I need you to hear me

Disclaimer: The following blog post contains subject matter which I have addressed before. It is possible that I have reached the point of beating a dead horse. I apologize in advance if anyone out there in internet land is sick of this story. Please feel free to stop reading here.

I want you to hear me. I have no illusions that the conversation will end with you telling me that you love me too and sweeping me into a passionate kiss. I have hopes, dreams, but no illusions. While I firmly believe in happy together, I have very little faith in the idea of fairy tale endings. I am a realist and a pragmatic soul and I believe that it is far less likely that two people fall in love with one another, simultaneously, at the same time, in the same way than it is for one person to fall in love with someone and the second person agrees to give the whole thing try.

So, I fully accept that confessing my feelings to you is going to earn me, at best, a what the hell, why not?

And I’m okay with that. But I want you to hear that. I just want you to hear me tell you that I’m fine with why not. I want you to hear that I understand that you may not reciprocate my feelings. But I want you to hear that I want you in my life.

I am not the girl who can’t handle being friends with a guy my feelings for him extend beyond friendship. I am not the girl who makes things weird. As long as we’re friends, I will care about you. I will support you. I will want to spend time with you. None of that will change. But I can care about you and support you and spend time with you as friends. And that is what I want. I want to be friends.

I struggle with close friendships. I am an extroverted empathic Scorpio; human relationships are very important to my well-being. I don’t think there is a substance – either natural or synthetic – in this world that could replace what I get from being intimate and emotionally bonding with other people. But I struggle with them. I approach every new relationship from the perspective that letting this new person through my walls gives them the ability to hurt me. Keeping everyone at arm’s length keeps them from having that ability. I know I push people away. I always have. Finding someone with whom I feel completely comfortable, with whom I actually want to share the parts of me I keep from so many people, is something that means a lot to me.

You weren’t supposed to hurt me. You made me comfortable. I wanted to tell you things that I kept bottled up, hidden away from even my closest friends, because I wanted YOUR perspective. I wanted to hear what you could offer me to help me deal with things when I really just wanted to push them aside. When I already knew the reactions I would get from the other people in my life, I wanted to find out what you would say. Because what you would say would be different. Because I couldn’t predict what you would say the way I could with others. And I wanted that. I looked forward to that. I wanted to hear your voice.

Not your actual voice, although that is no less comforting, but your Voice. The voice you use to share your thoughts with the world. Your special, unique way with words. I have grown very fond of your voice over the years; even when you aren’t using it to speak directly to me. I miss your voice in my life. I don’t want your voice to not be part of my life.

Even though I always knew there was the possibility that you didn’t share my feelings, even though I knew that finding out that you only wanted to be friends would hurt, for a while, I also knew it wouldn’t hurt as much as long as I still had your friendship. And I think we are, still friends, but it’s not the same.

Maybe you can’t be friends when there are stronger feelings involved. Maybe that’s what happened. But you aren’t that guy. You aren’t the guy who avoids confrontation because it’s weird or uncomfortable. You aren’t the guy who doesn’t talk about things when there is something to talk about. You aren’t the guy who promises to be there for someone and then disappears when they need you to be there.

Maybe you’re not avoiding me. Maybe it’s all a misunderstanding. Maybe you still believe you are there for me, that we are friends, that I should always feel comfortable telling you anything, that I should never feel like I can’t ask you something or come to you with a problem. But I don’t feel like that anymore. I feel like trying to talk to you is futile. Like you aren’t listening anymore. Like you don’t want to listen.

And I need you to listen.

I need you to listen when I have trouble talking to anyone else.

But I also need you to listen to my heart. I need you to hear that all I want, in the whole world, is to know that I didn’t fuck all of this up. I need you to hear that as much as I want you to pull me into you and kiss me, I want to be friends more. I want you in my life and if I have to sacrifice romance in favor of friendship, I will do that. I can do that. I have before.

But I need you to hear me.

Reflecting

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today was the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. I spent most of the day away from social media but the few times I did check in, I saw memoriam posts ranging from urging others to cherish their loved ones and time with them to anger and hatred.

I shared my own personal account of what had happened that day. What I remembered, how I spent the day, because everyone’s memories are different and even though we say #neverforget, I’m not sure we really do that. I am not sure that we remember – when it is not an anniversary of a tragedy – to appreciate what we have in our lives. To be loving and compassionate every day, to tell people what they mean to us, every day, not just on days like today. Because while the world became a whole lot smaller on September 11, 2001, and the people who were alive when it happened swear they’ll never forget, there will be a year when September 11, 2001, joins December 7, 1941, as just another day in our nation’s history books when another country attacked us out of hatred for our way of life. There will be a year when this day will not elicit emotional memorial tributes and recounts of where people were and what they were doing when it happened.

I shared my personal account of where I was when I found out what happened and the only verbal response to my words was a call for hatred. When I responded that hate, in any form, is not the answer, I was challenged and brow-beaten with a paragraph about “what if it had been your family? How can you love something so unworthy of love?”

The idea behind Dr. King’s words is not to love the thing that hurts you. It is to not stop loving because you have been hurt. And to not waste your heart on hate. Don’t hate the thing that hurt you, love the thing it hates. Love in spite of that thing’s hate.

In general, this means be kind to other people, be supportive of other people. Don’t just TALK about being a “good person,” BE a good person. More relevant to what started all of this, invite your Middle Eastern neighbors into your home for dinner and ask them to bring a favorite dish when they come, so that you can learn about them (and have a hearty laugh when they show up carrying tacos). Support Syrian refugees. Tell your Congress(wo)man that you support allowing refugees into the U.S. Because love is welcoming thousands of sick, hungry, injured homeless refugees in spite of the fear that one of them might be a terrorist.

Don’t blame an entire population of people for the radical actions of a small handful.

In the days following September 11, 2001, bombs were dropped on Middle Eastern cities in retaliation for what had been done. When it happened, I thought that is how you fight back. Don’t kowtow to the bully.

I changed my mind shortly after.

When I realized that those bombs in those cities potentially killed more innocent people than all of the active members of Al Qaeda combined. When I realized that potentially more innocent people died in Hiroshima than could have ever inhabited a military base the size of Pearl Harbor. When I realized that the United States had chosen to battle hatred with more hatred. I no longer believed that bombing cities was a brave act of retaliation.

There are things about being an American that I cherish. I am free to share these words without the fear of persecution. I am free to speak to plants and the moon and call it a religion without being tried for heresy. I am free to speak out against my government when I feel as if it is not serving its people properly. I am free to sit or kneel during our national anthem if that is what I feel is right.

But there are also many things about being an American that embarrass me. I am embarrassed at the way our elected officials disrespect the people who gave them their jobs – from the constituents right up to the President. I am embarrassed that people in positions of power encourage those below them to hate without regard. Hate immigrants, hate Muslims, hate gays, hate women. It’s all there, if you listen. The hatred in our nation doesn’t start at the bottom. It doesn’t start with racist redneck hillbillies in the deepest reaches of the Ozarks. It trickles down from the top. It trickles down from voter suppression laws. It trickles down from statistically harsher punishment for people of color than for whites for the same crime. It trickles down from persistent attempts to remove basic civil rights from women and from minority groups. It trickles down from a pipeline that has the potential to poison hundreds of thousands of people and the media silence surrounding the cries of those people. And, unfortunately, it also trickles down from parent to child, a child who is born only understanding love and must be taught hate.

As September 12, 2016, winds to a close and another anniversary has passed, I implore my fellow citizens of Earth to love one another. Battle against those who harbor hatred for western cultures by loving. I am not telling you to love ISIS (don’t hate ISIS either; hate is what they want, hate justifies their beliefs, hate justifies their actions). I am not telling you we should implement hug a terrorist day. I am saying they hate us because we are greedy and immoral, selfish and arrogant. Love one another and show them that we are not all greedy and immoral, selfish and arrogant. Even when they are not watching, even when they are not listening, show them good people.

Love those around you with everything you have. Donate goods and money and time to charities. Do good things because they are good, not because of what you might get in return. Be kind. Be generous.

Love.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

love

A radical idea for our election problem

In case you managed to miss the news, somehow, 2016 is a Presidential election year, here in the States. This is always a source of frustration and anxiety among the American people but this year, especially, many Americans – as well as citizens of other western, industrialized nations – are feeling the pressure to choose between two choices that much of the voting public are strongly against.

I have long been a supporter of the idea of a double blind election system, particularly where the President is concerned. Rather than candidates campaigning for themselves, there is a central committee. I haven’t quite decided who makes up the committee, how they are selected, but it would have to be a very scrupulous process.

From there, each person who is interested in becoming President goes through a vetting process then, when they are confirmed to be qualified for the position, they submit their platform to the committee. They submit their stance on the issues that will inevitably serve as deciding factors in the election – healthcare, environment, immigration, whatever happen to be the buzzwords in the current climate – and the committee presents the platforms to the public. The committee probably knows who the candidates are but not which platform belongs to whom and the public has no idea. No names are released until after the election is decided. The election, subsequently, is decided on issues rather than campaigns, on integrity rather than lack thereof.

To take it a step further, this year, especially, I don’t wonder if, rather than voting, we are given a test. How do you feel about this issue? Is it important to you, first of all, and second, are you for or against it? And our votes are based on how we answer those questions.

This test actually already exists and it seems to be fairly accurate. As it is, it only tells you which Presidential candidate fits your beliefs the best but it could be modified to include Congressional candidates, and ballot measures on the state and federal levels. For the most part, all of the questions would still apply so it wouldn’t have to be much longer than it already is, just offer more results. But instead of just saying “You align 75% with Candidate XYZ” it would just cast your vote, providing your results lean more than 66% toward one rather than the other.

Maybe it’s a totally radical idea. Maybe it’s something out of a 1950s dystopian future. But maybe it would take care of some of the corruption in our government.

Maybe it would get rid of our two party system. Maybe it would free us from our Stockholm Syndrome where we are held hostage by a broken system but keep defending it because it’s the “best one we’ve got.” Maybe it would get rid of media bias and candidate influence. Maybe it would get rid of that which makes Americans so frustrated and disenchanted by their own government.

When you’re an extrovert and feel like no one is listening…

Okay, but here’s the thing…

People get all twitterpated about “Facebook is not your personal diary” and “don’t air your laundry on social media.”

I am an only child. I grew up talking to myself, and for the most part, still do, any time I am alone. I have this thing about thinking. If I do too much of it, on the inside, it just makes a lot of noise and I’d probably blow a fuse if I did it all the time. I have to get the thoughts out of my head or they start to just kind of melt together and, before long, I can’t pick one clear thought out of the chaos. I’ve had that attributed to my creativity, to ADD, to myriad other disorders and conditions (not limited to autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia…although not by anyone who would legally be able to medicate me for any of those things). It doesn’t really matter what causes it, the fact is it’s who I am.

So when I “air my laundry” or use social media as a personal diary, it’s because I desperately want someone else to hear the thoughts that I needed to get out of my head. Because I am a Scorpio and apparently that makes me a walking paradox but because there is only so much I can accomplish by simply thinking – be it silently, within the confines of my brain, or aloud to my cats or the face in the mirror – and I need someone else to offer a response, which means sharing parts of myself that people might expect a Scorpio to keep hidden. Like feelings. Yes, I do have them. Intensely. I just don’t go waving them around all the time. Most of the time. Except when I need them to be heard. Paradox.

I also do it out of fear.

I need someone, anyone, to hear what I’m saying but I can’t bring myself to say it directly to an individual person. For fear of judgement, for fear of being misunderstood, for fear of getting a response I didn’t expect or of getting little response at all.

Of course, typing what is in my head in the little “What’s on your mind?” box on Facebook often results in little to no response at all but it’s still out in the world where someone – anyone – can see it and “hear” it.

And the box does say, “What’s on your mind?” before you clear it out to start typing so I kind of feel like I’m using it for its intended purpose. Chaos, feelings, anger, pride, happiness, confusion… that’s what’s on my mind, so that’s what I’m supposed to put in the box, right?

So while calm, calculating, rational me is begging for cessation, freaked out, emotional me is trying to get the attention of anyone willing to listen to share whatever noise is loudest in her head at the moment. This results in a lot of vague and veiled Facebook posts because one of the loudest sounds in the cacophony of my mind is his voice. Competing with the voice that asks what the hell I’m thinking, trying to box above my weight class with him.

There are other noises too – like writing struggles and work struggles – but those noises don’t lead me to operate with nearly the same level of surreptitiousness…. But when his voice is the loudest in the din, it sometimes makes me feel like I’m going to shake apart and I look around for someone who can tell me anything soothing.

So if you are reading this and you wonder why I am always saying things that sound like I am seeking attention, it’s probably because I am. Just imagine what sort of things I don’t share… I am an extrovert – which, according to Tumblr, means I’m a loud, obnoxious, attention whore – and I think that compounds my feelings of loneliness and those feelings are 1000 times worse when I just need someone to talk to. I’m an extrovert, which means I like to talk through things and be with people, but I’m a Scorpio, which means I’m predominately wary of most people and slow to trust.

This is another case of me needing to get something out of my head. I feel like a lot of this is a jumbled mess but I can’t really focus well enough to rearrange it so what you see is what you get. Sorry ‘bout it.

It’s 2AM so here are 2000 words, or No lifeguard on duty, swim at your own risk

This is not something I do very often. Which means it’s definitely not something I do well. I attribute it to being a Scorpio – an intense, brooding, passionate Scorpio, who is much more comfortable with the appearance of stability than trusting people with my vulnerabilities – because I wasn’t really raised in an emotionless environment. At least, not that I remember. All the same, I am not good at just laying everything out on the table but I feel like I need to.

I don’t know if anyone is reading this and if you are, you’ll probably abandon it before you get to the end. I understand. I’m about to say a whole lot of words and even I’m not sure what all of them are going to be. But things in my life are not what I want them to be and I don’t know how to fix them. Maybe because there is so much I want to fix, maybe because I don’t know what I actually want. Whatever the answer, I feel like I am drowning and it’s all I can do to keep my head above water.

I guess I’ll start with work, because that takes up the biggest portion of my life (well, there’s another thing but I’m saving it for later because I’ve beaten it to death). When I was … well, for basically, forever, I have been a writer. It’s the only thing that I’ve ever really known I could do and do well. It’s the only thing I’ve ever done consistently, without any major catastrophes. In high school, I took any writing class I could (which was, like, two in my Bumfuck, Nowhere high school with 25 kids in my graduating class). When I went to college, there was no question. I would earn my degree in English and become a writer. I didn’t know anything else.

I started freelance writing my senior year in college, getting decent money at first. Nothing I could live off of, at the time, but there was potential. As time went on, those paying gigs started paying less and less and today, even major publications “pay” in “credit.” Being a “writer” is getting to be an increasingly difficult obstacle course to maneuver.

Four years ago, I decided I needed to stop bouncing from crap job to crap job and try something more concrete. I applied to what sounded like an amazing MFA writing program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. That ended in flames so I started looking into smaller goals. The Reader’s Digest version is that I finally decided to try my hand at cosmetology.

And I enjoy it. But after three years, I still haven’t found my passion. I feel like there are things I want to do with this career that I’m not doing but I can’t figure out how to do them. I want to be a world class colorist. Or at least someone who gets their Instagram pictures noticed by magazines or whatever. Mediocrity is a double edged sword for me. It is something that I dread more than death and it’s something I feel every day of my life. I’m not unhappy in my choice, I’m not unhappy in my current employment arrangement; I am unhappy in my own achievements. I am unhappy in my own lack of passion. I am unhappy in my own skills.

I have always had a problem with going through phases. I don’t know what causes them – fatigue, stress, dissatisfaction – but I go through phases where something I have been doing over and over and over again for weeks, months, even years, goes up in flames every time I get near it. For a couple weeks, usually. Which was what I was saying about writing being the one consistent thing in my life. Save for bouts of writer’s block, I’ve never had those times where I just put out pages and pages and pages of complete garbage. I never got an F on a single essay, ever. I can’t even think of a single D on a written assignment. Words, writing, that’s what has always worked for me.

But these phases, they come out in my cosmetology endeavors too. Do the same haircut on 100 people and I’ll be damned if I don’t completely fuck up on the 101st.

So I feel mediocre. I’m decent but I’m not great and I have days I feel like I never will be.

To add to it, I don’t have (and some days, don’t want) a constant clientele. It’s not that I don’t want that, but I don’t want that here. Because I don’t want to be here.

People tell me all the time, just move. Pack up and move out. Go to the place you want to be (there are more problems with that statement than just that statement but we’ll come back to that). And there is one MAJOR obstacle in my way. I don’t know how to drive.

Here’s another of those Scorpio traits. I hate having to rely on someone else. And the main reason is that other people have proven to me that they can’t be relied on. Who teaches kids how to drive as teenagers? Their parents, right? My mother refused and my father allowed me to not want to do it. Then I got into university and had an acquaintance who offered to teach me but he offered once and never again. Fast forward to living with my mother as an adult and she still refuses. She complains constantly about having to drive me places, about how MY work schedule interrupts HER life but when I say you wouldn’t have to worry about that if I could drive myself, she acknowledges the logic of the statement and responds with “but I don’t want to.”

We recently got Uber here. There are like 20 drivers. If I could drive and I could do something like that (or PostMates or the food taxi…) I could make more money to help her pay some more bills, I could save money to move out….I could take those jobs and make money somewhere else. And every time she complains, every time she asks me for gas money, I get angry all over again.

I even looked into adult driving classes. That’s how frustrated I am.

And if I could move out, I could move to where I had friends. I am so tired of never having anyone to do anything with. Want to go to a movie? How badly do you want to see it because you’re going by yourself. Want to go skating or bowling or to karaoke night? Have fun doing those things on your own. I’m an extrovert. I hate HATE being stuck at home. But I’m to the point I hate everything because I do everything alone.

Even when I try to involve people, I don’t get the response I want.

And doing everything alone reminds me of another thing I’m sick of. I’m single. I’ve been single for 12 years. My fiancé – also known as my ex-idiot, or ex-asshole among my friends – and I broke up, officially…. Well, we never OFFICIALLY broke up but we last spoke in July, 2004. I’ve had other possibilities in the interim but they all sucked. And then HE came along….

I honestly don’t know how long I’ve liked him. I really started falling for him (in a deeper way than just a crush) a year ago, spring. It was April, 2015, when I said, aloud, where someone else could hear me, that I thought I might be falling in love with him. Now, more than a year later, I don’t feel any less for him but we haven’t talked in months. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know if I did something wrong. I worry that I liked him too much, that he couldn’t be friends with me, knowing how strongly I was attracted to both his body and his mind. Or that he couldn’t deal with me not telling him because I talked about my feelings a lot, in vague, veiled words because we have a lot of mutual friends and I wanted to preserve his privacy as much as my own.

The truth is I’m just scared. I don’t want to tell him. I don’t want to talk to him because I don’t want to know what’s going on. Right now, I miss him like fucking crazy but I have that glimmer of hope that we could make something work, that he could be just as attracted to me as I am to him. Right now, there is hope. Talking to him, telling him the truth, asking him why he stopped talking to me, opens me up for reality. Right now, he can’t break my heart. If I tell him how I feel, he can. Right now, he’s still my amazing friend who is intelligent and caring and funny and … fucking gorgeous. A confession means everything will change. He’ll still be intelligent and caring and funny, but will he still be my friend? Right now, I can live in denial. It’s not healthy but it also doesn’t hurt nearly as bad as what I’m sure will happen otherwise.

I think about how much I like him, wonder when I first started, and can’t imagine, for a second, him feeling the same way about me. Sure, maybe he thinks I’m funny or fun to talk to but a crush? Absurd. I’m plain, vanilla, nothing special. I’m a boring hairdresser who works in a small town mall that people walk around because the full trip, without stores, is pretty close to exactly one mile. I don’t drive, I don’t do anything. I am unremarkable and I don’t expect anyone to be wowed by me, especially not someone by whom I am so very wowed.

I’ve always blended in with the wallpaper. I think that’s why I dread mediocrity so much. I long for greatness (that’s another Scorpio trait, if you’re keeping track) but I don’t think I’ll ever achieve it. And I think things with him could be great. I think he and I could take over the world.

I used to think that I was a pretty awesome person with passions and ambitions and personality in spades. Recently, I feel like Mia Wasikowska in Alice in Wonderland when Johnny Depp’s Hatter tells her she’s lost her muchness. The thing is, I think he could be the person to help me find it. And his muchness combined with my muchness could be enough to set things on fire.

I want to set things on fire.

#relationshipgoals

Here’s the thing…

I’ve been single for longer than I care to admit. This is a semi-conscious decision on my part. I have not, admittedly, had the shit luck that some of my friends have had in the romance department but I have had….

A boyfriend tell – not ask – me what I would be doing after we graduated from high school. Yes, high school. And it wasn’t “going to the college of my choice.”

A “friend with benefits” use sex to psychologically manipulate me in ways I’m still figuring out.

A fiancé blame me for his nervous breakdown.

A potential FWB ask me, point blank, if I would “go crazy” if we slept together.

I have used these past experiences to create standards and I insist that everyone from this point forward meet those standards. I have not found a lot of qualified applicants. And I did that without “kissing a lot of frogs,” such as it were.

I know what people will say about that – because people have said it to me. How do you know if you don’t give him a try? It may sound trite and it may sound like an excuse but I know because I’m a Scorpio. One of the traits that keeps bubbling to the surface of “here’s what you should know about Scorpio” blogs and internet memes is that we have an uncanny ability to read people and shine light into the darkest corners of their psyche. It tends to unnerve people but it is also tremendously helpful in the not-wanting-to-kiss-frogs department. I can spend ten minutes with a person (guy) and know if I could stand two or three hours with him on a date. And if I can’t spend two or three hours on a date, I damned sure can’t share my life with him (“share my life” here does not, necessarily, mean forever; it simply means share the details of my life, the ups, the downs, the wins, and the fails, the things that make up life, with him).

That said, I have recently spent a lot of time milling over the things I want to share with this imaginary, potential suitor. Most of them are pretty inane but they are the moments of my life that I have had all to myself for far too long (platonic accompaniment, notwithstanding).

Concerts – It’s not just about having someone to stand in line with or hold my spot on the barricade while I pee, although those things are nice, too. It’s about sharing such a visceral, empathic experience with someone. It’s about connecting through something that has a power unlike any other art form to change lives, heal wounds, break hearts, and unite people. I go to concerts because I am an empath and an extrovert. The energy boost I get from the crowd at a concert is unparalleled. And as an empath, I can both feel the emotions of others and project my own onto other people. The emotions at a concert are often quite intense but almost always positive (even if sad… it’s hard to explain). To be able to share that experience with someone to whom I’m connected in deeper ways is something I truly long for.

Traveling – There is something about couples in airports, on buses, on trains, that just looks so comfortable. Traveling with a significant other, knowing you will have someone to talk to on the trip, knowing you will have someone to watch the bags while you grab a snack, knowing you can sleep on your seatmate’s shoulder without it being weird… And I love to travel so having a travel companion who enjoys it as much as I do would be pretty cool.

Cooking – Not necessarily in a “cooking together” kind of way because I’m a little too Type A to let anyone help me in the kitchen but I love trying a new recipe (often “recipe” is a term I use loosely, meaning “throw random shit in a pot and hope for the best”, although I do bake according to recipe) and having someone genuinely appreciate that I put forth the effort to feed them. For most of my adult life, food has been my go-to method for connecting with people. Sad? Let’s grab coffee and talk about it. Job promotion? Let’s grab ice cream to celebrate. Bored? Appetizers. Haven’t talked in weeks? Dinner. Cooking for someone, putting in the effort to nourish their body as well as their mind, is just as much an extension of that as anything else.

Movies – In the cinema or at home, either way, I’m kind of just tired of watching movies alone. To the point that I have to really, REALLY want to see something to watch it alone. It’s almost to that point with television programs as well. I have a crush, something you might have gathered from previous blog posts. He and I have three shows that we both follow but because he is just a friend on whom I have a crush and not my actual boyfriend, we are following them independently. It would be kind of nice to watch them together, even if “together” means at separate times and talk about them later. Movies are more of a together together kind of activity. Sit together in the cinema, share popcorn, just be close to one another. Or curl up on the couch/in bed and share the monstrous blanket I’ve been crocheting while picking out the crappiest B-horror crap Netflix has to offer.

Walking – No, I don’t need help walking on my own. But going for walks. Getting out of the house together with no real purpose other than to enjoy one another’s energy, get some fresh(ish) air, get some unintentional exercise (I’m not talking speed walking here, just a stroll for however long and however far we want to stroll). Not really go anywhere (unless we live within a mile of ice cream…), just walk. I always think I want to go for a walk, especially in the pre-dusk hours of the summer, but then I shrug it off because going by myself would be boring. Going with a partner (really, romantic or platonic, either would be fine) would give me someone to talk to, someone to whom I could point out cool stuff…

Talking – In the interest of full disclosure, I’m an only child. I’m an only child with an active imagination and creative mind. I talk to myself. A lot. I LOVE having someone with whom conversation just flows until you’ve been talking all night and are still awake to watch the sun rise. Someone I can talk to about life and death and aliens and mythology and comic books and 70s sitcoms and music and everything and nothing all at once. With whom a conversation about shoes can last an hour and never be boring. Someone I can tell about the nightmare I had the night before and who will help me sort it into something I can use for a story.

Those are my #relationshipgoals. Pretty simple, I know, but it’s where my head has been lately.

AFI – Decemberunderground – a 10th anniversary reflection

Decemberunderground was the seventh full-length album from California punk band, AFI. Released June 6, 2006 (6/6/6), it was as much a continuation of 2003’s Sing the Sorrow as it was a follow-up, picking up a story where the latter left off. If Sing the Sorrow was the story of a life, from birth (“Bleed Black”) to death (“The Leaving Song, Pt. 2”), Decemberunderground is what comes next. Speculations and theories include concepts ranging from Purgatory to Nirvana to immortality. However you choose to interpret the story that carries from Sing the Sorrow through the Clandestine short film to Decemberundergound – if you choose to interpret the story – it is hard to deny the beauty of Decemberunderground.

I was 15 years old (approximately) when I discovered AFI. And even though I am friends with other fans who make the same claim, I discovered them in the beginning of their career, 1996. For me, they fell in line with – despite being mostly overshadowed by – their peers in that time, Rancid and Operation Ivy, Green Day, Rage Against the Machine, even to a lesser extent bands like Weezer and No Doubt. For me, songs like “I Wanna Get a Mohawk (But My Mom Won’t Let Me)” and “High School Football Hero” were anthemic of my life in a small western town but it would be another five years before I considered calling myself a fan.

In my early adult hood (18, 19, 20, 21) I met two women, Caroline and Lindsey, who were both committed AFI fans. Through them, I fell in love with 1999’s Black Sails in the Sunset, which remains to this day my favorite album of the AFI catalog. But with each new album that came after Black Sails, I found something new to love.

Decemberunderground falls through the cracks for me. Sing the Sorrow is the album that so many current fans hail as their favorite, as the best, as the one that made them a fan. CrashLove is met with rabid mixed reviews from people who either love it or hate it (for the record, I was indifferent to it for a very long time but grew to love it for instead of in spite of its differences to its predecessors). With so much passion directed toward the one that came before and the one that came after, Decemberunderground gets lost in the shuffle.

But I never cease to be awed by the exquisite beauty in those tracks.

I am kind of ashamed to admit it but I forget to listen to Decemberunderground. I forget about the songs. But when they come on, wherever I am, I stop to listen and I am once again amazed. It’s the click of stiletto heels on marble tiles pulling me in again.  Even “Kill Caustic,” which is easily the black sheep of the album, is awe-inspiring in its own right.

There is a tendency among fans of any form of entertainment toward elitism. It is the attitude that “I am a better fan because…” and this attitude applies very heavily to Decemberunderground. With Decemberunderground, AFI found mainstream notoriety, most obviously with “Miss Murder” finding its way to top 40 radio but also with the inclusion of both “Miss Murder” and “Prelude 12/21” in television soundtracks. As a result, AFI also found a new crop of young fans who had never heard anything else from the band and, in some cases, lost interest when they started digging deeper into the catalog, if they dug in at all.

Despite that line of thinking, I remain enthralled by Decemberunderground.

“Prelude 12/21” is simultaneously minimalistic and epic, residing almost entirely in the percussion section, a simple drum cadence layered beneath the bright crispness of a glockenspiel (or possibly crotales, I was unable to find a definitive answer). Even as the song grows into the enormity of its climax – adding drum fills and choral chants – it manages to remain simple. It becomes a masterpiece by not striving for more than its title suggests. It is the prelude for what is to come, an album wrought with highs and lows, tempo surges, storms and calms, life, death, and the afterlife. All condensed into a mere 94 seconds. It’s no wonder that it has been used several times in the past decade as a soundtrack of foreboding.

“Kill Caustic” returns to us Havok’s guttural screams (which do not feature as heavily throughout Decemberunderground as on other AFI offerings) as he juxtaposes them with his melodic tenor, giving us the feeling of a conversation. I have developed somewhat of a fixation on the allusions to (fallen) angels throughout the AFI lyrics (enough so to design my second AFI tribute tattoo around them) and that, coupled with the immortality, life after death theories surrounding Decemberunderground, lead me to hearing those screams as one of those angels. Maybe I’m reaching but it is that depth and (potential) allegory that make even the acerbic screams – both from Havok and from Jade Puget’s guitar – of “Kill Caustic” so piercingly beautiful.

It was through “Miss Murder” that Decemberunderground met with such hostility. Not only from fans but also from activists, claiming it was “yet another” song for the teen demographic advocating suicide (along with Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You into the Dark,” which was released as a single two months following Miss Murder’s single release). Understandably so, with lyrics like “Hey, Miss Murder, can I make beauty stay if I take my life?” the backlash really wasn’t unexpected. On the surface, however, “Miss Murder” appealed to the mainstream with its repetitive lyrics, upbeat cadence and catchy melodies. In some ways, “Miss Murder” functioned as a precursor to 2009’s CrashLove, which was written as a commentary on the fragility of privilege and the upper crust.

Possibly one of my favorite moments of the album (although it’s very hard to choose) is halfway through halfway. “Affliction” comes after attempts by ethereal tracks “Summer Shudder,” “The Interview,” and “Love Like Winter” to slow the pace of the album. At the apex of the album – the seventh track out of twelve, the start of the descent toward the end – “Affliction” ramps the energy back up. The screams return to full strength, pulling drums and guitars with them into controlled chaos. Two minutes into the five-and-a-half-minute track, however, that energy swell crashes into a melodic refrain, “So stay sweetly numb. Remain lifeless, love. Stay sweetly numb. Maintain lifeless love,” before another crescendo and then falls off again for the final two minutes of the track. These swells and crashes keep the song – and the album – from ever becoming flat. They are not uncommon in the AFI catalog but their prominence throughout Decemberunderground add that much more to the awe of it.

“Kiss and Control” is my sleeper favorite track (along with “37mm”). Like the album itself, I forget it exists, until I am thrown headlong back into it. “Kiss and Control,” for me, holds the most evidence of the immortality theory behind the overall meaning of Decemberunderground. A surface read gives easily to a romantic interlude but it doesn’t take a great deal of scratching at that surface to get the vampiric undertones in lyrics, “Part your lips a bit more/I’ll swallow your fear/I will show you how/All the bite marks impress/A need to be here/A need to see,” which only intensify as the song progresses. But it is more than the implication of vampirism that has drawn me into “Kiss and Control.” The melodies and vocal runs are positively delicious, the imagery in the lyrics, masterful. It is one more instance of Havok painting a masterpiece with his words.

Each track of AFI’s seventh full-length album, Decemberunderground, is wrought with excruciating agony and splendor and, in that, it exhibits insurmountable magnificence. Ten years later, I am still in awe of this album, hearing and loving new things each time I sit down with it. That it can grip audiences with its grandeur a decade later is a testament to what AFI, to what Davey Havok, continues to contribute to a music scene that has lost faith in itself. If you are like me and haven’t spun this album in a while, put your headphones on, turn up the volume, and embrace the uniquely exquisite and often overshadowed piece of artistry that came after Sing the Sorrow enchanted and before CrashLove outraged fans old and new.