I don’t, really (hate 80s music), and certainly not in a “blanket” fashion — but hearing the songs from that decade often makes me sad in ways that … well, when it happens I don’t wind up in pleasant states at all, and wish I hadn’t heard whatever song it was that sent me there.
If my childhood staked me out on the anthill of humanity, the 1980s, which was roughly the decade when I was in my 20s, poured on the honey. I went off to college in 1979, and for a while it seemed like the heady rush of having discovered theater (and the fact that stage acting attracted attention from women — at least some of them) would continue indefinitely: I was a (very) small college “star” for a few years, because I’d encountered a teacher who found my awkwardly passionate nature sufficiently diverting to keep casting me in roles that — I later saw — were well beyond my abilities. And I somehow blissfully ignored the fact that the pond I was in was very, very small (smaller than some high schools). Yes … I had “succeeded” at last. Snort.
In truth, by my sophomore and junior years I was very, very confused. It had begun to feel as though theater wasn’t “good” for me — that it drew out my annoying tendency to be hyperbolic, snobbish, mean and dark and rubbed those tendencies with a rough cloth. I wasn’t happy. I flirted very briefly with switching my major to geology; I considered joining the Navy; I saw my first psychological counselor.
My attempts at “relationships” were — predictably, I guess — pretty disastrous.
Paradoxically, the one that messed me up the most was the one that never went anywhere: a smart, fun blonde1 woman who had floated around the periphery of my friend group (the fact that I HAD a “friend group” is one of the abiding miracles of this period) and I started hanging around one another. We “went out” a couple of times and, the night before our sophomore year came to an end, sat up all night in a dorm lounge, talking. By morning her head was in my lap and I was stroking her hair. We hadn’t kissed or otherwise “made out.” I thought of her all that subsequent, horrible summer of touring theater and wrote what I vaguely remember were some pretty strung-out letters. Before the next academic year started she’d informed me I had “misunderstood our friendship,” and that was pretty much that.
It screwed me up, I think, because it (what there was of it) had happened so … so naturally, without the gnashing of teeth and torment that had marred the two relationships I’d had to that point. And so I went from putting too much emphasis on this relation as relationship to putting too much emphasis on what its failure “meant”: that I was incapable of having a “normal” (as in non-tormented) romantic relationship. Of course there was the “oh, god” of inevitably encountering this person on our small campus to deal with, as well.
I tried a couple more times with relationships, screwing up royally (again) with a woman of the same name as Ms. Never-Was, and from the same Michigan town. My final college relationship was with a woman to whom I (verbally at least) became “engaged” and who later “turned out” (stupid phrase — I will try to eventually replace it with another) to be gay. So my luck truly held, and for some reason I thought the natural thing to do would be to go off and earn graduate degrees in — well, there’s a Part 2.
1 I don’t know why I mention this physical detail. It feels uncharacteristic of me to do so. Maybe that’s why I did it. Or maybe it’s because I had only, up until then, dated brunettes. I don’t know, I just don’t know.