Back in the late 80s to early 90s, I was young, and I dreamt of being allowed pierced ears, a Dynasty perm, and Blossom’s wardrobe.
I dreamt of being swept off my feet by either Philip Schofield (then in his gopher days), The Undertaker (a bit of early kink coming through), or possibly Kevin Costner from Robin Hood and/or WesTly from The Princess Bride.
(I also had a bit of a thing for Noel Edmonds, then hosting his House Party, which it’s best we don’t talk about. Or think about. Although I’m still very partial to a beard…)
Back then, True Love in its Real Life form was expressed in one way, and one way only – a way that perhaps remains to this day it’s very truest and purest manifestation:
The Mix Tape.
Being presented with a Mix Tape was a declaration of adoration akin to to a Knight presenting his Lady with a handkerchief. Or a head. Or something. Look, I’m not that hot on medieval; just know it was pretty damn hallowed.
It was a labour of love.
The maker of the Mix Tape would have to listen to the radio, ghetto blaster poised, ready to click record as their chosen song was played in the charts. It was a matter of pride and exquisite timing to be able to get the very beginning notes without them being sullied by the DJ’s voice.
Masters of the Mix Tape Art would slave over a playlist designed not only to the taste of the object of their love, but to weave a secret narrative through the words of pop, rock and early indie bands that would speak to them, only them, and bind them together forever.
Next they would practice their penmanship, another lost art, in the creation of the cassette tape case, listing the songs and artists. Possibly there was LETTERING.
I never received a Mix Tape. Lettered or otherwise.
This might have had something to do with the fact I was a speccy, spotty, swotty type, with social and coordination skills constantly vying for the bottom place of any list, pack, or anything with a bottom. Or slightly below that.
It may also have had to do with the fact that through some odd quirk of statistical fate, or just that open-minded (or in my case entirely oblivious) people tend to be spun together by pre-teen/teen social centrafugal forces, I was friends with the entire quota of lesbian, gay and bisexual persons from the GCSE class of 95.
As a heterosexual, romance just wasn’t on my radar. I was far too busy with tin-pot philosophy, ordinary pot, and quaffing Diamond White in the park to be very much bothered with any Noel Edmunds stirrings. I really didn’t miss it.
I did miss Mix Tapes though.
And then, I got my very first Mix Tape…
…a couple of weeks ago.
OK, so it was in the modern form of a Spotify playlist, but still. I’ll take what I can get.
It is called ‘My wardrobe is sill from the 90s’, and it was gifted to my by Boynotquiteonthenetheredge, so-called because the git is still basking in his mid thirties and we’re not rushing into anything.
This is not just a Mix Tape title but a commonly voiced opinion from the Boy, countered by me on the double grounds that a) I’m 40 and therefore dressing weird is no longer weird but ADORABLY ECCENTRIC, and b) combat trousers and crop tops ARE STILL COOL, DAMMIT.
Anyway, it is the soundtrack to my youth, and it’s basically the best thing anyone’s ever given me.
(Although he’s also got me at various points my favourite kind of pillow to keep at his house, a digital watch because I can’t tell the time, a book of clever word-play type poetry, a pile of stones from Scottish beaches and a voicemail pretending to be some sort of Russian contractor, just to cheer me up).
The point is that it’s a seriously brilliant present. Because it’s not grand or expensive, or a gesture that somehow says more about him than me, or boringly practical, or dutiful, or transactional, or 3 seconds to order off Amazon, or really actually for the children or house but justified as a large expenditure for my birthday- or in fact any of the gifts I’ve ever received before.
It’s something I’d always wanted but didn’t even know I’d always wanted.
It’s the fact he sat down and thought about what he knows about me and what music I like and how old I am and what was in the charts when I was young (and he was in nappies), and the mood and the FLOW of it.
It’s the fact it wasn’t even for an occasion – he just randomly did it.
It’s that he probably doesn’t even know why it means a lot to me and would be slightly perturbed I think it’s such a big deal. (No one tell him).
It’s that it’s quiet, and thoughtful, and teasing, and considerate, and KIND. And I’m still getting used to kind.
It’s the realisation, in physical (or at least audio) form, of something I’ve always known but haven’t always experienced – that real true love isn’t actually Things.
It isn’t words.
It isn’t even music.
Love is Actions… and not necessarily very big ones.
So this Valentine’s Day I hope you DON’T get diamonds.
I hope you don’t get roses (gold gilded or otherwise), or truffles, or God forbid some knobhead doing a dance routine marriage proposal – less in the hope you’ll marry them and more in the expectation of viral fame.
I hope you don’t get a last minute bunch of wilting flowers from the 24 hour garage, either.
I hope you get daffodils because they were all over your garden when you were a kid and you were just talking about it the other day.
I hope you get chocolate hobnobs because you’d really much rather eat them than the fancy posh stuff anyway – and I hope they come lavishly wrapped, with LETTERING.
I hope you get a Mix Tape.
I hope you give one.
In very Mixed Up times, perhaps it’s only little actions of thought and affection that can make sense of things. Perhaps they’re the only things that can really change the world for the better.
Although Alanis Morrisette, Ocean Colour Scene and The Goo Goo Dolls can probably help.