In middle school, my friend Alex and I were obsessed with making mixes for each other. We’d give all of them silly titles like “Gaby’s Sexy Mix of Sexiness” or “Alex Loves Mary Kate and Ashley” and draw pictures of flowers, hearts and stars on the silver, metallic front. In college, I started making mixes for my best female friends full of “I don’t need a man” anthems and songs about going out drinking with your bitches, etc. At summer camp when I was 18, I made a boy I was in love with a mix CD that started with Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman.” Not my best work. Anyway, I pretty much love a good mix CD.
When it’s a gift-giving holiday with a person I’m dating, I often suggest they forgo spending a ton of money and give me something worth “emotional currency.” That means that if they ask what I want for Valentine’s Day, my birthday, Channukkah, whatever — I don’t want them to spend American dolla dolla bills. I want the money of the soul, baby. I want a love note or for you to make one of our inside jokes come true, or even better: a mix CD.
Has the mix CD gone out of style? Is it corny or overdone? I still love it. A mix is one of the most personal, intimate and romantic gestures you can do for someone you love. Music is a language and to be willing to speak the things you might not be able to fully say through a curated series of songs is really, really perfect. A good mix CD says so much more than a nice dinner or a diamond (I don’t know what rich people do). It’s a chance to get to know what songs mean a lot to this person who means a lot to you, what songs remind them of you and what songs they equate with your relationship. My boyfriend now is an expert at making mix CDs and I would take one of his mixes over anything fancy any day of the week.
But! Even though it’s a worn-out, maybe-hipster gift idea, you still have to work at the art of making a mix. You have to be good at it. You can’t just slap together a bunch of nonsense tunes and hope for magic. You have to make sure each song bleeds into each other and that the songs mesh to create the mood you’re looking to convey. For that reason, if you’re ever stumped on what to get for someone, I guarantee they will love if you put the time and effort into making a mix exactly for them. Think about the bands they like or bands you think they might like. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.
I guess I see a mix as a symbol of the “emotional currency” I was talking about in the beginning. It’s much sweeter and more considerate and thoughtful to show you’ve spent time on a carousel of delightful music they either need to know about, would absolutely love if they heard, or that already means something to you both. And it costs next to nothing! And it’s the most romantic thing! Randomly surprise someone you love (even just a good buddy) with a mix today! Right now! Go do it! You will have fun making it and they will love listening to it, I promise. People should just constantly be doing this for each other. Someone make me a mix CD! I will think you are the opposite of lame. Then, tell me who else you’re making a mix for right now, and what you’re gonna put on it. Do you have a mix CD staple? (I always include some Amy Winehouse.)
I don’t care if mixes are cheesy. They are the best and the most romantic. You will make someone’s day if you present them with one — always.