Melody and Religion

After getting hooked on the movie, I looked up the differences between US and UK schools. Remarking about them to my oldest yesterday, she proudly already knew, and refers to her grade level appropriately when communicating with British people. This isn’t the post on that topic, but I also noted that religion was incorporated into the schooling. This wasn’t just a fictional thing. In the making of Melody video, Mark Lester talks about his on set schooling (and they also talk with his tutor) and lists subjects he studies. One of them is scripture.

The headmaster is obviously a religious figure, whether that is normal or not, and the first class you see any of the kids in is one he teaches on religion. It’s meant to be, and is, very funny. It shows how frustrating the kids can be, how impotent or incompetent the teachers can be, and the mischievousness of some of the kids. It’s also one of the points in the movie where I could not make out some of the words, or heard them wrong. I couldn’t distinguish “matzos” and eventually saw what it was online, where someone else asked.

In my case, between the accent and the sound quality of the video, when he spoke in that class I heard “pick up thy beard and walk.” Every time. Since it was completely nonsensical, I actually looked it up and was able to determine it was bed: “pick up thy bed and walk.” Even I not only could gather the biblical context, but also was pretty sure I’d heard it before as a child. I got dragged to church with varying regularity until I rebelled for good at 13. I still love the actual church. An ancestor was the first minister when it was built, my grandfather was sextant and a lay speaker, and the building is striking. I used to help clean it, and mowed the lawn when it had one, and felt reverent toward it. Had crushes on a couple of the girls there, too. One of those let me in free to see ET when she saw me in line for the movie when she worked at the theater years later.

I don’t know if religion is a universal subject in British schools, but both religion and education can be tools of government control of or influence on the population, so putting the two together would make sense from that perspective.

Later there’s an “assembly.” Plot-wise, it is a chance to get Melody and Daniel in the same place at the same time, since they don’t spend time in the same classrooms except by accident, as when he fell in love with her. It helps cement that he is interested, and lets a bunch of the other kids in on what’s happening in the process. Another place where Ornshaw is instrumental. Plus it gives us the lovely picture of her, turned to look across the room, smiling at him, to show while he races and To Love Somebody plays. We don’t see the smile in the footage used in the actual scene. She just looks serious.

In the assembly, the teachers all gather up on the platform in front and the headmaster starts calling kids up for the sorting hat. Wait, wrong movie! And no, that’s not a young Ron Weasley we see ever so briefly at the dance, but it sure could be. The headmaster, once he has silence, has them open their hymnals to a hymn number he can’t remember without his glasses, and starts leading them in song in his lovely voice. James Cossins vies with Roy Kinnear for my favorite adult actor of the film. His name always makes me think of Jamie Cousins, though. She was a girl in my grade. Never knew her, but a friend, more of a friend of a friend who was part of the proverbial gang, had a huge crush on her.

I finally got around to looking up the hymn they sing. I may well have heard it in church in my youth, but I’d never remember that. I’d caught enough of the words, even beyond the first three in triplicate, to find it easily. The song is Holy, Holy, Holy. Logically enough. It’s about the trinity, thus the triplicate holy.

Turns out it’s used for Trinity Sunday. What the heck is that? Now I know that’s the first Sunday after Pentecost. But what the heck is that? That’s the fiftieth day after the resurrection. It’s observed seven weeks after Easter, so it also moves, and that means Trinity Sunday moves.

All of which goes back to my looking at the timeline of the film. Not that the hymn couldn’t be used any time of the year, and not that the assembly is on a Sunday, but given the time of year the film obviously occurs, they would have to be near Trinity Sunday at the time. In 1970, the year Melody was Filmed, Trinity Sunday was May 23 24. In 1971, the year of release, it was June 6.

I previously surmised the assembly to have been on a Thursday. I might have expected it to be a Friday or Monday, if adhering to a weekday near the Sunday being observed, but this might all be nothing. It could simply be that they periodically have whole school or whole grade level assemblies that incorporate religion and/or other purposes. Still, the film is basically May/June. That’s when a lot of filming fell, when they are in the school year, etc. Someone could have been thinking it through in that much detail, or it could simply have been a famous and somewhat catchy hymn to employ. Given that nothing seems accidental in this film, though I might question some details or have done them differently, I lean toward it being intentional.

The only other things we see of religion are Daniel’s parents and their friends making fun of the devout, at least the Catholic ones, and Ornshaw stumbling over and skipping the finer details of the marriage rites in a prayer book.

Zap!

There’s an almost indescribable experience that I have been party to justĀ three four times that I can remember. It’s memorable, so I would expect to remember them all. There’s fuzziness between these and falling in love at proverbial first sight, but clearly they aren’t necessarily the same.

This is seeing someone across a room or whatever separates you, and it’s completely electric. Jolting. Perhaps exhilarating. Perhaps disturbing. Perhaps confusing.

The first was with my big high school crush, call her Ella. Not my only or even my first crush in high school, but the most significant unless you count the significance of a girl we’ll call Daphne, who left me believing no girl could ever want me.

Except the zap moment was later. I forget exactly the year, but it was either toward the tail end of high school, or after high school. While I didn’t lose absolutely all interest until three years after high school, when I ran into her and we talked at length just before I started college later than the rest of my age cohort, the main even was 9th and into 10th grade. My brother, by comparison, still dwells on a girl from 8th grade, fifty years ago. She’ll always be a part of my personal history and memories, but we wouldn’t actually have been suited for each other. I’ve been in touch with her sister in the past couple years, expressing condolences after their awesome mother died, but I haven’t seen or talked to her since 1982 as far as I can remember.

Ella was working in a department store, the only one of its name and kind, rather than part of a chain. I had no idea of this when I walked in. I set foot in the door and our eyes met across the distance between the door and the checkout she was manning. It was absolutely electric and I was floored. It was as if the intervening years had never happened. If I’d never seen her before, I’d call it a love at first sight moment, but I knew exactly who she was and was a bit uncomfortable. It was obviously a mutual thing.

The second instance, if it counts, is the one I’d somehow forgotten that led to the strikethrough at the beginning. Call her Tammy. Summer of 1983, between first and second years of college, I was floating around a chain of stores as a temporary assistant manager, covering vacations. First or second day at one store, she walked out of the back room and toward the front. Zap! Not sure there was an mutual there, but for me it was the love at first sight zap. She was one of the sweetest people you could ever meet. She was athletic and was going to college in Maine when she wasn’t home for the summer. We talked a lot and she was a great employee, but I just couldn’t bring myself to ask her out. I had the impression she might already have had someone, but it wasn’t clear.

It was during that interlude that a girl I’d met at a different store earlier in the summer also landed at that store for some hours and made a different impression on me. At the first store, she acted weirdly like “don’t you dare be interested in me!” Not a problem, since I wasn’t, even a little, even though she was objectively attractive. She’s how I first heard of Def Leppard. She was going to a concert one night after work and I had never heard of the band, which was huge then. That girl ended up acting miffed, obviously enough so that even I noticed, that I was not acting interested in her. She was the cause of my forever associating a particular Def Leppard song with Tammy, and to a lesser degree with her. (Naturally I started hearing Def Leppard songs after that, after never having heard one before.)

Flash forward just a little and it’s New Year’s Eve, on the cusp on 1985. I had landed in a specific store as a regular cast member, so to speak. Someone who worked in a completely different store, call her Layla, lived near my store and would come in there sometimes. While I’d never noticed her, she’d noticed me. This is something I think about when I wonder how many girls there were over the decades who might have been interested but gone utterly undetected by me, with or without effort on their part. She started conversing with me when she came in, and even helped free with a lottery crunch one night when I shouldn’t have been alone at all, let alone in the face of a then huge jackpot. Made me nervous to have someone who didn’t work in the store behind the counter, even just feeding cards into the lottery machine, so after a while she left, but that made her more of a presence. We became friendly in a talking and talking about everything way, but it never registered to me that she was or that I ought to be attracted. Indeed, the downfall would arguably that I was not, but I wasn’t exactly dating anyone else.

She invited me to a New Year’s party at a relative’s summer house way out on the Cape. I agreed. I wasn’t a real party person, but hey. We had Chinese on the way. Yum! Everyone but me at the party was a girl. She was the only one I knew, though I would see some of them again.

We had not been there long, hanging in the kitchen initially after bringing in the Chinese leftovers.

A girl walked into the kitchen. ZAP! Never experienced anything like it. Not even any other zap moment. I’d call it chemistry at first sight, more than love at first sight. She was a short-haired blond girl we’ll call Beth. Turned out she went to my college. This was a mutual zap, though not sure what she made of it or how she internalized it.

That made the rest of the evening completely surreal, since all I really wanted to do was be with Beth. Alone. I was with Layla and completely focused on Beth. I managed to irritate Beth because when she told me where she lived at the school, in a rental house, between ambient noise and her accent, I couldn’t parse the name of the road and had her repeat it a time or two. She was from a rich town on the North Shore, which must have given her just enough of a different accent to trip me up.

Although I could easily have ensured nothing else ever transpired between me a Layla after the one date, we did kind of date for a while. It was never properly consummated and was doomed by my relative lack of attraction to her, but she was a decent person. It was on her account that I’ve ever been to New York City. Good memories.

She also marked a point where I rebelled against my programming. Daphne had conditioned me not to be wanted. Just because a girl was on a date with me didn’t mean it was acceptable to, say, put an arm around her when the moment was right, or kiss her, or think that sex might be a possibility.

Prior to Layla, I had hung out with a girl we’ll call Maddie, from some of my college classes. We essentially went on three dates, after drifting inexorably together in the face of her initial reluctance despite being interested. I was reluctant, and it helped doom things, because I didn’t perceive her as intelligent enough. That was part of the meet cute, or what helped get us together: Her need for help in accounting. For me it was the easy first semester of many accounting classes. For her it was the first of two required semesters for folks who weren’t in that major, and was a dire struggle. So I tutored her.

Maddie wasn’t beautiful, perhaps, but she was cute as a button in a way, and was very much attracted to her, yet always dubious. It was the perfect storm of someone I could be friendly and easy with, and someone attractive to me.

Our last date was when I drove north of the city, to where she lived, to go out for her birthday during the summer. Her family was at a cabin in New Hampshire, and she was staying with her grandmother, as I recall. We’d have had the house entirely to ourselves for whatever we wanted to do, but I was a little slow and she had been dealing with a crying grandmother before she came to meet me, convinced her little girl was going to lose her innocence or something. I later realized that that was exactly what Maddie wanted out of the relationship, but wasn’t aggressive enough to ensure in the face of my denseness and Daphne’s damage.

We went to a tourist place in Salem, on the water. At one point, we sat on a bench looking out at the water. It was just a few minutes. I had the powerful urge to put my arm around her, as would be logical in that situation. Daphne popped into my mind with a proxy “no, don’t touch me” and I Just Couldn’t Do It. That intercession in my head was a turning point. From there, I convinced myself I wasn’t interested in Maddie, she wasn’t smart enough or good enough for me. I could do better.

It was the regret from that when I was with Layla that countered Daphne’s influence, even though I just wasn’t that interested in Layla except perhaps as a matter of opportunism.

The next zap I witnessed took ages to arrive. It was at a workplace. A new, young manager arrived. We had never met. I was in a room for a meeting. She walked by the room, met my eyes through the window of the door, and did a double-take. I have never seen anyone react to me that way. The closest might be Beth, but that was more proximate and mutual chemistry. This was more like watching someone fall for me at first sight, or at least find me more attractive than I’ve ever been. It’s all the more fascinating because we aren’t and perhaps never had been on the same proverbial team. I have never stopped being intrigued, and will never forget it. I could be misinterpreting entirely what it was about, but there was massive surprise in the reaction, whatever the case.

Speaking of looks, I have most always been convinced, to one degree or another, that I was completely unattractive, even ugly. Girls fought to sit with me on the bus in kindergarten when I was a cute little blond boy, but that was about the end of it. Once in a great while I get some input to the contrary. I’m long since biased enough that it takes essentially no data to convince me the negative direction, and endless data to budge me in the positive direction. I’m like that in other things. Any negative is absolute truth and set in stone. Any positive is unbelievable.

The most recent particularly compelling positive came when my oldest friend, Julie, and her older sister, had an 80th birthday party for their mother. My mother and sister also went. When I walked in, both Julie and her sister, having not seen me in decades, with no stake in doing so, said ‘WOW!” in reaction to my appearance. Good wow, not bad wow. In my favor, I am relatively well preserved, and my hair may not have been overdue for cutting at the time. But I am still overweight. I was persuaded when I was a kid, and was actually not that heavy, that my weight was a huge personal failing entirely my responsibility and rendering me unacceptably ugly. Daphne indirectly contributed to my internalizing that outlook. When, during college, I lost so much weight that I started to look anorexic, I remained convinced I was too heavy and, even if not, unattractive. That almost anorexic weight was almost a hundred pounds below where I am now, which really is 30+ pounds too high.

Anyway, I digress again. This is why verbosity was my reputation and ended up in my blog name. Believe it or not, when i started typing, I chose this topic because it was a brief post. Ha! Shows what i know.

I Had Forgotten

Thinking and writing about girls I had crushes on, I had forgotten my experience in 8th grade with a girl who had a crush on me. I’m trying to think of a pseudonym, since I’m thinking everyone should be protected that way, but should be able to be referenced with a proper noun. Not that leaving names out has always helped, when people know who I am talking about, entirely aside from whether I’m being a raving lunatic at the time.

Dora. That works. No maps or backpacks though.

Dora teased and tormented me all through 8th grade math class, last period of each day. It was a wild bunch generally, with me being the island of calm studiousness. “Bright spot” in 7th period math, the teacher called me. I had no idea what she was on about, but even then I knew some of it was a little risque.

It’s not that she was unattractive. She was more mature than a lot of the girls, and looks more womanly in the yearbook picture, taken at the beginning of 8th grade, than most of the girls. She was also the center of wildness in the class. Had I been paying attention and had I been thinking of who I might date for more mature pursuits, that could have been interesting. I was completely focused on my 7th grade crush for the first couple months or so of 8th grade, until I embarrassed myself by, in writing and not in so many words, saying I loved her.

Then I was focused on the rebound crush who was safely less attractive. In there I was also crushing to some degree on a friend’s younger sister, and a different classmate who, I’m reminded by the yearbook pictures, was stunning. Call her Jane. I actually had noticed Jane in 7th and it was because of something she wrote for English that made her sound like me, enjoying the woods, shooting a bow and stuff. In high school, don’t recall seeing much of Jane until she was in a class with me in 12th grade, getting razzed a lot because she had gotten married at a very young age. I gathered this was sped up by the loss of whatever family had been raising her.

But I digress. Dora would have been exciting, maybe brought me out of my shell, maybe corrupted me in some ways. I also didn’t see her in high school. At all. She was there, but she was among the crowd who could be found out drinking and smoking, and circa 11th grade was rumored to have gotten in a bar fight that caused her to miscarry.

She’s not one of those I feel bad about letting down, because I didn’t fully catch on until after the fact, and it would have been odd even if I’d have gone for it. If she had been even more forward and just plain asked me out, I don’t know how I might have reacted. It was one of the most obvious hinting or acting out campaigns I have ever seen from someone who was apparently interested.

Long Long Time

I have always loved this song, from the time it was relatively new and I was young. For all she did later, it and Different Drum define Linda Ronstadt for me. But it makes me feel remorse, based on my interpretation of what it is about.

This is the lament of a woman scorned. Worse, not really acknowledged, by a man so cold or indifferent that he either never noticed her interest, or didn’t care enough to do anything with it if he did. Further, he has made a habit of this, breaking hearts along the road of oblivious omission.

I am kind of getting into personal things I’ve yet to post, or that I might have posted a long time ago in a different blogosphere. (It’s a travesty that blogosphere just got flagged as not a word by automatic spell check.) I have had crushes, been outright in love with, or passingly noticed many girls or women over the decades, not so much recently. I have despaired of their general lack of interest in me, but to the degree that I was addicted to the feeling of being in love without being willing or able to bring it to fruition, this served my purposes. If it was what i was seeing, good. If I could make myself perceive it as what I was seeing, that worked too.

Yes, autistic tendencies. Yes, it may be that that’s about feeling too deeply rather than being insensitive, with the coping making it appear the same. Yes, I am oblivious to subtlety, or don’t believe it, or at times have found it convenient not to believe it. Girls aren’t supposed to be forward or aggressive, doncha know. Still, eventually I realized that I had left some disappointment in my wake. Heck, long ago. Introspection in the past few years, after I killed an old friendship beyond recovery (or at least buried it beyond exhumation), made me think more about many things like this.

Sometimes being shy is just being shy, and being anxiety-ridden is just anxiety beyond escape. But sometimes I had some idea, or should have, what I was doing. Sometimes it felt like revenge on all girls for what one girl did at a sensitive age.

I have seen that a girl seemed interested and been completely inert to it, or falsely oblivious. I once called a girl in college, after she’d been in a class with me, chatted at some length, and despite being able to tell she was receptive, copped out and… did nothing. I’d have had a date, if I’d have known how to ask. I could tell she was disappointed. I still feel bad about it, and she was just a minor crush. My main college crush got left in the lurch once my interest was clear and she was receptive. I just… stopped. It was pretty crazy.

My big high school crush had much the same experience. I essentially ran away in confusion once she clearly and unambiguously reciprocated and I had no idea what next. Ouch. I could go on.

Much as I love the song and feel for the sentiment, it makes me sad for anyone, known and unknown, I ever might have hurt by running away, being indifferent, or not even noticing.