On the way to do laundry, finding talk radio at the moment vapid, I hit “scan” on my car radio, and caught the beginning of Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years.”
For years I’ve loved this song—first, Steely Dan is an awesomely talented and original pair of composers/performers, and second, they collaborate with monsters (music slang for incredibly gifted performers), in this case, that awesome guitar solo, an exemplar of both construction and delivery.
I’ve long know the lyrics, of course, although they’ve always been secondary to my interests as a musician, but today, for some reason, they caught my ear:
Are you reelin’ in the years,
Storin’ away the time;
Are you gatherin’ up the tears,
Have you had enough of mine?
Well, quite a few years have passed since I felt quite that way, but I started thinking about my last few relationships.
Sure, years ago, I flatly messed things up. I was young, stupid, clueless. It happens. But more recently, past decade or so, I’ve entered carefully calculated relationships, a step at a time, planting gardens instead of rushing in, sword blazing. And the results were wonderful! Passionate partnerships built on common interests, engaging conversations, intersecting life goals, and so forth.
And yet these relationships went belly-up. Why? No reason. Nothing bad happened. That, in fact, seems to be the problem—with no negative developments, the relationship seemed to be promising enough to call for a long commitment, making it a real threat. One partner decided to strive to control me and force issues she knew would never work. Another decided she’d worry 24/7 that I was seeing other people on the side (I’ve NEVER cheated on a partner—when I told one of my best friends about her assessment, he could only repeat, “What?!” His wife agreed.) More recently, one woman invented such bizarre stories to get ME to be the one to end the relationship that my dad pointed out “You’ve got lots of material for a great novel there.”
Everyone has issues. That’s fine. But I’m tired of people taking a pound of my flesh in attempts to satisfy their own psychoses.
Taking your bat and ball and going home alone is easy. Partnerships take more effort than that—you’d think mature people could get a grip on that. But apparently not. Many relationships seem to be forged youthfully, when idealism clouds any sense of reality.
When Tracy Chapman asks, “Why if there’re so many of us, are people still alone?"--it’s often because they choose—whether they’ll admit it or not—to be alone.
Just take responsibility for such a decision, rather than spending years of other people’s lives when they could be building a life instead of wasting one. Cry your own tears--and be clear about the reason.
I'm reminded of the pilot for "Mad about You." Our couple meets by accident, and are about to part forever, despite obvious sparks (well, this IS television...). Then our hero turns to this vision and says somthing like, "One day, you'll be with your friends, drinking margarettas, complaining 'Why can't I just meet a nice guy?' Well, you DID meet a nice guy--and you let him walk away." He turns. Pause. She says, "Wait! -- you swear you're a nice guy?" And so we have a television series.
That's what people want. Television. Internet romances. Emotion at a distiance.