Features, Post-Mortem

Unbridled Narcissism, or: a Study in Red

You know how when you say something over and over, it stops sounding like a word and just sounds like nonsense? Well, it’s even weirder to do that with your name. It’s come to my attention that the music industry is fairly fond of “Ruby,” so I’m indulging a bit and taking a good long listen to these Rubies. Part of it is just curiosity; I mean, who are these Rubies? Why that name in particular, and not a more common one like Emily or Sarah? Maybe it’s a little unabashed egocentrism, because let’s face it, it’s kind of cool to have a song that seems written just for you. At least, it’s cool until the five hundredth time someone calls you “Ruby Tuesday” like you’ve never gotten that before.

Kaiser Chiefs, “Ruby”

Freshman year of college, I had a friend who lived in the building next to mine. There were long concrete benches out front, and he and his friends would loiter there, cigarettes in hand, making small talk with the international students who chainsmoked there all day long. when he saw me coming, he’d sing out “Ruby Ruby Ruby Ruby!” in mimicry of the Kaiser Chiefs. It was such a little thing, but still, it’s kind of nice to have your own song.

Best Line: “Due to lack of interest, tomorrow is canceled.”

Kenny Rogers, “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town”

I have to say, I’m not such a huge fan of Ruby in this one. In fact, she’s kind of a bitch. Of course I’ve never been in the position of marrying a paralyzed war vet, so I can’t say exactly how I would behave in her situation. Still, it’s pretty gross to cheat on your disabled husband knowing full well he can’t do anything about it.

Best Line: “I just heard the slamming of the door / The way I know I’ve heard it some one hundred times before / And if I could move I’d get my gun and put her in the ground.”

Rolling Stones, “Ruby Tuesday”

I’m sensing a theme here. Why are all these Rubies abandoning their men? But it’s almost liberating—they are their own women, they belong to no man, they do their own thing. I respect that.

Best Line: “While the sun is bright / Or in the darkest night / No one knows / She comes and goes.”

Johnny Cash, “See Ruby Fall”

Okay seriously though, this Ruby is so shady. I was kind of hoping that the fictional women I share my name with would be more… I don’t know, reputable. I’m not one to judge, but at the same time, these Rubies are giving the name a sketchy reputation.

Best Line: “I didn’t hold her back when she got restless / One man is not enough when she wants it all.”

Foster The People, “Ruby”

This song conjures up a vivid image of a single mom living in a British suburb, folding laundry and staring out the window at the gray skies, wondering how she got to where she is: how she made it to middle age without figuring everything out, how she still feels so alone. She’s not the happy, carefree Ruby of the other songs, not the Ruby who takes her love to town or leaves her man all by his lonesome. She’s down on her luck, and she’s been that way for awhile. But you know what? I think she’s going to be okay.

Best Line: “She’s got a jar full of change saved up for vacation / And she’s watching her sons growing up just like their mom.”

While I can’t say I’m entirely pleased my name is associated so strongly with promiscuity (thanks, Kenny Rogers), the feminist in me is almost proud. However, the question–why Ruby? and why not Karen or Nicole or, I don’t know, Felicia? Is it because red is supposedly a color of desire, of lust or even power? Is it just because all these musicians had shitty girlfriends named Ruby and wanted to stick it to them? I’ll probably never be sure, it’s not like I can just email Johnny Cash and ask, so for now I’ll just enjoy my moment in the spotlight, lived vicariously through other Rubies whom I’ll never truly know.

July 20, 2016

About Author

Ruby Johnson Ruby is a semi-reformed emo kid who believes that you're never too old for mosh pits and metalcore. 84% of her time is devoted to playing with her 12-pound rabbit, Toby.


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