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Watching Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist last night got me thinking about mix tapes, that somewhat retro staple of romantic gesturing.
Nick in the movie (played by Hot Geek Micheal Cera) is fond of making mix CDs. He’s a music buff and plays in a band, so he’s pretty accomplished at it too. He made them for his girlfriend when they were going out, but his best work came once they’d split.
Heartbroken, he keeps on with the love curation, even making special DIY sleeves. This, I’ve decided, is the mix tape’s true purpose – a post-relationship torture device. We’ve been conned into thinking they’re happy, ‘we’re-so-in-love-and-we-have-all-this-great-music-in-common’ tokens, but in my experience they’ve always taken on a more sinister meaning.
Take the one I received in my early 20s from ‘Reiki Boy’ (he lives in Brighton now and is fond of alternative therapies). He gave it to me when we’d split up, or maybe it was during the horribly drawn out ‘we’re on a break’ period, and contained such gems as I Love U, But I Don’t Trust U Any More by Prince and Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad, also by Prince. Yes, it paints me in rather a bad light, doesn’t it?
Another significant mix came from the Big Ex, my second-to-last, most painful boyfriend, who I was with for five years. He had great taste and was something of a mentor to me in the ways of credible music (so clichéd, I know).
This started out fun but became laborious as my life increasingly became like a game of musical Top Trumps and he’d scold me for mixing up my James Taylors and Neil Youngs.
Like, at first, during the lots-of-sex-phase, we’d sit up all night, stoned, listening to a ton of great music – Gil Scott Heron, Nick Drake, Terry Callier, Love.
I’d be loving it, he’d love sharing it with me. I’d be like, ooh I’ve never heard of Todd Rundgren, this is a fun track! And then we’d make sweet love. Or something.
But then, Something Changed, and not in a good way like the Pulp song suggests. He started to get fed up that I didn’t have all this music knowledge anyway; already. He didn’t seem to want to share it anymore. But I’m like ten years younger than you, dude, I’d be saying to him (without the dude bit, which would have really pissed him off).
So the carey-sharey-lovey-dovey music sessions kind of stopped and, yes, the Top Trumps weirdness set in. Despite this, I still got on his case to do me some compilation CDs so that I could listen to the tunes he’d introduced me to without, you know, having him breathing down my neck with a tense quiz whilst I was doing it. Total buzz kill.
It got to the point where I’d been pestering him for about three years – I know, THREE YEARS! - to put me a mix together. I mean, it wasn’t a lot to ask, what with him doing fuck all at home apart from downloading music on my computer whilst I brought in the money (but that’s another story).
Needless to say he never managed to get his act together to complete this task while we were together. I like to think of this as my Noughties version of ‘her indoors’ pestering her old man to hurry up and get that spare bedroom decorated.
Anyway, he waited until he was desperate and had completely fucked everything up with our relationship before committing his feelings to CD. By which time it was, of course, too late. He seemed to think that his magic mixing would magic the love back. It didn’t. Because, as you can probably tell from this rant (I mean, piece of writing), there were A LOT of things wrong with this particular romantic picture.
I have kept the CDs because he did have fantastic music taste (and I do want to remember our short-lived good times), but I’ve covered his desperate love message labelling with masking tape (glaringly obvious metaphor, anyone?) and penned on the new titles ‘Good shit 1’ and ‘Good shit 2’. That was therapy, of sorts.
Now that I’m fully grown and without a weirdly controlling boyfriend in manner of Sleeping with the Enemy I am sole custodian of my own music taste; curator of my own mix tapes. Well, playlists.
And I’m more than happy with that, thanks very much.
Mix Tapes Suck. The End.