Notes on Pride

Closets, Loneliness, and Queer Feelings Pt 1: Adele's 21

June 2, 2021
I felt a profound and enduring sadness after coming out to someone for the first time in Jan 2011. I was in Houston. I was working a job that was exhausting and at times borderline abusive. I had made almost no new friends and was struggling with a lot of confidence issues. I was also in love with a boy who was emotionally unavailable… ok BOYS. I thought that finally telling someone this secret would change everything. Coming out somehow changed everything and also nothing. Gay bars and clubs, which I would wanter into alone, were unkind and unwelcoming. Apps were just taking off and felt way too intimidating and public. I spent most of Jan-March 2011 working or alone in my apartment watching Queer as Fold, crying, or both. Two albums saved, healed me, and gave me an early education in queerness (both its limits and its possibilities).

Coming Out. [2022]. All rights reserved.

Produced by Arjun Kamath, Nishitha Karumbaiah, Sonia Keer Dhawan, Amritha Rajavelu, Arvind Maitreyi

"I heard that you're settled down
That you found a girl and you're married now
I heard that your dreams came true
Guess she gave you things, I didn't give to you"
(Adele, "Someone Like You," 21)
"When will I see you again?
You left with no goodbye, not a single word was said.
No final kiss to seal any sins I had no idea of the state we were in"
(Adele, Don't You Remember," 21)

I Cried with Adele’s 21… A LOT

When Adele sings, “When will I see you again,” “You” lands somewhere between her expert vibrato and the restrained tears of a broken heart. Or when she sings about a lover who has moved on, without her, in “Someone Like You,” she invites us to fantasize what it would be like to tell your heartbreaker everything they did to you. Maybe you’ll get some closure. Adele’s unfinished longings, simmering in the rubble of a failed relationship remind us that closure is a fantasy. When she laments, “I heard that you’re settled down, that you found a girl and you’re married now,” she shows us how we are still haunted by what could have been and what failed, even as we try desperately to move forward. Nothing stays closed forever. I could write a whole essay about how “Someone Like You” is a warning about how heterosexual conjugality and norms fail us, but I’ll spare y’all. However, in the days and nights it was on repeat in 2011, 21 did teach me that queerness feels a lot like unrequited love, failed love, heartbreak, and the unfinished business of a heart in misplaced hands. Queerness is to fiercely love a world that is structurally incapable of reciprocating love or affirming your complexity. So like love, being queer can break your heart, unapologetically and by design. If you’re a queer kid in a cis/heterosexist world seeing all the things you can’t have, all the things you so desperately want and desire, it is a daily invitation to being shattered by the world. Living and navigating that world, wanting to e in it but also knowing you are not of it, feels a lot like Adele wanting her relationship to work but also knowing it’s doomed to fail.