Infinite Playlists, Quick Flames, Slow Burns.

I have always valued the ability of the music of others to say what I can’t.

When I was in high school as the art of the mix CD was dying out, I hoarded songs on my iPod as though they were the last box of Jaffa Cakes. I used the lyrics of others to vocalise what I wasn’t able to put into words myself. And so began the infinite playlists, the playlists I would craft with specific people in mind. I would take songs that the subject and I had discussed, songs I knew they loved, or songs that just plain made me think of them, and add them to an On-The-Go playlist, which I would later merge on iTunes.

The boy I loved in high school had the first playlist. And after six months, his playlist had about 500 songs. 500 songs that made me think of him. I added these songs to the playlist the way a child eats Smarties – by the fistful. If he mentioned an artist, I scrutinised each song title and tried to determine which ones best suited him and the way I felt about him. Blink-182 was the staple artist on his playlist. Their lyrics summed up everything I thought I felt about him at 17 – what I thought was love, the pain he caused me by simply being my best friend and nothing more. I was naive. And much like anything that starts off with a bang, it ended in a whisper. We haven’t spoken in about four years because the girl he was dating from our senior year in high school to our sophomore year in college decided that I was a threat to her relationship and he could not have me in his life. The feelings are gone now, his playlist has been deleted, but I will always think of him fondly and laugh at the many life lessons he gave me – such as the thought process after hitting a deer with your car (“Male or female? Did it have antlers? How much did it weigh?”) and how to deal with crossing guards.

The second boy with a playlist was the boy from college. We met in a car and bonded over a Lana Del Rey song playing on the radio (you can read all about that here if you are so inclined). He was your stereotypical hipster, square-framed glasses, loved film noir and anything on vinyl. After three months, his playlist had over 1,000 songs. He and I used the lyrics of others to say things we couldn’t say. He had eclectic tastes and I think he loved the idea of “educating” me musically (mind you, he wasn’t musical. I have never seen him pick up an instrument). We would lazily spin records in his bedroom. I went overseas soon after we met, and because of who he is as a person, music became our best way of communicating. He would send me lists of albums and artists that he wanted me to listen to, and he would become withdrawn and silent if he heard of anyone else recommending music for me (he literally hated my flatmate for this reason, but if anyone has any business educating anyone musically, it would be him). Our biggest fight ever was about The Smiths. By the time he called things off with me, his playlist had grown to over 2,000 songs. And because that ending hit me hard, that was over 2,000 songs that I could not listen to. But our playlist, much like our relationship, had exploded at a rapid rate. It grew so quickly I don’t even think I listened to all of the songs, which I guess you could use as a metaphor for us. We escalated so quickly I don’t think I ever really knew him at all. When we ended, I think I mourned the loss of the possibility of all the things we could have had and could have been instead of mourning the person I had actually lost. I deleted his playlist about a year after things ended. He was an important lesson but not one that will make me look back fondly.

And now, we look at the most recent boy and his playlist. When we met, he didn’t get one. His permanence wasn’t even on my horizon. When we reunited about 10 months after we parted, the minute I got back to the US, his playlist began. I remember walking through the streets of Brighton, on a quest for my first pair of Doc Martens, listening to “Bedroom Eyes” by the Dum Dum Girls, and that became the second song on his playlist (the first was The All-American Reject’s cover of “Jack’s Lament” from The Nightmare Before Christmas, don’t ask). I didn’t continually add to his playlist the way I had with others in the past. And unlike the other playlists, the evolution of us is very apparent in the song selections. The Regina Spektor song with the catchy chorus in English and French that begs the listener not to leave in the most upbeat way? Added to the playlist. The song by Bright Eyes that he said reminded me of him? Added to the playlist. The Death Cab For Cutie song that he played for me on his bass? Added to the playlist. The Bob Dylan song that tangled us together after he left? Added to the playlist. The playlist shows when we were happy. It shows when we were apart. It shows when things were carefree and when things were difficult. And I know almost every song by heart – I’ve listened to his playlist now more times than I can count.

It’s been over 4 years of knowing each other. His playlist is only 102 songs. If listened to continuously, it would only play for 6 hours, 19 minutes. At first, it concerned me that I wasn’t behaving the way I had in the past with other boys. Why wasn’t I gorging myself on songs, stuffing his playlist full of the catalogue of an artist he had mentioned to me once? And I think that our playlist, much like the one for the boy before him, serves as a metaphor for us. It is a slow burn. Songs are added as they are relevant but only if they truly have meaning. It has grown with us. At times it is idealistic, at other times it is raw. But the fact that our playlist continues to expand, slowly, reflects that we are coming together, slowly. Slow and steady wins the race, and if it has taken this long for our playlist to be crafted – and the fact that it is still being crafted – maybe means that, much like our playlist, we are truly infinite.

Why Does No One Feel Bad For Emily Waltham?

I have loved Friends for as long as I can remember, and ever since my sophomore year of college, my very good friend has told me that I remind him of Rachel Green. I can’t even deny this anymore – she may be a bit vapider than I am, but the similarities are uncanny. And in terms of my love life, the Ross and Rachel storyline has always resonated with me but is currently resonating more than ever.

So it goes without saying that I never liked Emily Waltham.

Emily was an obstacle in the Ross and Rachel endgame relationship. Her presence prevented Rachel from telling Ross that she loved him. She tried to ensure that Ross cut Rachel out of his life after the infamous “I, Ross, take thee, Rachel” wedding fiasco. And I know I’m not alone in my dislike for Emily. Later on, the other characters even tell Ross that they are not fond of her.

This time, however, I found myself feeling horrific for Emily.

Picture this: so much has gone wrong regarding your wedding – the menu, the venue. You have to settle for things that you have impacted your dream wedding but honestly, it doesn’t matter because you get to marry a wonderful man. And then some bitch named Rachel shows up and ruins everything. Your groom calls you the wrong name, humiliating you in front of all of your friends and family as well as his. Then he has the audacity to invite her on what was supposed to be your honeymoon.

Although it was never going to work out between Emily and Ross, you have got to feel a bit of pity for her. I used to think she was the worst for trying to force Ross to cut out Rachel in addition to other sacrifices – moving, new furniture. Now I get it. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and when some bitch named Rachel ruins your wedding, you have to hold her the slightest bit accountable.

(For the record I still love Rachel Green and am so glad she and Ross were endgame, just gained a little empathy).

Watching HIMYM In Kitchens With Boys

I started watching How I Met Your Mother autumn semester of my junior year of college, while the show was in its eighth series – just one more before it ended. And I fell in love. I started watching it over my autumn break, sitting up in my parents’ family room, with my snoring yellow Lab at my feet. The clock would tick on – 1.00am, 2.00am, 2.30am – and I would power my way through just one more episode. This was before I had my own Netflix account, so I’d have to get my fix at home (side note: this is why I stopped watching Lost. I think I made it through 21 episodes of the first season one summer but then went back to school. By the time I could watch it again, I had completely forgotten what had happened and I didn’t feel like rewatching all 21 episodes). When I came home for winter break with a car full of stuff – I was leaving the country in January – I resumed my late night binges and managed to make it to series 5 by the time I arrived in Brighton.

Luckily, my flatmate was equally addicted to HIMYM but was far more caught up than I. He would leave me alone in my room to binge my way through two series before I could join him and our other housemate in the kitchen for their weekly episode. And we would sit up late at night, discussing how these 5 characters seamlessly represented us at different stages of our lives. He identified as the Ted at the time – the hopeless romantic desperately seeking a future and trying to push relationships from Point A to Point Z and bypassing the best parts. To this day, he is still the Ted to my Robin – at least, he was until that rubbish series finale in 2014 (an additional side note: I still love him oh so much, but not blue French horn level love). And I identified as Robin – jaded, cynical, tough exterior to crack but cracking that exterior would be worth it – I still identify with Robin to this day. He and I actually ended up predicting the series finale – which I’m still really angry about – but satisfied that we were right and saw the twist coming midway through series 8.

And that became the show I watched with my boys. How I Met Your Mother, Black Mirror, and Skins, but How I Met Your Mother was our cornerstone. When I returned to the states and when the final season aired, it was the three of us communicating via Whatsapp about every loose end that was resolved. And when the show ended, I didn’t revisit it. Until now.

And watching old episodes of HIMYM takes me back to a smoky kitchen with a tie-dyed tapestry on the wall. A kitchen with dirty dishes in the sink, that always felt cold no matter whether it was January or May, that always had empty vodka bottles and playing cards on the table. I can hear the crinkling of rolling papers as the boys rolled cigarettes that they would ash into an inch of water in empty tin of Heinz Baked Beans. And I can still hear their voices discussing the latest episode, the incredible harmonies between Ted and Barney during “The Longest Time,” and when they thought that Ted would finally meet the mother. But mostly, watching the show again reminds me of a time in my life when happiness came to me easily, when I felt secure, and when I met my family. How I Met My Family. How I Met My Boys.

A Rare But Brief Happy Post

Today, two of my Brighton squad members arrive in Cork to visit me for the next 3 days.

My heart is so full. I have missed them so much. But seriously. Full heart already.

It’s the little things, these little pieces of home that make me so incredibly freaking happy and make me feel in touch with where I belong.

M xxx

Losing and Finding Del Rey

Although I do fancy myself as quite indie, I have my moments where I can be classified as very, very basic. The sorority in college. The addiction to Starbucks. The massive crush on Harry Styles. The way I sometimes scream and run onto the dance floor when a song I love comes on at the club. The five flower crowns I own. And with this basic betchiness comes an obsession with Lana Del Rey, the throaty modern callback to a lounge singer era steeped in ethereal woodland fairy goodness.

After reading an article on Buzzfeed called ‘Don’t Let Men Steal Your Favourite Songs,’ I felt compelled to write this because I did just that. I let a boy who didn’t deserve me steal not only one of my favourite songs, but also one of my favourite artists. And he kept her without even really wanting her for nearly a year.

I met this significant boything right before I was accepted into a study abroad programme for the following term, so the timing was less than ideal. It was October 2012, Born to Die was incredibly popular and we bonded over a shared love of the album in a dark, smoky car. First, ‘Diet Mountain Dew’ was our song. Then it became ‘National Anthem’ and then ‘Radio.’ He would tuck my hair behind my ear, run his hand down the glittery sorority letters on the leg of my sweatpants, and whisper ‘You had me at Lana Del Rey.’ And I loved it.

When I went overseas, we decided to remain an item regardless of our short time knowing one another and it was hard. But we did it despite the ups and downs, and I loved that I could listen to Lana’s ethereal crooning just to feel closer to him from an ocean away. In May, one month before I was due to return stateside, I finally saw The Great Gatsby with my flatmate. That was it. ‘Young and Beautiful’ became our song. I envisioned myself standing on a beach as the song played, wearing a large sunhat, oversized Yves Saint Laurent sunglasses, bright red lipstick and a floral bikini as a gossamer white sheet blew in the breeze behind me while he took photos of the sea . I imagined the song spinning lazily on his record player as we sat in front of a fire drinking whiskey sours in the home we would definitely own someday. I pictured using that song as our first dance at our wedding, when even in my highest heels, my face would be pressed in his chest – he was a good foot taller than I am. Because in my 21 year old heart I knew – I had seen the world (I left our tiny campus and lived alone in another country), done it all and was ready to be with him, he would still love me when I was no longer younger and beautiful, and there was no way I would ever fall out of love with his dark sapphire eyes and voice like thunder. We had just survived one of the hardest things that couples have to face – distance – and we had done it with the help of Lana Del Rey.

I’ve learned that it is very easy to let people see what you want them to see about you when you are separated while trying to grow a relationship. I’ve also learned that sometimes, distance gives us a way of keeping things alive when close proximity would have killed it. Our relationship was the canary and the cat – as long as we were separated, things were great. And, as with any cat that knows it will never swipe the canary from its cage, his interest waned. His interest waned enough that he moved on completely without even thinking to alert me. After a full 8 months of dreams and plans for a future together, he didn’t even have the courtesy to let me know this was no longer something he wanted. He waited until we were both on the same campus, in the same building on different floors, and then ended our 10 and a half month thing that had withstood an ocean with a text message. And I was destroyed.

Lana Del Rey, but especially ‘Young and Beautiful,’ became a punch in the stomach. It took the introductory notes and Lana’s breathy exhale to knock me to my feet, sobbing so hard it was silent. There is a photoset taken of me at a party roughly two months post-ending. I am standing with my friend who I haven’t seen since I left to study abroad. In the first one, she is grinning and I am in the throes of proceeding to sob. In the second photo, my grin matches hers. The reason? ‘Young and Beautiful’ started to play over the speakers at the party we were both at, and my friend Jen had to yell for the hostess to turn it off before I cried off all of my mascara. Slowly, songs from Born to Die were purged from my Recently Played and Top 25 Most Played iPod playlists. And I slowly let all the fantasies I had of him leaving his new girlfriend and reclaiming me fade away. I leaned on Best Coast’s then-brand new EP, Fade Away, which seemed to give a outer voice to my inner thoughts. I became the girl who blasted A$AP Rocky as loud as possible driving to and from class, because I was going to be damned if I let him take that artist from me. But I let him have the crowning gem in my musical coping crown. I let him have Lana Del Rey when it was clear that he and his new girlfriend preferred hard rap to anything remotely indie and sweet.

The months went on. I slowly found the wistful longing and utter desolation I felt for him turn into utter disdain. And I found myself listening to Lana Del Rey again – everything, except for one song. ‘Once Upon a Dream’ from the upcoming Maleficent? Done. ‘Damn You’ from her earliest demos? Done. But I couldn’t face ‘Young and Beautiful’ without thinking about how I had been thrown aside and left to rot by someone who was clearly subpar to me.

But then, it happened. One gorgeous morning in July, I was walking down Westbourne Park Grove. It had rained that night but the summer sky was a brilliant blue with perfect white-cotton clouds.  I had my iPod on shuffle as I walked towards Portobello Road. ‘Young and Beautiful’ started to play. I looked up at the London sky, thought of the night I saw The Great Gatsby at the Odeon the year before with my flatmate (who I actually love more than life itself), and I smiled, reclaiming my song.

 

 

Four.

Picture this: a petite brunette wearing a long-sleeved black t-shirt, a blue and grey plaid kilt, black tights and boots. She takes a look around her new bedroom the size of a cell and attempts to scrub the mascara tracks off of her cheeks. There is a threat of snow in the air as she stares out of her darkened window to a view she cannot see. She walks through the unfamiliar kitchen, taking in the absolute mess and inhaling the scent of sautéing vegetables. She stops, suddenly shy.

Picture this: a tall, redheaded male wearing a white t-shirt and jeans, sautéing vegetables in a tiny kitchen. He takes her in with those unblinking eyes of his, reading her soul with a simple gaze. And they talk. They make polite conversation, neither of them knowing that within 24 hours, she’ll find herself with him and a bass guitar at three in the morning, shivering from cold but also anticipation. And he doesn’t know, as he stares at her lips, that these lips will be the ones that he cannot stop thinking about kissing.

Picture this: the universe letting out an inaudible sigh of relief, as it has finally placed these two individuals into each other’s paths. It squares its shoulders, ready to take on their journey of ebb and flow, of running and chasing, of separation and togetherness. But it is ready, even if they aren’t. It is ready to help make them ready. But they don’t know this yet. They won’t know this for awhile. It smirks as it waits for them to realise their inevitability, that they cannot fight each other, that they were created together with the other one in mind.

Winter Is Coming But My Feet Already Knew That.

My feet are cold. No, I’m not anxious or rethinking something major. My feet are literally cold. They’re currently white and although I keep tucking them up to touch the warmer parts of my leg, they’re still frozen. I wear thick socks but somehow the cold still seeps through. Even in the summertime, the air-con slowly sucks all heat from my feet and requires me to wear hiking socks indoors. I know this is dumb – a post about how cold my feet are. But I think we all know what this is about to turn into.

I remember the very first night I found myself in someone’s bed, nearly four years ago. We were going to attempt to steam things up by relocating to the shower, however, I got cold. As usual. Two years later, whenever he used to slide into bed next to me, my feet would brush up against him and he’d shriek. As I tossed and turned all night, he would always make sure that all of me was covered by the duvet. He would tuck my frozen toes in between his calves, even though I could feel the cold radiating off of them. When we were separated, he would always promise to catch up on warming me and my feet.

But now, it’s winter. Winter is coming and my feet are cold.Sure, there have been other foot warmers, thicker socks, boots, my own legs. But it’s not the same. The loss of him, the hiatus of his presence in my life, has left me feeling emptier and colder than ever. And I don’t know how to keep warm. I may just freeze.