Ferocious Tenderness

Everyone on the Internet already knows about Frank Ocean coming out.

I saw snippets of his post—which he was originally going to include on the liner notes to his new album, which will be released July 17th.  I haven’t listened to Odd Future or Ocean before—I’ve been pretty slow on music the past few years for a variety of boring financial reasons, but I like the way he wrote his letter.  I like the way it plays with time.  There’s an elasticity to it—the way he boomerangs from the car to the cliff back to the car.  That elasticity also helps combat the cliched elements to the prose—like “being thrown from a cliff.”  Moreover, the briefness of this foray into cliche almost underlines the cliched nature of the feeling and experience itself—Cliche, after all, being one of the prime ingredients of “first love” stories.  I like how he twists it.

I don’t know Ocean.  I’ll keep an ear open for his music in the next few weeks.  If nothing else, his words help each of us open up.  I feel a kinship now with a man I’d never even heard of.  I was listening to Arcade Fire this morning, “We Used to Wait”:

it seems strange 

how we used to wait for letters to arrive

but what’s stranger still

is how something so small could keep you alive

There are a lot of words that hang out together, and sometimes when they join, it’s cliche.  Sometimes it’s falling off a cliff and sometimes your fingers touch and spark.  Sometimes palm trees rustle and kisses are fluid like floating in lakes.  I think about the snippets of words that go together sometimes in my mind, like fierce kindness or ferocious tenderness.  But I think of ferocious tenderness when I think about how primal and necessary and powerful that kinship is.

I related to Ocean, to falling in love with a man who said he wouldn’t love me back.  I related to the self-doubt and fear and sadness, especially the self-doubt.  But now I recast that emotion.  There’s something to be said for kinship, even if that’s all there is.  Even if love, romance, friendship is impossible—even if actually knowing each other is impossible—there can be kinship.  There can be fierce kindness and ferocious tenderness, piled in shoulder-to-shoulder with silence.


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