Monday, May 30, 2005

On Mix Tapes and Infidelity

I felt a sharp stab reading Salon's review of Thurston Moore's new book Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture. Mix tapes, just in case you were born after 1980 or so, were those cassettes us oldtimers used to make back before the digital era. We'd painstakingly dub our most beloved songs off vinyl and -- in some cases -- other mix tapes, to create a custom sonic symphony for ourselves, our friends, or, most pointedly, for a potential or actual girlfriend.

The painful part of the review:

Phrased negatively, making a mix tape for someone other than your girlfriend is a form of cheating. In the film version of Nick Hornby's book "High Fidelity," John Cusack's character nearly wrecks a relationship by making a mix for another girl. He might as well have been caught with panties in his messenger bag. It doesn't matter that he never gets further than flirting. Making a mix tape for another girl is only a notch below actual infidelity.

The age of the mix tape has given way to the age of the easily-made mix CD, but the intent and emotion behind a good mix remains the same. This is why, a couple of months ago, when my wife started bringing home mix CDs given to her by a close male friend (formerly a close friend of mine, too), I openly called her on it, expressed why it hurt me, and tried to explain why I thought it inappropriate at best for her to be accepting such tapes. She played dumb, or maybe she really was clueless on this point, or maybe she was deliberately (if unconsciously) working to sever her ties to me.

Most painfully, much of the music on the mix tapes was music that's been on our iPod or in my CD collection for years, music that I had tried repeatedly to introduce my wife to. Her resistence to trying anything new was a long-time trait; her willingness to do so with someone else a deep betrayal. Does this constitute infidelity?

For me it does. Emotional cheating is far more painful than sexual cheating. Being stabbed in the back in this way by both my wife and a former close friend has certainly been a most unpleasant shock; I think I know how all those Enron employees and shareholders felt, watching their beloved investments collapse into shit.

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