Feature photo by stallio

A boy (or girl) has fallen in love with a girl (or boy), and she doesn’t yet know it. How does he tell her? He could ambush her on the street, drop to his knees and weep into her pant leg as he shrieks something incomprehensible about how her hair is a symphony of pain and joy upon which he has based an entire worldview of social justice and unending rainbows, but, unless she is as insane as he is, that would more than likely just totally creep her out. He could get to know her and slowly reveal what a fascinating and remarkable person he is, but he is desperate for love now and doesn’t have the time for such trivialities. He could make her a mix CD.

You might be thinking that presenting the object of your affection with a mix CD is about as tacky and clichéd as standing outside beneath her bedroom window blasting Peter Gabriel from a boom box hoisted over your shoulders. Hell yes it is! Remember: in the end Cusack bagged that chick like groceries—and you can too. Simply follow these steps for creating the perfect mix CD:

Step 1: Develop Good Taste
If you were considering putting “Your Body Is a Wonderland” on your mix, stop reading this article at once and reconsider everything in your life up until now (instructing you on how to go about this reevaluation is outside the scope of the present commentary, but it may very well involve moving out of Lakeview). The steps that follow will proceed with the assumption that you possess at least passable taste in music. I can teach only strategy, and you will need to know hundreds of beautiful songs in order to apply it.

Step 2: Evaluate the Recipient
While your CD must feature songs that you love personally, you ought to choose amongst your favorites those which most conform to your initial sense of your crush. Does she look like she prefers a little teeth to her music, or does she seem like the kind of girl who lays her head upon her pillow each night to dream of whimsical kingdoms and motherhood? She needs to hear not only your personality reflected in the music but hers as well.

Step 3: The Weight of the First Track
In a mix CD of unswerving brilliance, the first track is the most significant of them all. This is your first impression. This is where you plant your manly flag on her heart and proclaim it as your territory for all time. This track will say everything at once, pledging your eternal devotion and hinting at unimaginable life adventures yet to come while simultaneously playing aloof and hard to get. Don’t get this part wrong, for if she is not with you after the first track, you could lose her forever.

Step 4: The One-Two Punch
Once your crush is dazed from the blow of the first song, you go for the knockout with the second. Now that you have her full attention, drive the message home. This track will say everything which the first did only more forcefully and with greater persuasion. The first song should proceed with a deliberate pace, easing her into your love, introducing her to it. The second then abruptly picks up the tempo. Fevered drums pound out a headlong march toward the horizon, a fast-approaching future in which you and your crush float freely together, high above the mountains and cars, entwined in an effortless embrace. Electric guitars cry out for a better world to come. She follows.

Step 5: Go with the Flow
Now that she is firmly under your spell, it is your job to keep her there. The key to the mix CD is to make it not seem like a mix CD. This means placing similar tracks next to one another rather than jumping between vastly disparate sonic palettes. Maybe you started things off with a string of electronic-heavy songs and will gradually transition into an acoustic set. No matter how you choose to order the songs, they must sustain the trance.

Step 6: The Right Amount of Romance
Try not to overdo it with the love songs. Don’t bombard her with your love, let it sink into her slowly. Let her wonder whether or not your mix is truly a love mix. Maybe put in a few songs about failed love or a song or two wholly unrelated to love. She’ll be confused, i.e., intrigued, i.e., horny.

Step 7: The Delicate Art of the Closer
After the first and second tracks, the final song is the most important. This is your last chance, the coup de grâce of your heroic courting. This song should at once summarize your intentions and leave her wanting more (of the music and consequently of you). You could end on a grandiloquent, eight-minute epic that slowly builds to a passionate, earth-shaking climax before leaving her overcome and gasping for oxygen. I, however, prefer to place that song second to last and follow it with something short and sweet in the two-minute range. This will allow her to catch her breath, and it will feel less like an ending than an invitation to start back at track one and relive the magic of your love all over again.

Step 8: Do Not Provide a Track List
Unless he or she asks for one, do not give your crush a list of the songs and artists featured on the mix. For it is not Artist A who loves her, it is you! The less she knows about the origins of the songs, the more they will seem as though they travelled unmediated from your heart and into her curious and enraptured ears.

Step 9: Plan Your Future Together
If you’ve adhered to my steps for designing the perfect mix CD, the girl or boy of your dreams is now a reality. Congratulations. The time has come to ride off into the sunset with her in tow. I don’t know what will become of you two, but I do know that these songs will remain embedded in your souls always. They will become the dictionary of your love, each achieving revised meaning with each new adventure you have together, serving as eternal touchstones in an ever evolving and expanding union.

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