In his song “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” from the Magic album (2007), Bruce Springsteen sings, “The girls in their summer clothes // In the cool of the evening light // The girls in their summer clothes pass me by.” The passing girls’ complete lack of interest in him is a blow to the song’s narrator’s ego and a sad coming-to-terms with the loss of his youthful allure and youth in general. Bruce was fifty-seven years old when that song was released.
Similarly, another of my favorite musical artists, the Scranton, PA, pop-punk band The Menzingers in their song “Lookers” sing:
“Lost in a picture frame
The way our bodies used to behave
The way we smiled in the moment
Before they permanently froze
But that was the old me and you
When we were both lookers”
Both of these songs drip with nostalgia for the salad days of the singers’ youth and regret for the impossibility of recapturing them. Both songs speak to me in the way some songs do more than others. There was clearly a day when the narrators in both songs were able to turn the girls’ heads and were much more satisfied with their lives. However, that day is no longer, and they are both being forced to reckon with their diminishing attractiveness and with being slowly written out of the story that is life.
I can’t say that I can identify with the narrators’ days as turners of heads or as “lookers,” but I – and I would assume most people past forty – can identify with their feelings of despondency and yearning for their lost youths. It was George Bernard Shaw who once wrote that “Youth is the most precious thing in life; it is too bad it has to be wasted on young folks.”
I may be misjudging, but I find it odd or disingenuous that most middle aged and beyond folks claim that – if they were given the opportunity – they would never want to be young again. Although, some like to add the caveat that they would but only if they could take their gained knowledge back with them. As in the case of most hypotheticals, the bolder claim is an easy one to make. In this thought experiment, the “bolder case” would be “I’d rather be old and closer to death than young with decades yet to live.” I wonder, however, how many who make that claim, especially those whose bodies and minds are beginning to betray them, would actually jump at the chance to be young again if it were a magical reality. Personally, I never hesitate in my response, I’d absolutely be transformed back into a younger version of myself with or without the lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Perhaps, a part of my willingness to recycle myself is due to the fact that I struggle intellectually to put much stock in a cognizant existence after this earthly life is through. I keep the door open slightly to the possibility that I’m wrong, but I have found it easier to deeply appreciate my life and those who people it with the belief that my existence is finite rather than banking on what may or not be behind Door #2. I have to believe that many of those who would reject the opportunity to be young again do so with firm faith that some sort of heaven exists even if — as is often the case — their own chances of being admitted are dubious at best.
Despite my wistful longing for a return to youth, I know it is a fantasy. In fact and to the contrary, one of my favorite maxims of recent coinage – often attributed to Scott O’Neill, a former owner of the Philadelphia 76ers – is to “be where [and when] your feet are.” In the end, what/when else is there? To quote Shakespeare, “What’s done is done.” And unless the circular theory of time is true, the future is an illusion. The point, of course, is to live as much as is possible in the present moment.
My advice to the protagonists in Springsteen’s and The Menzingers’ songs comes from one of my favorite poems by Lord Tennyson,“Ulysses” in which the eponymous speaker, who in his twilight years after a youth of romance and adventure, encourages:
“Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are—”
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One thought on ““Girls in Their Summer Clothes””
You’re still young, Ty!! I would enjoy nothing more than to spend the rest of my life with good friends like you!