By Meg Zulch
Everyone has it: that song or movie or photo that just magically transports you to the past. Its powers are so strong and so escapist in nature that you intentionally consume certain media (especially in times of need) to be reminded of more carefree times, and people that make it all better. For me, that song is Lorde's "Ribs," and that person is my best friend Kenny.
Media tends to make us nostalgic because, in this millennial day and age, music and culture shape our relationships and even our personalities (seemingly "reduced" to a long list of likes and dislikes). Young people communicate and bond through media references, much to their older counterparts' chagrin. How important are your musical tastes, and music in general, when concerning your ideas, character, and ways of relating to the world anyway? Many of us would answer: quite important.
Even if you think media as a center of conversation is shallow, you can't argue against its surface value and that talking about a band you mutually love can be the greatest of ice breakers. For Kenny and I, that band was One Direction.
I met him at our school's LGBTQU club, but was too nervous to form a conversation beyond "I like your hair." However, when we were walking back to our dorms after the meeting, I caught a glimpse of a Harry Styles poster in his room and swooned. So when I ran into him in the library the next week, as he was scrolling through photos of One Direction through his Tumblr dashboard, I formerly introduced myself and confessed that I too love that British boy band. And so ensued about an hour of conversation about Harry Styles' body, followed by two years of friendship. The first year of college is nerve wracking for everyone, but some my own stress was alleviated by simply finding somebody who shared in my greatest passions.
Since that day in the library, we've exchanged (and even created) so much art. He burned me Haim's Days Are Gone on a CD and played me hours of spoken word that had me lost in a sea of my feelings in his bed. I've written him poems and introduced him to the melancholic wonders of Sky Ferreira's music. We've written a screenplay, made a zine, started a radio show--using all projects as outlets to express our queer identities, and consequently further understand what it means to be young and queer Kenny and Meg. We've shared in moments of total spiritual surrender and reawakening at Bleachers shows, screaming along to "I Wanna Get Better," as we try to trick our anxiety-ridden minds into being more cooperative. We've shaken off the memory and hurt of boys who've done us wrong, wildly gyrating along to our favorite pop tunes on dimly lit dance floors. Today, we smoked in a field together, listening to Mitski as we discussed pursuing therapy. Both of us have been through a lot in our lives and in our first year in college, and whatever complicated feelings we fail to find words for at the time are worked out through the music we listen to.
My friendship with Kenny has taught me a lot about who I am. He's always been really supportive of my feelings, pushes me to get better, and always shares art with me that I collect and surround myself with when I'm the most sad. Art that hits closest to home for me, art that is comforting, and in a way that only he and I can fully grasp. Of everyone in my life, I think Kenny understands me the most. We feel a lot of the same things, and both struggle with anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. So oftentimes music and art speak to us in very similar ways. When he sends me a new artist or song to check out, it usually is directly applicable to my musical wants and emotional needs, and speaks to me on a higher level than works I encounter in other ways. And these songs help me put my words together, to begin expressing the muddled up mess of emotion inside. And a lot of the ways we've come to express these new realizations is through writing.
We have always pushed each other to write and improve our work, being our most authentically realized selves as well as successful in what we do. Nowadays, we each write for multiple publications, creating content that is first and foremost therapeutic for and gives agency to our sad queer beings in the hopes of reaching out to more people like us. Because of all that he has helped me find in myself and in art, I consider Kenny a safe haven, a home for my heart. And in all of the songs he shares with me, I see his goofy grin or his feel his heart beating as I cry into his chest for the umpteenth time. I feel his presence and remember our friendship, my growth, myself, and I feel okay again.
There are plenty of songs that we claim as "ours," like Hop Along's "Tibetan Pop Stars" or Sky Ferreira's "Sad Dream." But none of our songs affect me quite as much as Lorde's "Ribs" does. In Kenny's freshmen year, we listened to so much Lorde, which quickly led us to feel sentimental about certain tracks of hers.
The words in "400 Lux" related a lot to our love of driving around in my car at night, singing along to Grimes (our night driving music); and the line "you buy me orange juice, we're getting good at this," reminded us of my constant dependence on him to buy me my precious OJ from the campus convenience store.
However, "Ribs," has always been most powerful to me, as one of the verses sums up the way I feel about my friendship with Kenny: "you're the only friend I need/ sharing beds like little kids/ we laugh until our ribs get tired/ but that will never be enough." It captures the carefree, childish, and nonjudgmental nature of our relationship, conjuring memories of all the hours we've spent giggling in his bed into the early hours of the morning.
Anytime I found myself lost (whether it be in my small town grocery store, out to dinner with my parents, or even on campus) and "Ribs" plays, I close my eyes and wait for the verse. As it approaches, I can breathe deeply again, and goosebumps appear on my arms as a smile spreads across my face. Music, our music, always brings me back to the place I want to be: feeling safe, happy and understood by my concert buddy, my soulmate and my best friend.