Meet my friend Zoe Feldman.
When Zoe was 27 years old, the woman who had been everything from a significant other, to romantic partner, to friend, died unexpectedly in her sleep. In an instant Zoe found herself a grief-stricken late 20-something living in New York City. Not the ideal in a culture where death earns you the right to three frown-y face Facebook statuses before you’re supposed to buck up and get on with it.
But grief knows no polite boundaries. Raw, real grief can continue on, morphing into monsters you never saw coming. Do yourself a great favor and read Zoe’s brilliant essay (damn can she write) on the subject “Rainbows, Unicorns, and Simpler Times.”
At Becca’s funeral, Zoe was sitting in her car, having not slept for 4 days, and all of a sudden Mariah Carey’s Heartbreaker comes on the radio. And she loses her shit. Sobbing, rage, despair. She can’t listen to the song again (not even the Jay-Z part) for months and months. Zoe, now 29, is finally ready to channel her grief into a project that has the full support of the Order: Lisa Frank Mixtape.
If you’ve got a story – grieving about death, or a breakup (which, by the way, I can now confidently say is a LOT like a death), or having recently realized you’ve woken up at 29 and might not want the same things other people do – send it to me here. I will post it. I will make you a mixtape about it. I will make that mixtape heavy on the 90s influence. And I will send you that mixtape, in the mail.
My first response was, “really? You’re going to make all those grieving people a mixtape?” So I asked Zoe about it.
Caitlin: You’re going to make all those grieving people a mixtape?
Zoe: Yes. For real. If a mix CD is preferred, I’m happy to oblige. But I draw the line at digital. Can’t do digital.
Caitlin: Why Lisa Frank? Emblem for our lost youth?
Zoe: Lisa Frank because it’s fucking hilarious. What is the antithesis of grief and death and interminable sadness, if not multicolored neon glitter unicorns jumping out of rainbows?! She says something about our particular generation’s (now long gone) youth, because we all worshipped her like the Goddess that she was from the hallways of our elementary and middle schools – and, as far as I know, her influence was greatest during the 90s. Her brand represents innocence on the purest level. When we worshipped her, we didn’t yet know about How Terrible Things Could Possibly Happen To Us Or To The People We Loved. That’s the beauty of youth – you’re convinced you and everyone around you is invincible. You don’t know any better.
Caitlin: What is the connection between grief and music?
Zoe: It’s incredible how poignant music can be, particularly in moments of pure joy or extreme sadness. Becca was the proprietor of a very well-known music blog, The Bee Charmer, and she was slipping mix CD’s of then-unknown Cocorosie and Cat Power and Metric under my door in 2004, at the dawn of the music blog as serious artform. She introduced me to so much music I would never have found on my own. After she died, I couldn’t listen to anything – literally, nothing – I drove in silence, I worked in silence, I walked in silence. Her dad had the same predicament. Everything reminded him of her. He was terrified to turn on the radio for fear of having a meltdown. She was everywhere and nowhere at the same time, and it was amplified by music, or the lack thereof.
Once the fog lifted, which took about six months, I was re-introduced to sound. After six months of darkness and quietude and self-imposed social isolation, I started listening again – and I heard differently.
Caitlin: When did you finally get inspired to act on this project?
Zoe: My dear friend Drew and I started talking about co-creating a blog about death and grief and being in our 20s over brunch in Seattle when I was visiting her in the spring. She lost her biological father nearly a decade ago, and she was one of the few people with whom I felt comfortable talking to about everything I had been feeling. Many a night did I call her in distress. Drew, bless her heart, is the Queen of the Internet to my 100-year-old anti-digital self, and she told me about this kind of okay blog called Order of the Good Death, run by this girl who seemed sort of fine or whatever.
Zoe and I have been corresponding ever since. I love her, though she is only cruel to me. Sending all manner of mean spirited .gifs to make her point.
Projects like this are so wildly needed. Every grief website and resource is important, especially those trying to step outside the box. Technology is changing, grief is changing, and what is good for the grieving goose might not be good for the bereaved gander. We need voices and a community for grief, especially for those in groups (people under 30, LBGT) who are made to feel disenfranchised in their grieving.
Again, the website is LisaFrankMixtape, and Zoe’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.