I originally posted this back on February 12, 2009, on my old blog, The Best Of Everything. The stuff I added today is in red.
Love in music, in books, or in Hollywood, tends to either be depicted as too good (perfect, with no problems), or too bad (doomed and/or forced to fight to get food for its sector or whatever dumb thing The Hunger Games is about; the only dumber YA book idea I have heard of recently is that one where the girl is irregular or whatever and is consigned to the future dystopia equivalent of an outlet mall) It comes in those two flavors, typically, the whole spectrum of love compressed down into the black and white of "love" as it's shown in "art."
But "love" in "life" is not so simple. When, in life, do two people from different social strata meet on a doomed ocean liner and fall in love instantly and eternally? When, in life, has an oil-rig jockey ever had a secret affair with his boss' daughter that was disapproved of right up until the time when [ASTEROID-Y SPOILER ALERT!] his boss punches him in the head or something and then steps out onto the asteroid to sacrifice himself for the previously-disapproved of love between the guy and his daughter (and also to sacrifice himself to save the human race, but that was obviously secondary?)
Well that probably happens a lot but THEY* won't declassify the reports.
No, "love" in "life" is not so much people staring at the green light across the bay
True story: this morning, so far, my and Sweetie's topics of conversation have included whether or not Lauren Conrad (TM) ever actually read The Great Gatsby, and also how happy it would make me if I had an app on my phone where that one Real Housewife who went to prison could give me thoughts of the day like Today is hot oatmeal day in the commissary! #MakingTheBestOfIt
and throwing themselves onto the train tracks and tying themselves to a whale (Ahab did love the whale, right? And he tied himself to it at the end? Or was that in The Little Mermaid 2: Electric Boogaloo?) Instead, love is more... realistic. And by realistic, I mean hopeful. And saying the wrong thing but meaning the right thing. And also a little mean but with good intentions. And grateful in a way. And also uplifting. And, of course, there's always Armageddon. That's love, too.
Confused? Don't be. It can all be explained and set out by listing
The Seven Best Songs That Show What Love Is Really Like
1. Fat, by The Violent Femmes.
What ART depicts love as being: Love in art is the ability to always say exactly the right thing at the right time, and to have yourself perfectly understood -- like what Hugh Grant does in every movie he's in.
Eventually. He's sort of a stutterer.
How this song shows the reality of Love: Listen to the first line. Imagine saying that to your wife. Do you ever manage to say the right thing? Of course you don't. That's why Hallmark is in business.
Is Hallmark still in business? If so, why? Why do people send cards? Why do people spend $4.95 on a card to send someone? Why do people suck so bad? #MakingTheBestOfIt
Who you'd put this song on a mixtape for: Your wife, when you try to convince her to just drop the divorce suit because your heart was in the right place. I'd also write on the note: Obviously, if you understood me, I was saying that you are NOT fat right now. Plus, I need my shirts out of the closet.
2. Blue Jean, by David Bowie.
What ART depicts love as being: Two people from different backgrounds or with seemingly different values meet and fall in love. Instantly. Neat, huh?
How this song shows the reality of Love: Does that ever happen? No matter how many times someone tries singing a song from the bleachers to impress Julia Stiles, or how many dances people do in the library, do the greasers ever date the preps? Or the rich date the steerage classes? No.
Who you'd put this song on a mixtape for: That rocker girl that sat in back of you in math class, the one with the spiky hair who hung around the guys that smoked cigarettes outside the back door in math class -- the girl you always thought was really sexy but worried that she'd beat you up if you told her. You'd never give her the mix tape, for that same reason. But it's a cool song.
3. What Ifs + Maybes, by Bromheads Jacket.
I bet I haven't listened to this song in SIX YEARS! I LOVE THIS SONG! WOO HOO #TheBestOfItHasBeenMade
What ART depicts love as being: In art, everyone always wants to join the cool group. Farmer Ted does everything he can to get into the party -- and it works because the prom queen gets drunk and he sleeps with her and doesn't face date rape charges, but instead is cool and presumably goes on to lead a happy life until the FBI one day raids his house and finds all those files on his computer. (This week on Law And Order: SVU...)
How this song shows the reality of Love: Once you're out of high school, what's so great about the cool kids? Nothing. It's not just me saying that, either -- it's a British rock star. Or group. Whatever. I don't know much about Bromheads Jacket. NOT THE POINT. Anyway, the song points out that if he was in the cool group, he might've ended up in prison or "stuck in a house somewhere with her and a baby" instead of the amazing life he's lived with his presumably less-cool girlfriend or wife.
Who you'd put this song on a mixtape for: A very understanding significant other who will not be offended that you have sort of pointed out to him/her that she/he's kind of a loser. (See song number 1, above.)
4. Untouchable Face, by Ani DiFranco:
What ART depicts love as being: Happy. People meet and fall in love and spend the rest of their lives together.
How this song shows the reality of Love: It's not a happy song. Not at all. In this song [SPOILER ALERT] people fall in love and then don't spend the rest of their lives together. Are they bitter about it? You betcha.
Who you'd put this song on a mixtape for: The guy or girl that has the restraining order against you. It's worth the weekend in jail.
The key to a longlasting relationship is not just talking about Lauren Conrad (TM). You also have to do stuff like take the cheese off someone's egg sandwich for them, like Sweetie did for me this morning, and you also have to do stuff like not mention to that person that she probably misunderstood you the other day, and that what you object to is not cheese on breakfast sandwiches per se, but cheese on pancakes, which is a gross thing that people do including McDonald's which puts cheese on McGriddles, which without the cheese are one of the greatest things humanity has ever done and proof of God's divine intervention in the world, but with cheese are like little balls of puke, and instead you just eat the sandwich without the cheese and you also take the ham off of it because industrial ham is gross.
PS THAT SENTENCE IS 100% GRAMMATICAL and also a brilliant demonstration of love.
PPS When Sweetie read that part, she said "And this from a guy who wants to eat a chicken breast on a doughnut with sour cream sauce."
PPPS: I do. I really do.
5. Beautiful Girl, by Flight of the Conchords.
What ART depicts love as being: Flattery will get you everywhere, won't it? Point out to a girl how beautiful, how special, how great she really is, and the world is your oyster. Just take those glasses off of her, have her let her ponytail out and change from those paint-spattered overalls, and soon you and her are in the spotlight dance together.
How this song shows the reality of Love: Look, most of us are not supermodels. Most of us are not models. Most of us, truth be told, would be considered the least attractive person in the K-Mart Sunday ad, the person that they make stand next to the lawnmowers instead of modeling sweaters or, God forbid, underwear. Shouldn't we be honest about that? And when we meet the most beautiful girl... in the room... shouldn't we definitely go for it while also not getting her hopes up? Is there a more romantic pick-up line, in short, than telling a woman that she could be a part-time model?
There almost certainly is, and now you see how lucky I was to land Sweetie.
Who you'd put this song on a mixtape for: Ideally, a girl who doesn't listen closely to the lyrics, but who will hear the romantic music and see "Beautiful Girl" written on the little sleeve and just melt.
It just occurred to me that not only are mixtapes not a thing at all, anymore, here in 2015, but they really weren't a thing back in 2009, either. I am an anachronism!
5. Diamonds on the Soles Of Her Shoes, by Paul Simon.
What ART depicts love as being: In the movies and books when a rich and poor person meet, they go on a magical date that somehow transcends the fact that one is dirt-poor, with the rich person finding the poor person charming, and the two then fall in love. Example: Lady And The Tramp. Eating food thrown out the back of a restaurant never seemed more romantic, did it?
How this song shows the reality of Love: When I began dating Sweetie -- who wasn't rich, but who had, you know, a job, -- I had zero dollars to my name. I was a struggling student who put together a romantic dinner of wine and spaghetti -- just like Lady And The Tramp! The spaghetti featured Ragu sauce. The wine cost about $3. The cork from the wine disintegrated and fell into the bottle and we spent the dinner, which we ate sitting on the floor of my apartment in the bad part of town, picking bits of cork out of our teeth. Also, Sweetie gets sick when she drinks wine. Love is about overcoming those flaws. First dates and poor people are not a magical combination. But sometimes, love will survive even in the face of ending up out sleeping on a doorstep.
Who you'd put this song on a mixtape for: Sweetie. Whoever yours is.
6. Road Movie To Berlin, by They Might Be Giants.
What ART depicts love as being: Love has been compared to many things in its time, almost all of them magical and flowery and rainbowy
it's a word
and fun. After all, "Love is a many-splendored thing," right? Art Buchwald said that, I think.
HOLY COW who even knows who Art Buchwald is? GOD I SUCK.
The exceptions are when love is scary and dark and maybe will keep you locked up in a basement for a while, like in that Eurythmics song, Love is a Stranger.
How this song shows the reality of Love: What if love was none of those things, but instead was a lot more like a road movie to Berlin? This song hits the nail of real love right on its one-way head: Can't drive out the way we drove in. And it points to the reason lots of love affairs begin: getting drunk.
On wine with bits of cork floating in it.
Who you'd put this song on a mixtape for: Someone artsy, or into German philosophers. Or your husband/wife once you've settled into married life.
7. We Will Become Silhouettes, by The Postal Service.
What ART depicts love as being: Timeless and eternal, but in a good way.
How this song shows the reality of Love: Love is timeless and eternal, sure, but it's more likely to end up with someone staring out the window at a scorched landscape while looking at a picture of the woman or man they loved. U2 once asked if love would last until the end of the world. They're nothing but pikers, doubting Thomases. The Postal Service posits a love that lasts not only beyond the end of the world, but into a time when nuclear holocaust has caused people's bodies to explode, leaving only silhouettes behind -- but silhouettes that are still in love.
Who you'd put this song on a mixtape for: Anyone: tell them that it's a timeless expression of love that demonstrates how you would go on loving them forever, no matter how bad things got, and that the fact that you will love them even when they're a silhouette, when their body finally goes, demonstrates that your love for them is deep and strong and emotional and not just based on their body. At which point, they will say Why, what's wrong with my body?At which point you would be well-advised to discreetly skip past the song "Fat" that you put on the tape next. You can't win that argument. Trust me, I know.
Happy Valentine's Day!