I was listening to the radio this morning, Asahi Broadcasts Morning Partner (おはようパートナー). (My wife chooses the station and program, I just listen while doing the morning chores.)
team played The Beach Boys' "The Girls on the Beach". I was hanging out
the laundry. And I heard the lines, "... are all within reach, if you
know what to do. ... and one waits there for you."
(Can't quote too much, don't want copyright lawyers trying to enforce intellectual property on me.)
I think about the shift in attitudes, from when it was a boy's right,
as it were, to make a play for a girl, to now, when it seems it's
anyone's right to make a play for anyone.
What is this business about making a play for, well, anything? Or anyone? Why does the entertainment industry seem to be so fascinated with making control a commodity?
What could Brian Wilson and company have been thinking, when they penned lyrics that seemed to suggest it was a boy's right to have a girl? What were they selling? And why would a self-respecting woman listen to such lyrics willingly?
I had to dig deep in my memory. Read up a little on Wikipedia about the history of The Beach Boys and about their father and such. Remembered what it was like listening to their tunes on the radio. And about taking my stereo to church to play music for the dances.
Dug out memories of when it seemed like etiquette lessons were primarily about teaching me to assert control. Politely, of course. Memories of wondering whether I could really do such a thing as ask a woman to become, essentially, chattel, for a few minutes for a dance, for a few hours for a date, or especially for a lifetime.
I didn't want to be in control of everything in a relationship. That was too much work, and I was having a hard enough time figuring out how to be in control of myself.
I wasn't interested in structured relationships or activities, too young to see the structure as a framework within which to move, instead of as a set of rules defining everything that had to be done.
And too young to understand that learning how to set structure aside, and when, was the next step after learning etiquette.
Somehow, I learned how to ask for a dance, and then I learned how to ask for a date. Almost. Still not good at asking people to schedule me a piece of their time.
I figured out that the best way to succeed at asking for a dance was to put the question of whether I could get a kiss or not out of my mind. I wanted to dance, and many of the girls at the dances wanted to dance. Neither they nor I really wanted to do anything more, so there was no real need to fuss with the social pressure, ego competition, really, over kissing and making out.
Focus on the dancing and you can get a dance.
Most of the girls I danced with didn't really know what to do on the dance floor, so I usually had to lead. And they liked letting me lead them on the dance floor for a bit. After a few of the more adventurous girls saw that I wasn't going to ask them to go off and engage in ego stroking sessions, more of the girls were willing to dance with me.
Some of the most popular girls seemed a bit disappointed that I didn't want to do the mutual ego-stroking thing. Part of me said, "Wait a minute, what chance did I just miss?" and part said, "That's okay." I wasn't ready for it.
Never really did learn the etiquette, the small-talk, the rules that keep the mutual ego stroking "safe".
When I say safe, I'm not just taking about keeping things from heading towards physical/sexual exploration, but also about keeping the conversation topic away from traps where people hurt each other and themselves. The mind games.
I've sometimes noted that marriage is the archetype of all relationships. When you learn the fair give-and-take of marriage, you can extend that understanding to less intimate associations.
If I do a little meta-substitution with the lyrics, substituting "partner" for "girl", and "world" for "beach", and think beyond the adolescent focus on control for the "within reach" part, the lyrics are more about encouraging young kids to get out and find people to be friends with, to work, study, and play with.
And I remember the innocence of youth (the ironic, but very real innocence of youth), and I remember that I usually read such better meanings in the lyrics back then. I was a kid. I knew better.
I think that's still the case with youth, and it's a good thing.