(Repost of 2020 post)
Girls have been a mystery to me since I discovered, during a first grade recess, that they belonged to an intriguing group of humans who, in the Fifties, were considered The Opposite Sex (which is the title of a 1956 MGM film that was a remake of a 1939 film of the same name; both are based upon a 1936 play entitled The Women by Clare Boothe Luce). There is no question that many of us Boomer boys grew up immersed in the nonsensical stereotypes that had been perpetuated by Hollywood for decades, which may have contributed to the inexcusable and too often reprehensible behaviors of Boomer teens, and later, Boomer men, behaviors that reflect a bizarre amalgamation of the conflicting practices of denigrating and elevating women.
I suppose I understood as a five-year-old that there was a conceptual linkage between girls my own age and women like my mother, but decades had to pass before I encountered Carl Jung’s views on the mother complex and had other insights, which allowed me to understand that perhaps the behaviors of men, to one degree or another, reflect our emotional inability to see a woman as she really is instead of as a projection of what our subconscious minds suggest to us that she is. Jungian analyst Daryl Sharp has noted…
At the core of any mother complex is…a collective image of nourishment and security on the one hand, and devouring possessiveness on the other.
Is it possible that what Sharp has described, coupled with men’s rarely-acknowledged but very real envy of the power of women to carry and nurture life within themselves, explains why, as a five-year-old, I was emotionally overwhelmed at recess by a classmate with long, curly, almost white-blond hair, which framed a very pretty face, who ran up to me and tagged me “it?” I recall having been attracted to her prior to that moment, but not having the grace or courage to speak with her, I had ignored her. At that instant, it occurred to me that maybe she had previously noticed me too, and I blurted out, “I love you” (Unable to afford babysitters, I had seen all manner of movies with my parents before I began first grade, which is the only possible explanation I have for having said such a thing). At any rate, upon my declaration of love, she ran off, and I gave chase, which likely turned into a school-year-long game of tag. I’m embarrassed to write that what I’ve just described seems to be the pattern romance has followed for most of my life.
Of course, I cannot assert that my first recollected encounter with the manifestation of the power of “the opposite sex” was driven by deep-seated emotional needs. I can assert a view (based upon my non-scientific sample of one) that the paralyzing power of women is related to a “look” of which women are capable, a look some seem to have learned by the time they start school, one that pierces through the barriers we boys-to-men use to protect our tender egos. It is a look that is both disarming and entreating, and therefore, so confusing that it can leave one speechless. Perhaps it is a look that touches our mother complex, a look that is suggestive of “nourishment and security on the one hand, and devouring possessiveness on the other.” Whatever the origin of the power is, I have found that when the power has been directed at me by the eyes of a woman who I have come to admire and treasure as a friend, I am left speechless in that person’s presence, sometimes for years.
I know making this observation is not original with me. In the late Sixties, Hal David penned the following lyrics to a melody written by Burt Bacharach, which was entitled “The Look of Love”:
The look of love is in your eyes, the look your smile can’t disguise. The look of love is saying so much more than words could ever say, and what my heart has heard, well, it takes my breath away…You’ve got the look of love. It’s on your face, a look that time can’t erase…
Even Scientific American weighed in on the topic recently via a guest blog entitled, Learning the Look of Love: That Sly ‘Come Hither’ Stare.
Looking back at the memories of the way I was as a child and youth, for whatever unknown, deep-rooted, emotional reasons there might be to explain it, growing up Boomer for me meant, romantically speaking, being focused on looking for someone to love and actually being in love. In retrospect, it seems as though the pursuit of and the temporary experience of being in love were more important than anything else in my life, which is something I have never acknowledged to anyone until now. I have no idea how many other Boomers might have felt the same way about romantic love, nor do I know if any past friend who had known me in those early Boomer years would say after reading this post, “Well, duh. I knew that about you.”
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(The featured photos accompanying this post are copyright-free pictures published by Pixabay under Creative Commons Public Domain deed CCO.)