What was real

Jun Yang, A Short Story on Forgetting and Remembering (2007)

Bands I saw play live in my twenties:

A lot of the bands I saw play locally in my early twenties just happened to be playing the same gigs my exes were playing. Once that ex was a band–we saw Brass Munkeys, Mobster Manila, Neighbors, Brownbeat All-Stars, Sugarfree, Imago, Sandwich, Indio I, Cynthia Alexander, Twisted Halo, Narda–I can’t remember who we followed, though. It took a while to figure out we all liked different things (and for me to get over the fact that no one liked Sonic Youth). Then the band broke up and we all went our separate ways. When the exes were boys, the same thing happened–Up Dharma Down, Razorback, Sugarfree and Twisted Halo (still), Loquy, Radioactive Sago Project…I don’t know why a lot of the names just kind of faded because, a) I’m not that old, b) this wasn’t that long ago, and c) as silly as it sounds, a lot of living went into going out and seeing these guys play.

What I do remember though is that whenever I saw a band without my boyfriend, there was always this feeling of committing some inexplicably illicit act, as if I wasn’t supposed to like something that he didn’t like–which I knew was moronic, but I felt it anyway. What on earth would a twenty-year-old girl being doing out at night, without her boyfriend? The few gigs I remember seeing locally without him: Sheila and the Insects with the Purplechickens and Ang Bandang Shirley, Arigato Hato, Tao Aves, and a Rockestra series with The Dawn (I think?) and Up Dharma Down. The dates kind of run together the way the gigs do, and they all look the same and even kind of feel the same. But I did chase that feeling around like a drug, until it started feeling more like I was dragging my heels and just maintaining my share of the commitment.

Being in a relationship, for me, meant dealing with the pressure of perpetual interest in another person and in the goal of building a life together. I think we went out a lot. I’m not sure if we were distracting ourselves from ourselves, or genuinely interested in the same things–especially now that we rarely run into each other. If we were, then why can’t I remember any of it? I think we ate out with his family a lot.

Notes on having a boyfriend

I have not been in a relationship since I turned 24. I’m turning 28 in a couple of weeks.

The year I turned 24 was the year I threw in the towel with working somewhere because the pay was “good”, and it came with the vague hope of moving up the corporate ladder and wresting some semblance of control over what I wanted to do. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and by then it was becoming clear that it wasn’t enough for me to know what I liked. I had liked my boyfriend, but somehow the thought of a deliberate permanence with him, permanently liking and disliking things together filled me with dread. I traveled a little, then a lot. I told a friend once that “It’s not as if I’m escaping from the fact that I don’t like where I live,” and he asked, “Then what is it?” And that shut me up, but now it feels more like an exercise in building tolerable distances.

Can't believe I never posted a picture of Turkish Wedding Band because these guys really killed it.
Can’t believe I never posted a picture of Turkish Wedding Band because these guys really killed it.

What does any of this have to do with concerts I saw in my twenties? I remember everything I’ve seen without him, because they all came with not having to wait for someone else to say yes. And while I do talk a lot about wanting someone (at least in my head, I do), maybe it isn’t a matter of wanting someone but wanting something else.

Other notes on having a boyfriend

When guys hit on me, it often feels like a deliberate attempt to bring out the worst in themselves. Telling them you don’t want to be bothered or to please go away does not work. Saying “I have a boyfriend”, sadly, does.

2 thoughts on “What was real

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