortunately, these are not controlled burns. I don’t like bullies but if I saw a mob beating up some ruffian after he hit a schoolmate, I would think that’s wrong too.
To all the girls that the Times dug up to hear hours of traumatizing but super vague stories, I’m curious if you’ve recovered. Hopefully you are back to living full lives, and have continued to play music. It would be good to hear your thoughts a year later. Painful episodes tend to make us more interesting people from my experience, better songwriters certainly. I do believe that.
Still, I can’t help but think, with all that can happen to a person in the world, a proposition by a goofy, chubby boy-faced musician-in-power certainly can’t be considered ‘equally pernicious‘ as rape. The law doesn’t operate in relativity, so I think it’s important that society continue with processes and appropriate definitions.
But a year later given all the social waters under the bridge, I’m aware that saying anything against the tribe, meaning anyone that even slightly disagrees with call-out culture is a risk. You have to be able to speak your mind including culture reporters but perhaps when the shiver is frenzied, it may not be a great time to throw more chum in the water.
I was a young girl once, now I’m 58. I was joking that my imbalance of hormones lately has given me an odd window into the minds of men.
I was slightly shocked recently when I found myself completely mesmerized by a young woman’s supple skin in line at a store. Everything about her seemed so healthy and ripe, the whites of her eyes, the glow in her cheeks. There was nothing broken in her demeanor and her face didn’t rest sad like mine. She was so incredibly perfect, a time capsule of youth. I blinked and found she was simply young, that’s all. Not especially exceptional in the least. It was only her age or lack of that made her shine so bright in my eyes. Nature was in springtime for that girl. I could see for a moment what men see. I thought about how it might feel with about 8 times more testosterone in my system. What if I was stupid, and had a penis? What would it be like then?
I was on the phone with my good friend and she too shared a story of a misguided admirer coming into her store to court a young dewy unwilling coworker. Apparently he was way off base and never had a chance. He unknowingly came in with a gift for the girl but she had since quit. My friend opened it later out of curiosity and found chocolates and a card, more a letter, double-sided even. There he poured out his heart in what sounded like a pathetic attempt. Described as a tiny wisp of a girl, delicate and super cute made him even more ‘too old’ and gross to my friend. He may have been a creep. Easily, actually. Hollywood…old guy in a record store fantasizing about rocking some hot chick’s world. So sad, I can visualize his balding head all the way over here in Brooklyn. But as I was laughing, I suddenly imagined myself at times in my life, a pitiful mess desperately trying to relay my love confessions to some undeserving hominid. Maybe I was lucky not to be tasked with doing that as an unattractive aging male. At least I didn’t repulse the receiver. I hope.
The reason I think this is so important is because I do believe we are all, in a sense not only connected but one in the same. Ryan Adams, those girls, Mandy Moore, writers of newspapers….creeps. We are all just one. We should still fight for our rights in the world as part of society and the misuse of power. But due to something as simple as bodily changes, and the impending doom of a health crisis of catastrophic proportions, I have a much deeper sense of connection to the world right now. Not only have my views changed but my level of compassion as well. Women could stand to acknowledge the scope of our built-in powers, that we naturally carry incredible influence with our feminine allure alone as well as so many other unique talents and strengths, almost too many to count. I’m not talking about being sexy but beauty in the fuller sense of the word, is a real power. As is feminine characteristics like empathy, gentleness and humility.
If I had those young musicians in front of me right now I would say, Fuck Ryan Adams! Yes, screw him, metaphorically speaking, but don’t let anyone label you as his victim. We may find down the line that he’s a man with a rooted deviant sickness who needs help or just one asshole of many who will try to take you for a ride. Life happens fast but now you’ve all been historically connected to this event in time. A persuasive newspaper, and possibly a scorned wife, disguised as supporters may have preyed on your vulnerability, anger and hurt for their own selfish gains. Maybe you said you’d never record again or that Ryan turned you off from music entirely, but screw that too! Write a song about it, like Phoebe Bridgers. Find someone who will record you. We all win not by making this end in damnation but recovery. Redemption should never be off the table for anyone. No one of us gets to be final judge and jury, not even the almighty New York Times.
And I would ask Mr. Coscarelli and Ms. Ryzik, as well as their editors, Caryn Ganz and Ian Trontz of the New York Times who felt so compelled to spend months zeroing in on every heartbreaking transgression in these stories; What exactly was your true motivation here? Did your Weinstein piece give you the taste for blood? Was this fair and balanced reporting or did you have your own moment of a subtler abuse of power? Speaking as a woman, I’d personally like to reserve this type of complete take-down for extenuating circumstances in the future.