I was driving my daughters to Staples.

They like to go to Staples. I needed more pens.

The song “Carey” came on, by Joni Mitchell.

The wind is in from Africa. Last night I couldn’t sleep. Et cetera.

After the first verse, Rose asked what the song was about. She’s seven.

I said I thought the song was about a young woman who comes from money. She’s rich, but the people she’s spending her time with aren’t rich. They’re not her people. She’s been hanging around with a man who’s older than she is, but it won’t last, and she doesn’t want it to. She’s not in love with him.

She’s not in love with him? Rose asked.

No, I don’t think she is, I said. She likes him. She’s never met anyone like him. He carries a cane, for style, and he’s fun. She feels something for him, but it’s not love.

I could tell Rose had stumbled over this thing about the woman in the song not being in love. She didn’t get it.

Or maybe she did, but it seemed like she didn’t, and I can see why she wouldn’t. Most of the stories she’s heard involving love are about people who are completely in love.

The princess finds love at some point in most Disney movies. In the things Rose reads and watches, people mostly live happily ever after.

“Carey” is not about that.

Or, I guess, it’s sort of about that.

The woman in the song is a kind of princess, living out a Cinderella fantasy. She’s not the dirty servant of a wicked stepmother, but her fingernails are filthy. She’s got beach tar on her feet. She can leave anytime she wants to, though. She wants to, but she’s going out with Carey one last time before she’s gone for good.

I don’t know where else Rose would have heard a story or song about a woman who has found pleasure but hasn’t been trapped by it. Most of the songs she listens to aren’t about pleasure at all. They’re about women being strong and powerful badasses, or whatever, not women who are taking breaks from their stupid lives to get drunk with men they don’t love but whom they enjoy all the same.

“Carey” would make a terrible work song. I love it for that.

At Staples, Rose picked out some dry erase markers for her teacher, who complains her markers are always getting taken away.

Rose chose for herself a variety pack of slime in different colors. Red, orange, green, pink, blue, blue, and blue—three shades of blue.


I haven’t asked Rose about “Carey” since we heard it in the car. She hasn’t brought it up. I don’t want to read too much into her curiosity about it.

But I can’t deny what I think I saw in the rearview mirror of our Forester. My daughter Rose, whose days are flooded with expectations for her future, in ways a lot of people without daughters don’t appreciate, heard and really listened to a joyful song about someone who is doing something because it feels good, who is going to dump a man and keep moving. She’ll do it with a smile on her face.

Maybe Rose has picked something up from “Carey.”

Maybe she’ll know what to do when she finds herself in the close company of someone she doesn’t love, but who knows how to have a good time. Someone she doesn’t need, but who pleases her all the same.

Maybe she’ll know, when she’s older, how to enjoy herself without sacrificing herself. How to find joy in other people and know when it’s time to go. How to have the time of her life and not let the bright red devils trap her beneath the Matala moon.

Maybe she’ll rent a grand piano. Maybe she’ll go to Rome.

Robert Long Foreman‘s most recent books are Weird Pig and I Am Here to Make Friends. His collection of essays, Among Other Things, came out in 2017 from Pleiades Press. He lives in Kansas City.

Art by Sheila Squillante