What John Mayer’s Balls Can Teach Us

Autographed photo of John Mayer that I received as a member of his fan club. (And by autographed I mean hopefully signed by him and not his limo driver or something.)

Throughout my 20′s I dated 3 incredible men, 2 hot guitar players, 2 rich guys, 1 Latin loverboy, and 1 soon-to-be Catholic priest. I ended up marrying the best of the 3 incredible guys.

But the one man who has been a consistent presence throughout my entire adulthood is John Mayer.

At the risk of sounding incredibly corny, the guy’s music changed me. Now before you puke all over your computer keyboard, allow me to present the evidence:

  • After listening to his album for the first time, I went out and charged a $400 acoustic guitar to my credit card and started songwriting before I even knew what the hell chords I was playing.
  • Those lyrics. Oh my heavens, those lyrics. It sounds melodramatic but they help me make sense of my own feelings. In a single lyric he can pinpoint a thought or a feeling that I’d spent 7 clumsy pages trying to describe in my diary.
  • His guitar solos make me cry. Not in a Beatles, Elvis, or Bieber kind of way, but in an Oh-sh*t-I-know-exactly-how-depressed-you-were-when-you-wrote-that-guitar-solo-without-you-even-having-to-utter-a-single-word kind of way.

…And that’s what good music can do to you – it makes you feel invincible, broken, and completely understood all at once.

So you can imagine how much it breaks my heart to know that when John Mayer isn’t playing heavenly hymns for humankind, he’s kind of an ass.

Aerial view of John as I stalked him from a balcony on the night I met him. (For the great story behind my brief but perfect interaction with him, visit the comment section below.)

But his saving grace is the fact that he knows he’s an ass, he hates it, and he’s trying to change. We see this all over his songs (except maybe in “Your Body Is A Wonderland,” of course). John Mayer’s balls are in his music. That’s where most good songwriters keep ‘em.

But the best and ballsiest I’ve ever seen John was when he practically broke down in tears during the middle of a concert. After this CRAZY Playboy interview (you know — the one where he shared intimate details about his high profile celebrity girlfriends, then went on to say that he doesn’t date Black women because his d*ck is a White supremacist, among other insanely offensive things), Mayer emotionally confessed his crime in front of an audience of thousands.

He could barely get the words out because he had that pre-cry lump in his throat that makes people sound froggy. He said:

“In my quest to be clever I completely forgot about the people I love and the people who love me.

…I went into a wormhole of selfishness, and greediness, and arrogance in thinking that if I would just continue to be speedy, and witty, and pull together as many fast words and phrases as I could, that I could be clever enough to buy myself another day without thinking that anyone would finally pin me down and say “You’re a creep”. When I should’ve just given that up and played the guitar a little bit more, I didn’t. So I decided I’d try to be as clever as possible at the time, and I did that at the expense of people that I love. That feels absolutely terrible.

…I think it’s important that you know that everybody on this stage is here playing with me not because they condone what I say in any given interview…They’re on this stage because they support myself as a possible future grown-up. And maybe they see something that I haven’t seen.”

What John said that evening does not give him a free pass after what he did. But I like what was happening to him on the inside.

I don’t think it’s possible to live your life without ever hurting someone with a verbal bomb that you wish could be taken back. We’re human. We’re imperfect. We say really stupid crap. But it’s what we do about that imperfection that defines us.

Accountability, transparency, humility, self-awareness, love, and the sincere desire to change — these are the keys to turning our worst mistakes into the most triumphant displays of humanity.

The question is: Am I brave enough to transform my wrongs into rights? Am I courageous enough to make my crooked path straight? Are you? When I think of John Mayer I’m reminded that it’s never too late to try.

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15 Responses to What John Mayer’s Balls Can Teach Us

  1. Pingback: Preparing For The Inevitable Death of Our Parents | a brave life

  2. Pingback: What’s Your Cobweb Project? | a brave life

  3. Oh yeah, in fairness to John, a Playboy interview will make just about any guy look like an ass (or a bigger ass than he is).

  4. Hey Daughter-in law. Between your love for Oprah and John, you may yet convince me that you are an incurable groupie. But that aside, the theme of the post is appropriate to the human condition. And yes, I do understand the incredible power of music to move us, grow us, change us, and speak for us. Therefore, out of my deep respect for you I will go to the link for John’s video and, with an open heart and mind, seek for that which speaks to you. And if I’m not bored to tears (an effect John’s music often has on me), perhaps the words and music will speak to me too. Luv, FIL

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      Lol! Actually, I was bored to tears the first time a friend played his album for me. But then I sat down and listened to the whole thing (while reading the lyrics) and got hooked. If you ever wake up from your boredom-induced slumber, let me know what you think of the video. ;)

  5. Alicia says:

    Kim, I’ve been meaning to post about how much I’m enjoying your blog (given how crazy things are these days, I am usually behind and have to catch up with several entries at once). It is so honest, poignant and funny (a very delicate balance to achieve), and your writing reflects your personality really well! I of course loved this post because I share your love for John Mayer, and I agree that he is able to capture a whole slew of emotions in a single sentence (Jason Mraz, one of my other favorite singer/songwriters, does a nice job with this as well!). I wish you were in Boston when I turned 30 (in March, that’ll be 2 years ago – shhh, don’t tell anyone :) ). To celebrate we got a box with a bunch of friends for one of his concerts – this was shortly after the Playboy incident, and he was much less chatty than normal (I think he did his big apology the following week). Can’t wait for a new album and to see him again in concert!
    Btw, I love that you spoke to him, and that he understood you completely. You go girl! Great job with the blog – I look forward to your future posts!


    • Alicia says:

      I also meant to ask, what is your favorite album/song? I like it all, but I especially love the first couple, and right now I really like “My Stupid Mouth.” :)

      • Kimberly Eclipse says:

        Hi Alicia! I’m SO ecstatic that you’re enjoying the blog. The way you receive my writing and perceive this project are exactly what I was hoping for, so your words really mean a lot to me.

        What a great way to spend your 30th birthday! Like you I’m eager to go see him again in concert (it would be the 9th or 10th time for me, lol). I’m dying to see what he puts out next! I don’t know what my favorite album of his is, to be honest. I agree that his first one has so many great tunes on it (“My Stupid Mouth” is a classic!). That’s an album for a nice sunny Sunday drive – it feels youthful and sentimental for me. But I also really like how his music has evolved since then – his heavier stuff is what really moves me. The album I listen to nowadays is his latest one, Battle Studies. Here’s the song on there that I listen to obsessively on repeat:


  6. Sheryl says:

    Best part of his quote? “they support myself as a possible future grown-up”. Possible future grown up … that pretty much describes to me what being in my twenties feels like. One day in the future I could possibly be a grown up.

    I love the exploration of how we all screw up but can move beyond that. Never would have thought about using John Mayer of all people to do it, but you’ve used him as an AMAZING example.

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      Yeah, I love that line too. I’m in my 30′s and I STILL feel like I’m trying to figure out this whole grown-up thing.

      I think screwing up big time is the key to becoming the best version of yourself (if you evolve from there, of course). I remember when I was younger – like in my teens and early 20′s – what was right and wrong was very black and white. It wasn’t until after I aged and made some major, hurtful, what-the-hell-was-I-thinking?? grown-up mistakes that I actually became more compassionate to others and to myself. Weird how that works. Which is why even though John Mayer is no Gandhi or anything, I still think he’s a good example of what personal growth looks like for most of us average Joe’s.

      • Sheryl says:

        It’s also way easier to relate to John Mayer than Ghandi :P I studied him (Ghandi) fairly instensely in university, and as much as I loved his philosophy and was inspired by his world view and what he created in the world, it’s very hard to relate someone who really seems to have it all figured out.

        John Mayer is relateable though. It’s that reminder that yes, people screw up. Screwing up though does not define us, we can be more than our mistakes and move past them.

        This actually has me thinking a lot about your death row inmate pen-pal post. The prevailing idea that yes we all make mistakes and do stupid and sometimes terrible things – little ones, small ones, big ones, massive ones – and we all have to live with the consequences of said mistakes, but that those mistakes are not the be-and-end-all of who we are. Some mistakes will have a bigger impact on how people perceive us (and how we perceive ourselves) and therefore become a bigger part of who we are (esse est percipi) but they are not all that we are.

        Our mistakes are part of us, but they do not define us. We can grow and move forward from them.

        I’m going to go think that through more before I ramble anymore.

        • Kimberly Eclipse says:

          I was studying Ghandi a lot last year (and I still always spell his name wrong!). Like you, I love his ideas but putting them into practice is a whole other ball game.

          Looks like you’ve picked up on my obsession with the theme of:

          So I’m imperfect, often a coward, and sometimes an ass. Now what?

          …The story of my life! And I guess I like writing about other people who struggle with the same question.

          • Sheryl says:

            I think it’s a pretty universal question, and at times I can see absolutely anyone relating to it.

            As someone who often just needs to speak the eff up sometimes even when there are all these excuses not to, something I found really interesting about this post is it explores the opposite situation (he would have done better to shut his mouth and now he has to fix it) …. and you know what? Yeah he was an ass and people weren’t happy. But it wasn’t the end of the world and it’s possible to move past it. Suddenly opening my mouth doesn’t seem too terrifying.

            • Kimberly Eclipse says:

              Dude…are you my sister from another mister? Because I’ve got the same problem. But you’re so right — it’s not the end of the world if we screw up. I figure if people like us can be brave enough to “speak the eff up” we’ll be brave enough to sincerely apologize and try to make amends if we’ve messed up.

  7. Kimberly Eclipse says:


    My sister and I had tickets to see him in an exclusive and intimate private interview. At the end of the interview, me and a dozen screaming girls ran to the foot of the stage to shake his hand. It seemed that he reached out and shook everyone’s but mine before walking away. In the few seconds that it took him to head backstage, I knew that this would probably be my one and only chance to meet my musical hero…and there was no way in hell I was leaving without having some sort of interaction with him. But what should I say?

    Suddenly, I remembered that in every single interview he talks about how at age 13 he listened to an album by blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan and began playing guitar and songwriting soon after that. It was a turning point in his life. And in that moment I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to tell him.

    I called out as loud as I could: “John!” And oh my gosh, get this…he stopped in his tracks, turned around, and headed right toward me! As he took my hand I said “You’re MY Stevie Ray Vaughan.” (And then I said it a second time because that’s how deeply I felt it.) He said in a sort of surprised way, “Oh, THANK YOU!” with an inflection in his voice that told me he knew exactly what I meant — that just like him, in a single sentence I was able to “pinpoint a thought or a feeling that I would’ve spent 7 clumsy pages trying to describe in my diary”. Even now, 7 years later, there is nothing else I’d need or want him to know except those 5 words I uttered that night as he held my hand.

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