Sea­son of love songs

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

My mu­si­cal tastes don’t re­ally match my world­view. Even as a teenager in the ’90s, my Walk­man pre­sets and cas­sette tape mixes were likely to be play­ing Mo­town and sim­i­lar R&B from the ’70s, a genre that is pre­dom­i­nated with un­re­solved heart­break and the undy­ing pur­suit of per­fect love.

De­spite my dis­in­ter­est in a long-term ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship, de­spite not hav­ing some­one to whom I want to di­rect such emo­tions, I still get lost in my feel­ings when I hear some­one like Teddy Pen­der­grass or De­niece Wil­liams sing about the heart. A friend and I went to a party that was hosted by my job last Saturday, and af­ter­ward we stopped by a Kroger that was play­ing At­lantic Starr’s “Al­ways” over its sound system. For the next three days I was singing the cho­rus to the song to my­self.

“Ooh you’re like the sun/ chas­ing all of the rain away/ When you come around/ you bring brighter days,” I sang with in­vol­un­tary op­ti­mism pump­ing in my chest. “You’re the per­fect one/ for me and you for­ever will be/ and I will love you so/ for al­ways.”

This ear­worm was skew­ing my sero­tonin lev­els the fol­low­ing Mon­day when my boss ap­proached my desk and asked about my guest at the party.

“Oh, that’s my friend, Karim,” I said, turn­ing my head to no­tice that our of­fice man­ager had floated to­ward my desk, also hop­ing for ex­cit­ing news.

“Uh huh, Karim,” my boss said play­fully. “And a friend, that’s it?”

“That’s it,” I said, my words weighted with their dis­ap­point­ment.

“C’mon, Ryan,” my boss teased. “We gotta find some­one to make an hon­est man out of you, es­pe­cially now that you’re a fam­ily man.”

I’m used to folks en­cour­ag­ing me to find love; one of my clos­est friend’s boyfriend de­votes much of the time we spend in clubs to spot­ting po­ten­tial part­ners and asking, “How about that guy? What about him? Is he your type?” While I some­times feel like I’m be­ing ini­ti­ated into an ar­ranged mar­riage, I know folks are cheer­ing for me to find Mr. Right for the right rea­sons.

I trust that my friends and co-work­ers adore me, and be­lieve I de­serve to be adored by some­one in a spe­cial way. I be­lieve they think I am “worth” a re­la­tion­ship.

How­ever, I don’t feel like I am squan­der­ing any of my “worth” via ex­tended, com­mit­ted sin­gle­dom, and I don’t see how my qual­ity of life im­proves by sub­mit­ting to a ro­man­tic struc­ture of which I am sus­pi­cious. I re­main open to es­tab­lish­ing a solid, lov­ing com­pan­ion­ship with a man that doesn’t match most love songs, but I cur­rently en­joy be­ing sin­gle enough to re­sist At­lantic Starr be­ing stuck in my head, match­mak­ing friends and co-work­ers, and the on­set of cuff­ing sea­son, when folks find some­one to share body heat with dur­ing the colder months.

Part of the dis­tance be­tween my emo­tions and the mu­sic I like might be at­trib­ut­able to a con­tin­u­ing sleight that LGBT peo­ple en­dure in love mu­sic: how we must tweak pro­nouns and imag­ine a free­dom of af­fec­tion to make pop­u­lar songs re­flect our hearts. While the ro­man­tic bal­lads of the ‘70s for­ever will be the muzak play­ing on loop in my head, there’s al­ways been some­thing that made me think these songs weren’t writ­ten for me. Ryan Lee is an At­lanta writer.

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