The first mixtape I ever made was for my best friend, Megan. Tiffany’s “Hold an Old Friend’s Hand,” “Electric Youth” by Debbie Gibson, a snippet of me singing the theme song we’d made up to accompany our radio show which, despite being entirely pretend, had won multiple prestigious awards. On the cassette I wrote in bold sharpie, “LISTEN TO ALONE!!”
Later, mix CDs became an essential wooing tool. (This, by the way, is also how I refer to John Mayer.) The process as important as the product, I burned CDs for new girlfriends, satisfied by the slow routine of compiling songs which moved me, tweaking the order to perfect the narrative arc, then listening and imagining the emotions my creation might elicit. Eventually mix CDs became Spotify playlists, less gratifying, in the way that pressing ‘end’ to finish a cell phone argument can’t compare to the harsh pleasure of slamming down a phone.
Who knows what the future holds? Within the year we may be downloading playlists directly into a new love interest’s head. However curated playlists evolve, one truth remains; mixes offer the capacity to reveal a relationship’s inequalities or highlight its triumphs. Once for example, I made a super sexual mix (Think Nine Inch Nails‘ “Closer,” Melissa Ferrick’s “Drive,” Lucinda Williams’ “Essence”) for a woman I’d been dating for three weeks. She handed over a CD bursting with love songs and references to forever. I back-pedaled (“Um, I just think sex exists as, you know, the most direct means to express, um…love.”) but the discrepancy was clear.
Thinking back on the incident, I wonder about the mutual misfire. Did our incongruous mixes bespeak our ultimate incompatibility? (Excuse me while I trademark the phrase “ultimate Incompatibility” and pitch it to ABC. I see clashing couples loose on an obstacle course. Maybe a therapist and an Olympic coach offering a play-by-play.) If so, could I have saved myself three months spent shifting my gaze and shoving her hand down my pants when she wanted to lose hours gazing soulfully into my eyes? What if instead of feeling guilty about my sex tape versus her feelings tape I’d taken the hint? No regrets, I guess. If I had, you’d be reading another recap of Orange is the New Black instead of this merry list of mixes gone wrong.
Scenario: After a blind date. You ducked out early, certain the lack of chemistry was mutual. On your doorstep the next day, you find a CD.
“Truly, Madly Deeply” – Savage Garden
“Marry You” – Bruno Mars
“I Will Possess Your Heart” – Death Cab For Cutie
“I Say a Little Prayer for You” – Aretha Franklin
“Going To The Chapel of Love” – The Dixie Cups
“Let’s Make Love” – Tim McGraw and Faith Hill
“You Light Up My Life” – Debby Boone
“Into The Mystic” – Van Morrison
“I Want To Get Married” – Nellie MacKay
Scenario: You’ve taken her to the restaurant you went to on your first date. You’ve asked your waiter to slip the ring into her sundae. Without looking at you, she hands you a flash-drive.
“Puke” – Eminem
“You Fucked Up” – Ween
“You’re So Vain” – Carly Simon
“I’d Rather Be Alone” – IV Xample
“Save Yourself” – Stabbing Westward
“Choke On This” – Senses Fail
“Don’t Take It Personal” – Jermaine Jackson