Through dozens of cursory listens, I always thought ‘Til Tuesday’s “Everything’s Different Now,” the title track from the Boston band’s last album, was a bummer trip. Maybe that’s because Aimee Mann, who once had the best pop star hair this side of Robert Smith, consistently sings about failed relationships on the band’s three LPs, so I assumed that everything that was different had to be worse. But lo and behold, the song’s lyrics are actually about discovering that things are different because two people are in love. A-ha. But Mann doesn’t sound happy, or free from apprehension, at least.
Which, I have learned, makes sense.
Two people in love: that’s wicked special, as we from Beantown might say, and wicked hard, too. To get a grip (two Aerosmith points, please), I’ve been reading Dr. Harville Hendrix’s Getting the Love You Want, a book about what we look for when we look for life partners, and how we can make living with them work. The thing that rocked my world is Hendrix’s claim that we’re looking for partners who will help us meet childhood needs that our caregivers did not. For that to occur, we need partners who possess our caregivers’ (most often our parents’) positive and negative traits, which makes for a fackin’ (c’mon, try it: faaackin) challenging situation, or, simulation of some of our early life experiences.
Back to the song. In “Everything’s Different Now,” Mann conveys the disorientation that comes with love:
Well, soon I’ll say your name
and then I’ll go insane
I won’t understand what I’m thinking
And then the fear of love’s exit:
I’ll look down at my shoes
I’ll wonder what I’ll lose
If I feel this consciousness sinking
And we both know what that means
Returning to what we knew before
Those last two lines are important. In chapter four of his book, Hendrix mentions Plato’s idea that we’re half-beings searching for our other halves. He writes about the feeling of wholeness that results from finding a complementary person, a feeling he calls the “phenomenon of reunification” that’s expressed in the sentiment “I love you so much, I can’t live without you.” And he writes about what happens when we contemplate the loss of our complements, our other halves:
On a deeper level, this sentence [I love you so much, I can’t live without you] reveals the fear that, if the lovers were to part, they would....once again be fractured, half-whole creatures, separated from the fullness of existence. Loneliness and anxiety would well up inside them, and they would no longer feel connected to the world around them. Ultimately, to lose each other would be to lose their new sense of self. (53)
The loneliness and anxiety I always got, but the fear of regression was something I never understood. Hendrix prefaces the above with this sentence:
By attending to their unmet childhood needs, their partners...become allies in their struggle for survival. (52)
And he also explains that it can feel like you’re going to lose that struggle after a break-up. Which is why no one ever really wants to go through one. Mann, it turns out, didn’t write “Everything’s Different Now”: Jules Shear, her boyfriend at the time, and Matthew Sweet wrote the music, and Shear wrote the lyrics. But like Cyndi Lauper’s cri de coeur, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” the tonal opposite of Mann’s almost lavishly disappointed sound, you’d never know.