My mom used to say that God gave everyone one thing, something to mark them, a trick or “special power” that made them who they are. When I was young, I thought that meant I was like one of the X-Men, and I used to swear that I could move things with my mind — all I had to do was stare hard enough. Over time, I learned I had zero aptitude for psychokinesis, but I was very good at one thing: getting dumped. I am the Dr. Jean Grey of breakups, and not even just in romantic relationships. I have been broken up with by friends, teachers, doctors, pets, baristas and mailmen. A telemarketer even dumped me once. It just wasn’t working for him.
Last week, my sex partner of a month decided that he just wasn’t into it, and he didn’t feel the same way about me that he used to. I was on my way out of his apartment, catching a bus on Chicago’s West Side, and I got friend zoned via text message. As I read that I was attractive — but he just wasn’t attracted to me — “Stacy’s Mom” came on shuffle on my iPod. I felt soothed by it, my insecurities and rage somehow assuaged by early aughties power pop. As Adam Schlesinger told me that the mother of Stacy “had it going on,” I knew that I also was worthy of being sexed. I felt strangely empowered by his male gaze.
I played the song again, dancing down Western Avenue, daring the cars to say anything about my self-empowerment. And then again. For seven whole days.
This is the account of the week I spent with Stacy. This is what I learned.
As a song itself, “Stacy’s Mom” is severely underrated in the canon of post-millennial pop. Although it’s guitar-driven, Schlesinger firmly plants the track in the tradition of the seminal power pop bands of the ‘70s and ‘80s, like the Cars, Big Star and Cheap Trick. In fact, the song plays as partial homage to both the Cars and the entire decade of the ‘80s, which — thanks to bands like American Hi-Fi and Bowling for Soup — was very in vogue at the time. The opening lick of “Stacy’s Mom” is so close to that of “Just What I Needed” that Rik Ocasek, lead singer of the Cars, actually thought it was a sample. According to Schlesinger, they were toying around with the idea of an homage in the studio and just got it right.
The same goes for the song as a whole, which transcends its genre and subject matter in a way that most parody or homage tunes do not. In a lot of ways, “Stacy’s Mom” was a viral hit before viral was a thing, a testament to the ways that gimmicks can help sell a tune. For young men of the time, the song tapped into the MILF fever of the American Pie-era male, and for their parents, the video specifically called upon their memories of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, as the video repurposes the narrative of the infamous pool scene in that film for the song. Instead of Judge Reinhold lusting after Phoebe Cates, a 12-year-old Schlesinger pined for an older, unattainable woman: his girlfriend’s mother.
On top of being incredibly catchy and joyous, the song is notable for its treatment of Stacy, who is very much the third character in the song. Even though her name is in the title, she is always attached to her mother, the true object of the singer’s affections. Stacy is an obstacle to be overcome in order to achieve true happiness. Stacy must go.
For me, this is where the trouble began.
The first day I listened to “Stacy’s Mom” on repeat, I got caught up in the guitar riffs, it’s flawless mimicry of power pop chord progressions and how much I wanted to be like Stacy’s mother; I wanted to be the object of bearded indie singer lust, a force so powerful that formerly obscure musicians were driven to write accessible Top 40 jams about their desire for me. Because of their love, they could cross over; they could break through to superstardom.
But on the second day, I realized that I am not the mother of Stacy. I am Stacy.
On the third day, I began to dream as Stacy. In one dream, I was wearing a pink, polka-dot bathing suit and lounging next to the pool with a plate of cookies that I “baked” in my Easy Bake Oven for my significant other — while listening to the Spice Girls on my walkman. For the dream, Jonathan Taylor Thomas had taken the role of my boyfriend, but I caught him making out with my mom, Kathleen Turner, in the pool house. The dream concluded when I drowned them both, just as Schlesinger and God intended.
Increasingly, I became driven to avenge Stacy, to make the world right for Stacies everywhere — the dumped, left behind, disabused and romantically disenfranchised. Stacy is only twelve and does not deserve to live in a world where she can always be instantly dumped for a family member. She cannot grow up like this. And on the fourth day, I began to text most of my friends about this urgent matter, letting them know that “Stacy will get through this,” “Stacy will come out stronger” and “Stacy deserves better than these jerks.” I began to status update on Facebook on Stacy’s behalf, offering her life advice and making yearly resolutions in her honor. On Facebook, I decided that this year, we will all stop dating jerks — in honor of Stacy. 2012 is now known as “The Year of Stacy.”
On the fifth day, I considered starting a Twitter feed as Stacy, but I never use the Twitter account that I do have. Stacy almost made me forget that I hate Twitter.
But the next day, I left my iPod at home by accident, and Stacy was gone. I had gotten used to having her around, to using the song to measure time and distance. For instance, a run at the gym is between 3 and 18 Stacies. Sex would be between 1 and 60 Stacies. A sneeze is .000001 Stacies. My day is around 300 Stacies long, the week 2100 Stacies.
However, on the seventh day, I had to let her go. Although many of my friends saw my time with her as a potential Abu Gharib tactic, I needed her around to help me measure my days, to give me something to focus my energy, my anger and my self-loathing on. If I did not have Stacy around to care about and protect from the evils of the world, then I would have to worry about myself; I would have to turn music criticism into self-criticism, and I wasn’t ready.
When midnight rolled around, I cuddled up on my couch with Stacy as Scheslinger’s guitar faded into silence. I told her everything would be okay — that one day, men would be lining up around the block for her. As she left me, I felt at ease — because I knew, at least, I will be a better parent someday than Stacy’s mother.