Making Mixtapes For Girls

So this weekend I’ve been getting a music education. And by that I mean, I struck a deal with a colleague.

Apparently the deal was, she linked me to songs by Mariah Carey and Beyonce, and I died a little inside each time I pressed Play.

In return I got two of my best shots in – a boozy, depressed Alkaline Trio number and a downbeat but defiant Tom Waits effort.

This experience, along with a memory of a ridiculous bid to impress an ex-girlfriend that I remembered while out on a recent tune-filled stroll, has got me thinking about all those lengths I used to go to, to let the music do the talking for me.

Moe the simpsons declaring intentions

Everybody’s got their views on mixtapes – Rob from High Fidelity, Barney Stinson and his friend Not-Moby among others. But for all the tapes and CDs I made with romantic intentions, I still couldn’t resist including a couple of tracks that were more just ‘this is what I like, and you should like it too’. Not especially romantic, not especially friendly even – for every ‘nice waking up next to you’ there was a ‘this is a rock ‘n’ roll takeover’ that blurred the message somewhat.

But more than my insistence on enriching a special someone’s music experience with whatever I was listening to that month, comes the annoyance with myself for taking the lazy route. It may be that ‘all my favourite singers have stolen all of my best lines’, but looking back I wish I’d still exerted a little more energy in expressing my own true feelings.

VH1’s (hiding) behind the music

In everyday life just as in my life’s worth of mixtape-making, I have this awful habit of hiding behind pop culture, when I should just be expressing my raw feelings and emotions instead. Rather than making an accurate articulation of my hurt, or pride, or surprise, or affection, I immediately make a lateral move into an impression from that episode of Frasier where he bellows “I…am…WOUNDED!” instead of just saying it in my own voice. Instead of dealing with the feeling from my gut, I find myself reaching past it into my brain for an equivalent from TV or films because it’s easier not to admit it out loud.

But before that, I settled for the long and drawn-out efforts of filling up 74 or 90 minutes of CD or tape with a bunch of songs that said more about my likes than my feelings. That’s why, if you were the unlucky lady somewhere between 1998 and 2006, you were more likely to get Every Time I Die than Elvis – a generational thing, I can only suspect.

(Out of interest, how do young men and women make their intentions clear nowadays? A Spotify playlist doesn’t have the same done-it-myself level of care taken, and you can’t use all your different coloured pens to make a nice cover either.)

I was reminded of an early and embarrassing romantic gesture the other day; my head full of all that nonsense I mentioned up top, a song came on my iPod which made me remember one of the first albums I ever gave to a girl. Trust me, there’s nothing on here that makes you think what a romantic sod I could secretly be – I’ve checked.

But the fact of the matter is, she wasn’t particularly that type anyway, so even if I had dared to give her something that was of the more flowery variety than this post-hardcore classic, she’d have laughed me out of the room.

Back then, at the age of 17 or so, I was hardly likely to possess the emotional intelligence to say much beyond ‘thanks for paying attention to me, now can I see your boobs?’ (In fact, that could’ve been the title of the first mix I made.) I definitely didn’t have the confidence for it – talking to girls was never something for my Lurve CV – so in a way it was something of a rescue. To be able to hide behind someone else’s music to promote feelings that, if not genuinely shared by me, occupied a close enough space in my head that I didn’t feel like too much of a fraud for setting up shop next door.

While I’m glad that I don’t really need music now to tell someone how much I care for them, thinking about those CDs I used to burn in lieu of spoken affection does make me wish I’d tried a bit harder to express myself back then, so that maybe it wouldn’t be so much of an issue for me in the future.

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