A version of this story appears in Huck 73: The Sanctuary Issue. Get your copy now, or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
Set My Heart On Fire Immediately, the most recent instalment from Perfume Genius, is a luminous collection of songs about longing and devotion. It’s also his best work yet.
The 39-year-old musician – real name Mike Hadreas – is a wise and worldly soul. So we were suitably delighted when he agreed to be our agony uncle for Huck 73.
In a new column, taken from the issue, he lends his ear to readers in need.
I want to change my astrological sign. I am a Libra and I am sick of always being nice to people. I long to be more aggressive, maybe an Aries. As a fellow Libra, do you ever feel this way? Is it possible for us to reject these cosmic labels? – Harry
100 per cent. I’m a Libra too and I decided to be a Taurus for a few weeks. Tauruses are supposed to be really into blankets and food and being cosy and indulging and stuff. I was really riding that vibe. Nobody told me I couldn’t change it. I don’t think anyone has told you, either. You can do what you want. I have now gone back to being Libra, but I dabbled in Taurus. It was fun to decide, I liked making that astrological decision for myself. It felt kind of ballsy.
I keep dreaming about getting really badly sunburnt. What does this mean? – Fran
You get sunburnt because you didn’t prepare – because you’re not lotioning. You’re staying out longer than you should. The dream is, probably, you realising that you haven’t been taking care of yourself. Everybody knows that you put sunscreen on if you don’t want to get burnt! Take care!
What is the earliest time of a day that it’s acceptable to crack open a beer at work? – Adam
I don’t think there are any rules for that, as long as you’re being nice to other people – and to yourself. I say do it. Because if you’re going to write that question down and send it to someone, then you’re already thinking about it. I think maybe you’re looking for permission to blow up your life. This feels like a very gentle in-road to that idea. A lot of good things for me have come from blowing things up. I don’t know why I’m supporting this. But I’m just going to go with it. Do it.
Can you tell me I’m okay? – Seb
Yes, of course. But do you think you have to be all okay? Because you can be okay and not okay at the same time. You can be strong and weak at the same time. Or brave and scared. I think all of those things can exist parallel, and that’s comforting to me. So just let yourself be how you are. Let that be okay – whatever it is.
I have feelings for my best friend. I think she knows, but neither of us have spoken about the issue. Instead, we’re just going along as normal. She messages me all the time, buys me really thoughtful gifts, and we hang out together – just the two of us – in really intimate settings (we regularly have movie nights together). I am worried that I will lose her as a friend if I tell her how I feel, but it’s driving me crazy. What should I do? – Eliza
I’m almost incapable of answering this, because these kinds of situations are torturous for me. I feel like I’m really terrible at navigating them. When I have a crush on someone, I angle my whole body and spirit towards them. There’s this whole story in my head and it ends up being so fantastical that it’s hard to come down from it.
It’s really torturous, especially if you really care about the person, and you think that if you tell them how you feel then it’s somehow going to make them uncomfortable. It’s a very strange thing, because how you feel is very wholesome and good, but it could potentially make them feel less loved by you, in a way. Or it could change the relationship. I haven’t worked out how to figure it out, so I just write coded songs and cryptically put the energy out there.
You have to consider the other person. But I think, ultimately, just go for it. Me and my boyfriend have been together for 11 years. For a year, or longer, I was convinced that we were just friends, that I was misinterpreting things. I had this whole story built up about how I loved him and he didn’t love me. But I was wrong. I just kissed him. Then we moved in together two weeks later. Ultimately, even through all the confusion, it’s better to just fucking go for it. Especially if how you feel is wholesome and real.
I feel creatively barren, and like my soul needs some love and nurturing. But it’s hard when you’re in an office job, 9-5, a lowly cog in the capitalist machine. How do I feel inspired again? Help me. – Daniel
I have a lot of practice disassociating, I’ve been doing it for a long time. When I worked as a cashier at a store I was able to have my own parallel internal world. You just need to figure out how to develop it so that the two things can exist at the same time. So just practice doing weird things. Lay down on the ground for a few minutes. Fuck up the energy a little bit. Add some fantasy, some otherness. Store up weird little moments for yourself that you can use later. It will help.
My neighbours always blast One Direction in the morning when I’m trying to sleep, and though I do love One Direction, I love sleeping more. What should I do as a person who is terrified of confrontation? – Iana
When I lived in my old apartment, people used to go through my mail and try to steal credit card stuff and things like that. I didn’t know what to do, so I would go outside and just kind of shake my keys around. I thought for some reason that would startle them, the sound of jingling keys in the night. I tried it multiple times. You can try that too, I guess. Or just start blasting out a song in response. A sleepy song. Balance it out.