Saturday, February 16, 2008

Of Adolescent Fantasies

Ever look back on yourself as you were in high school, just to laugh at yourself the way you were? Ever think back about what you wanted to do with your life, and compare it to how it eventually turned out? Ever think back to the kinds people you found attractive back then, and compare them to who you eventually wound up marrying? Jeez, it can be embarrassing.

C'mon, I don't think I'm the only one here.

But a few weeks back I got a little into a nostalgic mood, and as I was thinking about it, I came to a realization that was a bit of a shock. And the really shocking thing--downright embarrassing, actually--is that it took me nearly twenty years to realize it. (Has it really been twenty years? Now that's really embarrassing. Geez.)

So I figured I'd blog about it on or about Valentine's Day, since it seemed an appropriate topic for the day. But of course when Valentine's Day actually comes along, you really really don't want to spend the evening blogging. So, consider this a slightly belated Valentine's Day post.


Ok, first I need to set the stage. Here's a music video for a song that was popular when I was in high school. The song is entitled These Dreams, performed by the band Heart.

In particular, concentrate on the lady with the black hair. She doesn't have a whole lot of screen time in this video, so you only get a few seconds of her here and there.

I was never much into popular music when I was in high school. I was the one who was always wandering between classes singing stuff from Gilbert and Sullivan to myself. (Loudly. The other students tended to give me a wide berth when they saw me coming.) So even then, I couldn't name most of the artists who were popular at the time.

But my older brother rather enjoyed watching music videos. I have many memories of coming home from school, and finding that my brother had turned on MTV's program of the top ten requested videos for that day. This song was near the top of the list for quite some time.

Quite to my own surprise, I found this particular song haunting. I wasn't sure why at the time. But I liked the fact that it actually had a couple of women in it who could sing, in harmony; that there was some depth to the lyrics, and that it engaged the imagination--the song (and the video) had a very mystical quality to it.

And the lady with the black hair? Well, I developed a serious, serious crush on her. I was rather bummed that she didn't have more screen time than that blonde, who did nothing for me. Not only did I think she was prettier, I thought her voice sounded a lot better, too.

Now, I wasn't particularly handy with the women when I was in high school. After all, I was the guy who was always singing I Am the Very Model to myself--or almost as bad, something in Latin--and girls in high school don't typically go for that sort of stuff. (College tends to be a little different, I can happily report.) So I found myself in high school wondering whether I was even cut out for the dating scene. My first real kiss didn't even happen until the night I graduated from high school. (She was a redhead, too! Ah, bliss.)

So what does a guy do who's so weird the women won't touch him? Well, he fantasizes. A lot. And (after being introduced to this music video) I tended to fantasize more and more about women with dark eyes, and long, dark hair, and a smoky, passionate gaze....


Incidentally, the women in the video are sisters: the blonde is Nancy Wilson, and the woman of my adolescent fantasies is Ann Wilson. Ironically, it's Ann Wilson who is usually the lead singer of the band. Nancy took lead on These Dreams while Ann took backup vocals, but it was usually the other way around. And the song itself was haunting and memorable for a reason: it was written as a tribute to a friend of Nancy Wilson who had recently died of Leukemia. Wikipedia writes:
This song was dedicated (on the album) to Nancy Wilson's good friend Sharon Hess who died of Leukemia shortly before the song was made. The lyrics of the song explore the dream world. The final verse seemingly suggests that, moments before awakening, what one desires the most is exactly that which is out of reach in a dream: "In a wood, full of princes, freedom is a kiss. But the prince hides his face, from dreams in the mist".
And apparently Nancy had a cold the day she recorded it, resulting in the raspy vocal sound in the video--so it's not entirely fair that I thought that Ann sounded better. But it should be noted that that raspy sound is quite popular in the pop/rock world, and it was considered somewhat unfortunate that Nancy could never quite duplicate in performance the sound she produced in the recording.


Of course, I knew none of this when I was in high school. All I knew is that this band had produced this haunting song, and that the backup singer was an absolute babe. And in my adolescent fantasies, I wanted a woman who looked just like her. Being woman-less for my entire high school career, and feeling somewhat embarrassed by this fact, I would pray half-serious prayers to God to "send a good woman into my life. And if it's not too much trouble, make her look like that."

Of course, all such adolescent fantasies come to an end. I graduated from high school and entered college. And I came to despise all the old fantasies, which were seeming increasingly immature. Furthermore, I was a bit more successful in college finding women willing to become romantically attached. College, for one thing, was much bigger than high school; and the women were for the most part more mature; and everyone was also more tolerant of eccentricity. Are you something of a weirdo in college? Hey, man, whatever floats your boat.

And I found that my impression of what makes a woman attractive started to change, too. First I discovered what most men ultimately do--that prettiness and sexiness have less to do with each other than one might think. There are plenty of women out there who possess something that makes men mad with desire, even though there's nothing at all remarkable about their appearances. But as far as the physical was concerned, even here my sense of what's attractive changed. I would decide, "Well, I really like redheads." Then I would meet redheads who were not particularly desirable; and I would meet blondes or brunettes who were very desirable. Then I would decide that I liked slender women--and the same thing would happen: I'd wind up madly in love with a young lady who would have been healthier (but not necessarily more attractive!) if she'd lost fifty pounds. Ultimately I gave up trying to decide in advance what I liked and what I didn't; my rule for deciding what was attractive was, "I know it when I see it."

(My wife just piped up: "Personally, I almost never liked blondes." Good thing I'm not one, then.)

The funny thing about all this was that during nearly all this time I was dating around in college, I knew the woman I would eventually marry. I met her at church when I was 19 and a college sophomore, and she was 23 and working on her Masters'. And we were at completely different life stages. She was out of my league, so I didn't pay all that much attention to her at the time. She was just one of those people one meets at church and exchanges weekly pleasantries with.

Of course, while the four-year gap between 19 and 23 is huge, the four-year gap between 29 and 33 is trivial. Eventually as both of us matured, we wound up in the same league; we were both single Christian professionals. So we eventually said "what the hey" and got married.

(There were a few more details in there, but nothing you'd be interested in.) ;-)


So what is it I realized after all these years, that made me slap my forehead in embarrassment?

Well, let's take a look at a few pictures. This is a picture of Ann and Nancy Wilson taken in the early '70's, with Ann on the left:
And here is my beloved's picture from Junior High Graduation, circa 1981:
How about something a little more recent? Here's a picture of Ann Wilson grabbed from the end of the video for These Dreams:
And here is a picture that Tonya had done for a church directory, circa 1991:
Aside from the fact that my bride smiles a whole lot more, they do look pretty similar, no?

Um, so... hm... Ever marry the woman of your wildest fantasy, and then fail to realize it for the better part of a decade? Yeah, me too. I hate it when that happens.

This should also be taken as a warning: remember all those silly things you prayed for when you were much, much younger? Well, let's just say that God's got a really, really good memory. Be very, very afraid.

Um, God, if you're listening: I really wasn't serious about wanting twins.


SmallWorld said...

Um, wow! that is just freaky! I wonder if my husband looks anything like shawn cassidy? I might have to do some image searching...

Timothy Power said...

Snort... You go right ahead and do that, m'kay? Let me know how it turns out.


Actually, I felt a little sheepish explaining to my wife last night exactly why it was I was trolling through all the Ann Wilson/Heart fan sites. In fact, I felt pretty sheepish writing the whole durn column. It was worth it though; Tonya got a big kick out of it.

Tonya always thought her Dad looked like James Garner...

Anonymous said...

Cute post, and don't feel bad- I was SERIOUSLY in love with Simon le Bon of Duran Duran. I still remember that his birthday is October 27th. So now we are both embarrassed.

However, I married a tall skinny guy who looks just like Michael J. Fox did before Parkinson's aged him so much. Go figure.