"Is it ever worth getting back with an ex?": Love surgery on Radio 1

The Surgery with Gemma and Dr Radha took its young listeners beyond the posturing of love.

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Is it ever worth getting back with an ex? This was one of several vexed questions mulled over by the 30-year-old evening presenter Gemma Cairney and BBC Radio 1’s resident doctor for teenagers, Radha Modgil, during a recent show on the subject of love and relationships (11 November, 9pm, BBC Radio 1). “We often replay images in our brains, which cause us to suffer from anxiety and to not get over things,” explained Dr Radha, “but . . . these feelings, be aware of them and just try to sit with them – almost label them. Say, ‘I know what this is but things have changed.’” Mindfulness in a nutshell – the cool acknowledging of thoughts as they pass. Only Dr Radha is far too unpompous to need to mention the word.

“So, what you’re saying,” needled the Sony Award-winning Gemma, ever the champion of clarity on behalf of her young listeners, “is if someone has done something that doesn’t feel quite right . . . we can still rebuild broken relationships?”

Dr Radha leans forward. Usually interested in opening pathways to all sorts of depends-how-you-look-at-it debate, on this subject she is iron firm. “We definitely can.” The effect is immediately liberating.

“That’s such a positive message!” floods Gemma, “because we’ve got this tendency to be searching for this empowerment message – when ‘empowerment’ is often just this chicken-necking and wagging your finger and tutting and the whole, ‘He need to be out of ya’ life . . .’”

Gemma is anti-posturing and super-aware of the too-enjoyable theatrics of being proudly unswayable, the dashes across town, the grabbed phone calls and hushed conferences: in short, she is a woman alive to the extent to which we perform in love. It was good to hear her attack how proud we have become of our poses and masks (so thoroughly deified by social media). The two women were going deep, questioning our weirdly superstitious idea that there is some deterministic Love Power out there that knows better than us; that insists that nothing or nobody can ever change, or grow, or take control; that, in essence, wants us to stay down and cynical. It was inspirational radio (not just for teenagers) and, as ever from these two, damn good advice. 

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She presents The Film Programme on BBC Radio 4. She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 26 November 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Terror vs the State