Thank You, Ex: For the Practice of Making Monthly Playlists

cassette tapes strewn against a blue background on a postcard-like image with a mushroom stamp and the text THANK YOU, EX!

Thank You, Ex is a series of essays about the good things we were gifted by exes and kept.

I don’t know how to relate to someone without first asking, “Hey, what kind of music do you like to listen to?” It flows naturally in most courses of conversation — first dates, pillow talk, the text you send to keep the conversation going. Into your pillow, sighing the lyrics of a song that suddenly has new meaning. It matters significantly less now that I’m an adult, but as a teen, the music that my friends and girls I liked (not always mutually exclusive) listened to mattered a lot.

In my living room, next to a record player and speakers, is a pile of CDs that my friends burned for me when I was in high school. I’d reckon there’s about thirty CDs in this pile, all with varying bands and genres of songs. Some of them are decorated with knockoff Lisa Frank stickers, collaged with Seventeen and TigerBeat magazine cutouts, or simply wrapped up in college ruled notebook paper and sealed with a few haphazard folds. Some track lists are handwritten and others are printed off. The occasions are also varied. I can count at least six or seven given to me for a birthday, a few as Christmas gifts, some of them are just entire pirated albums burned to a CD. But the rest I could label under the category of just because.

Just because you’re Julie.
Just because I finished my earth science homework early.
Just because I love you.
Just because these songs are life changing and you should hear them too.

Four of these CDs are from my ex. Three of them previously had their track listings yanked out and ripped up. The lone survivor with its paper still intact lists 15 tracks with a simple “juj (3)” as the title. I either got too tired and sad on my post-breakup rampage or it slipped to the bottom of the pile and I forgot about it. I think it’s okay that I left this one untouched. The CD is metallic purple and the date written is June 2015. My favorite song on the CD is Björk’s “Big Time Sensuality.” It’s part of a succession of CDs my ex burned for me in the early stages of our relationship. There are many missing from this collection, but I think that’s okay as well. It’s sweet that at one point, these songs reminded her of me.

The just because of these specific CDs is the fleeting nature of unconditional love.

When I was around the age of 15, I was invited to hang out with a new group of people. Me and P were in the same English class and had started a friendship over poetry and music. A camaraderie of girlhood and unsure queerness buddening between us. P was so cool. Her taste in music wasn’t like anyone else I had met, and she always shared things that were so poignant to me in our breakout groups. She showed me Fatboy Slim and Neutral Milk Hotel and let me follow her on Tumblr. She showed me the movie City of God, and we bonded over dreams of becoming writers.

P’s best friend was my ex. I’d always admired the love they had between them. There was a deep understanding. A love tender, even in the ebbs and flows of hormonal teenhood. Before I even knew anyone was queer at my school, I had seen the clever nicknames they had for one another and wanted that for myself. On Free Dress Fridays — this is a Catholic school thing apparently — the cool girls would wear sparkling jelly platform shoes and a mix of American Apparel and things they found at the thrift stores.

That year was the first I’d heard of Spotify, having spent my hours after school downloading songs from YouTube to mp3. It was the answer to my growing desire to relate to others via music. P and I would message each other songs on Spotify’s now nonexistent inbox feature, sharing playlists and new finds. My ex and I were just friends back then, but I distinctly remember her creating these monthly playlists of music she was listening to. It was a great way to share what had been found and memorialize it in time.

Congratulations! You are now single. Here’s how to move on from your first serious relationship:

Step One: You must unfollow her on Spotify to ensure that you cannot see what she’s listening to anymore.

Step Two: Convince yourself you don’t need her monthly playlists to find new music, you did it by yourself before and you can certainly go it alone again.

Step Three: Sob relentlessly to any song that remotely reminds you of her.

Step Four: Take a year. Take a breath. You’ll be creating monthly playlists again in no time.

Step Five: Be bitter. Notice a nostalgic fondness and roll your eyes at your sentimentality. Date around and share songs with other people.

Step Six: Find stability and passion. She’s hot too.

Step Seven: Live through a global pandemic and start creating monthly playlists again for pleasure.

Step Eight: Write it down.

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Julie Gentile

Julie is a writer by night and marketing bot by day. She enjoys long video game playthroughs and pretending like she didn’t internalize every single episode of Glee. Contact her at julie[at]autostraddle[dot]com.

Julie has written 23 articles for us.


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