‘This track came on and I thought, “That’s not him. That’s not this kid I’ve just seen.”
“About that tape you gave me, what’s on it?”
‘I said, “It’s me…”
‘So I said “That Million Love Songs track, is that you singing?” He went, “Yeah.”
‘But who’s made all the music behind it?’
I said, “I do it all in my bedroom. It’s just me, the whole thing.”‘
Take That, For the Record
I went on a date earlier this week, and a hour or so in, my least favourite question came up.
‘When did your last relationship end?’
What do you say to that, at thirty-one, when you’ve never had a last relationship?
When it comes to love and relationships, I’m pretty much still a teenager. I have no experience of making an actual relationship work, no knowledge of the compromises it involves or the communication it requires.
I worry about that a lot, as you’ll know if you’re a regular reader. I want children. I want, if I’m honest, to be loved. And although I don’t believe you can rely on someone else to fill the gaps in your self-esteem, but I want, need, someone to prove me wrong about every assumption I’ve made in my life regarding my disability and my spiky personality making me unlovable.
I’m a cynic, but I’m also a diehard romantic.
When I went to see Take That live, for like the hundredth time, in June, I was always intending to follow up with a blog post. I was going to write about the way my affection for the band has changed over the years: twenty-two years ago I would hole up in my room and play the lyrics I loved over and over again, notably the bit at the end of I Can Make It, where Mark Owen croons ‘I bel-ieve we can make love, forevvvver.’
These days when I hear that lyric, it makes me laugh. It makes me think ‘Ow, that would chafe,’ rather than ‘OMG, that’s so *romantic.* In general, many of the early tracks have meant less and less to me as I’ve got older. I still listen to them, for their nostalgic value, but (luckily) they don’t speak to me the way they did when I was a pre-teen.
So these days, I mainly listen to the more upbeat, newer stuff, as do most of my friends. Being a Take That fan is (honestly!) less about having a huge crush on Gary Barlow and more about the cheerfulness of familiar pop music, of something that feels safe, and familiar, and uplifting all at the same time. It’s about one of those rare moments when I go to gigs and am amazed by the way three guys can unite a room full of women.
But A Million Love Songs holds a special place in my heart. Written by Gary when he was sixteen, it smacks of a teenager’s view of love, but it’s lovely nonetheless. Last night, when it came on shuffle, I switched off the lights, sat on the floor with a glass of wine, and thought about what it means to me.
‘Close your eyes but don’t forget
What you have heard
A man who’s trying to say three words
Words that make me scared’
That’s how I feel about the idea of love in a reciprocal, healthy relationship. I want it, but fear that I won’t find it, or that I’ll find it and it’ll all go tits up, properly holds me back.
There’s part of me, too, that feels I missed out. That giddy, childish, carefree early relationships passed me by and that now I have to take it all so much more seriously, because I have so many hopes and dreams invested in it.
Sometimes, that pressure makes me want to run in the opposite direction, to not give any more of myself to potential partners, to avoid hurt by avoiding hope. Sometimes I just need something that lets me be eleven again, with less fear, less worry.
And sometimes, just sometimes, I can make it feel like that’s true.