Duf McKagan: Get In The Ring!


Duff McKagan's column appears every Thursday on Reverb.

My column from last week was a little story about me and my wife’s first experience talking to our daughters about sex. The response that this column received was amazingly varied and also overwhelming (I was even called a queer and told to go to therapy! Killer!). The good news is that most people were writing back with their own experiences, lending weight to the fact that it does “take a village to raise a child.” There were, however, some responses that I feel needed addressing.

This is a public forum and I do know that whatever I may put forth will come under scrutiny. That is absolutely cool with me. Know this, though: This is not an advice column! These are simply stories or observances that I have made from my distinct vantage point. This will be my 11th week, and I feel it is OK now to tell you my side to a couple things.

First off: To you other parents and readers that read last week’s column, thank you for all the good tips and kind words. This parenting thing is a trip! You definitely learn something new every day. I am lucky that I had a mother who taught me some really virtuous lessons from things that happened in her past. I use a lot of these lessons today in raising my own kids, and I need them because there is no “how to” guide when it comes to raising your own. You have simply got to “put in the hours” and pay attention. I tell my girls every night that I love them, but I know that I have to do much more. That “much more” is what NOBODY can school me on. My wife, our two daughters, and I have our distinct footprint, and no generalization quite fits our story. I don’t think that I am alone on this. Are you hearing me, parents? We kind of make it up as we go, don’t we?

For instance: Call me uneducated if you must, but I did not really understand what a “progressive” education was until my older daughter got into fifth grade at her “progressive” school! It took me that long to figure out that there were differences. How was I to know? Well, you just learn as you go, I guess. I had no idea how to change a diaper until I had to change my own child’s on her first day home. That’s the way it is. There are, however, things that are somewhat innate. Knowing what is appropriate, being a father to girls, gut feelings guide me on this journey.

There was one response to last week’s column that sent up red flags for me, and I will paraphrase. The reader stated that he showed his 9-year-old daughter porn to illustrate his “sex talk.” Hey dude, NOT cool and NOT OK! I believe that a father’s job with daughters is fraught with enough challenges and tightrope walks. A man should show his undying love and support for his girls, and be a strong and understanding shoulder and sounding board (among many other things!). “Visual guides” simply cross what I for one at least think are appropriate lines… to say the very LEAST!

OK, there were also a couple of quandaries about whether I thought modern rock music, and more pointedly, my old band Guns N’ Roses, were partially to blame for some of the problems in our society today. Were some of the issues that I spoke of with my girls (sex talk at school, etc.), partially provoked by GNR? As an artist and part-time historian of music, I have a few things to say on this:

1. I remember being somewhat amused in a Seattle U. philosophy class when I learned that the saying, “What’s the matter with our kids today?” originated from a quote by an ancient Greek philosopher—my point being that the question of society getting worse and worse and our kids responding in a more and more negative way has been going on for a long time. I don’t think our kids act worse than kids of the 1940s or 1840s or 640s. If anything, modern-day parents are probably more on top of things because we can instantly communicate with each other by phone or text-messaging. I get calls from other dads at school to give me a “heads-up” on school dramas or overheard conversations all the time. Also, I think parents are more educated on what signs to look for to spot abuse in other kids. We are educated because of modern-day communication.

2. Music has been the fall guy for sexual deviancy and social outrage for a long time. Music is an expression of feelings. Music can be social commentary. A band like GNR let the world into the life of five 21-year-olds who lived a somewhat wild and unedited existence. Period. Ravel’s orchestral piece, Bolero, from around 1920, got denounced because of the snare drum solo’s cadence. It was criticized for being the same cadence as fornication. We can say now, “So fucking what?” But it was believed then that society was indeed in danger because of this. We all know that the word “jazz” meant “fucking” back in the 1910s and 20s, but we don’t care, because we see how ridiculous it was that there was any outrage at all to jazz music. It’s just music. Turn your FM dial left or right in any U.S. city and you will find a smooth jazz (smooth “fucking”?) station. Personally, I like the sound of that! (I meant the music, you pervert!).

It was also asked if I had in fact filled my daughter’s in on my own past. I assume that this means my World Championship run at drugs and alcohol. The answer is, yes I have. In fact, in about the 3rd grade, my oldest daughter queried me on why I never drank wine with the other adults. I just sort of launched into my story with her. I told her that I am an alcoholic and that if I drank one beer that I probably wouldn’t be able to stop until I went crazy. We have this talk about once or twice a year now and I remind them both that they will have to watch themselves when drinking comes around them in their teen years. They are healthily horrified by my stories and I will keep telling them in more detail as the girls mature.

Well, I am glad that the editors at the illustrious Seattle Weekly were kind enough to let me rant and call it a “column.” I hope that perhaps someone reading this has something else to add. I have just received word that I will be covering our presidential election results for next week’s column. Oh, Sarah, you’ve been a bad girl…it’s time for some detention!

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