Heart on My Sleeves

If you have eight T-shirts to spare, then I’ll tell you the story of my life.

After Adam and I broke up, I had more or less exhausted the dating pool of our high school and was ready to branch out. My dating philosophy was misguided, but simple—sometimes it’s easy to think that when you’ve found someone passionate about the same bands you are, you’ve also found love. Alas, finding another New Romantic lover in my hometown—a New Jersey suburb that is noteworthy mainly for having an inordinate number of muscles tattooed with misspelled Italian clichés per capita—was a challenge. In order to meet someone with whom to swap spit and Lloyd Cole lyrics, my best friend, Jean, and I ventured to the likeliest breeding grounds of likeminded young men we could find: parties at northeastern colleges. Of course, this usually led only to desperate encounters with doughy, self-obsessed drummers and scores of aspiring horror-movie directors, but one night I thought I had hit the jackpot.

Matt* lived in a ramshackle college house outside of Philadelphia with a few other students from his small art school. He seemed pretty unremarkable at first—glasses, very furry beard and limbs, cute potbelly. My indifference toward him morphed into full-flung devotion when I noticed a huge Morrissey poster on the wall of his bedroom. Suddenly, I wanted to know everything about him, almost as if he were the Mozfather himself. While my friends played beer pong with his roommates, he and I hid upstairs in his room to interrogate each other about our favorite books, movies and, of course, Smiths songs. Since the “conversation” was really just us excitedly barking the names of every band on Sarah Records at each other, I determined that we were destined to be together.

When the discussion steered toward our own thoughts and feelings as opposed to simply reciting lyrics back and forth, it became significantly less thrilling. A large part of his seduction routine was dominated by the wince-inducing debut performance of a stand-up routine he was writing. “Do arsonists get off to news reports of burning buildings? Someone should make fire porn! Uh, funny stuff, r-right?” He asked me if I got it. I faltered, but then, when I looked at Morrissey’s face on the wall above his, I decided that I most certainly did. Our thighs touched briefly as we sat side by side on his plaid comforter. Right after we discovered we shared a birthday, he shoved his face into mine and lacquered it with an impressive layer of spit.

We made out for a good long time before I got bored. I suggested we go back downstairs, but he was tired and wanted to pass out. Since we weren’t about to drive home and sleeping arrangements at these parties were typically not much more sophisticated than a pillow on the cigarette-burned carpeting of someone’s living room, he told me that I could sleep next to him in his bed, no funny stuff. Because he was a Morrissey fan, I believed him—he even laid out gym shorts and a big shirt with, I kid you not, the Smiths’ first album cover on it for me. Swoon!

When the time came, I quietly changed into his clothes and felt my way to his bed. As I snuggled into his body and tried to shut my eyes, I caught a furry forearm to the face. Matt bolted upward, bellowing and screeching as if I were tearing out chunks of his generously distributed body hair. After a minute of panicking and trying to comfort him and quell his insanely loud, terrified zoo noises, I fled and joined Jean on the downstairs sofa. When I explained the situation, his friend said, through teary-eyed laughter: “Matt has night terrors. He probably dreamed you were some kind of burly horror-beast.” This isn’t exactly how you want a roomful of hot, intimidating “older boys,” as we called them in awestruck whispers, to see you when you’re an affection-starved high school senior.

After waking up with Jean’s toenails stuck to my cheek the next morning, I joined everyone else in the house to get stoned and eat away our hangovers at a diner nearby. When I smoke weed, my main thought patterns are made up of things like “AM I MOVING MY ARMS TOO WEIRD,” which isn’t even a real sentence. Add to this the presence of Matt, sitting directly across from me and avoiding all eye contact. Excruciating. I was still wearing his shirt, which he never reclaimed. I expected him to ask for it back before we left, but I think he was too mortified to even say goodbye. I still wear the shirt to bed all the time, next to my own Smiths poster this time.

* Matt’s is the only name in this story that’s been changed.


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  • Chimdi September 5th, 2011 11:14 PM

    oh my gosh
    (choking on happiness)

  • Hannah September 5th, 2011 11:15 PM

    I was looking for a shirt and then I found a shirt, and Heaven knows I’m miserable now:

    Moz 4ever!

  • oriana September 5th, 2011 11:19 PM

    Wonderful entry!

    I have a similar love for Bob Dylan which began when I was 14. Although I’ve never been able to see him live, I’ve abused the hell out of my vinyl copy of ‘The Freewheelin Bob Dylan’ and shed a multitude of tears while listening to ‘Blood on The Tracks’, lamenting over infatuations who didn’t even know I existed.

    Like you said, I’ve grown up since then, but my heart still skips a beat (or five) when I’m watching a movie and one of his songs is on the soundtrack… or even better, when I meet someone else whose love for Bobby mirrors that of my own.


  • Alicia September 5th, 2011 11:24 PM

    This story is beautiful.

  • elmyrah September 5th, 2011 11:24 PM

    This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for sharing something so real and beautiful.

  • Nancy September 5th, 2011 11:24 PM

    Ah, yes. That band for me was Weezer. I discovered them circa 2001 when I was eleven or twelve.

    I didn’t get into the Smiths until embarrassingly recently.

  • Chimdi September 5th, 2011 11:30 PM

    oh, and by the way I’m TWELVE
    (but I’ve loved The Smiths since 11)

  • Tavi September 5th, 2011 11:43 PM

    @oriana, UGH, BOB LOVE. the stories i could tell. well, they basically all go like this: LOTS OF CRYING. the end.

    i got like, super defensive when my dad said he was once as big a dylan fan as i was. because he has now forgotten all of the words and is pretty indifferent. i still don’t think i’ll ever not CARE for dylan, but he was right, my tastes have shifted a bit since then, and it’s not the same anymore.

    bleh, growing is annoying.

  • iWantLovely September 5th, 2011 11:47 PM

    Incidentally, I have a similar devotion to Tom Waits and his work. <3 This is my favorite article on the site so far. Amy is a wonderful writer who has an apparent talent for writing straight from the heart, which makes it really enjoyable to read. I had to put on The Queen Is Dead to read this. :)

  • EveyMarrie September 5th, 2011 11:48 PM

    That’s a great story :) The band Kill Hannah has been my everything since 7th grade although I own no shirts unfortunately. However, I’m an avid promoter of homemade merchandise for bands ;D haha

  • marypee22 September 6th, 2011 12:03 AM

    Nirvana is my Smiths. Have been, ever since I learned what music was. It is a great feeling when you find a band that makes you splash!

  • streetcreature September 6th, 2011 12:13 AM

    Cute article. Dreamy teenage nostalgia. I miss it.

  • Gabi September 6th, 2011 12:26 AM


    It is all so beautiful

  • rhymeswithorange September 6th, 2011 1:27 AM

    Mine is Arcade Fire. Neighborhood #1 set me off, and is still one of my favorite songs. Nostalgic sigh.

  • Chloe September 6th, 2011 1:45 AM

    Haha I totally rocked “FUHGAWZ” on my converse in year 9!

  • littleDani September 6th, 2011 2:01 AM

    This is amazing. I wish I discovered The Smiths sooner, I embarrassingly fell for Moz about a year ago.

    I am super passionate about Radiohead, but I don’t really own a whole lot of band shirts, not since I was 12 and super into My Chemical Romance.

  • rayano-banano September 6th, 2011 2:47 AM

    This is a really great, long enough, article I think a lot of people can relate to. I think it’s great that this site features, and should continue to do so, insightful pieces on a person’s relationship with the same art that a lot of us readers share an interest in.

  • MichyMich September 6th, 2011 4:38 AM

    While reading this article, I can definitely relate to the deep impact music has made in my life. I remember that when I was in freshman year, my friend and I were hardcore No Doubt fans and we shared a nostalgia for their music (which was mostly made in the 90s). In addition, we always wished that No Doubt would be back together again and see a No Doubt concert. In fact, our wish came true when we saw them at a concert two years ago.

    P.S. I cried tears of joy when I saw Gwen Stefani. :)

  • Naomi Morris September 6th, 2011 6:08 AM

    mine is bruce springsteen obv. but i have a huge huge love for the smiths

  • sheila September 6th, 2011 7:40 AM

    This is beautiful! I always put music to my people and places, but I don’t write about it and make it lovely. Lovely story telling!

  • katvirus September 6th, 2011 7:41 AM

    can i cry now?

  • LaVie September 6th, 2011 8:05 AM

    I’m this way with Taylor Swift… I know.

  • microwench September 6th, 2011 10:48 AM

    I have so much love for this post right now!
    See, I have this newfound obsession with The Beatles. It started a few months ago, for no apparent reason. Whatever, I love it, so :-p
    Yesterday, I had my most awesome fangirl-moment yet. My husband took me to the used record store (FTW!) and I scored TWO very early Beatles albums in VG condition. Squeeeeeee!

  • elcolette September 6th, 2011 11:18 AM

    It’s been years since I’ve been in high school (Literature PhD student here!) but when I was checking out the stories on Rookie I felt I absolutely had to respond. I absolutely, 100% relate to this story–I was known as the “Smiths girl” in high school, quoted Morrissey twice in my valedictorian speech, began my honors thesis with a quote from Moz on Wilde and Dean (it was on queer intertextuality! it was germaine!), maintain an ongoing count of how many times he’s shook my hand at concerts, consider the moment when I actually got on stage and hugged the man to be one of the greatest of my life, have pictures of myself in front of the Salford Lads club, and the list goes on and on.

    When I was interviewing for study abroad programs my sophomore year of undergrad, the professor in charge of one of the programs asked me in my interview what my favorite bands were. When I immediately said the Smiths, his response was “you’re in! They’ve been my favorite band for 20 years. You can tell a lot about a person when they say they love the Smiths.” I think that last part is particularly true, and it’s something that I’ve really felt–as you discuss in this story–while queuing 10+ hours outside before concerts. Some of the greatest people I’ve ever met, I’ve met while waiting in line for Moz shows. Sometimes we never exchanged names, some of them I never knew for more than an hour, but that sense of community is really palpable. Moz fans are a particularly devoted bunch, and I think part of that connection is related to the fact a lot of people come to love the Smiths because of similar life experiences.

    Perhaps this all makes me sound a bit deluded, but I think its important to realize that the attachments that people form to various cultural figures are very meaningful.

  • girlbuffalo1 September 6th, 2011 11:24 AM

    I didn’t discover The Smiths or Morrissey properly until probably around age 25 and it’s strange to think that the music affects me in the same way it may have had I been 14–it’s soul stirring no matter when…
    For some of us confusion never stops..

  • cutebones September 6th, 2011 11:31 AM

    This was really lovely and also made me feel like I’ve missed out by only discovering The Smiths recently..

    But for me I felt that sensation of discovering a musical artist that would be a subject of your love for a long time when I listened to Japanese singer Jun Togawa for the first time.. now I am just trying to make up for all those years I wasted NOT listening to her music and also desperately trying to learn Japanese so I can truly appreciate the lyrics rather than just reading translations..

  • WitchesRave September 6th, 2011 11:48 AM

    Mine is an angel named Jeff Buckley.

    Beautiful post btw :’)

  • Rhibarb September 6th, 2011 11:53 AM

    This was absolutely brilliant! The smiths are my favourite band too.

  • sequoia September 6th, 2011 12:21 PM

    This so beautiful !! Wow

  • electricbixxh September 6th, 2011 1:22 PM

    Mine is Hole.

    I like The Smiths and I’ve always wanted to like Morrissey but he’s always been a bit too much for me.

    Then again, I’m talking about loving Courtney Love, so…

  • Stephanie September 6th, 2011 2:01 PM

    Love The Smiths and Morrissey! Saw him at a small club in Madison, Wisconsin in the late nineties and my ears were ringing for days because I stood right next to the speaker cabinet so I could get as close to him as possible. As someone else said earlier, Nirvana is actually my Smiths. Though I never got to see them live, I still have at least ten Nirvana t-shirts, though only one that I wear regularly is my very first one which I cut DIY style into a tank top because I was way too insecure in high school and bought all my shirts so big they could have been night gowns.

  • Toilets September 6th, 2011 2:11 PM

    Hooray for fanship that verges on obsession! Mine is Nick Cave, but I can relate to the above love for His Bobness. I fulfilled one of my childhood dreams by seeing* him in June!

    *I saw the top of his head because I’m short, but I could hear him and I suppose that’s what counts.

  • Dahlia September 6th, 2011 2:47 PM

    Ahh, I had (or should I say have) the exact same realtionship with Nine Inch Nails. Sadly, I got into them right as they stopped touring, so I have yet to see Trent Reznor live. :( I’m pretty sure no matter how old I get, whenever I hear a NIN song, it will make me feel young again. :) I haven’t ever really listened to the Smiths. I should give them a try.

  • Pashupati September 6th, 2011 3:37 PM

    Mine is Muse.
    I discovered them thanks to a computing forum I was on, with people talking about things they listened to. There were lists and lists of names there that I didn’t knew.
    Oh, I should mention my age, I was 10 or 11, it was in 2005, so 10.
    Mine is Muse, or used to. Maybe it’s just I don’t listen to the music as profoundly as I did then.
    I don’t know if it was the name which I liked, or just that it was easy to remember, it was the only one I lurked about on the Internet.
    So, I just did some illegal things, and listened while laying on my back all nights.
    The year after, Black Holes and Revelations was out.
    I think I still like it, when I don’t do casual listening, it’s still the same.
    It’s just weird how Matthew Bellamy is now a dad, and. Lot of things. That was the music I listened to when I was bullied. When I felt a panic attack, I would pull my listener and listen and breath. I would listen to it when I was excited, when I was calm, when I was scared.
    That and Arch Enemy, but it was only when I wanted to feel electricity through my body or have some fun.
    People change so much. Sometimes I’m scared, but I don’t pull on any listener anymore. Not with that music on.
    Or I does, but it don’t work anymore if I’m really bad, only when I’m low. Maybe I lost all my optimism, or as my life is much better now and I’m just bad because of reminiscence I need another band, or don’t need a band anymore.

    It’s kind of sad I couldn’t see them live when I was into (them, the band, Muse). I could now, my mother have a job back and I’m going to get one too, but it won’t be the same, and it’s kind of sad, and it will only get sadder if I listen to them like I used to because it’s not the same.
    Somehow it’s still happy, as it’s because life feels better right now. Maybe it won’t ever be the same anymore, and the only regret will be not being able to listen to them like I used to.

  • Pashupati September 6th, 2011 3:44 PM

    Oh, and people.
    Watch that movie, “New Wave” by Gaël Morel, if you speak french or find a version with subtitles, or if it was dubbed somewhere and nobody told me.
    It kind of remind me when I was really into music, except I didn’t have a best friend.
    Maybe in a symbolic way, because of the ending. I won’t explain why here, because it’ll spoil you, and I don’t want to impose people out there my interpretation of the movie. I think people would relate to the characters, here.

  • Whatsername September 6th, 2011 4:21 PM

    Ohhh lord, band obsessions. My first was Green Day, I was OBSESSED OBSESSED with them, went to one of their concerts, and of course was completely in love with Billie Joe Armstrong. When I was… 12. They really turned my taste in music around, back then I liked POP and all the stuff you hear on the radio, -SHUDDER-.

    My musical taste has moved on since then, I’m more into a lot of indie rock, obsessed with Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys {ALEX TURNER<3}. Even so, my love for Green Day still lives on {considering the reference to them in my username!}.

  • charlottestreet September 6th, 2011 5:14 PM

    I proudly enlist myself to exchange Lloyd Cole lyrics with you.

    Your Smiths fandom = My Lloyd fandom

    I tried to get a surgery postponed for a Lloyd show. I figured the joy that I’d have from seeing him would make me stronger for the surgery, right?

    You are an awesome fan.

  • Cherokee September 6th, 2011 5:49 PM

    I have never really gotten this with a band, maybe artists in general, but probably never having been properly into music as made me a little more distant towards this kind of admiration for a band/artist.

    Either way, what a wonderful post! Loved it.

  • chelseagirl September 6th, 2011 6:00 PM

    love the smiths, I’m smiling after reading this

  • serena September 6th, 2011 6:32 PM

    Not only was this story wonderful, it also reminded me of my younger teenage years! The Smiths were one of the first bands I got super obsessed with and I have so many good memories involving them. The Smiths remind me of smoking cigarettes in a bath tub, cuddling, drinking whiskey on the kitchen floor, talking pretentiously about Bukowski and a best friend that I lost. Thank you so much for this.

  • Suzette September 6th, 2011 7:15 PM

    Yes. The Strokes are my Smiths. People who don’t like the Strokes are automatically ruled out for friendship, in my book.

  • necroticbird September 6th, 2011 7:50 PM

    This was excellent. I love the Smiths, but I love an honest and reflective life story even more.

  • Danielle M. September 6th, 2011 9:14 PM

    ugh. i think of bands and stuff and i feel like the loser among ” losers”. I can’t listen to bands online cuz my computer is slowly dying into the blue. Out of the bands I know my favorite band is Death Cab for Cutie. This is my legacy. My song.

  • Danielle M. September 6th, 2011 9:16 PM

    oops the song i love is ” I will possess ur heart. If i spelled possess wrong please tell me. BLAME THE SCHOOL SYSTEM!

  • RGR September 6th, 2011 9:27 PM

    I would absolutely love “autobiographies in band tees” to be a recurring feature. That should happen!

    • Tavi September 6th, 2011 9:40 PM

      We might have to take this into consideration…

  • airheads September 6th, 2011 11:52 PM

    This is so lovely. I literally laughed (“AM I MOVING MY ARMS TOO WEIRD”) and cried. I’ve had three Smiths shirts throughout my life: the first I wore until the sleeves started to come apart, so I sewed it into a pillow (I don’t sew too well); my current boyfriend stole the second, which is ok because it fits him better, but it’s also funny because I had that shirt on when I got my first kiss, almost six years ago; and the third is in the laundry room next door. Reading this makes me want to expand my collection! But my favorite part of this was near the end, when you said people, like t-shirts, were ephemeral. So beautifully worded.

  • Maca September 6th, 2011 11:57 PM

    This is so incredibly beautiful! I just find it so amazing when people share their passion for the things they love. I hope we never lose those passions.

  • Pyxie Gwynne September 7th, 2011 1:54 AM

    Great article! I could definitely do an autobiography in band tees. Though most band tees are made of thick woven cotton and their boxy tendencies aren’t the most flattering I have more than a smattering amount. (Plus at shows/concerts -merch is how the band makes money…usually just enough for gas.) So find a band you like and see them live, then buy a t-shirt so they can eat human food. Let’s all build autobiographies in band tees.

  • all-art-is-quite-useless September 7th, 2011 4:31 AM

    I do love The Smiths, but my ultimate “oh my God, oh my God, how could I ever have lived without this music? You them? Shit, shit be my friend” band is the X-Ray Spex.

  • Davidikus September 7th, 2011 5:04 AM

    Everyone has their band. Or could it be their bandS? I really like The Smiths. Perhaps I have outgrown the fan phase of my life (if I ever had one?) but I now tend to think that band tee-shirts are very rarely well designed.

    I look forward to the days that a great designer will make a great Smiths, Suede, Miossec, Dominique A tee-shirt.

    PS. Chiara Mastroianni wears a ‘The Smiths is Dead’ tee shirt in Christophe Honoré’s les Bien Aimés.

  • Kavi.Xiu September 7th, 2011 10:05 AM

    That was adorable.

  • Sagolikt September 7th, 2011 10:41 AM

    Oh I love this. I think I found ‘my band’ when I was 15.
    I haven’t found anyone to share the band with yet though, unfortunately. But hopefully I will!

  • Claire September 7th, 2011 5:45 PM

    Love reading about someone else’s passion for the Smiths! I remember babysitting at a neighbor’s house in middle school. After the kids had gone to bed, I looked at the dad’s CD shelves and saw his expansive Smiths collection. When the parents got home, I expressed my recent obsession with “Vicar in a Tutu.” I think he was amused, but that was the last time I babysat for that family.

    My first album was The Joshua Tree, when I was 11 (stolen from my mom). I discovered the Beatles soon afterward, but I started getting into Patti Smith a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, it’s a little hard to find someone else who thinks she’s as awesome as I do. (And ironically, my only band T-shirt is a Coldplay one. Shameful, really.)

  • erin September 7th, 2011 6:31 PM

    This is such a wonderful thing… I have the same love for The Cure, who I often refer to as my musical soul mate. I totally get how you just identify with the music, and you can just feel it inside you. What you said about your first time seeing Morrissey was magical, and it makes me long for the day that I might see The Cure.

  • Jen September 7th, 2011 8:14 PM

    Thankfully, my Pink Floyd “Wish You Were Here” t-shirt is still around like the comfortable trusted friend it is. I bought it when I was 16. (I’m 32 now, ouch!) Thank you for this article, it brought back some great memories of my own!

  • mollyslips September 7th, 2011 9:10 PM

    Claire, I totally love Patti Smith! And I also totally made an art-dress-sculpture dedicated to her for my final Fine Arts program exhibition :)

  • miss azalea path September 8th, 2011 7:11 PM

    That band for me was Team Dresch followed closely by Sleater-Kinney. I’ve sworn up and down that I would have never survived high school (coupled with being queer in a very tiny town) without them.

  • michelley-elley-elley June 22nd, 2013 11:43 PM

    I’m a fairly new fan of The Smiths, but I still connect with a lot of this. It’s really interesting to hear about love of a band (or more specifically, of Morrisey) throughout the years. Great article!