Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Affectionate Memory

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Vivid, I Already Knew It Was, but Tonight It Feels Affectionate

Speaking with my mom on my way to work the other day, I enjoyed hearing her tell me about a boy she dated in high school, who once took her to Buffalo to see her friends in a convertible. "Can you imagine? Having a convertible in 1940?"

"He had a convertible in high school?"

"Yes, and all the most elegant kids in Rochester were his friends. Of course, a couple of them once did God knows what in the backseat, but my friends and I were different. You must understand; our culture was different. We didn't do those things."

Just like my ultimate culture, it strikes me now; I don't do things with men either.

High School Girl, Silently Erupting

Driving home tonight in the rain, I thought about a girl I knew in high school. She was pretty, but inaccessible, and really friendly, like the mayor of the school, saying hi in the hallways to the many students whose names she knew, but never really making friends with anyone beyond the duration of ski-club trips and high school dances, where she danced with a big group of people and never with just one of them. She had a boyfriend for a short time, but it didn't work.

Tonight, recalling the song that made me think of high school while commuting, Club Nouveau's "Heavy on My Mind," I felt tender about her, rather than judgmental. (I was remembering the time incorrectly, as the group didn't form till my junior year in college, but....)

She was funny, in a warding-off way, but that was her biggest offense. To her local peers, she was a nice girl -- hardly ever anything other than cheerful and kind.

Probably, I would have had a big crush on her, but she was me...and so on and off I doubted her, and sometimes hated her.

She was like that Adam Ant song, "Goody Two Shoes:"
Don't drink don't smoke - what do you do?
Don't drink don't smoke - what do you do?
Subtle innuendos follow, must be something inside.

What she did was deeply desire selected classmates and teachers and then she acted on her self-awareness totally secretly with girls, who didn't go to her school and who lived far away -- during the summer she turned 15, and then again when she turned 17. And *no* one could she was funny, but distant.

There was a power in her self-awareness, and a terror, too. In high school, finally, she was a good student, and athletic, though she never played team-sports. She was lonely more than anyone knew. Reading and writing helped her, and being friendly, if distant. And constant pop-music. And "Charlie's Angels." Her parents didn't know her when she was in high school -- not the whole her.

If I Could Comfort Her...

Jonathan Butler's "Sarah, Sarah" played in my car tonight and I realized that my mother liked the song because it reminded her of the two of us. When it was popular -- I think I was in college -- she said it reminded her of how my one and only boyfriend, Scott, must have felt when we broke up. Something rang false in that and then I realized why tonight:

It's not perfectly appropriate, but most of the lyrics could apply to a parent with a daughter named Sarah. And the parent could be shattered that Sarah didn't turn out the way her parent had planned. "How could our dreams crumble into dust?" he sings tragically.

What if I could go back and be a buddy to myself, and my mother, and reassure both of them that my terror and much of my fundamental loneliness would pass? What if I could tell myself of that time that I ought to enjoy the fun, if secret, romances I managed to have with two girls at 15 and 17? Would I be able to hear myself, or would I be too afraid?

What if I could go back to then and tell my mother and myself that I would find a supremely funny, kind partner and meaningful, relatively lucrative work, and would remain athletic, and would keep learning my whole life?


John Martin said...

Hi Sarah,

Your reminiscing, and "if I could go back," considerations in this blog entry reminded me very much of a new country song.

Of course, it's written in a heterosexual paradigm, but I think it expresses and acknowledges universal feelings and notions: 1) the desire to "go back," 2) how people have to experience something themselves in order to learn, 3) how hindsight is 20/20, and 4) worldviews change as we mature.

Anyway, thought you might enjoy it. Personally, I think it's cleverly written.

LETTER TO ME by Brad Paisley

If I could write a letter to me
And send it back in time to myself at 17
First I’d prove it’s me by saying look under your bed
There’s a Skoal can and a Playboy no one else would know you hid
And then I’d say I know its tough
When you break up after seven months
And yeah I know you really liked her and it just don’t seem fair
All I can say is pain like that is fast and it’s rare

1st Chorus
And oh you got so much going for you going right
But I know at 17 it’s hard to see past Friday night
She wasn’t right for you
And still you feel like there’s a knife sticking out of your back
And you’re wondering if you’ll survive
You’ll make it through this and you’ll see
You’re still around to write this letter to me

At the stop sign at Tomlinson and Eighth
Always stop completely don’t just tap your brakes
And when you get a date with Bridgett make sure the tank is full
On second thought forget it that one turns out kinda cool
Each and every time you have a fight
Just assume you’re wrong and dad is right
And you should really thank Mrs. Brinkman
She spent so much extra time
It’s like she sees the diamond underneath
And she’s polishing you ‘til you shine

2nd Chorus
And oh you got so much going for you going right
But I know at 17 it’s hard to see past Friday night
Tonight’s the bonfire rally
But you’re staying home instead because if you fail Algebra
Mom and dad will kill you dead
Trust me you’ll squeak by and get a C
And you’re still around to write this letter to me

You’ve got so much up ahead
You’ll make new friends
You should see your kids and wife
And I’d end by saying have no fear
These are nowhere near the best years of your life

I guess I’ll see you in the mirror
When you’re a grown man
P.S. go hug Aunt Rita every chance you can

3rd Chorus
And oh you got so much going for you going right
But I know at 17 it’s hard to see past Friday night
I wish you’d study Spanish
I wish you’d take a typing class
I wish you wouldn’t worry, let it be
I’d say have a little faith and you’ll see

If I could write a letter to me
To me

Sarah Siegel said...

This is so great, John! It's even better than John Mayer's song about his high school reunion.