I fell in love with the woman before I fell in love with Ryan Adams.
I was traveling from Texas to Indonesia at the time (a connecting flight) and was listening to his 2007 record “Easy Tiger” on my airline headphones. It was almost-free music streaming from the seat in front of me, and somewhere close to 30,000 feet in the air.
This particular woman, one I knew from Texas, was not familiar with the guy, but then again, she wasn’t exactly familiar with me either and that’s why I was going to visit her. I had planned to give her a mixed CD, which included one of the tracks from the album, a song called “These Girls”. Upon repeated listening, this song was not the best choice for my particular situation as it painted a portrait of weary resignation toward the fairer sex—the kind of thing you might listen to six months after a relationship ended, but definitely not before it even began.
The truth was, I just thought the song was cool. It was different—soft, but painful—and I thought she might like it. I thought she might like it in the way that I liked it, and in doing so, perhaps like me.
Afterward, there were other girls that I hoped would like it, too. Some were from Austin, some were from Houston. Some were Oregonians who had, by chance, ended up in the great Midwest along with me, unphased by the boyishness I would eventually settle into. Girls who were willing to sit alongside me in sidewalk cafés or in the passenger seat of my grandmother’s car while I drove across state lines, inevitably returning to Ryan Adams as someone who could offer us both solace in a melody.
It was curious, this pattern that I advertised in the storefront of my late 20s. The days and weeks of getting to know someone (we called it dating back then) and at some point popping the question, “Ever listen to this dude?” It was as if I needed them to like him in order for me to proceed. He was a bridge they needed to cross. He was a type of conduit, and I had attached one end of a wire to my chest, if only they could find the time to listen to “Heartbreaker”.
But a funny thing happened during those years. Something I felt sure was a mistake and that, once it happened, thought would surely never happen again.
One by one, and without much emotion or fanfare, certainly without much of a characteristic counter-argument on my end, each of them revealed that they didn’t really care for him that much. That’s not to say they did not enjoy a few of his songs (“Two” was easy to sing along to, “Come Pick Me Up” had seen some them through a previous break-up), but they didn’t really keep up with him as they might a mainstream musician. They weren’t curious about his back catalog. They didn’t want to find out more about him and, in doing so, unearth another gem or two that just might change the trajectory of their musical path.
They didn’t really want to take the time to understand him. They also, I wrote to myself one night, didn’t want to understand me.
During the time spent trying to figure out if I was right or not, I began to listen to more Ryan Adams than ever before. He accompanied me on late night walks while I dodged opossoms and raccoons in the Kansas City suburbs. He was with me when I dated a woman much younger than me who’s mom confused him with Bryan Adams. He was most prominent on my “California 2012” playlist when I traveled across the country to put a little distance between myself and a certain raven-haired beauty. (Mind you, I still count this as one of the most healthy of break-ups, but “Ashes and Fire” had just been released and so—who I am kidding—the temptation to strap myself in and just be sad for a couple thousand miles was calling to me like black coffee on a rainy Sunday afternoon).
It was ten months later, after I had settled into Los Angeles and traded in opposums for the occasional Echo Park coyote that I listened to “These Girls” again. I was standing out on my porch, enveloped in an insomnia-induced haze, but it was still the same song I remembered from all those years ago. The gentle plucking of twin guitars, the homemade static that comes from tracks recorded in someone’s basement studio. As I leaned out onto the railing, I was instantly transported back to that hotel in Indonesia in 2007.
The hotel with a room next to mine that contained a woman that made the earth spin.
A funny thing happens when you embrace your earthbound loneliness for a moment. It’s not unlike ingesting an edible—you’re frightened at first until you begin to relax and laugh your face off.
The girls would always be there, late night or otherwise, but I would never have this moment to myself again. I was glad to be sharing it with a dude who meant equally as much, if not more to me than they did. I was glad to be sharing it with someone who, like me, had so much love for these women that he couldn’t help but write it down.
I was just so happy to still be listening.
What’s your take on what you just read? Comment below or write a response and submit to us your own point of view at the red box, below, which links to our submissions portal.
Are you a first-time contributor to The Good Men Project? Submit here:
Have you contributed before and have a Submittable account? Use our Quick Submit link here:
Do you have previously published work that you would like to syndicate on The Good Men Project? Click here:
Got Writer’s Block?
We are a participatory media company. Join us.
Participate with the rest of the world, with the things your write and the things you say, and help co-create the world you want to live in.
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project, please join us as a Premium Member, today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
A $50 annual membership gives you an all-access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class, and community.
A $25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group, and our online communities.
A $12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.
Register New Account
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: Getty Images