Sometime after Franky Valli and the Four Seasons released their hit song, “Dawn Go Away” (I’m No Good For You) in 1964, I had already been dating a girl steadily since 1962. But as I alluded to in the blog posting titled, Lucky Jim , I struggled with my own concept of acceptance. My parents had cautioned me to never take anything from anybody because if you received something for “free,” you owed something for having received it. I’d also had class-consciousness drilled into me in sometimes subtle ways, other times not so subtle ways. I knew that my family was near the bottom of the class structure. The girl I was dating was a truly lovely girl, probably not college-bound, but smart, caring and pretty. Her name was Lucille. I loved her dearly. But adolescents being subject to peer influence and the influence of many errant thoughts, I began to listen to the lyrics of the “Dawn Go Away” song and it ‘dawned’ on me that in letting Lucille date me, I was doing her a disservice. She might have been dating one of the guys who had greatness written into his destiny by money, family connections, intent. What was I? I was a low-class guy from a poor family with no real prospects to speak of.
Suddenly, I knew what I had to do. I had to ditch Lucille! I had to do this for her sake! I couldn’t let this lovely, misled girl continue to love me. Where would such a love take her? Part of the Four Seasons song repeated in my fevered brain, “Think! What a big man he’ll be. Think! All the places you’ll see. Now think what the future would be with a poor boy like me!”
It tore me apart, but I knew I had to be tough about it. I had to make her think I really didn’t want her any longer, when I really wanted her desperately, whole-heartedly, unreservedly. I wanted her to always be there with me. I wanted to marry her. At the same time though, I knew that I could not do for her what someone above my station might do for her. There was no two ways of looking at what had to be done. I had to let her go!
There was much drama, many tears, much deception (on my part) and much heartache on both our parts. It ended well though. I couldn’t go through with it. I confessed my true motivations and she told me that I’d been stupid. Then we had intense make-up kisses through the tears.
Was the intensity of those kisses worth the risk that things might not have turned out so well? No! Those make-up kisses really were intense. I loved them. But my gambit might well have had a different outcome. She probably would not have paid much attention to the lyrics of the Four Seasons song, but she might have decided that a drama-inducing guy was more than she could handle and let me go on my dramatic way, alone, or perhaps to meet my unsuitable, fiery, dramatic match.
When I look back on it now, I realize that it had all been induced by a sense of guilt. I was not worthy of her, so why should she stay with me? If I really, truly loved her, I had to let her go. Why? To prove to myself how truly unworthy I was! To confirm my lowly view of myself. But I was a knight in my shining poverty. I was going to let her go.
I was a fool – an absolute, blithering, adolescent, hormone-jacked, incandescent, glow-in-the-dark fool. She was a saint. St. Lucille. She did not have a happy story from the point at which we did part (1966). Although I’ve had my losses and challenges in life, I’m still living, still walking, breathing, smiling, cripes – I’m still skiing!
Increasingly however, I’ve been running into seniors in my own age range who are plagued by survivor guilt. Why did their partner or long-time friend die, not them? Why did he get Alzheimer’s, yet I am still of sound mind? Why am I blessed to be able to do these things that my friends can’t do?
I have no answers for such questions. I would only advise that like I was as an adolescent, giving up much in order to prove the point of your unworthiness, to attempt to assuage your guilt by sacrifice, is going in the wrong direction.
I feel certain that there is no power looming above us that wants us to be unhappy while we live. Happiness of course is not a toggle that says, “On/Off.” It is a feeling that we can enjoy at varying degrees of intensity. If we are generally happy but not deliriously so, should we be unhappy about it? Not me. I’m going to take what happiness I can from life while life persists. I urge others who may need it to seek counselling for their limiting guilt and get back on the comfortably chugging train. There is much left to see and enjoy on this journey. Come! Sit beside a friend!