Saturday, 5 July 2008

Libelle, 1985: My children hardly knew a family-life, but they do have a mother to talk to, even about their most intimate feelings

Frida paid a visit to Holland in 1984 to promote her Shine album. Around this time, Dutch magazine Libelle published this very open and sincere interview with Frida.
Anni-Frid Lyngstad (39) was born in the Norwegian village Narvik. At the age of 2 she lost her mother and was brought up by her grandmother. She met her father for the first time 7 years ago. “He came too late to still be a real father to me,” she says in an interview Libelle had with her. She talks about her childhood and about her 2 children, whom she wanted to give all she missed herself as a child, about her 2 marriages and the time she travelled the world with her children and ABBA.

Anni-Frid Lyngstad is in Rotterdam, on the eleventh floor of the Hilton Hotel. Downstairs fans are waiting patiently for an autograph. She is strikingly young with her purple-red punk hairdo. Politely and very self-confident she says: “I would appreciate it if you didn’t smoke here.” She hasn’t quite recovered yet from the time difference, after a visit to her daughter in New York. No coffee, but water. A thick, knitted cardigan around her shoulders. “I might be getting the flu,” she says quietly. For a moment she looks like the image many people have of her. A somewhat sad, lonely woman, who still hasn’t found happiness, despite all the success in the world. An image that may find its origin in her childhood and that’s kept alive by the fact that she is still alone after her divorce from Benny Andersson. Her loneliness is something that’s brought up in interviews a lot as well, so much so that it has almost become her trademark. Unintentionally, so it seems later.

Frida was born 39 years ago in the Norwegian village Narvik at a time that didn’t hold much promise for the future. She’s the daughter of a German officer, who returned to his home country after the war. 7 years ago she met him for the first time. “It was all very strange. I received a letter from someone who claimed to be my half-brother. He had read a biography about me and came across some things he had also heard from his father. As it turned out, that indeed was my father. I looked him up, mainly out of curiosity. He came too late to still be a real father to me. I was a grown woman. As a child, he could have meant something to me, but now not anymore. Still the meeting meant a great deal to me and we kept in touch ever since. It was a very strange emotion, when we met eye to eye. You know: this is my father. But all the emotions going with that, were strange to me. No, I never blamed him for anything. After all, he was a victim of the circumstances as well. As a German officer he hardly could stay in Norway after the war.”

Her mother died when Frida was 2 years old, after that she was brought up by her grandmother. She moved with her to the Swedish town Eskilstuna, because in Narvik her history was stained.
“I don’t like to talk about my childhood,” says Frida. “Not because it’s a period I want to forget – there were plenty of happy times as well – but it doesn’t suit my philosophy of life. I take everyday as it comes. That’s the reason why I don’t want to look too much at the future. It’s crazy, but this summer I was back in Eskilstuna. I hadn’t been there since my grandmother died, sadly before ABBA took off. When I drove off, I couldn’t imagine what it looked like anymore. What I saw was the memory, the city of my childhood.”

Frida has 2 children herself. Daughter Lotta is 18 years old and a student in New York. Son Hans is 21 and lives and works in Stockholm.
“He writes songs, plays in a band, produces and arranges and is, well, very talented. I see in him much of the same urge as I had to get into the music industry. It’s something magical, something that can’t be explained. I never understood where it came from, it just was there. With Hans it may be easier to understand, for he has a mother in the music industry. But on the other hand, Lotta is finding her own way as well.”
Talking about her children, Frida slowly becomes more personal. When we talk about raising children, she says: “Every mother wants to give her children what se didn’t have herself. Something I have always missed, is a mother to talk to. Despite all her efforts, my grandmother never was able to fulfil that role. There was too much age difference. I know that my children do have a mother like that. We are not afraid to talk to each other, even when it comes to the most intimate feelings. That’s a good thing. That they trust me, are not afraid to come to me. I see them often, yes. A few times a year I fly to New York and Stockholm, and Lotta and Hans also visit London regularly, where I’ve been living the past 2 years. Of course it’s a shame that we’re living so far apart, and sometimes I miss them very much, but we all lead our own lives. I tried to raise them like that, as independent people with responsibility, who have both feet on the ground, capable to make their own decisions. I think I’ve succeeded. I have tremendous respect for the way they lead their lives. They are able to manage themselves. That’s a big relief, and makes missing them not painful. Actually, it’s a good feeling being so young and having such grown-up children. I do worry if they are happy as well. You can guide children and make them able to lead their lives. But it’s no guarantee for happiness. Happiness is something that comes from within, it can’t be taught. They have to experience everything in life themselves. All I can do is be there when they need me, to talk to. Even if they are on the other side of the world, I’m still their mother. I keep feeling the responsibility. Something I’ve learned myself is that communication is an important tool to happiness. Communication between people is something difficult. People very seldom manage to really communicate. That’s what I’ve told my children as well. It’s important for them to open up, be friendly to people, and really try to connect. You can save yourself a lot of trouble by doing that. Communicating also means listening very carefully, understanding how people are. With me it wasn’t like I instantly realized I wasn’t communicating, it took me several years. My divorce from Benny has been a turning point in that respect. That’s the time that I really needed to connect to other people, more than ever. To Benny, but also to friends. When we separated, I had to make a decision in life. I looked at everything I experienced up to that point. I wanted to find out how to continue. During that time I started talking. For the first time I opened up completely. That was probably the best experience in my life thus far, and it meant a great deal to me. I now have confidence in myself and life. Because then I realized what was really wrong. I know myself much better now, and that means I’m no longer afraid, I’m much stronger and I can encounter people openly. The fact that Benny and I weren’t really communicating, was an important reason for our divorce, of course apart from some other reasons. It was only during the last 4 weeks we were together, that we really talked. I had the feeling that was the first time. It’s strange, but you see that happening often when relationships come to an end. It’s as if you suddenly realize you’re going to lose something, and want to get the pieces in the right place at the last minute. It’s also important to know why it happens. Otherwise it’s going to drag on. It means that partners have to speak their mind, something that apparently wasn’t possible during the relationship. I sometimes compare it with people who are dying. You often hear they use their last hours to set the record straight. For me, a divorce is partly dying. Maybe that’s why we had such good talks those last few weeks. To be honest, it was the best period of our marriage. I have no regrets. The conclusion remained the same after those 4 weeks. But the result is that Benny and I are still good friends. It was a good divorce, as far as you can call a divorce that. The sadness remains, but you can make it easier on each other. We did just that and I’m glad for it. Benny and I can still talk about intimate things, good moments we had together. Those are emotions you only shared with each other, something you can’t talk about to somebody else. If you couldn’t ever talk about it again, if there would be no friendship left at all, it would seem those things never happened. As if there never was a marriage. After my divorce from Benny I got a lot of support from friends. They filled the void and made sure I didn’t step into a new relationship immediately. I don’t think I would have made it without my friends. I wouldn’t have existed the way I do now. That’s why friendship means very much to me. Of course, when you love someone so much that you are able to share your life with him, that’s the best there is. But relationships like that are more rare than good friends. My friends were sensible enough to not be sad with me, but they pushed me forward. They made sure I didn’t give up. It made me appreciate them more than I already did.”

The interview turns philosophical.
“I divorced twice in my life, and that didn’t happen in vain. It made me think. About the world around me and about myself. In a way I believe in destiny, that there’s a meaning in things that happen. Not that you can sit back in a chair and wait what’s coming to you, no, you have to work at it yourself. Try to create something positive out of the negative. You have to fight for things in life that you really want. My aim is to know as much as possible about myself, get to know myself. Know why I’m here. I will have to work my whole life to get there, and still I will never reach it. I will have died before I reach it. No, it’s not idealistic. Everyone should explore that, to live consciously. Be happy with small things. At the moment I’m successful. I’ve achieved everything I dreamed of as a child. I’m a wealthy woman, have money, two fantastic children and great friends. When it comes to big things I have no complains. That’s exactly what makes me return to details. To value small things in a way I never did in the past. It gives me so much more in life. It’s time for awareness. The main advantage of having money, is that it gives me the time to think about other things. In the past I was busy fighting for my existence. Not anymore. I have the time to learn about myself. At the moment that’s the main value in life for me, it makes me happy. Indeed, I’m not lonely like so many people seem to think. I keep saying that, but people don’t listen well enough. Or maybe they think it’s more interesting if I am lonely. In that case, I have to disappoint them. Believe it or not, I’m really very happy. In the sense that I find my existence very satisfying at the moment. The real feeling of happiness is just a small moment, a fleeting thing. It can happen totally unexpected. You can suddenly get this warm feeling, that makes you feel on top of the world. But it can’t be maintained. That’s not necessary either. A short moment is enough, you can live on that for a long time. I know for many people being happy means having a family. I live alone and that’s the reason people assume I’m lonely and unhappy. For me it’s more important to find harmony within myself, and that there are people around me who love me and understand me. That doesn’t have to be a family. I’m not afraid to live my life alone. It’s a fear many people have. A family gives a sense of belonging, something to fall back on that no-one can take away. Unfortunately it often turns out to be an illusion. I don’t have that urge to commit myself, never had it. If it comes, it can be fantastic, but you mustn’t pursue it. I live my own life and it makes me happy. Maybe it has to do with the fact I never had a family-life myself, and had little of that with my children as well. When I divorced my first husband, the children had to stay with him, because I couldn’t go anywhere. When Benny and I were together, it never came to having a family. Of course my children came to visit me, but it was the start of ABBA. The start of a circus that took us all over the world. Lotta and Hans travelled along occasionally, but you couldn’t call it a normal family-life. A family where mother is having dinner ready in the evening, when father comes home from work. I never knew this kind of life, and I don’t think I could live it. My children couldn’t either. No matter how strange life with ABBA was, they did enjoy it. They lived among people who cared about each other, who were friendly and treated them as grown-ups, not as children. It was one big family. Altogether it lasted for 10 years, and none of us would want to have missed it, including Lotta and Hans. We still feel fortunate for having been able to experience it.”


Anonymous said...

Thankyou for this open and sincere article Michel, Also a very honest speaking Frida!


Michel said...

Glad you liked it, and thanks for the comment!