We were in the car recently and a distinctive voice came on the radio and I thought Santigold, and then I remembered the album that we listened to when we first got together and how the words of one song in particular seemed to speak so truthfully about the core challenge of that relationship. Then I thought maybe that’s true for all my previous relationships as well. And it sort of is.
I can say I hope it will be worth what I give up (Santigold, L.E.S Artistes)
When I met J I was living with a good friend, teaching at university and finishing my creative arts masters. But more than all of these things, I was finally happy again. I was one year out of an emotionally bleak relationship that had me doing IVF for a mind-fucking three years with no success. Over 40, and 78.6% reconciled to being childless, J brought with him some pretty serious baggage from a former marriage – three daughters aged 12, 9 and 3.5. So you can see why the song became our anthem. Giving up stuff was what I had to do, including trading refugees, artists, lesbians, and drug-addled souls (Footscray) for soulless Stepford Wives in four-wheel drives (Brighton). It certainly wasn’t (isn’t) all beer and skittles but yes, it is worth it. I even married him.
Don’t cry out loud, just keep it inside, learn how to hide your feelings (Peter Allen)
I know. What the fuck? A musical? This was that emotionally bleak relationship. I hit my late thirties and something broke in my brain. I got a bad dose of baby-fever and the best thing going was W. Smart, funny, but also a selfish bastard, the first night I moved into his apartment he hid all my bathroom stuff away because it was annoying him. There was something good deep inside him, but it was super hard to find.
Get this – he bought tickets to The Boy from Oz for my birthday. I’m not a musical fan. He LOVES a musical. This is the man I went through IVF with. A year or so into IVF he announced that if I didn’t get pregnant he would leave me. So I too learned how to keep it inside and hide my feelings, but as anyone who has done this for any period of time knows, it’s toxic to the soul. Yes, all my friends told me. Get the fuck out. And finally, I did.
For a minute there I lost myself, I lost myself (Radiohead)
S was a filmmaker, he moved from Auckland to be with me, it seemed like a good idea at the time. We lived in a beautiful art deco flat in St Kilda. Neither of us had much money, he found it hard to find work and I turned down a great job in Sydney to concentrate on my writing. He really wanted us to move there. Our combined neuroses ate up all the air in the room. We shouted at each other. Once I hit him with a wooden spoon I had been stirring the pasta sauce with. I think it was on the head. Sauce went everywhere.
I started three years of psychoanalysis because I was starting to feel like I had lost myself. My shrink traced all my relationship issues back to my relationship with my father. Still, it is one thing to know something, and another to make a change. S moved to Sydney to look for work and took up with D, someone I’d known through film school who I always thought was a real bitch. I was pleased to hear later that didn’t last long.
I feel stupid, and contagious, here we are now, entertain us (Nirvana)
D was all about entertainment, that’s for sure. He lived in a massive house on Brunswick Street with musicians and various other nocturnal heavy-drinkers. He wanted to become an audio engineer. I lived up the road with some annoying hippies and spent too much time at his. We fought. I was jealous of his easy relationships. We took drugs. We fought some more. Then we had the great idea to move in together, just the two of us, really concentrate the poison so to speak. I spent the nights of the last year of our relationship stoned, and dope has never agreed with me. It makes me feel stupid and fat. When Kurt killed himself I thought what a cop-out. What made him think he could escape the constant background drone of unhappiness?
Love letters straight from your heart, keep us so near while apart (Victor Young / Edward Heyman)
G was really sweet, but to tell the truth, I was never in love with him. In my early twenties, I had recently moved to Auckland and livjng in a flat where we played Nancy Sinatra loud and played cards long into the evening. But I was lonely, and in love with the idea of being in love. G met my friend and I at a gallery opening and was still deciding which of us to ask out when I made the move. G was gentle, funny, handsome, and a gifted art photographer. He should have chosen my friend. I was an terrible girlfriend, critical, and a flirt with his friends when drunk. He took a photo of me in a tunnel at Kelly Tarlton’s Sealife Aquarium with time-lapse ghostly sharks circling overhead. Apt. Then I met D and realised that love is a bushfire that consumes you, not a campfire to warm your hands by.
Years later I returned to Auckland post D and I ran into G. He asked me out again. I said “Why are you asking me out again? I treated you like shit!” He shrugged. Luckily I said no, and soon afterward he met someone much nicer than me who probably saved him from himself. Which is pretty much what most of us need along the way. That, and a good song or two.