One of the sweetest gifts my husband has ever given me was Sinead O’Connor’s album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got.
It was the first Christmas after we started dating. We had only been dating for a month, so I wasn’t expecting a lot. But a couple of days before I went home to celebrate the the holidays with my family, he handed me a CD-shaped package. When I opened it up, it was like he had given me a time machine.
I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got was one of the first albums I bought as a teenager. Like 7 million other people in the early 90s, I bought it because of “Nothing Compares 2 U.” U couldn’t escape that song back then, and I’m not sure U really wanted 2. It was 2 beautiful and heartbreaking 2 ignore.
Sinead herself was a little hard to ignore – her politics, her bald head, those intense eyes. Once she started singing, though, all that melted away. And she was much more than that one song. The whole album was amazing – “Feel So Different,” “Black Boys on Mopeds,” “Three Babies,” “Emperor’s New Clothes” – these were some of the most brooding and gripping songs I had ever heard.
If Amy Grant was my bubbly BFF, then Sinead was the girl in study hall who sat by herself, scribbling furiously in her notebooks. I wanted to get to know that girl. She was … interesting. I would sit on my bedroom floor and just absorb her music. I thought maybe I would become interesting through osmosis.
Within a year, I wore that cassette out. Literally. I listened to it so much, I wore the tape thin.
I’m not sure why I didn’t replace it. I guess other music came along and there were new albums to buy, so I moved on. But there was part of me that still missed it.
And that was it. Nearly eight years had gone by. I told Shawn that story back before we were dating, back when we were just friends. I think “Nothing Compares 2 U” was playing somewhere, probably a bar, and I must have told him all about how I wore my tape out. I probably had that half-drunk, half-wistful look on my face as I sang along. And he remembered.
Now it was Christmas. And there I sat with an 8-year-old album I had loved so much as a teenager and a boy who was sweet enough to remember something so small and so big at the same time. It was perfect.