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6. Age fifteen - "Look Away," Chicago
Man, this song still tears at my soul. It might have been the first to express an actual situation close to how it was for me, rather than how the movie version had unfolded in my overactive imagination. The boy I loved had broken up with me, I think mostly because we lived a few towns apart and our moms had gotten tired of driving us back and forth to each other. Kevin Honan and I would split up and kind of get back together a few more times over the next year, and we remained "friends" in the off times because we hung out with the same people. "If you see me walking by/And the tears are in my eyes/Look away, baby, look away," said it all for me.
7. Age seventeen - "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You," Bryan Adams
Made out with my First Big Love for the first time as we watched that damn Robin Hood movie featuring this then-ubiquitous song. We would totally have played it at our wedding if he hadn't been gay. Instead, Dave Freiberg became my best friend and the model for what I was looking for in a guy, sexual preferences aside. He set such a high standard I wouldn't find that guy for another seventeen years.
8. Age twenty - "Stay (I Missed You)," Lisa Loeb
As you definitely know if you were in college in the '90s, this song is from the soundtrack to Reality Bites, which I think we were required by law to purchase. It's also from right around the time that a man who I would almost marry stole me from my still-closeted high-school boyfriend. At this point, I thought Winona Ryder was dumb for choosing the irresponsible slacker Ethan Hawke over the coiffed-and-pressed-and-employed Ben Stiller. I take it as a sign of maturity that I don't think that anymore — Ethan Hawke in that movie is, A, hot, and B, no more insensitive than she is. And C, at least interesting.
9. Age thirty - "Sugar, We're Goin' Down," Fall Out Boy
When I cancelled my wedding to that college sweetheart of mine, things got pretty messy in my love life. I'd been with him for a decade, and had been with a gay boy for two years before that, so I had some catching up to do. There was a lot of making out with inappropriate boys (and yes, "boys" is the right word for these twenty-something guys) in bad bars in New York's East Village. I experienced something of a regressive adolescence, and Fall Out Boy was the perfect favorite band for me at the time — they had a lot of young fans, an outsized sense of angst, and yet pretty sophisticated music and lyrics. Also, I shared a love for them with my sister, who's ten years younger than I am.
10. Age thirty-seven - "Shelter from the Storm," Bob Dylan
I'm a sucker for those songs about how world-weary someone's gotten at the very moment he or she is saved by the love of his or her life. This is one of those, and it's perfect for how I feel now. Especially after those Fall Out Boy years, I love living with my partner, Jesse, and staying in most nights to cook and watch Lost on DVD. "I was in another lifetime, one of toil and blood/When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud/I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form." Come in, he said, I'll give you shelter from the storm.
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong is a New York-based writer whose books Sexy Feminism and Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: A history of the Mary Tyler Moore Show will be published next year. Visit her online at JenniferKArmstrong.com [http://jenniferkarmstrong.com/].
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