Will you Mary me?

“If I could only reach you.. that would really be a breakthru” | Queen – Breakthru

I didn’t keep it dry. Again not. For the third time. I couldn’t keep it up for 110 minutes without getting tears in my eyes. And that while I already knew what was going to happen. But maybe it hit me just as much as the first two times, because I knew what would happen, and how it would happen. This time I watched the film in a different way.

The advantage of the current circumstances is that cinemas run much older movies. Back To The Future, Shawshank Redemption and Forrest Gump, among others, can be seen on the big screen again. As beautiful as these classics are, and no matter how many times I’ve seen the first two, this time I went to the cinema for a fairly modern classic. Bohemian Rhapsody. About Queen. About Freddie Mercury. About my first musical childhood love, which I will unfortunately never be able to see live in the original composition.

After I had already seen the film in the cinema twice in one week at the end of 2018, I read an article of 365 Dagen Succesvol (365 Days Successful, Dutch only) about the movie. That article made me watch the film differently the third time. The writer of it sees the loneliness of Freddie as the most sad part. The love of others can’t help Freddie. The emptiness within creates a loneliness that he can’t get rid of. The writer concludes his article asking if Freddie’s life would’ve been different if he hadn’t sung the song Love Of My Life for Mary, but for himself.

With that in mind, I went to watch the film, and frankly, I agree with what the writer wonders. Freddie has often said that Mary was the only one who understood him, which is also visible in the movie. The most special moment of their relationship is when Freddie shows her a recording of Love Of My Life in Rio, in which the audience sings the song to him. He didn’t know if the audience understood a word of what he was singing all night, but he did say that singing to such a large audience makes him feel like the person he always should’ve been. The only other time he feels this way is when he is with Mary. Because Mary understood him.

But how well was Freddie understood by others? An example that I found typical, and personally recognizable, was when he took another gamble with his outfit; he shows up at the café where the band agreed to meet John Reid in a very eccentric outfit, after which his band members say he looks like an angry lizard. While Mary says earlier in the movie that she’s a big fan of Freddie’s style and she thinks everyone should take a bit more risk when it comes to clothing, which I also agree with. Obviously this is related to someone’s personal taste, but since fashion is a way of expressing yourself, I see it as a difference in how well Freddie is understood. Mary understood Freddie, his band members and friends partly understood him, with everyone else it’s doubtful whether they understood anything about him at all. A lonely man. The fate of a unique world star?

But loneliness isn’t a feeling reserved only for world stars. I personally have enough experience with it, and many others with me. I know friends who find it hard to be alone and who are always looking for company. Some in the form of direct friends around them, others by jumping from relationship to relationship without being single for a period. Doing everything just to not be alone. I don’t recognize myself in these forms of loneliness, but since I do feel that way regularly I wonder where it comes from. Watching Bohemian Rhapsody and Freddie’s loneliness for the third time has led to a self-reflection on my own loneliness.

I went looking for the 365 Days Successful article about Bohemian Rhapsody again. It discusses three types of loneliness; social loneliness when you long for people around you, emotional loneliness when you long for a deep connection with one another, and existential loneliness when you long for a connection with yourself. But do I recognize myself in these forms of loneliness?

First of all let me go back to the name of this website. The idea of the backstage is precisely the moment when you are alone and you can exercise self-reflection, something that I’m also doing right at this moment. And I like this kind of loneliness. Sometimes it is simply wonderful to have nobody around you and not have to relate to anyone. Come to yourself, not have to play a role, decide for yourself what you do and what music you listen to. Social loneliness? I know enough wonderful people I could meet if I need social contact. So no, not really. Existential loneliness? Sometimes. As the writer of the article says; ““When peace and confirmation do not come from within myself, I always keep asking for it from the outside. Then it no longer matters how many fine friends I have and how loving my relationship is.” I can’t say that I’m always at peace with myself, but I do feel connected to myself.

What about emotional loneliness? At first I interpreted this mainly as a loneliness in love. Is that my desire? When I look back on the past years I often thought so, but now I doubt. Of course I sometimes miss it and there are always things you’d rather do with a partner than alone or not at all, but is that all? I don’t think so.

Looking at the description, it specifically mentions the “deep connection” with someone else. In my previous article I wrote that I don’t think that a superficial life would suit me, and for me that’s also true in friendship. Almost all my friendships have some form of depth. If I wanted I could share everything with my friends, and all my friends express enough friendly love to me. Yet I have felt lonely in their presence, with all of them at least once. Even with my best friends. And also with my previous love. What does that “deep connection” still mean then?

For me it may be the feeling of being understood. Or rather; loneliness is the feeling of not being understood. Or not being able to explain myself in a way that someone else would understand. Or not wanting to explain myself. Or not being able to. If I am frustrated that I feel misunderstood, I can’t blame the other person for that; I have some control over that myself. And frankly, I don’t always understand myself either. My thoughts, my feelings, sometimes even my own behaviour. How can I expect others to understand me at all if I don’t even always understand myself? And often enough I probably don’t understand others either. Maybe I understand others less than they understand me. However, the feeling of loneliness doesn’t disappear with it.

In the movie, Freddie plays the song Love Of My Life for Paul Prenter while he’s writing it. Freddie says that he wrote it for Mary (which, by the way, isn’t completely true) and that “Mary knows me in a way that no-one else ever will.” Paul says he knows who Freddie is, but Freddie disagrees; “Is that what you think? Oh no, you don’t know me. You just see what you want to see.” It’s characteristic about how Freddie thought, or felt, how others understood him compared to how Mary understood him.

And when I look at myself, at the moments when I feel really lonely, this is why. Everyone around me knows me to a greater or lesser extent, yet it often feels like an unbridgeable distance. That I will always feel like an outsider, regardless of whose company I enjoy. And yet I hope that someday I will meet someone who comes close to the island on which I feel I am. And if anyone wonders why I don’t have a partner yet, it’s because I haven’t had the feeling that any potential partner is coming close. However, it does explain my love for music.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a criticism of all the efforts made to understand me. I only took you through the process of getting to know myself better, and the process that may have narrowed the distance.

“If I could only reach you.. that would really be a breakthru”

Mary understood Freddie. And vice versa. That was beautiful to see, even for the third time. In my lonely moments that is what I long for.

Will you Mary me?

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