“Bend and Not Break” by Dashboard Confessional

81. Song No. 925: “Bend and Not Break,” Dashboard Confessional
A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar, 2003

What the actual fuck is going on with getting a heart-on over all these painfully over-earnest Dashboard Confessional songs (… and is that redundant?) that I haven’t heard let alone thought about in easily at least a decade?

Anyone. Anyone?” was less of an earworm and more of a tiny time machine; “As Lovers Go” got under my skin in such an endearingly pure and dumb-hearted way that I couldn’t help but hum or sing pieces of it to myself for weeks after hearing it for the first time in eons and remembering all the reasons why I loved Dashboard as hard as my high-school self did.

There is a strange self-consciousness accompanying the music that tags along for the long haul. Part of me worries that holding some piece of music or band too closely for too long as life itself changes and also changes us is indicative of stunted emotional growth; part of me feels like there’s no better barometer for how far you’ve come or how much you’ve evolved than using music as a comparative tool and finding new ways to appreciate it as your general perspective changes; most of me doesn’t give fuck-all about optics and is simply content to love the things that make an ugly world easier to face. But I’m talented at self-sabotage, so why enjoy the things you love when you can torture yourself over them instead?

I was such a raw nerve all through high school and into early college, which is probably why emo appealed to me as much as it did: Music that put every emotion out there and wore its heart on its sleeve was easy to relate to when I did the same. It was like an entire genre gave me permission to wallow in my feelings, scrutinize each one and honor them all however I needed to and as naturally as the instinct came. I had no idea there was an entire musical niche this intense and introspective until Dashboard Confessional introduced me to the late-’90s/early aughts emo scene.

Songs like “Bend and Not Break” are fascinating to me because the lyrics aren’t just time capsules from when the state of my emotions, especially in regard to an all-consuming crush or my current relationship, was my dominant concern: They’re also glimmers of personality flaws to come.

I used to think relationships needed to be as all-consuming as my feelings were; I was at the mercy of those always-ramped-up emotions and anyone in my periphery suffered the consequences of me having zero boundaries in how I expressed them. It took finding the man I was going to marry to not only get my shit together but also want to not be a total terror to date. I also think being confident in the longevity of the relationship helped, too, which went a long way in allaying the fears that fed into my lesser moments.

Point is, with a stable relationship, all that insecurity’s gotta find a new outlet to manifest itself once that main source of pushing good things away gets cut off. So there’s jobs where I can fail before I ever try, coworkers to tepidly pacify, friendships that are easier to smile through than address the slow rot of imbalanced effort, precise and patterned behaviors that began as superstitions and slowly became ingrained habits, and all these other ways the bad habits of someone who really was too immature for the serious relationships a serial monogamist gravitates to regardless of being able to handle them aren’t so much eliminated by the wisdom of experience but rather recast by new neuroses begetting new and slightly less unhealthy coping mechanisms. Which I guess is maybe where some of that self-conscious self-awareness might actually be more usefully applied, eh?

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