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 the reference to RESPECT is so timely given Aretha Franklin’s sad death last week.
Without further ado, over to LWM…
“RESPECT: Find Out What It Means to Me”
Today 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.
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.