Go free? I wasn't caught

Peggy Gurran

The Montreal Gazette, May 16, 2000

Confession. I don't get the Leonard Cohen thing. Never did, never will. Heresy, I know. Grounds to take away my city-columnist cap. Beheading, if gentle, intelligent folkies went in for that sort of thing. But I know the zen master would want me to be honest.

At first, I'll admit I felt like a bit of a freak. Was I really the only Montreal woman between the ages of 40 and 75 who never dreamed of going down to a place by the river with the beat poet of Belmont Ave.?

Did I alone hit the fast-forward button during Cohen's gravelly voiced cameos on Jennifer Warnes's Famous Blue Raincoat album?

I was pretty confident this aversion to Leonard didn't hide a hitherto unsuspected glitch in my genetic programming as a 40-ish Montreal-bred heterosexual female. However, just to be on the safe side, I took another close look at those stills of Russell Crowe in his gladiator outfit.

Not Alone

Strangely invigorated, I began making discreet inquiries among my friends, relations and colleagues. Slowly, they realized this was not a trap.

After I vowed I would never publish their names, they opened up, sharing their deepest secrets about the 65-year-old songwriter and Buddhist monk who couldn't make it down the mountain to sign autographs and schmooze with groupies of a certain age.

Those in their mid-50s were reticent, afraid to be cast out by the same in-crowd that once made them wear go-go boots and white lipstick. Women in their 30s and early 40s seemed relieved to speak out, especially once they realized that denying the Cohen mystique took up to 10 years off their age.

"Promise you won't tell anyone, but I always found his songs dreary, sexist, pretentious and monumentally depressing."

"He the guy in The Graduate?"

" 'Tea and oranges that came all the way from China?' What was that all about?"

"I really loved his TV show, although I never figured out why they made him wear those pointy ears."

"Actually, I'm waiting for the BeeGees comeback."

"Since when do penniless beat poets eat at Moishe's?"

Momentum built quickly, and word spread far and wide, to the fjords of Finland and coffee bars of New York. Finally, these women could express their true feelings without retribution.

getting together

If all goes as planned, next year we hope to host the first international convention of the Women Who Love Leonard Cohen Too Little. In the meantime, we're organizing a few workshops and seminars focusing on topics that have a particular resonance for our members.

Men Without Berets. How to find a poetic partner who also knows how to fix things AND owns at least one coat without team insignia. Because it's all very well to be a smoky-voiced Lothario boulevardier, but deep down what she really wants to know is whether you can change a flat tire, change a diaper and help out with the shopping.

Beyond Tie-Dye. Coffee-house chic for a new millennium. (Funnily enough, it looks an awful lot like those bell bottoms you spent days washing to pale, patched perfection, only more expensive and store-bought.)

Suzanne No More. "So would it kill him to bring the picnic just once? Does he have any idea how cold it is lying here by the St. Lawrence without any clothes on while he's molding my perfect body with his mind?" Assertiveness training for the aging hippie.

© 2000 by Peggy Gurran and The Montreal Gazette