Admittedly I am not the best at remembering quotes, much less entire poems; however, as the season struggles to morph from winter to spring one particular line flits through my subconscious…”In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” We have Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in his poem “Locksley Hall,” to thank for that bit of observation. Actually, I think I recall it more from a song that my brother forced me to dance to as a kid more than from my study of it during my college years.
At any rate, immersed as I am in writing the history of our local school district, I’ve spent a great deal of time recently reviewing my notes of various interviews I’ve conducted with former students. One area of commonality discussed is the experiences of crushes, dating, and young love. Most recently an alumnus from a class in the 1950’s shared some excerpts from his autobiography (written for his family). Among the interesting details ran a thread of female admiration and worship from afar. Here was a young man locked in the world of his shyness, yet conducting his idea of courting certain lasses purely in his imagination. Admit it, most of us have been there.
Many of us are able to recall pining over certain individuals who had no idea of our existence. I certainly did. But I was hamstrung by my rather strict upbringing and my adherence to the propriety that was drummed into my head from an early age. For the most part I have no complaints as it taught me pride in displaying exemplary manners and that treating any person with kindness and respect is part of one’s daily life. However, I was clueless about boys, dating, flirting, and courtship in general. Add to that my painful shyness and you have a recipe for disaster, especially when I discovered I liked that boy/girl thing.
There is always hope, though. Back in the 1970’s it was not proper etiquette for a girl to ask a boy on a date. So, many of us withered on the vine waiting for that one important invitation. Thankfully we had the occasional Sadie Hawkins dance where it was acceptable for a girl to ask a boy. Somehow I managed to dial the phone and stammer an invitation. Elation ensued when the invitation was accepted! The dance was a success and I was smitten.
Knowing what I know now, I should have known it wouldn’t last. To quote Ponyboy Curtis, via Robert Frost, “Then leaf subsides to leaf./So Eden sank to grief,/So Dawn goes down to day./Nothing gold can stay.” It was good while it lasted but the experience of first “love” leaves it mark.
Courtship was a confusing time. I was taught not to let boys take “liberties,” so my conscience was perennially at war, locked in the classic angel vs. devil debate. The angel won that battle and the boy I was so crazy about moved on to another girl, maybe because her internal devil was stronger. Who knows? What I do know is that I was shattered. I just didn’t get it. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t good enough. Teenagers are simply not developed enough intellectually to understand that it’s just part of our development and we shouldn’t take it personally. But I did, and held on to that rejection for an unhealthy period of time. Listen, it didn’t affect any future relationships or anything like that. It was just a part of my memory that was always sad. Still is. It’s part of life. I think parts of us still pine for what was and what might have been. This one thing is my particular Achilles heel. It’s fine. And such a sweet, sweet memory.
N.B. — if “you probably think this song is about you” it is! (homage to Carly Simon)