Sometimes I wonder how any of us ever learned about love and romance. Or how we learned, at the very least, to adjust our expectations to conform to reality. I started thinking about this after I inadvertently got Olivia Newton John's song "Hopelessly Devoted to You" stuck in my head. As I was singing the song out loud while puttering about the house, I realized that it's gooey sentiment — not to mention its unflappable loyalty in the face of rejection — was how my 8-year-old self imagined love to be.
Watch a clip from the movie Grease. Alas, if only our loves appeared to us in ponds.
As much as movies, books and television shape our youthful definitions and notions of love, it's music — with its lyrics ripe for memorization and repetition, and often written for and about the beloved — that becomes our guide and our adoptive ode. We insert ourselves into a song's narrative — which, of course, we can do with film. But with a song, it's neatly packaged inside of a scant few minutes; the story is brief, fleeting and, best of all, instantly gratifying because of its quick conclusion. For our young, impressionable hearts, a love song is just a metronome that keeps the time until a new beat comes along.
Below is part one of a treacherous journey toward a vague understanding of love.
First up for me was Huey Lewis & The News. The band's albums Sports and Fore were pretty much the soundtrack to my elementary-school years. Lewis was something of a Jersey dreamboat (totally not an oxymoron, in case you were wondering), and after he serenaded me for years, he ultimately broke my heart when my Walkman, containing a Huey Lewis tape, was stolen from our family car at Stanley Park in Vancouver, B.C. Also, my baby blanket was stolen. If you are wondering why I had a Walkman and a baby blanket in the same tote bag, let's just say that I was very complicated. It's only occurring to me right this second that perhaps my parents staged this theft in order to rid me of my threadbare patch of comfort. Dad?
Anyhow, here is Lewis' "Stuck With You," a song which let me know that true love involves being stuck, but also being sort of happy about it. After all, it's such a pain to have to change your address.
Up next were songs that alluded not just to love, but to making love. It doesn't get more romantic than these lyrics, courtesy of Air Supply:
Every time I see you all the rays of the sun
are streaming through the waves in your hair;
and every star in the sky is taking aim
at your eyes like a spotlight,
The beating of my heart is a drum, and it's lost
and it's looking for a rhythm like you.
(Somewhere at an All Songs Considered desk, Robin Hilton is crying and asking Bob Boilen to hold him. Bob won't.)
The words "making love" still make me cringe, and I blame this Air Supply song.
George Michael's "I Want Your Sex" erased every lesson taught to me in health class. This, by a man later arrested for having sex in a public bathroom — twice! In lieu of Michael's true sexual preference, I like to imagine a different meaning for the line, "I can't take much more, girl, I'm losing control." What at first sounded like a man brimming with desire was really just a guy saying, "I'm over it, at least with women."
But let's end with something truly romantic: New Kids on the Block's "I'll Be Loving You Forever." In middle school, I went to the Puyallip Fair and flung myself at Jordan and Jonathan Knight. Why? One, because I had a better chance of still scoring in case one of them rejected me; and two, because the concept of forever means nothing to a 13-year-old. Therefore, it sounded like a pretty cool time.
Feel free to share your early journeys into the forays of love and romance courtesy of song.