My ex asked me to send him a sad song, and tell him why I like it. I chose “Disenchanted” by My Chemical Romance:
The lyrics are here. Below is the email I sent him.
Whenever anyone asks me why I love a particular song, I’m never quite sure what to say. There’s no way to explain why I love a particular song, without explaining what music means to me. For me, growing up with a guitar player for a father, music has an intensely biographical, central, and singular place in my life.
You (more than) once admonished me not to be so egocentric… Not to assume that everyone thinks like me, feels like me, wants what I want, believes in the things that I believe in, or knows what I know. In fact, it wasn’t long ago that you emailed me a similar admonition, when I explained that I had been mistreated because through my actions, I had provided permission for my mistreatment.
I don’t pretend to know what music means to other people. I no longer assume that it means to them what it means to me.
For me, there are distinct periods of musical meaning in my life. When I was little, music was this amazing thing that my father could do, and I couldn’t figure out how he knew how to do it. I would watch his hands, and I couldn’t figure out how he could make them do what they did, and how that made his guitar sound like it sounded.
As I grew up, and my mental musical library grew more and more vast, music became this magical force: It could change my energy level. It could change my mood. In three minutes, it could start a narrative in my brain that my imagination took over and embellished for days on end. It could make me feel like I had been a part of something I had never encountered.
Then, around the time I hit puberty, music took a sharp turn for me. Suddenly, lyrics that I knew by heart, and sang when no one was listening without ever really understanding what I was singing, made perfect personal sense to me. The intensity of the longing for romantic love stopped being something I observed from the outside, and became something that I felt on the inside.
Around the same time, I discovered Arena Rock. I know that most people write off this kind of music as corporate schlock.
Fuck most people.
That music – created by unconventional and often unattractive performers – showed me the existence of a world that weirdos like me could call home. Here, finally, was that fabled but elusive subspecies: My clique.
I watched these performers stride the stage as objects of devotion and adoration, and I suddenly had hope that someday my weirdness might elevate me, instead of dooming me.
My school experience was one of being ostracized, hated, verbally abused, and physically attacked for no good reason. It got so bad that my family considered an early retirement from the military for my father, so that he could go to work at a prison in Huntsville, and move me somewhere safer.
I’m sure you already know the story, but I don’t know if I ever admitted to you how guilty I felt about the things my family had to go through because of me… How guilty I felt about the things the kids I babysat had to go through because of me… How guilty I felt about refusing to stop acting like myself, about refusing to just go along to get along.
I made a decision that didn’t just affect me. I stubbornly persisted in being myself. I wasn’t interested in pretending during my real life just to survive. I believed that would be no life at all, so I permitted the people around me to suffer, when I absolutely had a choice to try to help stop it.
I took a leap of faith that my present situation was not my permanent destiny. The music that I loved underpinned that faith in a big way.
[Here is where my egocentricity kicks back in, and I tell you what the song that I love means.]
The song “Disenchanted” is the plaintive wail (of a male singer, who I believe is equally capable of authentically delivering an emotionally sad lyric as a female singer) of someone just like me.
Whether he found the music, the music found him, or they found each other, he was home. He was part of a clique now, full of other people who understood him. Like me, he elevated the famous members of his emotional homeland to hero status. Like me, he egocentrically assumed that they were just like him, and shared his deepest desires and values. He believed that their music was meaningful, and that it had something important to say about life, including his own.
Somewhere along the line, it all changed. He started to see them as capitalists very different than himself. He started to believe that they didn’t mean any of it, and that they were pretending… Just going along to get rich.
He suffered a crisis of faith, and had a decision to make: Do you give up the thing you love, just because you no longer believe that it loves you back, or even knows what love is? Or do you hang on tooth and nail to the thing you love, and refuse to surrender it to heartbreak, wounded pride, and cynicism?
Is love a personal issue? Does the love you feel belong only to you, no matter what happens? Or is love a shared experience that can be ended by the unilateral action of one of the parties?
This is why I keep riding you to watch the movie “Adaptation.”
In the end, it tries to answer this question… A question for which there is no answer, other than the one that any given person decides for herself.
I have decided.
If you’ve read this far, you’ve earned the live version:
UPDATE: February 1, 2018 (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!)
My Chemical Romance is gonna hate this, but I love it, and you can’t stop me. (That’s the whole point.)
Written by The Late Janet Boyle’s friend Tammy Talpas, The Lady Nerd Stage Left on The “Just Push Play” Tour.