Love Songs

This is the first time in decades I don’t have a story to work on. What I thought might be a good idea is looking more and more doubtful. I’ve been reading about and in the work of the Goliards and it’s — they — are notable for being priests who wrote love songs. 

Whoop-dee-do. And songs about drinking, the corruption of the church, the absurdity of doctrine, and poverty. But mostly love songs. Sometimes naughty love, but love. And if you’re a priest, is there any other kind of love? Maybe these are not my people. 

Sixty-two years ago when some crooner was crooning on the radio in the family kitchen, I asked my dad, “Why do they sing about love all the time?”

My dad gave me a startled look, like, “She’s only four, WTF?” then said, “Because love is the greatest thing in the world.”


“Helen, can I have a little more coffee?” 

Way to change the subject, Dad.

I’m not convinced that romantic love is the greatest thing in the world. There are lots of other really great things like the range, horses named Old Paint, exploration, adventure, art, and nature. It’s true there are a few anti-love songs, but love is still the main subject.  

One of the things I’ve always liked about Punk Rock is that while there are love songs, there are songs about other things. The more hard-core the Punk, the less likely there is to be a love song. It’s awesome. Often, when a Punk band sings about love, it’s not sappy love but something else. The Dead Kennedys’ best love song is “Too Drunk to Fuck.” Sorry, but there it is. Realistic, funny and ironic. 

I’ve been listening to The Pretenders a lot lately, and Chrissie Hynde has a few sappy love songs, but her love songs are mostly not. 

“I wanna do it, do it on the pavement.” That is not sappy.

Anyhoo…. Since I find all this love song stuff de-inspiring, I don’t know what’s up next. I’m not anti-love or bitter on the subject. I congratulate — and have deep respect for —  all of you who found your great love and are busy living happily ever after. That just isn’t my story. 

But why?

The model in front of me growing up wasn’t particularly happy, that’s one thing, probably, then I never wanted kids. I wanted adventure. For a while I thought a boyfriend or husband would also want adventure, and we’d go off into the world adventuring, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. Even the most adventurous men I knew longed for wife and family, the ties that guys like in the movie K2 struggle against. Except one. He wanted adventure more than wife and family, and I think his romantic life has gone pretty much like mine. There is a kind of love between us, maybe a shared love of mountains, adventure and words, mutual esteem. Anyway, I treasure it, maybe partly because it’s love that doesn’t show up in love songs. 

In any case, I wonder what the protagonist will do so that I can write his story? I see him influenced by Goliard love songs, in a moment of heated passion impregnating a girl, then facing the betrayal of romance, thrown out of his monastery, sent wandering over the Alps to teach Martin to paint and then in his own Paul on the Road to Damascus moment realizing there is no better lover than art and returning to the monastery, seeing it as his best bet for a life as an artist. Maybe he’ll go that way. 

Ars longa, labilis est dilectio

11 thoughts on “Love Songs

  1. Love is one of the best things in the world, but relationships are damned hard work, and if one is unwilling or unable to put in the work, love can be more trouble than it’s worth. I fully expect The Boss to outlive me, but if she doesn’t, I will spend the rest of my life single because I’m already too old, tired, and cranky to put forth the effort of loving a new partner.

    • You’re right. Relationships are a lot of work, and none of the work I put into mine made any difference. As I learned the truth about my mom, I also learned why that was the case for me and luv. I probably wrote about it somewhere… 😀

  2. Garry’s parents had an especially toxic relationship even unto death. I’m not surprised that of three brothers, Garry is the only one to marry. My parents were miserable too, but my mother had had other relationships and wasn’t down on it in theory. She just felt she’d made an unfortunate choice although by the time she died I think her position had hardened.

    Personally, I was willing to trade any number of boys in my future for one good horse.

    • I think most of the love songs are about trying to get into someone’s pants or about those sweet, hazy moments before the beloved becomes real. My mom and dad loved each other very much, but MS took a toll on that love and I got to watch.

  3. “Free Solo” is a movie about Alex Honnold’s ascent of El Capitan without rope, the first ever and the greatest achievement in rock climbing history. Many people think he was an a-hole because of the risk he took. They didn’t want him to climb it because he might fail and die and then where would he be? What about his girl friend? His parents?

    Myself, I feel that loving someone has to include the understanding that keeping the butterfly in a cage is what is selfish.

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