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Show love with songs: Make mate a mix tape

The Baltimore Sun

It seems that an important dating ritual that has been around for ages - long used as a way for people to get to know each other or to keep the magic alive - is dead.

The mix tape - a collection of songs on a tape, CD or playlist - is a prime part of the dating ritual for me. When I'm first dating, I make a mix CD of my favorite songs, as a get-to-know-me gift. And when I'm in love, because every love song seems tailored just for us, I exchange mix tapes with my sweetie, especially for those times when we're apart.

Rob Sheffield, author of Love Is a Mix Tape, his memoir on life, music and love, hears what I'm saying.

"Passing music back and forth is an inherently erotic thing," he says. But it appears we're of the select few. Nearly everyone I talked to this week handed back a blank stare when I offered the idea of the mix tape.

Catherine Means, 25, of Northwest Baltimore said she and her boyfriend never exchanged mix tapes. But that doesn't mean they don't love music. She says Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" is their song. "We've been through a lot," she says, and the song speaks to their relationship.

"Whenever it comes on, we dance," she says.

Matthew Schroll, 23, of downtown Baltimore says that he never made mix tapes, but he used to write and play songs for women on his acoustic guitar.

"Women really respond to that," he says. "It's romantic, supposedly." He has retired his guitar strings - for love pursuits, at least - but he knows why it worked. Making a song for someone shows a depth of emotion. "It's something special you can do one-on-one for them," he says.

His friend, John Armacost, 23, also of downtown Baltimore, says music can play such a prime role because it can do the talking for you. If you're not eloquent, you can just press play.

"It's a way to express yourself without saying anything," he says.

Which is why mix tapes should be reintroduced to the dating ritual. Music goes with love like peanut butter goes with jelly. So why not just take it a step further? And it's also a good way to show you care.

"In my circle ... it's a signal you spent some time thinking of them," says Sheffield, who says he still exchanges mix CDs with his wife.

Back in the day, the creation of a mix tape involved at least an hour and a half of work, he says. But even now, when you can assemble and burn a mix CD in minutes, that's still 10 minutes of care you focused solely on them. And, as Sheffield points out, the mix tape is also a good way to weed out the losers.

"You know if you present the tape and they hate everything on it, it's a good sign that you're not going make it," he says.

Music affects us all. Even people who aren't huge music geeks are swayed by its awesome power, like how the first strains of Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight" can transport you back to your first date with your college sweetheart.

Why not harness that power for good? This weekend, dust off your tape deck or fire up that CD burner and make a mix tape for the one you love (or the one you want). Show someone you were thinking of him or her.

In a twist on Shakespeare's words: Music is the food of love. Eat up.

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