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Allow Me to Express My Love Through This Carefully Assembled List of Songs

On the whole, the bulk of us agree that technological advancement is a good thing. For every

societal ill that we can lay at the feet of technology — loss of privacy, decreased attention spans,

each ill-conceived tweet from a certain POTUS — we generally gain much more in terms of ease

and convenience. But while I can gladly bid farewell to vestigial nuisances like appointment

television, manual transmissions and actual human interaction, and chalk them up as the

collective price of progress, there’s one lost-and-gone piece of my youth that I genuinely miss:

the mixtape.

To be certain, much of my romantic history is horribly embarrassing. All of the turtlenecks and

hair highlights shake me awake sometimes, and I’d never wish my “poet phase” on my worst

enemy. But the mixtape (and its eventual successor, the burned CD) is still a source of pride.

For the better part of two decades — and we’re talking fourth grade here, people — every girl I

met got a mixtape. First, “hello,” then butterflies, and then a Saturday in my bedroom with a

dozen cassettes and a boombox. There was a process: What would her friends think? Is there a

chance that her parents will hear this? Where in the lineup do I strategically place “our song”?

And then I’d pen in the names, artist and song, on the provided liner notes like I was Moses

hammering out the Pentateuch. Swear to God, I even gift-wrapped some of them.

At least a dozen women across our currently divided continent can agree on one thing: Ty, for all

his many faults, made a dynamite mix.

So, what were the rules that governed such an outlandish skill? There were only four.

Rule #1: Bring ‘Em to the Yard

The first song had to be a face-melter. New love requires urgency, and that needs to be reflected

in the first song. If she can dance a little, good. If she can rock out, drop her guard and maybe

punch someone, even better. No one has ever not tapped wingtips to “She Drives Me Crazy.”

Rule #2: Remember Her Dad

There’s a better-than-good chance that this mix will meander its way into Dad’s tape deck, and

this is the entirety of how he’ll come to value you as a live human. My father-in-law liked me a

little, and then loved me after we watched Hard Day’s Night. So, shake his whole foundation with “Cecilia” or “Atlantic City” or “Italian Restaurant,” and he’ll shrug at how handsy you’re

getting with your now-wife.

Rule #3: Strategically Place Your Assassins

What’s an “assassin,” you ask? It’s the song that holds the whole shebang together. There was a

time, pre-Beyonce, when dropping singles was a big thing. I remember where I was when I first

heard “Waterfalls” by TLC. Same with “Ignition (Remix)” by R. Kelly. These songs were

events. Strategically, these songs would land at the fourth and seventh songs on your mix, and

then she’d be in a total daze thereafter and forevermore. Right until ….

Rule #4: Play through the Whistle

She knows that you spent all Saturday pressing play and pause. She knows you’re too shy to

actually come over or even call. But what she doesn’t know, and what she’ll soon find out, is that

you’re a proud, principled man about town, and that’s why you need to finish strong. “Get Outta

My Dreams (Get Into My Car)” seems about right. It’s a 50/50 that you’re getting a passive eye-

roll or a moony makeout. Both are acceptable.

As I now order a double-tape boombox on Amazon ($49!), it’s worth reminding that making a

Spotify playlist doesn’t have the same impact. And, to my wife, don’t shake that package on the

porch; those are cassette tapes, my love, and they’re precious.

February 2017

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