(A tweaked version of a favorite post …)
The photo above remains, after nearly six decades, one that is a bittersweet image of three girls I loved when I was a Boomer growing up, which is testimony to a claim I made at the end of the post, Girls Retrospective.
... it seems as though the pursuit of and the experience of being in love were more important than anything else in my life …
I can only speak from the perspective of my non-scientific sample of one, but from what I’ve read and observed, what I referred to as the “experience of being in love” has long been understood as a coming-of-age experience that has been historically common among teenagers, but that historic commonality was not recognized until the 1920s. Prior to that time, according to The Invention of the Teenager, the concept of the teenager that we fully embrace now—the characteristic display of or yearning for independence—had been undocumented among adolescents in America prior to that time.
Further, “the single greatest factor that led to the emergence of the independent teenager was the automobile (which allowed teens the opportunity to enjoy) a freedom from parental supervision unknown to previous generations. The courtship process rapidly evolved into dating (which) was removed from the watchful eyes of anxious parents. Teenagers were given privacy, and a sexual revolution swept America.”
There are many hypotheses as to the origin of the term “teenager,” but The Origin of the Teenager (a U.K. source) proposes that the first use of the term was coined in 1944 in America as a marketing hook that “recognized the spending power of adolescents,” and as a market, teenagers were acknowledged for the first time as “a discrete, separate age group with its own peer-generated rituals, rights and demands (and) it was during this period that the romantic idea of youth as a separate, stormy, rebellious stage of life began.”
I cannot imagine that the origin of “teenager” was in our suburban minds in the 1960s, or in the late 1950s when some of us as preteens started watching American Bandstand, but there was certainly one thing often on my mind: Girls! When I first heard the initial stanza of the following lyrics penned by Hal David and Albert Hammond in 1975, I remember that the words resonated with me, as it must have done for millions of others when in 1984 Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson took the song, To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before, to #5 on the Billboard Top 100 …
To all the girls I’ve loved before, who traveled in and out my door, I’m glad they came along, I dedicate this song, to all the girls I’ve loved before … for helping me to grow, I owe a lot, I know, to all the girls I’ve loved before …
… and I think what the lyrics express is how I had long felt about the three remarkable and beautiful women depicted in the featured photo, but having slowly emerged from my adolescence (beginning when I was in my late forties!), I find the notion of thanking “all the girls I’ve loved before” to be distressingly illustrative of one aspect of “the mother complex” I have referred to in Girls Retrospective: At the core of any mother complex is…a collective image of nourishment and security.
The lyrics suggest that a primary role for a woman who is loved is to provide an opportunity for a man to grow, and given the propensity for men to see the world through typically egocentric lenses, I suppose the song’s theme was inevitable, as was, perhaps, my feelings toward the three young women who had been friends to me as far back as 64-years-ago.
(Before I travel further down this “blogway,” I want to acknowledge that I began Growing Up Boomer with the full intent of not creating a “tell-all” blog, and I am not about to start telling all now, but I do intend to provide a few impressions of how the three teenagers in the posted photo impacted my having grown up Boomer.)
It is my understanding that two of those remarkable young women in the photo above are now aware that at one time in my life I had been hopelessly in love with them. “Hopelessly in love.” This phrase, the parlance of poets, is synonymous with unrequited love, the one-sided love that is not openly reciprocated because the beloved is not aware of the admirer’s deep, romantic affection for them.
Often these affections arise out of platonic friendships in places like schools where the two players usually encounter each other within a circle of friends, which makes it difficult for the true expression of feelings, the revelation of which might bring the possibility of rejection and the end of any relationship at all with the beloved. It is my understanding that the two women of whom I write did not know of my unrequited love when we were teenagers, and they did not know because of the reasons presented.
I am sharing this because one-sided love seems to have been a prevalent experience in growing up Boomer, although an experience certainly not restricted to our generation. Friedrich Nietzsche has noted that “indispensable … to the lover is his unrequited love, which he would at no price relinquish for a state of indifference.”
Despite my capacity then and now to play the extrovert, I still endure the insecurities so many of us had as teenagers, and it was the fear generated by those insecurities that kept me from doing what I might have done to address my unrequited loves; in other words, I found the one-sided love I held for my two friends had become so indispensable to me that I was not willing to risk losing it. Thanks to the wonder of social media, I have reconnected with both of them and have not been surprised to discover that each is as remarkably vital, interesting, and beautiful now as the girls I remember them to have been.
To be continued in Girls Too (Part 2) …
For those of you who may someday read novels that are part of the Myers/Benton Chronicles, you will encounter the nickname of the third cheerleader. It is important to me for those who knew her to know that the character in the Chronicles is fictional; nothing described is biographical; rather, my use of her name for what will be the most noble of characters, one whose arc describes a life that overcomes the most demanding of challenges, is simply my way of providing homage to a person I once knew well and loved.
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