Day 6: syn·co·pa·tion

Ooh, I miss that syncopation,
I guess I’ll never really understand…

Folks, these musicians have been lying to me all my (not so) innocent life. When I first heard this song, ‘Syncopation’, I thought the word meant in sync, as in, together. It’s a bloody love song, for crying out loud, what else could the word possibly mean? Then I’m googling the lyrics, last year, getting ready to stick it in a post and lo and behold, that is not what the word means, at all.

syn·co·pa·tion[sing-kuh-pey-shuh-n]

noun

  1. Music. a shifting of the normal accent, usually by stressing the normally unaccented beats.
  2. something, as a rhythm or a passage of music, that is syncopated.
  3. Also called counterpoint, counterpoint rhythm. Prosody. the use of rhetorical stress at variance with the metrical stress of a line of verse.

Simply put, syncopation is a general term for “a disturbance or interruption of the regular flow of rhythm”: a “placement of rhythmic stresses or accents where they wouldn’t normally occur.” Wikipedia

Now I ask you, how does the man miss a disturbance? Is a disturbance not a bad thing, sir? Bloody nkt! I’m starting to wonder about his Caribbean woman now, in light of his comprehension problems, perhaps she was from Sudan or something. Don’t look at me like that, you don’t know where I’m coming from. Billy Ocean practically a small god when I was growing up. When this man sang about the mythical love zone, I was the idiot looking at his curly kit and thinking how lovely it would be to pat (dry). This man was the man! And this song was a lovely tale of longing…

When she holds me, her body does strange things to mine,
When she loves me, then I know she’s one of a kind,She’s really special,
She knows what good love is all about,
Ooh, yeah…

Happy love song, without a doubt. Or not. In verse two he reveals…

I can’t imagine, my baby with somebody new,
Oh, no, no. I’m so confused, that I don’t know what to do…

Clearly my attention span as a child was wanting. If I had stuck around long enough I might have realised that this was not a happy love song, more a tale of abandonment, and longing. And it was a bloody riddle.

I wrote that intro ages ago, and then I tossed it in the trash once I realised the song and the post didn’t fit together. Problem is, as with all good songs, Billy was stuck in my head, and the bloody word with him. It’s such a lovely word this, syncopation. Musical, no? It got me thinking about music, and why we love what we love, what makes one song a good tune and the other a mess of sound. Don’t fret my pet, this post isn’t about music, it’s about dating. Why do we pick the people we pick to date? More to the point, why are we often syncopated with the people we date? (Syncopated is a real word. Yes, I saw you frowning.) Is that disturbance in the rhythm the key to a good rhythm?

Do you ever get the impression you and your lover are not in sync? I do. All the time, man. If I had to point out the one thing that went wrong in my relationships over the last couple of years it would be this, we were not in any sort of rhythm, all the damn time. Sure, there were odd moments of happy melding of mind (and body…), but for the most part I felt like I was in a reggae song and the bugger was playing classical music (I can’t think of two more different genres). When I was getting excited and falling, he was getting cautious and pulling away. When I was hesitant, he was barrelling full steam ahead, scaring me off with his enthusiasm. When I was committing, he was still playing the field. Any example you can think of, odds are I’ve been there, done that, read the book, saw the movie, went to the damn theme park and bought the fucking t-shirt. And why exactly do I tend to end up with discordant partners? This is where it gets good. I’ve always believed that the best matches are two people who are happy to be together while remaining individuals. That ‘and two shall become one’ story has never held any appeal to me. Why would I, fully formed brilliant creature that I am (ahem) want to become part of some mutant creature with ‘one heart’? Then what the hell have I being doing with my life all this time, I ask you? I should have just stayed home knitting sweaters, no? Before you laugh, I’d just like to point out that I can knit like a mother…, but I still went out and got me some other interests and skills, because that’s what life is about, no? I figure, until I’m a complete person, only then will I be able to have a complete relationship.

Yeah…no.

The more complete I get, the more I find out I will never be complete. There’s no end to this growing (up), is there? I’m pretty sure I will never get to that day when I can sit back and say I’m done. Strange thing is, I’m fine with that, these days anyhow. I have to be completely honest with you, these days I love knowing I don’t have it all figured out, it means I get to keep learning, plus I can’t be held criminally liable for any of my frequent fuck ups (ignorance can be a defence, if you play dumb enough, and flash some bosom). Haven’t I told you how much I love to learn? That’s how I finally figured out that the complete relationship is a bit of a myth, like unicorns, only less pretty. Complete implies finished, which implies static, which implies dead. Dead relationships aren’t relationships. That analogy may have run away from me, and disturbingly fast. Moving right along. My (possibly misguided) independent streak is why I always look for similarly minded independent types, which would be great except for the minor matter of, well, independence. People who don’t want to couple tend to make lousy coupling partners, if only because they don’t see the need to couple. Folks, stubborn and stubborn rarely make a good match, is all I’m saying, but dammit if it doesn’t always make for interesting matches. Troubling matches, but interesting all the same.

For those of you playing the song (all two of you), listen to this bit at 3:19 (ignore the lyrics, listen to the music)…

Ooh, how I miss that syncopation.
(Baby’s found another.)
(Baby’s found another.)
(She’s found another lover.)
Ooh my baby.
Woooh, how I miss that syncopation…

My understanding of syncopation is that ‘tripping over itself’ rhythm, kinda like they’re skipping beats every so often, like a scratched CD, but somehow not skipping anything. It sounds broken, yet whole. This is not a technical description, clearly, but it might be the closest analogy to the nature of relationships I’ve made yet. This is what my relationships feel like most times, skipping, tripping, slightly unpredictable, not entirely settled. When I was 10 years younger and much more dramatic, it was the most exhilarating feeling ever. I loved the inherent instability of the awkward pairing of two idiots who wanted to be together, yet didn’t, it made me feel blissfully untethered. These days, however, not so much. Listen, I’m all for a little disruption once in a while, but tripping all day every day? No. That requires way too much effort, effort my old ass has no time for. These days my theory is simple, if we’re not in sync, then maybe we shouldn’t be syncing.

Or not.

I’m not sure.

I started this post off as an anti-syncopation ode. I was ready to declare that in the year of (y)our lord 2015, I was no longer going to date buggers who couldn’t match my rhythm perfectly, nor I theirs. To hell with this never ending quest for like minded independent (read, stubborn and unyielding) spirits, I was convinced that I was going to change my ways and become a ‘one heart’-er. In this year of (y)our lord. Then I sat back and listened to Billy a couple more times. The reason this song is so brilliant is because of the syncopation, without it this would be just another bland love song, monotonous woowoowoo bullshit. Put differently, breaking the rhythm makes the rhythm better, as counter-intuitive as that sounds. See, now I finally understand why he’s pining for this woman…

You see I never had a lover
who could make me over like this, like this…

Billy didn’t lie to me (thank you, gods of all things R&B), disturbance is something worth pining over. Disturbance, it seems, is a good thing. Lovers don’t have to be perfectly matched, if anything they work better when they’re not. Ignore everything else I may have said tonight to the contrary.