Friends First; Lovers Later

Once upon a time not so long ago there was a virginal mood upon the land. Reflected in the Mickey Rooney-and-Judy Garland flicks of the 30s, the Doris Day-and-Rock Hudson films of the 50s, along with the smoky love songs of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Sure, people drew outside the lines back then; but few flaunted it.

In today’s more fluid ethical culture, there aren’t many lines aside from homicide or treason that we can’t cross legally. Or at least comfortably. Surely not today’s custom of falling in and out of beds and loves. This is more properly understood as the freedom to be who we are, however we are, with whomever we are. A new 20th C pill and philosophy freed us from the archaic chains of an outworn Judaic-Christian ethos. Thank you very much.

But here’s the funny thing. That ancient ethos wore so long and so well that we can still spot anthropological evidence of it among surviving elders of that traditional friends-first-lovers-later prescription for love. Tracking this trail will often bring you to couples holding veined hands on park benches… strolling the Loop side by side….attending churches, concerts, and yep old Mickey-and-Judy film festivals.

Today’s cooler culture will occasionally pause in amused wonder. How cute…how quaint…how can they stand it. If any of the local elders are celebrating a 50th or a 75th wedding anniversary — well, that’s motive enough for some eager twentysomething reporter to get out there with a camera and an interview. I mean, being young and cool doesn’t prevent you from being polite and oh so indulgent.

Thus the inevitably perky interview question: “What must it be like…?” But even if that old married couple could find the exact words, could that young unattached single really understand? Would they really want to understand? Would anyone today?

Perhaps the answer’s blowin’ in the wind. Perhaps another of those collective feelings in which a society has traveled so far in one direction, the other seems to have a whole new appeal to it.

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