From the ice age to the dole ageFollowing their undisputed masterpiece "There is a Light That Never Goes Out," "Some Girls" is a notoriously anti-climactic conclusion to the album. While "There is a Light" manages to combine longing morbidity with transcendent hope, "Some Girls" plays like a throw-away dittie that ruins the climax of the record.
There is but one concern
I have just discovered:
Some girls are bigger than others
However, "Some Girls" also expands the latent irony of "There is a Light" by reducing its object of worship to a simple comparison: someone so beloved at one moment--"to die by your side / is such a heavenly way to die"--becomes merely "some girl" in the next moment. A lost opportunity in "There is a Light"--"I thought, 'oh, God, my chance has come at last!' / But a strange fear gripped me, and I just couldn't ask!"--becomes a "just discovered" banality in "Some Girls." While "There is a Light" evokes the agony and ecstasy of adolescent love, "Some Girls" reduces these feelings to just one of a long line of crushes.
I wish it were that easy in real life. It used to be, didn't it? The pain of unrequited love one suffers at 17 seems excruciating, but it eventually fades in time. And from the comfortable perspective of my 40's, I can look back with simple fondness on the girl with whom I was deeply infatuated at 17. After I mustered up the courage to "ask," she came to see me the same way I had seen her--but I soon realized she was just another girl. Many other girls followed -- some bigger than others. But to a boy of 17, the longing for that first one was all-consuming.
After adolescence passes--when we realize the world doesn't revolve around us--another type of love becomes possible. The Greeks called it agápe, an unconditional love. Such a selfless desire to prioritize another person's well-being and happiness over one's own is impossible for adolescents, who are simply too self-centered to empathize that deeply with another person. In my experience, it is difficult to create, but it endures much longer than the burgeoning éros of youth.
But if agápe develops first and then opens the door to éros, the results can be just as devastating as they were at 17. The unconditional, selfless component of the love prevents it from dissipating so rapidly. One's desire to protect and nurture the other person never really fades.
All this is prompted by a friend calling me out on Twitter the other day. I tweeted something about marriage being a "sucker bet," and he wanted to know what I meant. Simply this: the odds are pretty bad. I've recently watched the disintegration of what I had thought were two ideal marriages. I've watched other marriages drift into passive resignation. Some recent weddings and engagements have left me wondering what the hell they were thinking.
We're conditioned by the ideology of "romance" to believe in the existence of one perfect person, someone with whom we'll share a lifetime (or eternity) of bliss. Our culture's narratives are full of sappy, boy-meets-girl stories, most of which end with a wedding. Maybe it's Romanticism's fault; Jane Austen IS our high priestess. She pretty much invented the modern "romantic comedy."
But Austen's characters are controlled by ideological and economic forces just as powerful as interpersonal attraction. "Fortune" means money as well as destiny. And marriage is ultimately an economic institution invented to ensure the rights of legitimate male inheritance by regulating female sexuality. That's the reason patriarchal, capitalist societies insist on female monogamy: to make sure dad's stuff gets passed on to HIS son rather than some other guy's.
So I'm cynical about marriage. Getting a girl or boy can be pretty easy, but keeping them happy over the course of 40 years is another matter entirely. Yet I've not lost my "Romantic" sensibility. Here's why: I still think choosing a mate because of compulsive éros--and expecting that sort of love to endure unabated for 50 years--is simple folly. But so too is settling for anything less.
I stumbled onto this photograph yesterday:
|Some Girls are Bigger than Others|
Yet they still believe in love. They still try to find it. They know it's really, really hard, that it's full of regrets which are:
Common as a winter coldBut my friends are still patiently and fiercely holding out hope for a glimpse of a 17 year-old's agony, that éros which seems to awaken life:
They're telephone poles
They follow each other, one, after another
And nothing comforts me the same
As my brave friend who says,
"I don't care if forever never comes
'Cause I'm holding out for that teenage feeling"
The speaker of this lyric refuses the ideological imperative for marriage and insists on waiting for a "Light that Never Goes Out."
Maybe some girls ARE bigger than others.