The first time I heard “Boys Will Be Bugs” I was seventeen years old, listening to Spotify on shuffle in the middle of the night, alone in my room at boarding school. At the time, I was one of about 60 girls in a class of over 200 students at an originally all-male boarding school. Music was one of my rare escapes into a misogynistic environment that engulfed me in intense anxiety. I linked to the song in an unexpected way; in my interpretation, “Boys Will Be Bugs” turned into a poignant commentary on the inscrutable ways in which my male peers behaved and conformed to toxic gender norms, often tormenting each other, and in particular girls at school, for reasons I just couldn’t understand:
“Don’t text me cause I won’t reply, I want to make you cry /
Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be? Even if it’s not me /
Boys will be bugs, right? »
Two years passed, and “Boys Will Be Bugs” reappeared on my radar as I started my freshman spring at Yale and entertained new and – at the time – terrifying thoughts about my gender identity. I didn’t feel like I could handle being a girl any longer, and I didn’t feel particularly like a boy either; in fact, I felt worse than either, almost subhuman at times, wanting to get rid of my own skin. I was newly fascinated by the music of Cavetown – here is a transgender musician who had written several songs describing his experiences and struggles with dysphoria and his own identity. As I unraveled my own cocoon coming out as non-binary, I returned to the warm Cavetown melodies, wallowing in the lyrics:
“I feel stupid (stupid) /
Ugly (ugly) /
Pretend I don’t mind /
I’m not very strong, but I’ll fuck you if you’re mean to bugs…”
“Boys Will Be Bugs” served as a soundtrack – and a resolution – to this distress: maybe it was good for me to be a little lost, to continue to understand myself, even if I was approaching the age of twenty. I was allowed to feel like I was just growing into my identity for the moment, and maybe that was enough. I just turned 20, and I think this year I’m going to own my identity, on my own terms. Today, “Boys Will Be Bugs” is on every other Spotify playlist in my library. So, as Cavetown said, “Don’t mess with me – I’m a big boy now and I’m very scary!”
“You Make Me Feel So Young”, sung by Frank Sinatra, is my panacea, my remedy for anything and everything that happens to me. When I listen to this track – whether I’m surrounded by people on my way to class or taking a hot shower myself – I can’t help but smile and sing along. When I hear that bouncing brass opening, all my troubles seem to melt away, leaving me with feelings of happiness and comfort.
I remember the exact moment I first heard this song – it was in the classic 2003 movie “Elf”. He plays in the background as Buddy and Jovie go out on their first date around New York and find themselves ice skating at Rockefeller Center. I remember loving this scene as a child, wishing I could capture that happiness and keep it forever close to my heart. Every time I listen to “You Make Me Feel So Young” it reminds me of simpler times with my family at Christmas, when we ate too much chocolate peppermint bark and watched “Elf” together for the umpteenth time. . I remember my own memorable trips to New York over the years – singing at Carnegie Hall, seeing Broadway shows, going to the Metropolitan Opera and seeing the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in real life – all special experiences shared with the people I love. I’m no Frank Sinatra, but if you listen to me sing “You Make Me Feel So Young” you’ll hear my pure joy and peace of mind.
And in my last week of adolescence, this song seems particularly appropriate: youth doesn’t last forever, but the feeling it brings can. Surround yourself with people who stop time, who make you savor every moment. Still young myself, I can only hope that when I’m older I’ll have people in my life who will make me feel the euphoria of youth.
It’s summer between the first and second year of high school, around 1 a.m., and I’m sitting cross-legged on my bed with my laptop. The Word document I opened is approaching 60 pages – single-spaced, much to my pride. I go through it from the beginning, fast enough to blur the pages and smile. I had been making up characters and stories since middle school, but that was the farthest I could get in a writing project that was really, really mine. Some of the characters that existed in that flurry of pages are still there, albeit a bit different five years later, while others persist in fragments – but still perfectly alive in the sentences my 14-year-old self wrote. after midnight.
Songs can be bookmarks for memories. They seep into thoughts and ideas if you listen to them enough, and so every time you hear that opening chord, all the memories your mind has tucked inside come rushing back. This is how I found this memory. I was rummaging through my music library looking for a song when I came across a playlist from my freshman year of high school. It was filled with music that I listened to near the end of middle school, which provided a lot of nostalgia on its own, but it was important for another reason as well. This was a playlist I had created specifically for my first major creative writing project, a fragmentary soundtrack of my own design. Listening to it again, writing not in my childhood bedroom but in my college dorm, I remembered every detail of that first project – all the places I had imagined so vividly and the characters who had taken up residence there. The story I’m writing now is different from then but that doesn’t mean that my old characters have ceased to live. They are with me every time I write and every time I listen to this playlist.
There are moments that you know will last forever while you are living them. These are the moments you think would fit on a movie screen, complete with background music and slow dance montages.
During the winter break of my freshman year at Yale, a few of my suitemates flew to my hometown of Los Angeles for a week. I hesitate to say we did a lot, but one thing we definitely did was put together a playlist for the very short road trip we had planned to do in San Diego.
This was my first time driving over an hour on my own, so the roughly five hour round trip to and from San Diego was new to me. In the middle, I said to my suite mate, “I’ve been driving so long that the road doesn’t feel like a road anymore.”
The soundtrack for our winter getaway ranged from Taylor Swift to Kenshi Yonezu to Bleachers, so diverse we played a guessing game to see who added it each time we shuffled the playlist. Each of us contributed fifty songs, or two hundred in total. But no matter how many genres littered this soundtrack, every song we played sounded eerily and distinctly our own.
In the two and a half hour drive from San Diego, I thought if it was a movie, it would actually be pretty boring. We’re not exactly a crazy, spontaneous band; the trip was about sleeping more than we’d like to admit. But here in this little car, at 11:00 p.m., there were moments of silence, when we were enjoying whatever song had just been mixed. Every once in a while someone would say something like, “It’s definitely a Brandon song.” A few laughs. More silence.
“I think it was mine, actually. You’ll get it when he gets to the chorus. Another moment of silence, and more waiting. More anticipation.
Then, when the chorus played, “Oh, that’s right. It makes sense now.
We have a word for love for some reason, which is lucky because it’s the only one I would use to describe this moment and these people for whom I feel so much.
But if we didn’t have a word for love, I’d say, “I know you added this song because it sounds like you.”
If we didn’t have a word for love, I’d say, “Turn the playlist back to shuffle.” Let’s drive until the road doesn’t look like a road anymore.