Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Seductive Wink of Innocence

Speeding Up to Slow Down - Better Than Ezra (mp3)
Love and Some Verses - Iron + Wine (mp3)

All my attic posts have led me to these thoughts...

During my first relationship, at 17 years of age, I never saw a single bra. My hands never touched unfettered flesh. Our two bodies interacted less in seven dizzying months than most teenagers today interact physically during a single playing of Rihanna's "Umbrella" at a school dance.

But I knew her lips. I knew her mouth better than most dental X-rays. I knew her jawline and her nose and where her bangs fell on her forehead and how often she opened her eyes when we kissed. At the time, nothing could have felt more like love than kissing her over and over and over.

You can see the danger in my being a parent, of having two daughters a mere handful of years away from this tempest of adolescence.

The danger is that my stunted and slowed method of romance somehow became a kind of idealized path: I lived the Disney Channel version of teenage romance, scrubbed boringly clean of all inappropriate activity. While I was busy identifying 2,000 ways to French kiss, like Eskimos who can identify so many shades of white, my socially-advanced peers seemed so busy one-upping each other in some kind of harried Game of Life (& Sex) that I frequently wondered if they ever stopped to smell the roses, so to speak. They always seemed focused on the next conquest, the next achievement.

The same seems true of many teenagers today, maybe teenagers of any generation. They're so damned eager to cross lines, as if growing up is some kind of 110m hurdle sprint, or a scavenger hunt, that they sometimes forget to savor much of it. Scarf down a burger. Scarf down a video game. Scarf down a bottle of liquor. Scarf down a girlfriend. Next! What's next?! More more more!

The way food critics eat a meal? That's the way we should be living our whole lives, right?
I'm pretty sure we all have scenes from movies that served as a blueprint, a guidepost, for a particular part of our lives. Being a movie nut, I have so many of these cornerstone scenes that some are tattooed into my subconscience. I've frequently forgotten they're there, framing my thoughts. Such a scene came to mind following a conversation with an old friend a few days ago. The Scene in question is of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jeff Bridges in the 1989 film "The Fabulous Baker Boys." This one scene, perhaps more than any other scene I can think of (and I've been chewing on it for a couple of days now), framed my idea of what defined steamy passion:

If memory serves -- I haven't seen it since high school -- the movie was so far over my head as to remind me that I had a lot to learn before I became a real man. But the scene where Michelle sings "Makin' Whoopee" on that piano, and THE Scene after, where Jeff Bridges showed me how a man who's intent and intense can properly seduce the hottest 1989 female on the entire planet... those two scenes told me what sex could be without showing any sex. Those scenes told me I had a lot to learn before I needed to dip my toe in that pool. I might one day be a man, but not yet, and not by a long shot.

And the thing is, I was mostly OK with that. Sure, I wanted to grow up and be the kind of guy who could pull that feat of Pfeiffer-seduction off, and the sooner the damn better, but no point in red-lining the damn accelerator, y'know?

It's tragic that most teenagers feel this unbearable pressure to rush into the next thing, to reach that next step, to get older and "better" as quickly as they can. Being a popular teenager becomes less about creating a careful and deliberate work of art than about social drag racing. Can parents in any way fight that tide? Am I completely wrong in thinking that this tide has one helluva vicious undertow, that this tide will pose a threat to my girls?

Once you're older and wiser and more experienced, you can't go back. Once you enter a door to a new experience, you shed a layer of innocence like snakeskin and no amount of cosmetic surgery can graft it back onto your being. And as much as we can tell our children this, can they ever really grasp it until after they, too, have passed through a good number of those doors, shed a good number of those layers of innocence?

Don Henley ain't my musical hero by any stretch, but the man has written some great songs that are mostly lost on the young. I was 12 when "The Boys of Summer" came out and 17 when "The End of the Innocence" hit the airways. Both songs seemed really cool and catchy to me, but only after a couple of years of college livin' and college drinkin' and college carousin' did I really start to appreciate the genius in that pop.

The general gist of "The End of the Innocence" is, Darlin', I'm sorry life is tough, and I'm sorry the adults in our lives are for shit, and I'm sorry that we can't stay kids forever. But how about let's go somewhere private and get laid, and then I'll tell you how you've now officially (but willingly and voluntarily!) cashed in the only innocence you had left? Might as well lose it on your terms, since you're losin' it no matter what.

It's the kind of heartbreaking cynicism appreciated only by those who've been there, done that. And few lines in the history of rock more succinctly communicate the disillusionment of adulthood better than "Out on the road today, I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac."

I won't know what is fair to expect of my girls. Ultimately I can't protect them or their innocence. I only want them to place some proper value to it, to sacrifice it with purpose and conviction rather than by mere accident or, well, innocence.

But then, maybe I've just been seduced by an innocence that was never what I've cracked it up to be.


Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the YouTube clip. Um, what was your post about again?

Anonymous said...

Ah Billy (or should I say Herbie?!?)...that was a great post. And I love "The End of the Innocence."

ErintheLibrarian from Xanga