September 9th, 2007 at 06:02pm
I heard a song during the week that I have heard many times before, but on this occasion I paid more attention to the lyrics than usual, and I started to think about it. The song in question is “At Seventeen” and the singer is Janis Ian. Have a read of the lyrics, and I’ll detail my thoughts below.
I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired
The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth
And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the phone
Who called to say, “come dance with me”
And murmur vague obscenities
It isn’t all it seems at seventeen
A brown eyed girl in hand-me-downs
Whose name I never could pronounce
Said pity, please, the ones who serve
They only get what they deserve
In the rich-relationed home-town queen
Marries into what she needs
With a guarantee of company
And haven for the elderly
Remember those who win the game
Lose the love they sought to gain
In debentures of quality
And dubious integrity
Their small town eyes will gape at you in
Dull surprise when payment due
Exceeds accounts received at seventeen
To those of us who knew the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball
It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
And dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling girls like me
We all play the game and when we dare
To cheat ourselves at solitaire
Inventing lovers on the phone
Repenting other lives unknown
That call and say, “come dance with me”
And murmur vague obscenities
At ugly girls like me, at seventeen
Clive Robertson played this song on Tuesday morning and followed it with a comment along the lines of “Some people say Janis complained too much, but I think she may be on to something”. It’s not a direct quote, but it is close enough. I had been thinking about the song as it was unfolding and it struck me that, whilst I can empathise with Janis’ sentiments, she is going about it the wrong way.
I have never really understood the point of teenage (and in particular high school) relationships. I came to the conclusion that the whole thing was pointless long before I reached high school. I remember with some clarity a few times in primary school where I started relationships which were more serious than mere friendship.
The first one was when I was about ten years old. A girl my age moved in very close to my house, and was placed in the same class as me at school. We developed a relationship over the course of a week, and things were going well, until they started to go wrong. I suppose in many ways a lot of the problems were caused by my general intolerance of things I didn’t particularly like at the time, such as certain afternoon television programs and the people who were absolutely enthralled by them…and chewing gum, something I still regard as possibly the most repulsive thing ever invented. The bottom line was that she was nice enough, and I liked her, but I didn’t like a lot of things about her, and therefore started to dislike her. She was not particularly pleased that I constantly refused to do things, including going anywhere near her chewing gum.
Eventually we had a nice loud yelling match between the school’s quadrangles during recess.
I vaguely recall a number of friendships during primary school coming and going, and from memory a lot of the lost friendships were due to disagreements over interests, and my annoyance over some of their interests (some of the afternoon children’s programs ranked highly on my list of annoyances).
Later on in primary school I became infatuated with a particular female who was a year older than me. She found me to be quite annoying and repulsive, and I got in trouble on a number of occasions for sexual harassment (the way the primary school teachers set about convincing me that my actions were inappropriate without ever really explaining what was wrong or why it was wrong proved to be quite entertaining. It would have been blatantly obvious to them that the majority of students my age and above were aware of the “facts of life”, but they were prevented from discussing them with us). I liked her, but she didn’t like me, I knew this, but I liked her too much to care…for a while anyway, after that I became indifferent to her as chasing her was clearly pointless.
Towards the end of primary school the school counsellor decided that it would be a good idea for me to have a tour of the high school I was going to attend, and meet the counsellor of that school. During this tour, I happened to briefly visit a classroom containing (amongst others) the female I had previously been infatuated with. When I started attending that high school the next year, she was notably absent. I would hope that my appearance on that day (and the fact that I would subsequently attend the school) did not make her change school, but it is a possibility.
By this stage I had more or less come to the conclusion that such relationships were pointless. I had nothing to gain from such a relationship, and they were usually just a popularity contest anyway.
A short time later (after realising that the majority of people in my year saw me as an outsider) the truth of the matter became obvious, and I quite happily avoided trying to form relationships. I had my select group of friends, and that was a good thing, but there was no point in trying to form a relationship. This, in many ways, made high school a much more pleasurable experience for me than it was for many others.
The main problem with relationships, as I see it, is the need to get along with people. I find a lot of people incredibly annoying and irritating, and the thought of spending the rest of my life with them (or a few years followed by a messy and agonising breakup) to be incredibly troubling. The thought of deliberately spending a short amount of time with someone I’m only slightly interested in is just as troubling.
For this reason I do not actively seek out relationships. I am content with myself. I’m sure that many people see this as strange, but I think it is perfectly logical. I’m not a person who really relates well to others at a personal level for an extended period of time, and as I am happy by myself, I don’t see any good reason to attempt to start a long-term personal relationship.
Perhaps one day I will find someone who I can be happy with on a personal level, but I know the chances of it are not very high, and as long as I am happy, that is all that really matters to me. Besides which, I find pets to be far more agreeable than many humans. That’s not to say that I don’t get along with humans…I get along with most humans without any problems at either a colleague or friend level, but at a personal level, I would much rather deal with pets who, for me at least, are far easier to get along with.