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Heart of Gold

Heart of Gold

In a lot of ways, we define ourselves by the music we listened to growing up, particularly in our adolescent years. Listening to loud, aggressive music doesn’t necessarily make us loud, aggressive people but it certainly can pave the way.

We identify with our genre of music. Metalheads wear lots of black leather, tattoos and big hair (or no hair – shaved heads are getting more prevalent in the loud hard school). Greasers wear leather jackets, ducktails and poodle skirts. Ravers have a lot of Day-Glo and a ton of ecstasy. We all have our uniforms.

Our attitudes towards love are often informed by our attitudes towards pop songs as well. There are those who go for the real superficial pop songs in which love is more of a teenage crush. I can truly understand that – it breaks love, a complicated and confusing emotion, down to its base elements. The love in these pop songs is easy to handle. Lots of platitudes and epic proclamations of the heart that sound passionate on the surface. This love is much easier than the real thing, which can be a pain in the ass.

Then there are the more adult love songs, those that talk about love in the real world; of building a life together and battling through the obstacles that life sets before all of us. This love is imperfect. There are discussions, arguments, mistakes made and forgiveness extended – sometimes grudgingly. This love is a struggle that is, at the end of the day, worth it although in these love songs there aren’t always guaranteed happy endings.

Then there’s the third kind; the lost love songs. These are the sorts of songs that I used to relate to as a heartsick teen and even up until today. Unrequited love songs were my favorite; that was an experience I was quite familiar with as a teen and a young man. Being as hideously shy as I was with the self-confidence of an epileptic on a high wire in a disco, I had trouble expressing my feelings (and sometimes still do). I felt that I would be shot down if I were to even ask a girl out on a date and to be honest, most of my experiences taught me that it was the case. In all fairness to the girls of my high school, college and neighborhood, I can’t imagine I was much of a catch being as immature as I was. Then again, considering the way they were treated by some of the guys they did hook up with they could (and did) have done a lot worse than me.

In any case, my sensitive teen heart was drawn to those songs like a moth to a candle. One of my favorites to this day is “Everything I Own” by Bread – with lyrics like “You’re loving them so and taking them all for granted, but you lose them one day someone takes them away and they don’t hear the words you long to say.” That was me. Almost every girl I crushed on during my teens and early 20s

found other guys to hang around with and why not? How would they know I was interested if I didn’t tell them anything? I gave teenage girls much more credit for being psychic than perhaps I should have.

But it was a strain for me to talk to girls. I always felt inadequate, unlovable and unworthy. I learned to be polite and respectful, complimentary and flirtatious when I was in my late 20s and early 30s. The women at work and of other acquaintance responded to that. Still my romantic life was pretty sad – I had no money to take anyone out and when I did have any money at all I couldn’t get past my own shyness. There were a lot of wasted opportunities back then; looking back, there were plenty of women giving me hints that they wouldn’t mind going out with me but I was simply too naive or too un-self confident to interpret them. When I thought a girl was sending out signals that she liked me, I tended to disregard them as delusion. After all, what girl in her right mind would want to be with me?

So I listened to a lot of sad love songs and songs of love lost and took comfort in them. Someone else knew exactly how I was feeling. That’s a powerful thing when you’re miserable. It felt good to know I wasn’t alone. David Gates felt exactly the way I did. So did Paul McCartney, when he wrote “Eleanor Rigby” (I was certain that I would live the rest of my life alone and die that way). It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s and early 30s that I discovered that there were women attracted to me and that some of them might even consider (gasp) more than a single date with me. They might even consider (double gasp) a relationship.

That changed everything. Soon I was listening to the adult love songs and the simple love songs. “Follow You, Follow Me” by Genesis became a favorite. So did “For You” by Big Star. Marshall Crenshaw’s “Whenever You’re on My Mind” spoke to me…and I listened. Love became, at last, a possibility.

There are a lot of lonely people out there. I know, because I was one of them. I still battle my issues – my shyness remains, the depression that came out of it rears its ugly head from time to time and I continue to harbor doubts that I deserve the love that I am very fortunate to receive every single day. I’m a lucky guy. But all of us have had those dark nights when we wondered if there really was anyone out there for us. All of us have cued up those broken heart songs on our playlists to give us comfort. Don’t lie, you know you have.

I still love those songs though. They remind me of where I came from and there’s something cathartic about listening to them. It also reminds me how fragile love truly is and how easily it can disappear if you’re not willing to continue to work at it 24/7/365. I’m here to tell you that it is truly worth the effort. And that even at your darkest moment, anyone can meet their soulmate at any time. If it happened to me, it can happen to you.


One Response

  1. Very few of us , perhaps more lately, are very sure of ourselves, male or female. add to this youth and you have, a magic belief, that simply because you feel so much, the other must become aware. Ah, Carlos, painfully shy, but handsome, too. Happy Early Valentine’s Day to you and Doreen..

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