Things I’m Learning (Grudgingly) from My Husband the Phish Fan

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You’d never guess this man is a closet hippie. But wait: check out his daughter’s shirt!

Here are a few facts about my husband: He is a dentist, a business owner. He sings in the church choir. He is just this week finishing up his year-long tenure as President of his Rotary Club. When he’s stressed, he cleans our house with such intensity that I just stay out of his way and let him do his thing. He has, at least once, described himself as “metrosexual”.

He’s a fashionable, somewhat anal-retentive, civically minded, well-respected guy. He doesn’t seem like the most likely candidate to be spotted in a parking lot outside a Phish show, waiting in line to make a purchase from a vendor called “You Enjoy My Socks”. And yet, he has done this very thing. He has dressed our three girls in Phish clothing, sung them Phish lullabies, and let them stay up late to watch the live-stream of Phish’s New Year’s Show.

My husband has been to a total of 21 Phish shows, which in the Phish community is nothing to write home about. But if he wants to stay happily married, he knows that his Phish exploits must be limited to no more than four, maybe five shows a year. I’m sorry, Phish world, if that seems like a major bummer. It’s just that I have three small children- I like having my husband around.

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Mmm hmm. Yeah. Somebody bought him PHISH CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS.

Come with me! he always says, when the tour schedule is released. (I have somehow been subscribed to Phish emails, which is actually great because I have a heads-up when my husband is about to approach me with his grand plan for the season.) It would be more fun with you there! It’s a sweet sentiment, and I love that he really believes that. The fact, though, is that I am not a whole lot of fun at a Phish show.

Case in point: the last show we went to was in Atlanta in August. It was 800 degrees in the parking lot and, with a four-month-old at home, I had brought my hand-held breast pump with me. Sitting in a camping chair under the one shred of shade available, covered in my nursing shawl, manually expressing breast milk while a stranger offered me Molly? Not my finest moment. (Although certainly not the strangest thing happening in that particular parking lot at the time.)

I’ve been to a total of three Phish shows, and each time my husband is desperately hoping that THIS time, I will get it. A 24-minute jam will stir something sleeping deep within me. I will dance with abandon. I will think that a middle-aged man wearing a dress and playing a song on a vacuum cleaner is the BEST THING EVER.

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Is something incredibly exciting about to happen? Probably not.

But I don’t. I just don’t. And on the eve of another Phish-scapade, one I have agreed to be a part of, I’m trying to figure out how not to be a buzzkill. I’m trying to take my husband’s love of this band and their music and channel it into something that feels relevant to me. He really is enthusiastic and supportive about my writing – the least I can do is try to appreciate this thing that makes my professional, responsible husband grin and dance himself into a sweaty frenzy and forget about all his troubles.

So here’s my takeaway, my Life Lesson from Phish, in brief:

I will dare to embrace the unpredictable, disorderly nature of Phish’s music. It’s hard for me; because of the kids, my life is already full of disorder and unpredictability, and so I like my music tidy. But I know, just as any mother does, that there’s beauty in the chaos. I will do my best to remember this, to be open to the unexpected.

I will let my husband’s devotion to Phish inspire me. His borderline obsessive behavior (he just logged on to his Phish.net account to show me his show stats) is proof that being a parent and having a passion outside of that role are not mutually exclusive. Phish may not be for me, but I do have my own interests- book clubs, blogging, yoga, photography- and it’s okay to be unapologetic about the time I spend nurturing myself and my creativity.

I will make an effort to find meaning in a lyric that my husband has called his “Call to Action”, this repeated line from the song “Chalkdust Torture”:

Can’t I live while I’m young?
Can’t I live while I’m young?
Can’t I live while I’m young?
Can’t I live while I’m young?

I have only been to three Phish shows- soon to be five- but from my limited experience I can still hear the crowd singing along in hearty agreement. All of them, from the itinerant who hawks geodes on Shakedown Street to the tie-dyed frat boy to the suburban dad, are there for the same reason: to be part of a common experience that makes them feel alive.

Or so I’ve heard. I’ll just be there to support a spouse who can’t seem to live without Phish. There are worse things. With this in mind, I’ll try to enjoy it. Who knows, I might even dance.

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The Phish robot shirt moves on to child #2, who is fully, bravely, living while she’s young.