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The Ira Glass Infatuation Post/ This American Life Review: Break-Ups

Breakups: the seemingly unnatural phenomena with so many paradoxical emotions that feel like little deaths, and not French ones. When one TAL-fan submitted a complaint that there were no breakup-themed Lifes, Ira got on it, in this 2007 vintage, Break-Up.

Act 1: Even Phil Collins can’t help but quote Phil Collins

This act is Starlee Kine’s shining moment for many a listener. She expounds, “Nobody could convey how I was feeling better than Phil Collins.” The aural service she provides for weepy saps here, under the mentorship of Collins himself and in collaboration with NYC’s Joe McGinty and Julia Greenberg, puts her on par with Bonnie Raitt. Her Dusty Springfield-esque torch song is to die, and truly highlights a slice of the human condition in the midst of the shitshow that is a breakup. The breakup song is beautiful because of the catharsis it provides. Says Kine of Dusty’s tune, “It’s just so pathetic, and deep down, it’s how I felt too. And it felt good to have someone just come out and say it. There are some words you can never speak, but somehow you can sing.” The genre choice is perfect for Kine in that it integrates Phil Collins’ personal advice to her to keep it simple and honest.  “You don’t have to say you love me,” belted Springfield, while Kine answered, “It doesn’t do me any good, in fact it does me bad.”

In the end, Phil asks, “You kind of like feeling bad, don’t you?” The effort to honestly feel through music allows for the evolution of hot emotions for songwriter and listener, whether in the shape of a love song or a hate song.

Act 2: Was that reassuring to you in a way? No.

It’s 1987, and baby Ira is a young producer at All Things Considered. Eight-year-old Betsy Walter sits with the ATC host to speak about a letter she wrote to Mayor Koch asking advice about her parents’ divorce. The valuable perspective of the child in conversation with a master interviewer is a platinum grill for the American divorced psyche.

Even more illuminating is a chat twenty years later with adult Betsy, now a teacher, and blessed with a multifaceted outlook she shares with the airwaves. The hard truth is that focusing on the why is less important than the how in regards to moving on.

Act 3: They started quibbling about everything.

Marriage is the first step toward divorce (think about it). Collaborative divorce is like breaking up with a lawyer and a kindergarten teacher in the room, extending an invitation to use their listening skills. This act from the lawyer’s perspective emphasizes the importance of listening to the point of view of one’s spouse (revolutionary).

Act 4: He finally began to sob, which was a signal to Puppy Boy that the game was finally going to begin.

Divorce from the perspective of an altogether different species highlights even more of the human condition. The contrast between the priorities of the soon-to-be-divorced man and those of a dog is sort of an exercise in mindfulness.

The dwelling and kvetching on the lifelong love-that-never-was is best remedied, beyond Starlee and Phil’s musical achievements, by the words of two wise Jews:

“All discarded lovers should be given a second chance, but with somebody else.” —Mae West

“Maria Elena used to say that only unfulfilled love can be romantic.” —Javier Bardem as Juan Antonio in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona

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