Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pain you can sing to

John Cusack plays Rob Gordon in one of my favourite movies, High Fidelity, and as his girlfriend is packing up her things and leaving him, he says:

"What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?"

Blogger goddess
Pandora has recently written about how she reckons she's had her heart broken four times in her life. Romantically, not myocardially that is. Each time there's been a song swirling through that still reminds her of the pain and resultant growth and knowledge. Reckless by Aussie Crawl; Nirvana's 'Smells like teen spirit.'

It got me thinking about my own experiences - then again, don't most good blog entries do that?

In terms of real, you're-dumped heartbreak, it was just the one time for me, but in terms of silent crushes that were conducted in total secret and from afar, there were more than I care to remember.

My father was a high school teacher and he once told me that he could tell the girls who were going to have boyfriends or fall pregnant before the year was out. "They're jiggling in their seats, heads swiveling to see what the boys sitting behind them are doing. They're prancing along the edge of the fence at lunchtimes, hoping that the nineteen year old bozos from the meatworks will drive by in their 25 year old bombs and try to pick up a fifteen year old whose ovaries are spinning."

That wasn't me. My role was partly automatically designated: teacher's daughter in the town's only secondary school with family friends who were also teachers meant that I was studious, well behaved and quiet. Boys (or 'guys') were loud, crude and sometimes a bit scary but were also attractive, cutely goofy and objects of longing. However, these yearnings were never acted upon until right at the very end of school.

Before then it was idly doodling their name on a scrap piece of paper at home - never on my pencil case, or diary or toilet door for peers to discover. Never shared or confessed to a friend and never, ever communicated even vaguely to the object of my affection by something as boldly direct as actual conversation, a noticeable glance their way or remotely discernible acknowledgement of their existence.

This paralysingly shy approach meant that I was not only safe from having to risk rejection but also suffered a bit of unintended heartache when I'd find out that the guy I'd sat behind in geography in term two hadn't shown what I'd hoped was a mix of intelligence and mystery but instead had:
  • pashed the year nine nympho at a beer-keg party that I was not invited to (and would have been too afraid to attend if I had);
  • carved another girl's name on his arm using his protractor and a bic pen in maths;
  • set his family's caravan alight when he forgot to switch the electric blanket off;
  • earned my older brother's scorn by being 'the worst soccer player in modern history' and unceremoniously kicked off the team;
  • been rude to a teacher I particularly liked; or
  • asked one of my friends out instead.
Songs of homework-heartbreak were often anything other than miserable: they were what was being played on 5MU as I sat at my desk picking at my nails and wondering how far I could rock my chair back in time to the song before over-balancing and thwacking painfully to the floor.

Even now, pushing 25-30 years later, the unrequited love songs that still resonate include 'This ole house' by Shakin' Stevens (year eight); 'Dirty Creature' by Split Enz (year nine); 'She blinded me with science' by Thomas Dolby (year ten); and 'Relax' by Frankie Goes to Hollywood in year eleven. Hardly songs to make a slow compilation tape (sorry, playlist) to.

However, as an adult, I only had one real dose of heartache in 1988. Four months of dating (several nights a week) and BW was due overseas for work for three months. We'd been out to dinner, the casino, sailing at North Haven, on his motorbike and even painting his just-purchased house (he was an older man ...... by five years!) and he always seemed pretty keen to see me.

The week before he was due to leave, we had dinner at my place and he said that he'd enjoyed our time together but wasn't looking for anything serious and didn't want to see me on his return. It had been fun, but he didn't want to worry about 'anything happening' whilst he was out of the country but wished me a happy Christmas and was sure that my uni results would be good ones.

I'd been expecting a declaration of long term commitment and maybe even an early silly season present and was bereft. Sad yes, but also a bit humiliated, in hindsight. My flatmates Jo and Fiona decided to take me out to dinner the following day to cheer me up but it ended up with me sobbing over a toasted asparagus doorstop sandwich at the Left Bank Cafe in full view of frankly over-curious shoppers and grannies.

And in keeping with the sad soundtrack of my school years, the stupid song that was on high rotation at the time.....?

Bloody KOKOMO by the Beach boys!


Elisabeth said...

What a post - it drags out memories, from early on.

I once told my mother I would be like you and have nothing to do with boys until I was 18 so I could concentrate on my school work. My mother was pleased.

By the time I was nineteen it had turned around and the multiple heart aches began, though I say this and it comes back to me there was a boy in year twelve when I was only seventeen who took me out once.

I fell in love for a few 'minutes-months', wrote him long letters and spent hours on the telephone, but one day I invited him home for dinner, which is a story in itself. He flirted with my younger sister and that was the end of my affection for him. Ahh the pain of it all. As for accompanying music, the only thing that comes to mind from around that time is the Beatles song, Revolution. It stirred my soul.

Thanks for a great and reverberating post, Kath.

Pandora Behr said...

Kokomo! Oh my heavens. I think I'd be thankful it wasn't Phil Collin's "Don't Let Him Steal Your Heart Away..." which came out about the same time.

Glad to have inspired this one.

Kokomo.... (tee hee)

Pandora Behr said...

Oh, and last time I was in town I had a doorstop at the Left Bank - they haven't changed at all. Has everybody in Adelaide got a story about that cafe?

Kath Lockett said...

I see it dredged up some memories for you - Revolution by the Beatles, Elisabeth? About as romantic as my songs! :)

Pandora, yup, Kokomo. Stupid dumb song. Never had an asparagus doorstop for lunch since either.

deepkickgirl said...

Kokomo? Really? Great post... and thanks for the JC photo (always welcome) and the great quote from High Fidelity... love that movie... feel like watching it again right now.

River said...

I've never had my heart broken. Badly cracked a few times, but I always saw it coming so was prepared for heartache. I don't recall any songs that went along with the heartaches though. Probably because I wasn't much into radio at the time.
Now, of course, my heart is safely locked away, never to be hurt again.

Anonymous said...

What a prick that guy was to not find the hot and younger chick worth pursuing. You should have given him a good kick in the you know where. Your musical taste is questionable, redeemed by you liking Relax.

WV = uniess, a bit close to undies.

Lidian said...

It's funny how a random song - like 'Kokomo' - can become charged with meaning just because it happened to be on at a certain Moment in one's life...I have a lot of 80s songs in my playlist of Moments.

"Modern Love" by David Bowie plays, for example, and I'm standing in a teeny store in Greenwich Village, pretending I knew all about the Village since I was from NYC, to a guy friend I had a desperate crush on. I was trying to show him around the city. I'd already taken him to Studio 54 - racking my brains for a club name, came up with that - only to find that, um, it no longer existed. And then we went to the UN but it was closed to visitors after 5 pm, duh. So by the time I managed to find Greenwich Village the jig was pretty well up.

I still have the ten-pound purple earrings I bought in the teeny shop. Don't know how I ever wore them@

Lidian said...

PS - Why the UN? I don't know. I don't quite recall the chain of non-logic that led me to think this was a good idea, except that I knew exactly where it was. And I knew it was still there, too.

Lynne said...

The Left Bank! Gone but not forgotten. Had my first date with my (now) husband there over 15 years ago. And he had a cheese and asparagus doorstop!

Jayne said...

The older gent was a twat, hope he looks back with regrets now, best revenge *snort*.

WV = stella, just like your blog posts ;)

drb said...

It'll be a great 80's throw back scene in a movie! 3 young chicks in the cafe, with big poofed up hair (2 with big bows), massive shoulder pads or leotards, plastic bangles, and one's balling her eyes out with KoKomo in the background...

Hannah said...

Ack! I don't even know that song! Shame on me! Being 23 and never having had a real relationship (yes, I'm lame), I don't really have any real heartbreak songs. However, I had a bit of a whirlwind romance (mere days, really) with a guy who was the musical director for Fiddler on the Roof, so those songs have more meaning for me these days! :P

Vanessa said...

I have been considering for a while now about blogging about my first ever love. Still unsure because there are some interesting twists. Anyway we dated in year 10 and 11 and then he cheated on me. It was first and only real heart breaking break up. At the yr 12 formal he swept me onto the dance floor to dance Madonna's Crazy For You. It was very moving and felt like an unspoken apology. We had been such good friends while we dated and I had cut all ties once we had broken up.
My only other musical memory associated with love was that he gave me a cassette with Forever Autumn recorded on it after we split up. Oh the memories.

Jackie K said...

What a great theme Pandora and Kath for a post - loved this one.
Also, I had completely forgotten about two things which this reminded me of: protractors, and Shakin Stevens!
How the hell old was Shakin Stevens back then, he looks at least 35??

Baino said...

Aww . .yeh there's always a soundtrack to my life as well but it's been a long time since I've had my heart broken. I think it was Led Zeppelin IV . . not quite the Harry Nilson "Can't Live" Ugh.

Ann ODyne said...

Great post. oh the pain. I do love John Cusack, even while knowing he bats for the other team. My ex says High Fidelity is the story of his life. He looks like Cusack too.
I hate hate hate all the songs which were in high rotation during my first pregnancy - A Whiter Shade Of effing Pale for puke's sake.

I love your Dad's 'spinning ovaries' remark.

Anonymous said...

"My role was partly automatically designated: teacher's daughter in the town's only secondary school with family friends who were also teachers meant that I was studious, well behaved and quiet. "

I was the friend of the guy the girls swooned over; there was no point getting interested in anybody, because one look at him, and I was forgotten.

Can't tell you how pleased i was when he came out of the closet.

Helen Balcony said...

Funny - I landed on here just after checking this out.

Oh and w/v = "biolog". Priceless!

nuttynoton said...

ah love a fickle frind, fortunately only one real heart break, my ex, but now I have moved on and am so happy. fate eh, and you have LC, there goes was meant to be

Kath Lockett said...

DK girl - I think I might watch the movie soon, too.

River, you may *think* that your heart is safely locked away but that's exactly when the bonds prove to have rusted off without you knowing...

Thanks Andrew! However please rest assured that the 'taste' isn't mine - it's just what seemed to be playing in every bloody shop I walked into or any time I turned the radio on.

Modern Love, Lidian? I remember playing that David Bowie album (sorry, tape) to death in 1982!

You're kidding, Lynne...! It's nice to know that someone else ate the asparagus doorstop and found true love with the person opposite them. :)

You're too kind, Jayne. But yes, he was a twat!

drb, cheeky but right. I had the permed 'big' hair, shoulder pads (in a humble t-shirt, would you believe). Long, baggy surfer-style shorts, flat hot pink diana ferrari shoes and shimmery pink lipstick to match. *sigh*

Hannah, 'Sunrise, Sunset' would have to get the tearducts, working a bit, wouldn't it? It does for me and it's not associated with heartache, just a brilliant musical. And it's not often that I put the words 'brilliant' and 'musical' in the same sentence.

Vanessa, - Crazy for you is one Madonna song where it sounds patently obvious that she's struggling to hit all the right notes, so clearly that doofus was never destined to be your darling. :)

Jackie, Shakin' Stevens must have been pushing thirty even though he did embrace the Soft Cell-led trend of 1981 and use eyeliner....

Baino, the song can be truly trashy but it's the memory that it unleashes that's the really rubbishy bit!

Really, anonymous! I guess the school hunks were pretty in a too-obvious kind of way....? Subtlety in teen years was pretty useless I guess.....

I wonder what song was playing through her headphones, Helen?

True, nuttynoton, very true. And the song that seemed to be EVERYWHERE when we were falling in love - Cat's in the Cradle version by Ugly Kid Joe!

Anonymous said...

Geez Kaff. Love High Fidelity, must watch it again some time. Barry played for "Sonic Death Monkey" which I think is a greaaaaat name.

"The carnival is over"... year 12. Oh dear, brings back memories.

Kath Lockett said...

Oh Anon - at least 'The Carnival is Over' is a sad one - even Judith was crying as she sang it!

Helen said...

That's brilliant! I was going to reply with my special heartbreak song, and then realised that I have several and will have to make u a list...

I know my first real hearbreak had Ben Lee's Ache for You on repeat though.

Kath Lockett said...

Helen, I can see how 'Ache for you' would work. At least it's a song about what you're feeling, unlike mine! :P

Helen said...

i'm the queen of the repeat button...

eleanor bloom said...

"when I'd find out that the guy ... hadn't shown what I'd hoped was a mix of intelligence and mystery"

Sigh. And do things ever really change? (well, for you maybe Kath, lucky duck)

Oh, so sad, how we confuse mystery with plain ignorance of their shallow depths.