Straight from the tube station near home I go to Tesco, where I do my weekly food shopping, and there’s something extremely comforting and reassuring about doing your food shopping alone, very late on a Saturday evening, when the average person, the normal person really, is out living it up. And right now at Tesco I’m pretending that I chose this life and that it wasn’t imposed on me.
At 2300 I leave home again and get on the tube, making my way to Scott’s house. I’m still wearing the same Smiths t-shirt (with sweat marks), the same jeans and trainers. I like the fact that I haven’t changed all day. I’m just some guy. This guy doesn’t care about clothes.
For this journey I’m reading The Bell Jar, I’m playing The Living Dead by Suede on repeat (key lyric: “I was the wife of an acrobat, I looked like the living dead, boy”), I’m making eye contact with the floor and nothing above it.
And on this Saturday night on a tube line in West London reading Sylvia Plath, listening to Suede and wearing a Smiths t-shirt, I have never been to a night club, I have never gone to the gym, I do not know what a tricep extension is, I have never picked up QX.
Then I get to ___ (way too soon, I must have only played The Living Dead twelve times, I should make the main criterion of choosing my next boyfriend that they should live further away) and on the walk from the tube station to Scott’s house I decide to break the mould, go out on a limb and I put the iPod on shuffle.
As soon as the first song comes on, I know I’ve made the wrong choice. This is Romantic Love by Dana Dawson and I don’t think I can take it. I am simply not strong enough. This is a song so unknown it never charted in the UK or the US, but I absolutely and utterly love it.
This is the song that describes who I should be and what I should be doing. Actually, it’s written and sung from the perspective of a black teenage girl who’s about to go on her first date, but I’ve never aspired to be more than that.
Mind you, not a black teenage girl from South London spending her time shoplifting lip-gloss and Sugababes CD singles from the local Woolworth with her brash friends, but an innocent, sweet black teenage girl from a small town in America.
Here’s a brief analysis of the song, and why I should be that girl.
In the first verse, Dana tells us:
I will try
To come and see you tonight
Fix up my face
Look like a star, baby
I will buy
A flower to put in my hair
So you can see
Just where I am
She has never been on a date. She lives in a world of innocent first dates, first attempts at your make up, flowers in your hair. What she doesn’t know is that Tyrone will turn up, take her to the dance, make his move and when she tries to resist he will just rape her on the side of the car park, muffled screams heard by no one, the flower in her hair flat on the ground and covered in mud.
In the chorus, Dana tells us:
Say you will be
The one who dances up to me
The one who takes me to the sky
Way up high
Show a growing girl
A romantic world
There will be no dancing up to her. There will be no uplift to the sky. There is no romantic world. This girl will stop growing tonight.
In the second verse, Dana tells us:
I can't lie
I would not miss opening night
You're just the best
On your guitar, baby
But I won't try
No, I can't stay out all night
I must return
This is a reference to Dana’s curfew. Her Mother never wanted her to go out to this dance anyway; she gave in in the end but asked her to be back by 0000. Dana got back earlier than that – it all happened so quickly – but there was little point. It was much too late already.
In the morning, her Mother looking forward to hearing about the night before, she makes Dana’s breakfast and calls her name. When Dana doesn’t come down, her Mother doesn’t get worried. She doesn’t have a reason to get worried. There’s a piece of rope missing from the shed, but nobody knows yet. This is Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides, except not anymore.
I don’t know why I have to think all this when hearing an innocuous teenage pop song, but I do. So there you go.