Love Don’t Love Me – A Guest Post

coming out, gay, relationships, love, sex

The classic 10cc goes, “I’m not in love, so don’t forget it. It’s just a silly phase I’m going through.” Although released in 1975 it’s one of those songs that seeps into your life via osmosis or… adverts.

I heard it randomly the other day and I realised that as far back as I can remember I’ve always been in love. I know that sounds trite. Like something a Richard Curtis foppish, heterosexual and non-threatening male lead might say. But I have.

There was the stand offish girl in Nursery followed by the popular boy in Primary school. Both of which were innocent for obvious reasons. Then there was the cocky lad in high school and sixth form. The list goes on. All unobtainable as I peaked out through the crack in the closet doors.

I had secret and somewhat toxic relationships in between and then I fell for my friend of six years and after I came out to him I thought I could tell him. Cutting a long story short; it didn’t end well.

It was beginning to transpire that love didn’t love me.

As Valentine’s Day approaches I begin to think about what it means to be in love and whether, if unrequited love is just a figment of your imagination, it should remain that way. It occurred to me for the first time for as long as I can remember; I’m not in love; unrequited or otherwise. And do you know what? That’s okay.

In fact, after a bout of depression, I’ve been happier than I have been in a long time. Forcing myself to do the “steps” and embrace each part of my heartbreak and depression has felt like I’ve dragged myself through the last year like a huge weight. I was looking to go backwards; back to when I was myself; the affable and hopeless romantic. I said this to my therapist who decided to cut me down in the way that she does; “You can’t go back; you can only go forwards but we can reclaim parts of who we were”. They were simple words but they had a greater consequence.

So I picked up the corpse of who I was. I cried. I told friends the truth. I unburdened myself, although at times I felt like I’ve been watching my life back. All those clichés rang true and I’m now in a new place.

So what next? It’s a question that I ask myself more and more. The fact that I don’t know has its own appeal. I’m taking time out. Then I remember what people in films say (Maybe Richard Curtis films) they say you find love when you’re least looking for it. I think of this and I think other people will think I’m insane. I’m so far in my own navel that it’s no longer navel gazing but some kind of astronomy. I’m not in love with anyone but I’m open to it and that has a charm all of its own. I’m a hopeless romantic and I don’t think it’s a silly phase I’m going through.

A gorgeous piece written by a gorgeous person. Keeping this one anonymous but, for the record, I couldn’t be prouder of them if I tried.

AN OPEN LETTER TO NICKY MORGAN – A GUEST POST

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Dear Nicky,

I hear you have warned young people that choosing to study arts subjects could “hold them back for the rest of their lives.”

Just for clarity, ‘art’ is defined as: “expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, producing works to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power.”

The Education Secretary is telling children to shut down their imaginations- well isn’t that just dandy. Apparently “those who study maths to A-level will earn 10% more over their lifetime.” Realistically, people who study maths to A-level will probably earn more like 90% more than I will in my lifetime. And you know what? I honestly could not care less.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have a full appreciation for scientific and mathematical subjects- they have an incredibly high value within society. Each day, groundbreaking medical and technological advances are made that change people’s lives. Which is brilliant. But the arts are just as important.

People escape the pressure of their working life by losing themselves in creativity on a daily basis. They allow the literary meanderings of Faulks or McEwan or E L James, to transcend the cramped isolation of the underground. They place their headphones on and have the inane murmurings of Taylor Swift blare away their troubles. Millions upon millions of people escape in to the world of Westeros or Litchfield prison; they immerse themselves in stories of meth producers or singing high school kids, or even simply six chums, relaxing in their local coffeehouse. They see pieces of art and design, which are at the foundation of our cultural identity and make them feel something. The most famous Briton isn’t a mathematician or a scientist; sorry to burst that bubble, but the poor sod just wrote a few plays and some poems. Thankfully you weren’t around back then to try and stick a pin in his creative balloon.

And you’re not sticking one in mine, either.

So I have cobbled together the words of those who made the decision to pursue a passion that would “hold them back for the rest of their lives”, to present my point far more aptly than I can:

 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that

nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

We are told that one must be careful of books, and what’s inside them, for words have the power to change us.

History is a nightmare from which we are trying to awake.

Do I dare disturb the universe?

But I remember one thing: it wasn’t me that started acting deaf; it was people that first started acting like I was too dumb to hear or see or say anything at all.

Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat.

Nicky, my dear,

You cast a shadow on something wherever you stand, so choose a place where you won’t do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth.

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.

We will not be led into the heart of an immense darkness;

Afterall, we are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams.

The curves of our lips rewrite history.

 We owe it to the young people of the future. Young people like

Matilda, whose strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.

They are not alone. You will not suppress the imaginations of future generations of Matildas and Harrys everywhere, because you view arts and humanities as ‘soft subjects’. So here I am setting up an artistic version of Dumbledore’s Army (couldn’t help myself), to ensure that the fire of creativity will continue to burn long in the imaginations of our young people and not be snuffed out by these dementorish measures.

I’m an actor, pursuing my creative ambition. So no, I am not going to go out and get a ‘real job’. I already have one.

Yours creatively,

Liam

Written by Liam Steward-George.

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Actor, writer, bold pant wearer.

A RESPONSE TO ‘THE MUSIC’

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So The London Ladybird wants to talk about music.

First of all, an admission – I was partially goaded into reading this piece and therefore may have had a few preconceptions. Having re-read it, I want to state that I agree with a lot of the points made. However, and it would be very boring if this wasn’t the case, I do have a few points I would like to make myself.

I am not entirely sure what The LL is driving at overall: is it people who make judgements about music they know nothing about; is it people who try to follow what’s cool rather than what they like; is it people who think everything was better back in the day and there is no good music being made now; is it people who don’t like the current dominance of generic and meaningless popular music of all genres; or is it people who believe that there is such a thing as good and bad music and are vocal about their opinion?

Music is a tough thing to debate, like all art it is inherently subjective, and therefore elicits powerful opinions along hard to define concepts. I accept that there can be no scientific or objective categorisation of what constitutes good or bad music and we must therefore be careful when seeking to pass judgement. However, also like all other art forms within our society, music cannot be separated from money – the two are inseparable, and this relationship cannot and must not be overlooked.

I am not going to deal in depth with all of the questions listed above; suffice to say many of them are too ridiculous to take seriously, and some I must admit, I think The LL alluded to in a ‘straw man’ type argument in order to further her point. So first let me be clear:

People who make judgements about music they know nothing about are stupid.

People who try to follow what’s cool rather than what they actually like, are misguided, unlucky and doomed to failure.

People who think everything was better back in the day and don’t value contemporary music are small-minded and have no appreciation for musical evolution and diversity.

These statements may seem harsh or judgemental but there you go, sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand.

The last two questions however are more difficult.

Let’s start with ‘the current dominance of generic and meaningless popular music of all genres.’ Straight away I would like to make clear that I know generic and meaningless music is not a new phenomenon, I know that some popular music has merit, and I know that this paragraph is perhaps going to identify me as one of the people The LL was talking about. The problem with popular music in our society is that it has become, more than ever before, big business. The sums of money available to those who achieve even the most modest success are enough to provide the basis for an extremely comfortable lifestyle. This lifestyle, and therefore the music which can be the vehicle to it, cannot be separated from the associated celebrity trappings of trashy magazines, banal gossip columns and meaningless award ceremonies. The draw of this industry, and the vast sums that it generates in merchandise, ticket and advertising revenue, is such that very intelligent people dedicate their careers to successfully introducing new products into the market. It is this dynamic that has ruined popular music. These executives understand that in our mass media and mass consumption environment it is incredibly rare for unique artistic expression to lead to widespread public acclaim and therefore healthy profits. This can be seen across music, film and publishing (how many celebrity cook books and ‘autobiographies’ will be on the best seller lists this Christmas?). Their strategy is therefore to appeal to the lowest common denominator, to deliver a product which appeals to the widest possible range of people. It is no accident that three generations of the same family can all be into One Direction.

It is this ‘wide and shallow’ strategy that causes me such pain. I do not dislike a large chunk of ‘popular’ music (not all!) on any ideological basis; I dislike it because there is nothing to it. Much of the music is incredibly risk averse, following established patterns of formulaic success, and does not do anything to contribute to the incredible canon of world music that has developed over the course of human history. This is by design – things which are new, or different, or present a challenge through being ambitious, are not immediately successful. It takes much trial and error, graft and care, and a certain amount of faith from the consumer for these things to get off the ground. Record execs do not like what this kind of time, risk and commitment does to their bottom line, so they focus on what is guaranteed to sell x units in y amount of time – it’s safe and it follows an established route for commercial success.

For anyone looking for an example of this in action please note the current explosion in awful dance / EDM / ‘house’ (it’s not house) guff being relentlessly released into the atmosphere. Or the complete bastardisation of what used to be RnB. What happened to hip hop too while we’re at it? ‘Popular music’ waits for actual innovators in the music industry to make a breakthrough and then relentlessly rides it into the ground ‘Little Boy’ style until the market is completely saturated.

Linking this ‘popular music’ question with ‘good or bad music,’ I do take The LL’s point regarding different songs and different music serving different purposes. There are certainly things I enjoy in the club which I would not sit and listen to in my lounge. Similarly there are tracks which are inescapably catchy even if there does not appear to be anything particularly good about them. But does this mean all music is equal? That we simply lose ourselves in a big subjective grey mess where nothing is subjected to critique or analysis?

I believe that the fundamental differences that exist in this debate are based upon an underlying gap between the people who are doing the debating. For some, music is something which can be enjoyable; it might provide a distraction on the train to work, or the soundtrack to a boozy weekend. These people are pretty easy going, they do not demand much of their music, simply that they can either dance to it, sing along with it, or throw up on the dance floor in time to it.

Then there are the people who cannot imagine being without music, the thought of not being able to listen to all the songs they’ve so far discovered and will continue to discover, is abhorrent to them. When they find music they really like it’s an almost spiritual experience, music has the ability to transform their mood and completely take them out of themselves. Unsurprisingly these people are more demanding of their music, it has to grab them in one way or another, it has to make them feel something, to stir something in them. And these people have no tolerance for the chaff that typically occupies the top 40 and stirs nothing but the bank balance of a suit in an office.

Now to be clear I am not saying one of these types is better or worse than the other – simply that they are different. I do however know who’s music advice I would take more seriously…

In summary: money ruins most things – particularly art, and we each get the music we deserve.

Back chat supplied by Nick Yandle. Response to follow.