Monday, February 4, 2013

Listening to The Cars, With Boys

My College boyfriend has been referred to as "the dreaded ex", with decreasing vehemence, since we broke up many, many (many) years ago.  It has gotten to the point where some of my friends don't actually remember what his name is. This is the way I like it.

The fact is that he wasn't a very nice person.  Ultimately, everything I know about how to set appropriate boundaries to have a balanced, meaningful relationship, I learned from the car crash that was the two years I dated the DE.

One of the longest standing aftereffects of that relationship was musical.  For years afterwards, I couldn't listen to any music that reminded me of him.  The Ramones became tainted.  Even a whisper of Concrete Blonde gave me hives (in case you haven't figure it out by now, he was significantly older than I was).  The band that I most closely associated with him, and thereby loathed with particular ferocity, was The Cars.

He had introduced me to Rik Ocasek's unique vocals and poppy/rock sensibility.  I was hooked.  When we started dating I used to listen to their greatest hits compilation on repeat, during long hours of driving aimlessly up and down the streets of London, Ontario.  Even before I finally ended the relationship, I began to react negatively to "just what I needed" jabbing the radio button with particular force whenever the song intruded.  I stopped including Cars tracks on any of the mix tapes I made for my classmates and/or friends at schools both near and far.  Those mix tapes, in general, became much more maudlin as the end drew near.  A good friend of mine still has a tape I sent to her in March of the year that he and I broke up (it happened in April).  She had included a subtitle in the liner notes - music to slit your wrists by.

In the years since, I have never had the same kind of musical connection associated with any of my other breakups.  This must be partially due to the "first cut is the deepest" adage, but could also have to o with how music is now purchased and consumed.  The days of listening to a single CD on repeat, for weeks at a time, are definitely over.  Or at least, those days are over for me.

Slowly, over time, I would hear a song by the cars and not react, or only realize close to the songs conclusion that it was playing at all.  Progress.

Here in Chicago, as I was driving into the office this morning, "you might think" came on.  I pumped up the volume and sang along at the top of my lungs.  Time heals all wounds, even if they're musical.

"You might think I'm crazy, to hang around with you."

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