By Terri Hendrix

(LSM March/April 2011/vol. 4 – Issue 2)

While mulling over my set list the weekend prior to a Valentines Day gig, I realized that I don’t have many love songs in my repertoire. This is due to the fact that I haven’t written many love songs and they’re among my least favorite to record. I suppose one reason is that I’m not exactly the romantic type. If a potential suitor were to crawl up a vine in pursuit of me — I’d mace them.

Any lingering phobias I have about romance were more than likely seeded by my mother. When I was a kid, she’d say stuff like, “If a boy kisses you, your lips will rot off.” She’d follow this warning with, “Danger, danger everyone’s a stranger — run!” As a kid, I lived in fear of catching something or someone catching me. Sex Education didn’t make my fears subside one bit. If anything, I now had pictures to accompany what could potentially happen to me if I let a boy within breathing distance of my mouth.

I was too young to realize that my mom was merely trying to protect me from the danger a young girl can find herself in if she’s caught off guard. I was naïve, and I took what she said to heart. I so was clueless I’d often wonder why the lips didn’t rot off the faces of my favorite TV stars. I’d scratch my head and marvel at The Love Boat every time kisses were exchanged. Our black-and-white TV sported silver rabbit ears, a manual channel dial as big as a dinner plate, and a booty on it that rivaled J. Lo’s. Still, the kisses seemed to project off that screen as big as the moon.

The thought of allowing anyone to kiss me grossed me out. I felt I wasn’t exactly kissable. Especially since almost every time I watched The Love Boat seemed to coincide with the exact day that my braces were tightened. My mouth would hurt so bad it would make my eyes water. To ease the pain, I’d sit there with an icepack stuck to my face and silently curse the Love Boat’s captain. I was envious that he was so well versed on all things amore. He was wise. And I felt like a dumb-dumb.

Life grew even more interesting for me after my orthodontist introduced my “Brace-Face” to headgear. He beamed and quacked, “No one will notice at school.” I’m not sure what planet he was on. I guess my mother was happy, because me wearing headgear would definitely prevent me from being kissed, and thus contracting lip rot.

Had I not been so mortified at the thought of wearing headgear to school, I would have had fun with my situation. I’d have stuck colorful magnets on its rim and hung beaded charms around my mouth. I was too young to see the humor in it and too selfish to thank my parents for fixing my teeth. Age can wait. Wisdom can hurry. It took me too long to be thankful.

Years passed, and my stubborn teeth still refused to conform. My orthodontist remained undaunted and my trips to his office continued well into high school. Finally, not even braces, headgear, or fear would stop me from puckering up my lips and kissing the kid with the sandy brown hair. The time came. We ducked into a stairwell at a stadium after a track meet. I puckered and puckered and puckered. When I was assured no germs would meet my tongue, we kissed. It should come as no surprise to you that the kid with the sandy brown hair told everyone at school about our first kiss. I think the exact words were, “She kisses like a fish.” I wish I had made fun of those bullies and that kid with the sandy brown hair. I would have jabbed my finger in their chests and yelled, “Fish Kisser!” Because they’d obviously all had experience kissing fish. You can’t run from bullies. They have lip rot! You have to square your jaw and run at bullies and squirt their lips with truth, piss, and vinegar. These days, I suppose you also have to pray they don’t have a gun.

When I was younger, I was so busy running away or chasing after unrequited love that I didn’t see I was surrounded by true unconditional love. I’ve been unable to write a song about that type of love. It’s a love that accepts you for who you are — where you are. A love that lets you be yourself: Unedited, warts and all. The love that makes you reach beyond yourself and be a little less selfish and a little more giving. A love that’s compassionate. A love that listens. A love that lives each day to the fullest and expects you to do the same. A love that won’t settle for doldrums and depression. A love that does not want to swallow you, hover over your head like a mosquito, or pull you under the waves. A love that strengthens. A love that has its own life. A love that knows not of jealousy — only of trust. A love without lies. A love without cages, fences, walls, or borders. A love that embraces faith. A love that sees God. Loves God. But does not fear God or speak for God. A love that does not judge, exile, kill, draw blood, or throw stones.

Perhaps I don’t write love songs because the music has already been written. It perches in my heart and sings its own tune and dances to its own drum. I love to live. I live to love.

My mom said, “Always be who you are. Then you don’t have to worry about remembering who it was you pretended to be.” She had it right. Perhaps she was a little “off” with her motherly advise in my youth, but for the most part, she had it right. There is such a thing as lip rot. It’s the opposite of love. It’s fear laced with hate. I see it for what it is, and quietly walk away. I’m not scared. Cupid’s got my back.

©(P) THM Music February 2011