Rock Moms Bust #8 Interview With Kristin Hersh by Tori Galore
Kristin Hersh and I spoke by phone, and as we chatted I could hear the dishes being done in her Rhode Island kitchen. It seemed to give our conversation all the more of a "regular mom" feel. The following week that sense of coziness was replaced by the surreal vision of Kristin on stage at Brownie's, a sweaty, cramped dive in NYC's East Village. The Throwing Muses' latest release, Limbo, is a deft myriad of hide-and-go-seek rock coupled with Kristin's complex psyche. Melodic, yet mad. Her significantly knocked-up tummy was the actual resting place for her guitar. Her prenatal kid had no escape from the rumble and din of music vibrating from mom's body. My mind boggled to imagine the the womb. At the first set's conclusion, Kristin earnestly thanked her public for not smoking. Regular is one thing this mother is not.
T: Tell me about your kids...
K: I have a 10-year-old named Dylan, a 5-year-old named Ryder and one who will be born on New Year's Eve. I'm just beyond the sick stage now and just into fat and happy which is my favorite part. I don't get funky hormone things either so I'm usually in a good mood when I'm pregnant.
T: What was going on in your life when you got pregnant with Dylan?
K: I was 18, in a band, living in Boston. The band was living together in an apartment. It wasn't a great time to have a baby, I don't recommend it. He kinda grew up in a van, sleeping in bathtubs in hotel rooms, which I felt terrible about but he didn't notice. Just to have Mom there, that was home.
T: Were you dating the father?
K: High school boyfriend. We dated a few years, then we broke up, then we got pregnant -another thing I don't recommend.
T: Why did you choose to keep the baby?
K: I guess you always think you're gonna have an abortion, it's the sensible thing to do. I went to the beach right after I found out and I was the only person in the world who knew about this life, and I just stared at the water and it seemed like a real life. There was a spark there that I didn't want to get rid of.
T: How would you advise a woman in the same situation?
K: I don't think you can. I don't think there ever is a same situation.
T: Who raised you?
K: My mother. My parents were divorced. Mom is a sweet, southern lady who thinks being kind is the most important thing in the world. I had a kind of a hippie, flighty Dad. He went out to Death Valley and listened to voices in his head. He's our Dad, but I don't know if I would call that raising kids.
T: What is the main difference between how you were raised and how you're raising your kids?
K: We have a nuclear family. We're very intent on keeping the kids' life a kid's life. We don't let them into reality easily cause we don't think they can take it yet. I remember not being able to take it and having it shoved in my face.
T: The similarity?
K: The kids live on health food, which we just despised our parents for. Tofu was like junk food to us. Then you go to school and you realize that you're a hippie freak, just like your parents. So that's what I feed my poor children. They're bitter of course, but they're beautiful.
T: Is there anything you swore you'd never do as a mother that you now find yourself doing?
K: I tell them what they like to eat. I'll say, "But you love this!" Now I know why my mother did this.
T: Are you raising your sons genderlessly?
K: They are turning out that way. I don't know how much is us. My job seems pretty much to be pouring the cereal and doing the laundry and they raise themselves. I'm too busy to do much forming. They're not excessively feminine, but they are very gentle and kind and complex. They never went through that "grrrr" he-man thing. That would be as freaky to me as if I had a girl who was flirty or manipulative.
T: How will you explain drugs to your kids?
K: Boy, that's a good one. Dylan sees it but I don't think he knows what drugs are for. It's easy to look at a junkie and think they're insane, it's not so easy to do that when you can recognize the junkie in you.
T: What is your proudest Motherhood accomplishment?
K: Their health, I guess. 'Cause I'm not really responsible for anything else. You don'tknow how to make fingernails, but you did somehow; you figure the whole thing's magic and you got tricked into it. And it's like that everyday. They like having me around, but the only thing that I really have control over is how healthy they are, and that's not a little issue.
T: What would you say is your greatest regret?
K: I don't see the kids as often as I want to. There's no way to make up for that lost time and yet, I've got to look at the positive side of that, which is that they see a woman and her family doing something with a passion and also caring enough to focus on them, which we both do. It's just that I spend a lot of time paying my dues in other ways, not just motherhood. When I'm home, I'm home. I'm a real housewife.
T: What is the greatest hope and desire you have for your children?
K: That they're honest and happy. You can be happy without being honest and that's no good.
Article originally appeared in BUST magazine, issue number 8 (Fall/Winter 1996), conducted via phone by Tori Galore.