You’ve Got a Friend: Carole King’s Lesson in Love

by Alexandra Hall

(this is a short, nonfiction essay. I wanted an excuse to write about Carole King. I realized I have a website for this.)

I think one of the most beloved songs of all time is “You’ve Got a Friend.” Until recently, I had always thought of that song as a breakup anthem. My aptitude regarding the language of love is dyslexic at best, but for some reason this song has always been clearly about love to me.

And it is— all different forms of it. My interpretation is just romantic.

When I hear it, I think of my first boyfriend. I once sent him a Velvet Underground song and he left me on read for two days, but I forgave him. We don’t talk anymore, but long after we dated, we were always kind to one another. He sat on my floor when his brain got the best of him. He picked me up from random parties when I panicked. 

I often find myself stuck in my own web, trying to understand the point of romantic relationships. It always ends in bitterness and awkwardness. You know the cadence of their footsteps, but you pretend you don’t hear them coming. You can recite their dad’s CD collection, but you do not say hello. 

Every time I hear “You’ve Got a Friend,” I am reminded that things do not always have to end poorly. They can sometimes just end. 

There is space for angsty breakup songs. They can help release pent up feelings of anger and disappointment while quelling the desire to sulk back into an unfulfilling relationship. And sometimes, there is not an option to end things nicely. Sometimes reclamation of self sounds upsetting and jarring. But it does not always have to be like this.

Our chronic connectedness makes resentment so much easier to grow than fondness. When we see our exes of any capacity (lovers, friends, situationships, etc.) existing through curated lenses, we get irritated. They are no longer ours in any way, lost to the hands of new partners and new identities. Soon we have fields of nasty weeds within our hearts.

I’m trying to take “Weed B Gon” to my heart, and I think an active part of that process is consuming songs like King’s. This year I learned the importance of abandoning my identity as the “chill girl.” My patience was mistaken for a welcome mat. But when I heard “You’ve Got a Friend” this morning on my walk, I was reminded that I’d rather be a Friend. I’d rather be a fond memory for someone than an angry one, and I hope to choose people who fulfill that role in my life as well. People are really messy and it is not up to others to clean us up, but we can offer our mops to each other when the time is right. It’s easy to seek vengeance and “prove” someone wrong, but I don’t mind being the one who will still come running– winter, spring, summer, or fall.

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