Sexual confusion down the ages

Teenage.

Do you remember it?

I bloody do.

Tongue-tied around any girl I fancied. Always putting my foot in it, always with the best possible intentions.

At 15 I was besotted with a small, mysterious looking girl who I saw only once a week at a youth club. She had a mass of dark, curly hair you could have got lost in.

Finally I plucked up the courage to tell her, “I love your hair”. Oh dear.

Turned out it was the thing about her appearance she most hated. Tomorrow – yes, tomorrow! – she was getting it all cut off. She was offended. I was tongue-tied. We never spoke again.

This kind of excruciating experience is not, I know, unusual among pubescent males. But when you’re at the centre of it, hormones shut down your rational self and confusion reigns.

Mind you, you don’t have to be pubescent to get it wrong. In my 20s I told a girl I loved the soft, downy feel of her face – like a peach. Oh dear, again. She was personally revolted by it, and was about to undergo lengthy and painful electrolysis to rectify what she saw as a physical defect.

These are the sorts of memories that are at the heart of this week’s song, The Date.

At the time it was written, cross-gender dressing (Bowie et al), had taken hold. Boys were wearing makeup, and girls were cutting their hair short. The New Romantics were just emerging.

And the final piece of my narrative puzzle were the occasional outbreaks of male violence: Teddy Boys, mods, rockers, skinheads, punks. Pete Townshend articulated it brilliantly in My Generation, Can’t Explain and many other songs, this sense of alienation and confusion that leads young boys to anger and violence in the face of things they can’t control.

The Date starts with that tingling sense of anticipation we’ve all felt as we get ready to go out on a Friday or Saturday night. You’re fretting about your hair, you’re pulling on your best jeans. Like Terry and Julie in Waterloo Sunset, you’re anticipating the moment you meet underneath the station clock.

But it soon goes wrong. Boy doesn’t even make it to the meeting place. Girl is beyond furious. Violence erupts. Police are called. Tabloids wring their hands. Sound familiar?

Keeping it short this week. I’ll explain why next week.

But as an added treat, a link to Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran. The pop star who lives in my house played this for me in the car the other day and I was captivated, (which is unusual, as she’d readily tell you).

For boomers, the song is an enchanting reminder of the simple emotions of pop and soul long ago – of Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding and maybe a little Don McLean in the voice.

For Strictly Come Dancing fans, the video will be a charming bonus.

There’s a line in this song, “When the crowds don’t remember my name”. By the time you watch this video, it may have surpassed 80 million views. When the crowds don’t remember your name, Ed? Not in this lifetime.

 

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