I was listening to an old CD the other day.
The fact that I’m calling a CD old is a clue as to my age, but we won’t dwell on that.
Though my age does come into play here, despite my horror at going gray up top and soft and pudgy in the middle.
So perhaps we’ll dwell on it just a little.
I hadn’t listened to this album, or, for that matter, this band, in years. I couldn’t help but be struck by how different my response to the music was, listening to it after what felt like a lifetime.
It might as well have been a lifetime.
Most of the songs were about unrequited love, seeking love, wanting to be loved, finding love in unexpected places, accidentally running love over with your car (I’m not sure what about that particular album appealed to me).
And a couple were about getting laid. Those didn’t appeal to me as much, but apparently I’m a bit of a Romantic. Or was in those days.
Anyway, the other day I was struck, more precisely, by my lack of a response to these songs.
In college, I was constantly searching for the love of my life, with occasional pauses when I thought I’d found it.
Now, if you know anything about life, you know that seeking the love of your life while still a youthful college student means you are apt to experience a lot of disappointment, highlighted with brief periods of (misguided) elation.
Or maybe that was just me.
But the end result of this constantly seeking, never truly finding, was that songs like the one on this album got me. Understood me. Spoke to me. Spoke to me with the sweet, sultry whisper of a lover on the phone, seemingly next to me, but not really there.
I connected with the songs, felt a kinship to the singers, believed the sorrow-laced lyrics to be heartbreakingly beautiful genius. I would listen to them, not over and over, because I’m a guy, but pretty damned frequently. And in the story of those quests, I found solace and hope.
Flash forward to the other day. I popped the CD in the player, nostalgia prompting a significant amount of anticipation and eye-misting. In the pause between loading the disc and the first song, I was back in college, sitting in the dark, fighting back the tears as I rocked myself back and forth…
Anyway, I felt young again.
Then the music started.
It was OK.
Not great. Not moving. Not sucking its essence from my empty, lonely soul.
It was just OK, with a bit here and there that still struck me as catchy or hummable. And a fair amount that was, I’m sad to say, complete schlock.
My first thought was I must have suffered some horrible trauma between college and the other day, a trauma that caused both amnesia and an inability to feel anything.
Then I realized that was stupid.
My response to the music had changed for an obvious reason: I’d grown up.
I’m married. I’ve found the love of my life. I’m where I wanted to be way back when, huddled in the fetal position under the blankets in my darkened bedroom, headphones on and blaring, hoping my roommate couldn’t hear my despair-filled sobs…
I’m sorry. Give me a moment to collect myself.
The music holds no meaning for me anymore because I’ve found happiness. Not in the soft-focused, love-madly-or-die, ‘the light that burns twice as bright burns but half as long’ extreme romance portrayed in that music, but in the love of waking up next to the same woman, day after day, month after month, year after year, and not just not caring about the morning breath or the unkempt hair, but feeling fulfilled in that moment halfway between sleep and her ice-cold foot brushing against my leg and jarring me awake.
The simple repetition of love, on the surface the same every day, and yet still different every time because we are growing old together, changing together, changing because we’re with each other.
If we were comparing these two types of love to movies, the idealized stuff of music would be The Fast and the Furious, while the gentle, warm love we (that would be my wife and I, dear reader, not you and I) share would be My Dinner With Andre. No car chases in the latter, but surprisingly engaging if you give it a chance.
Also, I must confess to feeling a bit relieved and more than a little amazed that my wife doesn’t seem to mind my morning breath, unkempt hair, or ice-cold feet.
Proof that miracles do happen.
So sure, when you’re young and inexperienced, the love in those songs sounds pretty good. There’s no farting under the sheets, no up-all-night-listening-to-her-hacking-cough, no paper-thin bathroom doors allowing you to hear everything found in those songs. But you know what?
The reality is even better.
Although I am thinking about getting a thicker door for the bathroom.— And now, a word from our sponsor: me! My book, Marlowe and the Spacewoman, is out!