The parable of the prodigal John Mayer

The Flying Walrus, October 2006


After two weeks of anxiety-ridden tossing and turning, I can sleep peacefully once again. For a while, my romantic future looked bleak; I was losing faith and just before I gave up all hope, I saw it. There, waiting for me at the grocery store check-out, stood the glossy cover of US Weekly. And in big, bold yellow font, it read: “Dumped!” and then all was right in the world[i].

I usually don’t think twice about celebrity gossip. However inaccurate, I choose to believe that I have far more important things to worry about. So, when I hear stories about how Paris Hilton intends to remain celibate for a year, I laugh (in her case, hysterically), scoff, and then delete the information from my short term memory. But on an unusually dreary day in late August, I woke up and read the entertainment news on my Sympatico/MSN homepage and I almost cried: “Jessica Simpson and John Mayer: are they sitting in a tree?” The lack of creativity in the title alone calls for tear-shed, but JOHN MAYER and JESSICA SIMPSON?!

It wasn’t a case of irrational jealousy; I don’t wish to emulate Ms. Simpson, nor did I believe that John Mayer should be dating me instead (I don’t do musicians). I was convinced, however, that he should be dating someone like me and this is why I was so put off by the whole thing.

My problem was not with Jessica Simpson or John Mayer as people – they could have died together for all I care – it was about who they represent in a culture that takes their social cues from Hollywood. Their relationship seemed to me like a significant cultural allegory:

The talented, bright, attractive (*cough*) young man picks the busty, yet mildly retarded bombshell, and the reasonably cute girl next door, who, by the way, would love him like no one else, gets the proverbial “up yours”[ii]. So she sits at home, crying her eyes out, because she has no date to the prom.

I felt indirectly rejected by his decision. Mayer, unknowingly, spat in face of everything I’ve ever learned from John Hughes movies. By hooking up with Jessica Simpson, he declared to the world that immediate beauty trumps intelligence. How could I not have taken this relationship personally[iii]? This was the kind of move that I would have expected from someone like Tommy Lee or Nick Carter, but not John Mayer. He had gone too far.

What were his fans supposed to think? What now, of their grey sweat pants? If John Clayton Mayer, a large-headed, sallow-eyed gent from Connecticut (who holds an uncanny resemblance to Edward Scissorhands), wouldn’t accept them, well who would?

When in his prime, John Mayer made average women everywhere feel like their imperfect noses, droopy eyelids and crooked smiles were immaterial, as long as they could distinguish Miles from Coltrane. All he demanded was a head on his woman’s shoulders and the rest was gravy, sexy even. No make-up required. He sang about craving an imperfect, yet comfortable relationship with a down-to-earth girl.

In his 2001 music video, Your Body is a Wonderland, many female viewers (READ: every girl that lives outside the L.A. region and parts of Europe ) identified with the plain, yet attractive object of Mayer’s affection. They could believe he was singing to them. He offered love with no unrealistic expectations attached. And then it got shot to hell.

Or so I believed.

Back to the check-out and the US Weekly with a photo of Jessica Simpson looking stunned and confused, as though someone just asked her what day it was.

He came back, sisters! John Mayer realized his mistake and, hallelujah, he returned to his fans. And he brought with him a message for women everywhere, saying: “Barbie didn’t cut it, I want you back”. In that moment, I rejoiced for my boy had come home. With that, I immediately called my plastic surgeon and cancelled my boob job, and then went home to put my sweats back on.




[i] Except, of course, for war, poverty, famine, disease, global warming and Facebook

[ii] That is, until she invites him on a “I was an ugly ducking, but look at me now!” episode of Maury Povich and then we’ll see what’s what. THEN WE’LL SEE!

[iii] I am not insinuating that I am either really ugly or really intelligent.


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