[Guest Post] “RESPECT: Find Out What It Means to Me” by LittleWelshMinx

I recently decided to run a pitch call for newer voices in sex writing – specifically, the criteria was anyone who has never been paid to write about sex/relationships before. I got a huge number of pitches and many of them were outstanding in quality. In the end, picking just one from the 70+ I got was too hard, so I picked a small number of my favourites and will be publishing them one at a time between now and Christmas. Today’s is from LittleWelshMinx. This one stood out to me because of its unique take on the role of song in self-care around dating. I also wanted to share this one first because it’s so timely given Aretha Franklin’s sad death last week. 

Without further ado, over to LWM…

RESPECT: Find Out What It Means to Me

A shelf of records in a store, for a guest blog on Aretha Franklin and RESPECTToday I’m talking about relationship rituals.

I have been dating now for 18 years. During that time, I have developed certain rituals for getting me through the tough times and for getting me through the really tough times. As my regular readers will know, I’m a big music fan. I often use music as a way of feeling, thinking, soothing myself, and finding the strength to face the pain, love, rejection, betrayal, and the unknown that is the world of relationships and dating.

My parents have handed down to me a very eclectic taste in music, and one of their favourite genres – and mine – is soul. In turn, soul music became one of the key elements of my own personal relationship soundtrack.

The deep, powerful voices would resonate through my room, vibrating through my heart, connecting me to singers from over 50 years ago, making me feel slightly less alone as their voices raised in celebration, desperation, and elation.

Of all of them, I loved Aretha Franklin’s Respect the best.

Here was a woman, not bowed in defeat, not crying in a corner but standing up for herself. Rather than giving up and walking away, the woman within the narrative of the song seems to be drawing a line, telling her partner the way it is, and demanding better treatment. You get the sense that she has taken some crap and just isn’t prepared to take any more.

Every time I was in a bad place, and had been neglected, ignored, abandoned, patronised, cheated on or dumped, I would turn to music, and inevitably, turn to Aretha.

Respect acted like a much-needed shake from a collective sisterhood, putting fire in my heart and stiffening my backbone. When I was looking for the strength to keep going, stand up for myself, or screw up enough resolve to look inside for the truth, for the reality of my situation, to face my unhappiness and find the strength to leave, her voice and words would give me courage, hope, and determination. She sang about not taking any shit back in the 1960s. I’d be damned if I’d take any shit 50 years later.

And so this women, with her words and raw power, would get me through.

She was there for me during the pain and shame when “D” made me go shopping with him for his girlfriend’s Christmas present, knowing I loved him, and the day after he slept with me for the first time.

She was there for me when “S” was playing mind games, gaslighting me before I knew gaslighting was a thing, when in my bewildered state I questioned my own sanity and morals.

She was there for me when “J” trailed off into oblivion.

She was there when “R” left me for another woman, three days after introducing me to his extended family, and three months after insisting I meet his son.

This song, among many others, has been a touchstone for me. An audio reminder of who I am, what I want, and what I will and will not tolerate in my own life and relationships.

The thing to remember is that we all go through tough times and we all get our hearts broken at some point or another. To survive it, you need to have things you can fall back on, and songs like Respect, that help to snap you out of the pain, make you laugh at yourself, and keep moving forward.

Whenever I find myself hurting, I find bittersweet comfort knowing I can turn to music for solace. More than just reminding me to be strong, Aretha has been a thread throughout my dating life. Whenever I listen to Respect in a moment of pain, I am forced to remember the previous moments, but also forced to remember the fact that I got through them, and survived, a little wiser, a little tougher, and a little stronger.

When I heard the news of her death, I stopped in my tracks. Later that night I wept. I wept for a woman I never met, because her song helped me to become the woman I am.

Thank you, Aretha.

xxx

Little Welsh Minx in a masquerade mask.About LittleWelshMinx

Hello! I’m a 30-something girl from Wales, who likes classic literature, rugby, salsa, old Hollywood cinema, 40s/50s/60s fashion, and drinking gin and tonics. I blog about sex, from as many different view points, subjects, and angles as possible… academic, historical, geographical, scientific, technological, moral, personal, socioeconomic, political, emotional….

Sex – it’s not just a noun or a verb.

Six Little Love Stories in Six Songs

An iPod resting on some sheet music. For a post about love songs

One. Evanescence – You

So many nights I’ve cried myself to sleep,
but now that you love me I love myself.
I never thought I would say this,
I never thought there’d be You.

I know I have to begin with this one, and yet all I can do is stare at the screen and wonder how I can possibly sum it up in a few short lines.

I lost my thing-society-typically-calls-virginity to this one. I was only sixteen and a Good Girl, fully believing that having sex outside of marriage might be okay, but only if I did go on to marry the person I ‘lost it’ to. That belief and its equally-insidious sister, ‘you must keep your Number as low as possible,’ kept me in far too many broken relationships for far too long.

But once upon a time, before sex and shame and trauma, I was just a lonely girl who needed a boy to tell her she was pretty and it would all be okay. I needed someone to love me into loving myself. It would be years before I learned that wasn’t possible.

Two. A R Rahman & The Pussycat Dolls – Jai Ho (You Are My Destiny)

You are the reason that I breathe,
You are the reason that I still believe,
You are my destiny.
Now there is nothing that can stop us,

Nothing will ever come between us,
So come and dance with me…

Pride – my first. She was my first many things. First woman, first poly partner, first person I completely lost my mind over. First drinking-myself-into-oblivion, crying-for-weeks heartbreak.

But before it all goes wrong, we share this one beautiful day. I hold her hand. I kiss her, surrounded by fellow queers, the first time I’ve felt in my bones that my love for her is not wrong, but the rightest thing in the world.

Later, in the corner of a marquee drinking overpriced Pimms and wearing a fluffy-rimmed cowboy hat (from whence it came I do not recall,) we dance. In this moment, I believe that nothing can ever come between us. So come and dance with me…

Three. The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony

Well I never pray,
But tonight I’m on my knees (yeah)
I need to hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me.

A camping weekend. A field in the grounds of someone’s enormous farmhouse, rural Cambridgeshire. It’s his birthday, this long-haired energy ball of a boy I’ve had a crush on for so long.

The campfire blazes. This song drifts across us from the speakers someone’s rigged up, the melody distant and yet still so imprinted upon my mind that even now, whenever I hear the tune I can still smell the fire and feel his lips as he leaned to kiss me.

We date for maybe a couple of months. He takes me on a date to the zoo. We make out and engage in some very heavy petting, but whenever he tries to push things further, I can’t do it. We quickly realise we’re not really all that compatible and fade easily back into a casual friendship.

Four. Music & Lyrics – Way Back Into Love

There are moments when I don’t know if it’s real,
or if anybody feels the way I feel.
I need inspiration,
not just another negotiation.

Kiss me. Kiss me damnit! I’ve been thinking it, madly willing it every time I’ve seen his so-bloody-attractive face all weekend. With literally minutes until I have to leave, reluctantly crossing back into the real world after a weekend of glorious poly retreat, he finally does it.

Three months later, I get on a train and go to his housewarming party in a different city, where I don’t know anyone. He does a shitload of drugs. I don’t, but I’m high on him, on his presence. He spirits me off to a loft-bed and goes down on me, pressing a hand to my mouth when I giggle too loudly. I sleep in his bed with him, his wife and her boyfriend. For a few short weeks, I wonder if this pretty, pretty boy is going to be the person that makes this burned girl believe in love again. (Spoiler: he wasn’t.)

Five. Death Cab for Cutie – I Will Follow You Into the Dark

If Heaven and Hell decide that they both are satisfied
and illuminate the ‘no’s on their vacancy signs,
if there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks,
then I’ll follow you into the dark.

The moment I see this one, I am lost. Even years later, she’s one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen, let alone been in a relationship with. The most amazing style, a smile that rendered this wordy girl tongue-tied, and a passion like a fire in her belly. She’s something else.

And she writes a song for me. It only takes a little coaxing for her to sing it to me. I can see her now, cross legged on the bed with lacy skirt pooling around her, turquoise ukulele in hand.

‘I can’t write tunes,’ she says apologetically, ‘only lyrics, so the tune’s kinda ripped off from a Death Cab For Cutie song. Maybe don’t listen to the original, it’s about suicide.’

Six. Porcupine Tree – Sleep Together

Let’s sleep together right now,
relieve the pressure somehow,
switch off the future right now,
let’s leave forever.

We sext day after day, have illicit cyber-sex night after night, and fall in love through typed words and grainy video-chats. I don’t know, yet, that I will eventually move my world around for this man, that he will become my blood and my bones and the most dearly beloved of my life.

What I do know, when he sends me this song, is that I want to sleep with him. I don’t even mean have sex. I am so very tired, physically exhausted from too many late night chats and emotionally drained from fighting a battle with my own heart that I already know I’ve lost. I want to rest in his arms, to feel safe for once in my life, and just to sleep.

Today I sleep with him every night.