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April's theme is
MOTHERS & SISTERS.
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Since completing this mixtape a few weeks ago, I've written upwards of twenty drafts of this particular essay. My first attempt discussed my tendency to play out romantic first-meeting scenarios in my head during moments of solitude. My second described my mixed emotions about Tinder. One just said "skaljsdflkjasdf." None of them were quite right.
I've been wondering why I'm having so much trouble writing about love, and why I feel so conflicted about my earlier drafts. Part of the reason for my writer's block, I think, is that I'm generally unsure about my relationship with love in general. I'm fairly certain that I've never felt true romantic love, although who's to define what romantic love actually is? I'm also well aware that I've been in far too few serious or significant relationships to have any authority on the matter. After all, how can I write about making the perfect mixtape for a crush when the bulk of what I know about romantic love comes from reading novels and watching cheesy sitcoms? How do I write about romance for a publication that, above all, should be about female empowerment and not a spin-off of Cosmo? And perhaps, most importantly of all, how do I reconcile my love of Nora Ephron romance plots with my desire to also pursue my own aspirations, dreams, and ambitions? Are the two necessarily mutually exclusive?
For most of my life, I've been consumed by romance as an idea. My DVD collection is an amalgam of pink cases and way too much Mandy Moore. My copy of Pride and Prejudice is torn and littered with mysterious stains from far too many repeated readings. I know every Sheryl Crow love song by heart. And yet, in real life, I've had very few meaningful romantic experiences, let alone salacious hookups or one night stands. I was the kid who ate alone in the library at lunchtime and who took her next door neighbor to prom because no one else asked. I was the girl who very recently kissed her date's nose instead of his mouth after an evening out because I was fumble-y and nervous and way more inexperienced than society leads us to believe a 22-year old should be. And all of this bothers me. A lot.
For years, I've spent an unnerving amount of time pondering my lack of romantic success. Throughout college, I saw my friends go on dates, hook up with casual acquaintances after too many beers, and even enter into genuine long-term relationships. And while I outwardly shared in their joys and successes, there was a selfish part of me that wanted their happiness for myself. "Where is my prince charming?" I thought. "What's wrong with me?" I found that I so willingly went down a rabbit hole of self-doubt (I'm ugly, I'm fat, I'm not cool) without allowing myself to remember that I have a lot going on in other areas of my life.
I often wonder why, after achieving success academically and in my career, I still beat myself up for being romantically inexperienced. After all, as a feminist and a graduate of a women's college, shouldn't I not care about my life being an imprint of When Harry Met Sally? Shouldn't I be proud that I graduated summa cum laude from college, rather than lament the fact that I still don't have a serious boyfriend?
The thing is, after years of watching Annie Hall and reading Meg Cabot novels, I've learned that I don't need to apologize for being in love with the idea of romance. Being smart and liking chick flicks are not mutually exclusive, yet we're conditioned to believe that they are. Has my obsession with romance led me to experience failures in my own love life? Probably. Is it an issue that I spend hours kicking myself for not being romantically involved? Definitely. But I'm slowly learning that perhaps my lack of romantic success doesn't mean I'm a total loser. And that, for me, feels like a victory.
I guess this essay doesn't have anything to do with mixtapes anymore, but I think I'm okay with that. Maybe, just maybe, I'm starting to feel okay with myself too.
1. Prinze George "This Time"
2. Brigitte Bardot "Moi Je Joue"
3. The Ronettes "Be My Baby"
4. The Crystals "He's a Rebel"
5. Sam Cooke "You Send Me"
6. Man Man "Doo Right"
7. Plastic Bertrand "Ca plane pour moi"
8. Buzzcocks "Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone)"
9. SONiA "Aqui En Mi Nube"
10. Girlpool "Jane"
11. Crocodiles "Endless Flowers"
12. Waxahatchee "Be Good"
13. Jessica Lea Mayfield "Seein* Starz"
14. Melody's Echo Chamber "I Follow You"
15. First Aid Kit "My Silver Lining"
16. Lucinda Williams "Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor"
17. Moses Campbell "And It's Over 2"
18. Neutral Milk Hotel "In The Aeroplane Over the Sea"