constellations #19: oh! darling
For a couple years in college and a couple years just after, I drove a navy blue late-’90s Volvo sedan. Before it was mine, it belonged to my grandmother. It was small but sturdy, and I have vivid memories of sitting in its backseat when my grandmother used to pick me up from elementary school. She passed away in 2006, and for a few years my mom couldn’t bring herself to change over the registration for the car, so it just sat in our driveway, and then eventually she did, and she handed me the keys. I christened the car Edith and fell in love.
Edith only had a tape player, and so I started buying tapes. Sometimes I would buy tapes at shows but this was before I started going to a lot of shows where bands sold tapes, so I mostly just listened to other people’s discarded best-ofs from thrift stores: Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, The Best Of The Doors, The Beach Boys, Billie Holiday, plus tapes from my friends’ bands. For my birthday senior year, Matt made me a mixtape. He made a little case for it out of nice stock paper and wrote “~Happy 21st Birthday~” on the front and the tracklist on the back. Along the spine he wrote “BASICALLY LOVE SONGS.” A time capsule of a moment, but also of a version of him, and also a version of me:
“Hot Pants,” James Brown
“Oh! Darling,” The Beatles
“Honey, We Can’t Afford To Look This Cheap,” The White Stripes
“Perfect Day,” Lou Reed
“Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” The Beach Boys
“The Man In Me,” Bob Dylan
“Lover’s Spit,” Broken Social Scene
“Hey Moon,” John Maus
“Kill For Love,” Chromatics
“Lazy Lover,” Brazilian Girls
“Electric Feel,” MGMT
“When You Sleep,” My Bloody Valentine
You can listen to it if you want.
This week we celebrated our anniversary, which is not a wedding anniversary or even an anniversary of our first date but is, charmingly, the anniversary of the day he asked me to be his gf on AIM. Traditionally I have celebrated by posting a picture of us in middle school on social media. It’s always a big hit
I actually find it a little hard to write about our love but the New Moon horoscope for my rising sign this month tells me that “when I risk being known, I come to better know myself, my talents, and what to do with them.” Maybe that’s relevant, I don’t know. I have been thinking about love a lot this year — because, like many romantically involved people who live together, we now spend all day every day together, and because we spent a lot of time with our families this summer, and because everyone on Instagram is getting married or engaged, or something — and one thing I keep coming back to is that feeling of being known. I think about how it can feel so vital, all the time, to calibrate myself to the version that is most lovable or agreeable or admirable (or whatever) to whomever I happen to be around in that moment, and the work it takes to try to find my footing and hide the dislikable or disagreeable or embarrassing parts. But when we are alone together, that reflex just shuts off. I don’t think I believe in a most authentic version of the self, like I am being my “truest self” around him or something like that; I think all those freaked-out try-hard versions of me are, for better or worse, just as true. But when we’re together, I just don’t have to work so hard to feel like I’m on solid ground. I just am. It makes me feel like so much more is possible.
Good luck out there; please take care of yourself and your loved ones. And I hope you celebrate the love you have this week.