Five songs that have made me cry (plus two more because apparently way more than five songs fit into this category)
- Groovy Kind of Love (Phil Collins)
My first major crush of adolescence was in ninth grade, on a boy named Jason Grooby. (That is not actually how you spell Jason's last name, but the real spelling is not phonetically obvious, and correct pronunciation is important to this story. Also, by spelling his name incorrectly, I hope to avoid any possibility that he will track down my blog the next time he decides to vanity-Google himself.) I went to a Catholic grade school, and by eighth grade, I had known the eight boys in my graduating class for so long and so well that even considering a crush on any one of them felt like incest. So when I entered public school as a freshman, I was entirely excited about all the additional options around me, all the fourteen and fifteen-year-old boys who I hadn't seen wet themselves in first grade and who hadn't known me through my awkward, gangly, brace-faced phase of late middle school. For whatever reason, Jason Grooby was the one I zeroed in on the most strongly. My best friend Jeni and I sat next to him in US History, and we ambled around the base of the bleachers looking for him at every football game. A girl named Amy who I actually couldn't stand found out I was interested in Jason, and she and I inexplicably bonded over the fact that we were both enamored with the same guy, a guy who apparently had no interest in either one of us beyond the major stroke to his ego we provided.
This was the fall that Phil Collins’s version of Groovy Kind of Love was released as a hit from the Buster soundtrack, and Amy and I used to sit in the art room, singing that song, replacing the word "Grooby" for "Groovy." It was pathetic, I realize, but cut me some slack; I was fourteen.
A few months later, Jason finally did ask somebody out. (Of course, this was ninth grade, when none of us could drive, so by "ask out," I mean he asked someone to "go with him," and by "go with," I mean that they were established in some way as a couple, but they actually rarely went anywhere together at all.) It wasn't me who he asked out, however. It wasn't even my pseudo-friend and rival, Amy. It was my best friend Jeni. I remember she told me about it very tentatively, knowing it would crush me, but I couldn't hate her; I didn’t have enough friends to spare one like that. So I just went home, locked myself in my room, and played Groovy Kind of Love on repeat while I cried and cried. And a week or two later, I shifted my attention to some other boy, and found a new theme song for myself. His name was Jesse, and as such, the words to Rick Springfield's greatest hit changed in my mind to say, "Oh how I wish that I were Jesse's girl!" But that's a whole other story, and item 1 in this list is already entirely too long as it is.
- Save the Best for Last (Vanessa Williams)
I also spent a good portion of my high school years entirely smitten with a guy named Shane. He and I were actually good friends, but I had a habit, apparently, of falling for some of my male friends. Junior year, Vanessa Williams's Save the Best for Last came out, and I instantly thought it could be our song. If only Shane could realize that I was actually perfect for him, that he should stop using me as a sounding board for his frustration with other (cuter, blonder) girls and just date me instead! I wanted to walk right up to him and ask, as Vanessa had, how he could give his love to someone else and share his dreams with me. I wanted him to forget about those other girls and realize that, indeed, "sometimes the very thing you’re looking for is the one thing you can’t see."
Alas, the likelihood of this happening, of course, was about the same as the snow coming down in June or the sun going 'round the moon. At prom that year, I watched him dance this very song with another girl--a girl who wasn't even blonde or cute and didn't even date him beyond that night. She also wore some sort of weird dress pants underneath her formal prom gown, so clearly there's just no accounting for taste in this case.
- Nothing Compares 2U (Sinead O'Connor)
I knew from the start that things with Jimmy weren't going to work out. He was a pothead, after all, and while he liked having me around, he was just as content smoking weed, drinking beer, and playing PlayStation hockey on his own. It shouldn't have affected me so much when the inevitable breakup occurred. But I still found myself feeling somewhat devastated. I didn't logically and seriously believe that nothing compared to Jimmy; I didn't really believe that "nothing could ever take away [those] blues," but at that point in time, I was sad, and I wanted to honor that and immerse myself in the sadness for a while. So I put on the saddest and loneliest song I could think of, a song on an album I hadn't even listened to since the lonely, angst-filled days of my late teens. I put on that song, and I let myself cry until I really couldn't cry any more. I remember asking my friend Julie when it was going to stop hurting, what it would take to feel over this guy who didn't fully deserve all this attention in the first place. "Time and another guy," she said. And she was right. A month or two later, I started feeling drawn to someone else, someone who, for better or worse, ended up being significant enough that the next three songs on this list are for him.
- I Can't Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt)
My last boyfriend and I had a good run for a while. We were best friends and had a hundred and one things in common. We never fought. My friends liked him. He liked my friends. For a long while, I figured this was the one that was supposed to work out, the one that was supposed to be The One. But about two months before our eventual breakup, I knew things weren't right. I knew something was missing or "off," but I didn't want to acknowledge it or talk to him about it because I wasn't ready to admit that we were done.
One of the local radio stations has a Sunday morning program they call Acoustic Sunrise, where they provide lovely mellow and folky and acoustic music as a soundtrack to the low-key and gradual weekend waking-up routine. A standard on this program is Bonnie Raitt's I Can't Make You Love Me. Despite the large canon of appropriate songs the DJs could pick for Acoustic Sunrise, this one makes the cut nearly every week. I've never been much of a Bonnie Raitt fan anyway, but at this point in my life, this particular song seemed to be taunting me, to be drilling into my head exactly what I already knew but didn't want to face. Bonnie would start her song of sad resignation, and I would cry and turn off the radio. I didn't want her telling me what I already knew. At one point, I actually got angry with Bonnie, and yelled at the radio, "I know! Leave me alone already!" This was only one of many signs that I was probably not entirely well just then.
- Not Pretty Enough (Kasey Chambers)
When we finally did have the breakup talk, I was OK for a while. Maybe I was in denial; maybe I knew it was really for the best. In the months that followed, however, every sad song of lost or unrequited love seemed to resonate with me more strongly than ever. Kasey Chambers’s Not Pretty Enough is the one I remember affecting me most strongly. It wasn't just because this one boyfriend hadn't cared enough; it was that the loss of that relationship had me feeling so sad and defeated that I felt like no one could ever possibly love me again. I was, as Kasey sang, not pretty enough. I cried too much. My heart was too broken. I was (and still am, I suppose), far too outspoken. This song still gets to me in a way that not a lot of other songs have, and for that, I can’t decide if I love it or hate it.
- I Fall to Pieces (Patsy Cline)
I really didn't intend this [now rather quite long and detailed] list to be a full recap of my last breakup, but as it turns out, I could probably come up with an entire play list of songs I identify with that single relationship. This is the last one I'll mention, however. Working in the same office as my ex-boyfriend is something a lot of people do not understand. "How can you do that?" I've been asked, time and time again. My answer, initially, was that it was actually easier that way. When someone is a part of your life for so very long, it's hard to just lift them out completely and never see them again. Particularly since our relationship didn't end in any ugly or angry way, it seemed comforting to have him around, to try to stay friends, to still see each other daily. But months down the line, I realized that seeing him every day really wasn't particularly conducive or helpful to the moving-on process. Oddly, it was Patsy Cline who helped me to see this most fully. I'd heard Fall to Pieces countless times, of course, but never, apparently, really listened to the words. On the way home from work one day, however, the ever-eclectic Current played this song, and for the first time, I really heard what it was about. And I cried, right there in my car, driving down Highway 36 all blurry-eyed and sobbing. Thanks, Patsy. And to any motorists who saw me dabbing my eyes at the stoplights, I say, "What? You never had an emotional breakdown mid-commute?"
- One True Love (Semisonic)
I already mentioned this one once, a few months back. The feeling still holds true, and I still identify with a whole lot of what this song is about. But when I see Semisonic for free in downtown Minneapolis this weekend, I hope not to dwell on that, really. The guys of Semisonic are great story-tellers, and I need to try identifying with some of their other stories instead.
OK then. That was undoubtedly a much longer and more open-hearted post than I ever intended for a simple "Five Things" list, but so it goes sometimes, I guess. Now if anyone needs me, I'll be looking through old photos and journals and drowning my sorrows and bitterness in vodka.
I'm kidding. (Mostly.) I'm really fine; I swear.