… and I realize I haven’t fulfilled the promise of the title, or not really (fully?).
Surely part of the problem is that I’m referring to a particular stream of popular music from the 1980s, and I note — with a small internal squish of shame at having perhaps further strayed from my purpose — that the one song I have managed to cite so far isn’t, honestly, part of that stream (though it may bear some characteristics of it if you squint). I’m really thinking about the big-haired, androgynous, simultaneously hyper-dramatic (think Bonnie Tyler) and expressionless (think Japan) mode of things, part of which was often referred to as “New Romantic.”
This entire thread was spawned from a days-long funk I fell into following a discussion of the video for Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (if there is a better cultural urn for all the sins of culture committed in the decade sometimes known as the 80s than that ludicrous video, I am not aware of it — but I’m straying from the point, again). The song, much to my dismay, got stuck in my head and the longer it went on, the gloomier I became. This wasn’t simply an acknowledgement of the sobering span of time that had elapsed since I was in my 20s and still, if desperately, prancing about on stage thinking I was a theater actor, but that was part of it: I had grown old, or older.
But the song also knocked me back to those ancient days and made me remember how terribly outside I felt, how separate from everything that was going on. I had ostensibly hooked into a culture of outsiders (theater … as with many passionate pursuits, its population consists partly of people who wouldn’t have been tolerated elsewhere), but I was an outsider in it: the guy who should have been studying math, the MFA candidate who hadn’t gotten into the program but then was accepted because some more money came in. And so on. Since my excruciating days as an overweight kid in grade school, I’d been set apart, not chosen, ignored. I was at one and the same time too normal, and too weird for the weirdos.
80s music, at least the kind I originally set out to write about here, reminds me of the bottomless yearning I felt back then: yearning to belong, to be loved, to be allowed to contribute, somehow. I shouldn’t need a reminder, really — the yearning is still with me, though its corners have been muted, I guess, by age, by the realization that, well, I may not have to endure it too much longer. It reminds me of how much I loved the Moon back then, of how its light distracted me from how black the sky around it was.
It reminds me that I was a fool, and no one likes being reminded of that.