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Modern Love Podcast: First Love Mixtape, Side B

speaker 1

Hi, Modern Love.

speaker 2

Hey.

speaker 3

Hello.

speaker 4

Hi.

speaker 5

I am Gonzalo. I’m calling from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

speaker 6

From Granby, Colorado.

speaker 7

From New Jersey.

speaker 8

Calling from Sydney, Australia.

speaker 9

From Spain.

speaker 10

Calcutta, India.

speaker 11

Good night.

speaker 12

Good morning.

speaker 13

Modern Love.

anna martin

From The New York Times, I’m Anna Martin, and this is the Modern Love podcast. In our first episode of this season, we asked you a question. We asked: What’s the song that taught you about love when you were a teen? And so many of you responded.

speaker 1

“I’ve Got a Feeling” from The Black Eyed Peas.

speaker 2

“L-O-V-E.”

speaker 3

“When a Man Loves a Woman.”

speaker 4

“Tainted Love.”

speaker 5

“That Girl.”

speaker 6

“Tiny Vessels.”

speaker 7

“Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

speaker 8

My song is “Love Story” —

speaker 9

“Dear John” by Taylor Swift.

speaker 10

— by Taylor Swift.

anna martin

So now it’s our season finale. And before we get to our essay, we want to share a few of your stories about love and music — and feelings, a lot of feelings.

speaker

When I was 14, I wrote the lyrics to “Ghost” by The Indigo Girls on my Converse high tops. The song is this whole tortured look back at a love that starts in adolescence. And I wanted so much to be destroyed like that. I wanted something huge and big that would just sweep me out of this tiny, small conservative town that I was in, this love with a woman that would change my life so much. And there are lyrics about how this love starts like a pinprick to the heart.

archived recording (the indigo girls)

(SINGING) Like a pinprick to my heart.

speaker

And then the person is swept away and starts to drown.

archived recording (the indigo girls)

And I start to drown. And there’s not —

speaker

The immensity of it, even if it was loss and pain, was so deeply alluring to me, and I wanted it so badly. Of course, having no idea how hard and difficult and extremely excruciatingly painful actual heartbreak would be years later, I loved it so much. And I kept it so close and I still have those shoes.

ankit

Hi, I’m Ankit. I am a sophomore at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts. So when I was 16, I met a girl. We went to different schools in different towns, but she got my Snapchat, and she started snapping me. And it was all day pretty much every day for at least a week. And one night, she called me. I’m in the dark in my bedroom. My parents are, as far as I hoped, asleep downstairs.

So I kept my voice quiet. And we talked about our friends, our school, our lives. And she asked me what music I listen to. And I said what I was really listening to at the time, which was “Fight Music” by D-12.

archived recording (d-12)

(RAPPING) This kind of music, use it, and you get amped to do this. Whenever you hear something and you can’t refuse it, it’s just —

ankit

“Fight Music” is not a romantic song. But I sent it to her. And she sent me back a video on Snapchat of her with her wired headphones in the dark like me, nodding along to the whole song. And she was smiling. I had never felt like this before, that this girl, she liked me for me. I didn’t have to pretend.

speaker 1

And I listened to that song on repeat.

speaker 2

On repeat.

speaker 3

On repeat. Rewind, rewind, rewind on my tape deck.

speaker 4

So my boyfriend made me a tape of “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy and Faith Evans. And we agreed to play it in our Walkmans every morning at the same time.

archived recording (puff daddy & faith evans)

(SINGING) Every step I take.

speaker

As lovesick teenagers, we only cared about the chorus lyrics. “Every step I take, every move I make.”

archived recording (puff daddy & faith evans)

Every single day, every time I pray, I’ll be missing you.

speaker 1

We adopted this song as our song.

speaker 2

On repeat.

speaker 3

On repeat.

speaker 4

On repeat. Rewind, rewind, rewind.

speaker

Hey, I’m calling from Dublin. And my song is “Work Song” by Hozier. In the summer of 2015, I was working for a volunteer wildlife expedition. And it involved hiking over the mountains and camping in tents. And I was feeling very sorry for myself because I was away from my girlfriend. And “Work Song” is this really slow, mournful love song.

archived recording (hozier)

(SINGING) There’s nothing sweeter than my baby.

speaker

He’s talking about his love. He’s pining for her.

archived recording (hozier)

‘Cause my baby’s sweet as can be, she gives me toothaches just from kissing me.

speaker

I was listening to that album on repeat that summer. On one of the last weekends, I got just blackout drunk with everyone else. And I made a terrible mistake, and I slept with someone else, cheating on my girlfriend. Working through it, we stayed together, but I really hurt her. And I realized years later, after talking to people about it, that I didn’t, strictly speaking, consent to what happened.

And as much as there is a stigma about cheating and cheaters, there’s as much about being victimized like that, I guess. I find it quite hard to say that when referring to myself. Seven years ago, I didn’t have those words. I don’t know. I still really feel something when I listen to that song. And I still enjoy it. You would think I wouldn’t, but I like listening to it still. But it’s very conflicting.

michael

Hey, I’m Michael. I’m calling from Brooklyn. And when I was 16, 17, I was dating this guy. And we really had this on-again, off-again relationship. Every time I met him, I was over the moon. And then he did something terrible to me, and then he didn’t call me, and I was just, I’m so stupid. Like, why am I doing this to myself? And the song that I really felt that described my situation perfectly was “I Love the Way You Lie” by Rihanna, Part Two.

archived recording (rihanna)

(SINGING) Just going to stand there and watch me burn.

michael

I played that song on my speakers very loud.

archived recording (rihanna)

Because I like the way it hurts.

michael

And I would sing along because you need to scream. You need to cry. You need to go verbal with it. The lyrics, it’s so — especially the bridge. Because Rihanna sings there, “Maybe I’m a masochist” and “I try to run, but I don’t want to ever leave.”

archived recording (rihanna)

So maybe I’m a masochist. I try to run, but I don’t want to ever leave.

michael

There was such a vibrating feeling that was so exciting, even though it was so wrong, or maybe because it was so wrong. And when you’re 16, you kind of want to do something wrong.

sarah

My name is Sarah. I’m calling from Ann Arbor, Michigan. It is the summer of 1996. I am running. I’m a camp counselor, northern Minnesota. I have just broken up with my boyfriend. He has cheated on me. We’ve written each other angry letters. And I’m running with my mom’s yellow Sony Walkman. I am listening to Duran Duran, cassette single. “Ordinary World” on one side.

archived recording (duran duran)

(SINGING) But I won’t cry for yesterday. There’s an ordinary world.

sarah

“Come Undone” on the other.

archived recording (duran duran)

Who do you need?

sarah

I am running. The tape is flipping, toggling back and forth. And I would just pound these roads, have all these feelings, just working out all these emotions I had around him. And then back in high school, fall of 1996, I remember very vividly seeing him on the stairwell and just having this moment of, he looked at me and I looked at him, and there was this acknowledgment that we still had feelings.

And then it’s December of 1996. We got too cold, and we ended up back in his bedroom. He put on “Come Undone” by Duran Duran. Simon Le Bon is singing to us. As the music swells, Ben says from his bed, “Are you coming over here?” We start kissing. And then we were together for a year after that.

archived recording (duran duran)

Who do you love when you come undone?

anna martin

A huge thank you to every single listener who sent in a story. We took all the songs that were submitted, and we pulled them together into this giant playlist that is top to bottom full of bangers, like absolute bangers. And you can listen to that First Love Mixtape in all its glory at the link in our show notes.

OK, now we’re going from first romantic experiences — the very beginnings of love, to what happens when love comes to an end. This week’s essay is about a woman who decides, after more than 50 years of marriage, that she wants a divorce. That’s coming up.

Tina Welling was married for more than 50 years. That’s so long to be married. But after decades together, Tina knew she needed to be on her own. And here’s a big accomplishment — she and her husband actually managed to have a good divorce. Tina’s essay is called “No Hearing Aids? Then No Marriage.” It’s read by Suzanne Toren.

suzanne toren

Who celebrates her 52nd wedding anniversary, and then six months later, files for divorce? Me. My husband and I were in our 70s. We’d made a life in Jackson, Wyoming. Our split was set into motion one Saturday evening when he and I were out to dinner. I’d come prepared to keep the conversation flowing because I knew that old joke, how can you tell it’s a married couple dining out? They have nothing to say to each other.

The night had started well. We were dressed up and feeling especially pleased with our plans. So it felt like a good time for me to ask, are you happy these days? What’s important to you lately? My husband was happy, he reported. But I knew our lives held little togetherness, other than love of our family and trading talk about our day. And talk was getting increasingly frustrating for us because of my husband’s difficulty in hearing.

For a couple of years, he had planned to sell his motorcycle and use the money for hearing aids. But despite not riding it the past two summers, he hadn’t followed through. That night, I ran out of questions before our salads had even arrived. And I was dismayed with how many times I’d had to repeat myself so he could hear me. I finally said, “Which would you rather have: hearing aids or a motorcycle?”

“A motorcycle, definitely.” An answer I already knew, even if I’d been in denial about it. But I was surprised by what happened next.

An awareness rose within me that we had come to the end of this phase of our relationship. We’d completed our marriage.

My feeling was hard to find words for because words weren’t involved. No weighing of pros and cons, no argument, no anger, just the full-body sensation of: Oh, we’re done. It choked me up.

I’d known this man since I was 17, a freshman in college wearing knee socks and plaid skirts. He was the mystery man on campus — an artist, a sport parachute jumper, a few years older than my friends and me. The first place I’d seen him was in a dining room. While sitting at a table with my girlfriends, I stared at his reflection in a window across the room. It took me a minute to realize that he was staring at me in the window’s reflection, too. We smiled at each other.

I remembered another restaurant meal, dining in Florida with my parents, who at the time also had been married more than 50 years. My mother was quite deep into Alzheimer’s disease. And yet, my father had rouged her cheeks and combed her hair for our evening out. I sat beside my mother in the booth, my father across from us. He reached for my mother’s hand and said, we’re partners, aren’t we? My mother was incapable of responding, but I teared up.

There was a truth in his remark that went far deeper than my father had intended. My mother had wanted my father’s undivided attention more than anything else in life. And she never felt she’d received it. Now she received it from the moment he brushed her teeth in the morning until he tucked her into bed at night. My father was affected so deeply by my mother’s condition that he freely wept and often hugged her and me.

Where he once used to leave the room in a huff if I became emotional and thumped me on the back as his way of demonstrating physical affection, he now overflowed with emotion and had no trouble showing it. So, yes, they were partners in marriage. They helped each other in some mysterious way to each receive what completed them. This was my role model of what a marriage meant in its most mystical sense. Partners meant two people who shared the experience of becoming their full selves.

I had hope to hear from my husband an answer that would bond us. Instead, I got: “A motorcycle, definitely.” As I sat across from him, poking around my food, I wondered if partnering was what I had experienced in my marriage. Over the years, I had matured, become a mother, an entrepreneur, a writer, all within the companionship of our relationship and with this man’s support. In return, I had supported him artistically and in the small business we had run together, a retail shop at the base of the ski resort here. Now, we had completed all we were going to in the way of that exchange.

That evening, I didn’t talk about my new understanding of the state of our union. I decided I would live with this new awareness as I watched my thoughts and emotions. I would talk to my husband about it on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, I called to make an appointment with a lawyer because I knew if I couldn’t do that, I couldn’t follow through at all. I called just before closing time.

The office paralegal answered. “What would you like to discuss with the lawyer?” she said. Now I had to say “divorce” out loud. I stuttered.

“How long have you been married?”

“52 years.”

[GASPS] She gasped. My spirit had gasped with her.

Before Wednesday, I also had imagined what a caring and thoughtful separation might look like. Although we had completed the marriage part of our relationship, I intended to honor and love him until death do us part, so I approached the subject from that perspective.

Later, he and I sat together, his arm around my shoulders, my hand tucked into his, as we worked out the practicalities. I suggested we keep our house and live in it together. We both loved our home and neighborhood, so we decided we would split the house into two apartments. We would call a contractor to make the necessary adjustments and divide the dishes and silverware.

Three years later, we had separate bedrooms, baths, kitchens, living spaces, studios, garden areas and porches. One of my friends called it an elegant solution. It felt good to us. Once in a while, we walk our pups together along the Snake River. Occasionally, we go out to breakfast. We share newspapers and melons and celebrate birthdays and holidays.

More than a friendly divorce, ours was a loving divorce. Liberated from the expectations, routines and baggage of marriage, we can be friends. And if we ever need each other, all we have to do is walk next door and knock.

anna martin

This episode was produced by Julia Botero, Hans Buetow and Mahima Chablani. Our show is edited by Sara Sarasohn. This episode was mixed by Elisheba Ittoop. The Modern Love theme music is by Dan Powell. Original music by Hans Buetow and Dan Powell. Digital production by Mahima Chablani.

And a special thanks to Ryan Wegner at Audm and to all of our listeners who shared their stories and their songs and their time with us. A big shout-out to Kate Mitchell, Ankit Sayed, Helen Coskeran, Michal Vanicek and Sara Molinaro.

Modern Love was founded by Dan Jones. Miya Lee is the editor of Modern Love projects. I’m Anna Martin. This is the final episode of the season. We’re taking a little break, and then we’ll be back in a few weeks with a brand new collection of stories. Until then, thanks for listening.

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