The Music or the Misery?

(Or: Why life seems so much better with sad songs in it)

sad music wallow

Are you one of those people who listens to upbeat, happy tunes whenever they feel down in the dumps? Or do you dive headfirst into a heart-rending ballad, wallowing in the sadness, letting the melancholy melody wash over you in a wave of blissful catharsis?

Well in case you haven’t guessed from the description above, I’m a fully paid-up, card-carrying member of the latter. I live for this shit. I need it – to quote Bon Jovi (yup, you read that right) – like a poet needs the pain. At the ripe oldage of 37, I’m still a moody, grungy overemotional teenager at heart. In some sick, twisted way, it makes me feel light years better to hear all those churning, dark, magnetic, gut-wrenching feelings from a position of ‘once removed’; like if Eddie Vedder can perfectly describe how I felt about a particular breakup or a jaunt down the one-way street of unrequited love, then it saves me the work.

Many an hour would be passed in secondary school by me simply writing out lyrics pertinent to my emotional situation. From a wide assortment of artists, I would fill page after page with the works of the great masters such as Hetfield, Di Franco, Morrison, Dylan, Amos et al. I was, and still am, a bit of a Rain Man when it comes to retaining song lyrics, so I could go on unchecked for tens of pages at a time, depending on how boring I found the lesson. Pity the auld Leaving Cert was never presented in song form; I’d have been a 600-pointer for sure.

I’m quoting Nick Hornby a lot while discussing this topic, but he’s got the best take on it in his book High Fidelity:

No contest for me, I was of the former. I was a clinically depressed, miserable, tormented, stereotypical teenage child of an ugly divorce, so much so that while my parents were in the middle of taking a verbal sledgehammer to the crumbling walls of their marriage, I stuck Pearl Jam’s Ten album on at full blast to drown out the anger outside my bedroom walls and give me a dose of the anger I felt within. To this day, I can’t listen to the song ‘Once’ without being transported back to the blood-red walls of my teenage bedroom and feeling the sky fall down around me.

My music gave me a lovely soft place to fall. I didn’t have to make sense of or verbalise what I felt, or try to ignore it – I just needed to (apologies to all the young folk out there) stick on the right cassette. It was like having your favourite musician as your own personal well-being advocate. Imagine Axl Rose sitting your feuding parental units down and roaring at them, telling them to get their shit together and stop fucking with your head or else he’ll fuck their telly out the window. How fun.

Some folk find it worrying that someone could be so immersed in sad melancholy music – to them, I say ‘CHILL’. Better that it’s out there rather than being buried deep down, only to resurface when you least expect it. Your brain is a dickhead for that sort of thing. Trust me.

I suppose it depends on how each of us uses music. Some use it to help transform their mood; others like me use it to express & enhance the mood I’m already in. To each his own.

You can buy this - click on the pic!

You can buy this apparently – click on the pic!

I wonder why it’s so much easier to become attracted to dark, depressing music and poetry? Along with those aforementioned musicians, all of the great classical poets that have etched their initials on the tough, bark-like exterior of my heart were all a bunch of miserable, Emo, navel-gazing bastards. And oh, how I loved them for it. Dickinson, Plath, Woolf, Shelley, Poe – I’d sit them all at my fantasy Dead or Alive Dinner Party any day. Hopkins and Wordsworth with their daffodils and fawning over nature’s glory can fuck off back to Disneyland. There’s no room at my dinner table for Shiny Happy bastards.

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate a rollicking good peppy-as-fuck tune on occasion. Show me ‘Footloose’ in the club, and I’ll show you dance moves that would make Kevin Bacon vomit with jealousy. Happy tunes have their place in the world, obviously. However, there’s something far more visceral, dark and delicious about a deep sad song that pulls you in for a slow, languid embrace, telling you it’ll all be okay. It tells you they’ve been there where you are, they feel it too, and they’re going to save you the trouble of having to put words on something, the description of which evades you. They have it worked out already through the medium of song – and it’s utterly perfect.

Go on, press play again. Let it wash over you once more.

Someone pass me a tissue…..



(click on the song title to give your ears a tearful hug)

1:  Bon Iver – re: Stacks 

2: Leonard Cohen – Famous Blue Raincoat

3: Pearl Jam – Black

4: Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were

5: Tori Amos – Silent All These Years

6: Ani Di Franco – Both Hands

Ask J-Ro: All About Chemistry

I’ve been with my boyfriend for a few months. He’s sweet, funny and kind. The only thing is, I’m not attracted to him. I’ve known that all along but I’ve been trying not to be superficial. I tried to ignore it but now I feel like I resent him because I don’t fancy him. Should we break up?


In a word; yes. Why are you with him if you don’t fancy him? Sure he’s sweet, funny and kind, but so are puppies and friends. And you don’t have to go to the effort of going out with them to get that. If you don’t fancy him, then he shouldn’t be your boyfriend. The ‘fancying’ part is one of the fundamental defining points of a boyfriend or a girlfriend, so if that’s missing, you’re selling yourself short. You’re also not being fair to him; he deserves to be with someone who gets tingles in their tummy at the thought of being with them. Would YOU like to be with someone who didn’t fancy you? My guess is you’d be gone before you could say ‘Chemistry’.

You’re not being superficial by wanting to end it because he doesn’t do it for you, among other things we’re visually-stimulated creatures, and physical & sexual attraction is what separates a guy who is a friend from a guy who could be a potential love interest. It’s the funny feelings in our fuzzy bits that keep this world of ours turning 🙂

I could labour the point, but I suspect you know all of this. I think you’re maybe trying to find a way out of this without hurting his feelings, and without feeling bad yourself. I don’t imagine you were going to just grin and bear it for the next few years, having absolutely no sexual attraction to someone you’re stuck with just because you don’t want to be the breaker-upper. Unfortunately, it’s gotta be done. It will hurt his feelings, but you’re doing him a favour and it’s not out of nastiness; it’s out of honesty and respect. You’re giving the two of you the gift of freedom to have something way better with other people who will melt your butter in ways you never imagined. Sure who wouldn’t want a present like that? Go forth and take the step, it’ll sting but things will be far better for the both of you. Let some chemistry into your life!

Best of luck <3

Ask J-Ro: A Few Good Men

I’m absolutely torn between two lovely guys. I know them both for years & I have such a great connection with each of them, I have the opportunity right now to be with either one of them (both have recently asked me to give it a go), which should be fantastic, but i cant decide which one, any tips?


That’s a nice quandary to be in, albeit a tricky one! It’s really down to chemistry at this point, if all the things you tell me are true and equal to both guys. If all of the boxes are being ticked, it falls to whichever chap can deliver everything you need on a long-term basis. Can you see yourself with one more than the other? Is one more dependable? More secure in himself emotionally, financially, in other ways? It sounds like both are very good friends, so either way you will gain something lovely and keep another friendship. I would exercise caution in how you go about it, however. Just be mindful of the feelings of both guys whoever you choose. My tip would be; all other things being equal, go for the one who gives you the most butterflies. Whoever you choose, there will be a sight element of risk involved, but sometimes you have to just take a deep breath and dive in! Good luck 🙂

Ask J-Ro: Where Is The Love?

I’m head over heels with my guy. We’ve been together a year & now started talking about marriage. But I can’t keep him excited in bed, tho he has plenty of “privet time.” I’ve tried EVERYTHING. He swears he loves/wants me but we haven’t had sex in months. I love him but I also love sex. Advice?!


Ooh, that’s a tough one. A year is a very short time to be with someone and having a dry spell in the bedroom department that lasts for months. That’s a considerable portion of your time together where you’re feeling rejected and unhappy and you have needs that aren’t being met. It definitely needs addressing with your fella. Your sex life and intimacy level can often reflect how your relationship is progressing, and if it’s non-existent, it’s worth further investigation.

What I find intriguing is that from what you’re saying, he’s got no problem meeting his own needs himself in private time? So he has a sex drive of sorts, but only on his own. It could be an intimacy issue he has or some internal worries that are preventing him from being intimate and loving with you. Masturbation, as well as a sexual release, is a way to relax and decompress without any burden of expectation on the part of an outside party, so I wouldn’t panic too much about that. What’s more important is why you guys aren’t talking with each other about something this fundamental. If he’s swearing that he loves and wants you, then if he’s plainly not wanting to be intimate with you and it’s gone on for months, you’re well entitled to ask for an explanation or at least get the ball rolling on some proper honest communication.

Normally if there’s a sudden lack of interest in sex from a partner, it could be that they’re under a lot of stress in other areas of their life. Stress and anxiety are the ultimate passion-killers, so have a think about whether you have noticed any changes in his behaviour in other areas of life. Are there financial concerns? Could he be depressed? Has he worries and fears about the relationship and where it’s going that he hasn’t spoken about? You guys are only together for a year and are talking about marriage, and that’s a big step. Have you guys really, honestly talked about it and what you want from each other in the long run? Sometimes when things move as fast as that, things tend to take on a life of their own and it can be hard to pump the brakes and really take a look at things to make sure you’re both on the same page.

Let’s tackle the other fear that may be flying around your brain: infidelity. The old “If he’s not getting it from me, he’s getting it somewhere else” cliché can rear its ugly head, but in this situation, I don’t know enough about the relationship to say that it could be a factor. Only your gut instinct and evidence will present that possibility. This would be my ‘last resort’ suggestion if you haven’t gotten any satisfaction (so to speak) with any of the above.

Bottom line: Talk it out. If he’s not willing to discuss it, then to me that’s a way bigger issue than a lack of sex. No point in talking marriage with someone who won’t communicate with you about any problems or concerns they’re having. That’s far too lonely a state to be in. Talk, listen, and face whatever comes.

Good Luck!

Ask J-Ro: A Not-So Beautiful Liar

I am in love with a liar. I question almost everything he says. It started when I found out he had a fondness for flirting over text with other women… Its been years since he has done that but he still lies about little things, money

Good Lord, what a horrible relationship to have been stuck in for so long. It must be exhausting, not to mind soul-destroying for you. I think your opening sentence both asks AND answers your quandary. You’re in love – but he’s a liar. So you’re in love with a guy who has no truck with the whole ‘being honest and respectful to the woman he’s in a relationship with’ thing – which, for most self-respecting females, is Number One on the Deal Breaker List. That can’t make you feel very good about yourself, now can it?

From what you’ve said, it seems like this has been the status quo for years, and yet you wonder why he’s still lying to you about pretty much everything ever since you let him get away with his attempts at infidelity. You’ve been telling him in no uncertain terms for YEARS (without having to physically say anything) that you’re totally fine with him being deceitful, disloyal and sneaky. Of COURSE he’s going to keep doing it. Why not? There are no consequences for him whatsoever; while you get the lovely reward of tormented nights, self-doubt, distrust, and generally driving yourself up the wall as payment for your acquiescence. Who do you think got the better deal? And for how long more are you going to sentence yourself to this mindset? Is your time on this earth less important than his? Are you worth less than basic honesty and respect in a relationship? Only you know the answer to these questions. I hope you’re good and angry after reading this far into the answer…

To put it simply, this problem is about you. He’s not going to change, and you can’t make him. The only part of this you can control is you and the standards you set for yourself in relationships. If you don’t think, at the very fucking least, that you’re worth basic truth and respect from someone, then you stay stuck in this mental hell-hole and brace yourself for a lifetime of misery and insecurity.

I can’t tell you to stop loving him obviously, but I can tell you to try and start loving yourself a bit more. Would you let a dear friend or relative stay with a man who, by your own admission, is a liar? I’d imagine the answer is no. So why are you worth any less?

Either way, while you’re still involved with this guy, I’d start by immediately calling him out on every lie he tells you to let him know you’ve had enough. Write each deception down, keep a detailed list, and if you’re still with him in 6 months, hand that list to your best friend and ask her what she thinks. Her language may be far more colourful than mine.

Bottom line: Be nicer to yourself, prioritise your own mental health and happiness, and you will begin to command more respect and honesty from those around you.

What You Can Do Today: Tell him to cop the fuck on with the lies, or you’ll start a blog called My Lying Asshole Partner – and give his name.

If you end up doing that, send me the link.

Best of Luck!