So, I’m at a house-warming party a month ago, kicking back with a glass of homemade lemonade to match my lemon-bar dessert, and a group of 30-somethings are gathered in backyard playing molkky and chewing* the breeze when the inevitable happens: we started talking about our professional lives and woo-eee, did this group of singles and married folks love talking dating. But chatter was not just of the “This is what happened, what do I do?” and men’s chagrinned reactions to my meeting Neil Strauss variety (every guy whats to know what he said, and no guy wants to publicly admit he’s read The Game) – rather, these cats wanted to meow about one of my favorite subjects: dating theory.
It was Matt, an up-and-coming chef opening a restaurant in Big Sur that posed this question: How do you think music, like Adele, affects the the confidence of daters? In other words…doesn’t hearing someone else’s heartbreak on such a personal level make people want to forget the dating scene?*** I was taken aback by the question – first off, while I love Adele as much as the next gal I admit I’m not super familiar with her lyrics (though I know they’re sad), and secondly because when I’ve hit Adele periods in my life, it’s either because I’m already massively sad about love or because I really want to sing along to a song at top volume. I told Matt I’d have to get back to him.
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Here’s a primer on Adele and her lyrics: she’s British, her voice is incredible and if you haven’t heard her sing I Can’t Make You Love Me you’re missing out on a really beautiful piece of music that gives me shivers whenever I just remember hearing it. She got her heart crushed and then immediately wrote and released the album 21 which spoke to that heart-pummeling moment with lyrics such as:
The scars of your love remind me of us, They keep me thinking that we almost had it all.
Throw your soul through every open door,
Count your blessings to find what you look for.
Turn my sorrow into treasured gold,
You’ll pay me back in kind and reap just what you’ve sown.
I’d hoped you’d see my face and that you’d be reminded,
That for me, it isn’t over.
Mix those lyrics with that haunting voice and BAM. Magical musical genius. Anyway, Adele went on to basically embody the spokesperson for the broken hearted, having let the entire world in on her pain. End primer.
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In thinking about it, what Matt reacts to Adele (and other sad songwriters) is completely opposite of my own. I turn to sad songs for solace, not for an account of the world. However, people are daily tuning their radio knobs, and finding themselves bombarded with messages that state “Love stinks!” It’s ridiculous to think those messages are not going unheard and even unheeded.
Which means…it’s not out of the question to think that sad songs are affecting how and if people decide to take on dating. When the media constantly bombards you with ideas that dating is only going to hurt you and that being single is actually the only way to lead an interesting life (remind me of when two characters getting together on a TV show resulted in the show being better *ahem, Friends* or when a movie followed the daily goings-on of a happy couple). People appear to thrive on misery, and being affected by external influences is human nature.
I’d be curious to know how singles feel if we were to control their music intake over the course of a month. Would an influx of cheery, “Love is grand!” melodies result in a more positive outlook on the dating scene? Is it in fact our cultural environment that makes so many people hate dating, or is it truly just that people don’t like it?
It comes as no surprise that I’m not built that way. While I have publicized my heartbreak, I haven’t lost hopey-faithy stuff that a form of long term, accepting, lasting love is out there (and even if it’s not I’ll be okay), and I’ve noticed that I’m the exception, not the rule. Even in dark hours, sad songs remind me that it is possible to feel intensely and live in a world were those feelings exist to remind me that I am ALIVE.
In answer to Matt’s question, I think sad songs have the ability to positively and negatively affect daters – it’s all in how you choose to look at them and relate to them. All this said, I think it’s important to remember that while Adele did write the heartbreak album of the decade, she has been in a relationship for a considerable amount of time, just had a baby, and is now being criticized that her music isn’t quite as good because she’s happy.
*Talking feels more like chewing breeze than shooting it in my humble opinion.
**At times like this, when everyone else seems to have adult jobs, I get insecure. I already look like I’m 21 instead of 31, and adding the fact that my most recent work experience is internally titled “Professional Dater” I always have a twinge of worry that I’m not living up to what everyone else is doing.
***By the by, check out Louis CK on Netflix – episode 2, one of his stand-up moments in the middle when he lays out the Best Case Scenario of dating which relates this topic.