Friday, February 6, 2015

The 80's

Spencer Dryden

The early 80's was one of the most magical times of my life. In April of 1981, I emerged like a butterfly from a cocoon after a terrible first marriage. It was such a relief that in the aftermath I flitted from flower to flower blissfully in love with life.
I normally embrace change with all the enthusiasm of embracing a cactus, but in the wake of an ugly divorce, Madison had suddenly become a very small town. When I was offered an opportunity to move to Minneapolis as part of a joint venture, I leaped at the chance. My part of the property split was a bed, a chair, a desk, a dresser and a television. I didn't need anything more. The first day I woke up in my new bungalow apartment, I wept for joy. In Minneapolis, all I would have to say was that I was divorced. It seemed everyone was divorced in the early '80's, so I never had to explain the circus my life had become before the move.
At age thirty-two I had my first experience of independent adulthood. I started doing things I wanted to do, when I wanted to do them. I learned to ski, I joined a tennis club, and oddly enough, I took up ball room dancing. I don't dance any more, but I loved dancing back then. All great dance music is eight beats and lots of the music then was great partner dancing music. It was a fun, non-threatening way to meet women, which was at the top of my agenda. I loved the feel of a woman following my lead. In ballroom dance, like Swing, a woman has to surrender herself if she wants to dance without falling down. Women who went dancing loved that kind of surrender. Dancing was foreplay. Sometimes, after a night of dancing the leader switched. I loved the transition from leader to follower. In many of my stories, my male MC is a slightly clueless guy who falls under the spell of a sexually assertive woman. I know it's a common male fantasy, but that was my life then. Casual sex  seemed so harmless before AIDS.  In all honesty, I might still be living in that little apartment with just a few sticks of furniture, but life happens while you are making plans.
In the 80's I became a positive motivation junkie, in control of my inner dialogue, censoring all negativity  and full of plans to achieve my lofty goals. I chased rainbows. None of my plans worked out. But sometimes miracles are measured by what doesn't happen. If my plans had succeeded I would have missed the great love of my life, which also had its origin in the 80's. My second wife and I met in the sauna of an exercise area in the building where we both worked. According to her, it was love at first sight. I wasn't the least bit interested in a serious relationship, so it took me nearly the rest of the decade to come to my senses. She waited until I was ready.   She doesn't dance, but that's okay, we've done the dance of life together for twenty-seven years now. I have no interest in changing partners. My six word biography is: Got the girl; forgot the money.
I loved the music of the 80's, MTV, the clothes, the optimism, the big hair, the promise of personal computing. In retrospect I'm a little surprised by how easily  I was seduced by "living in the material world", but as the rock philosopher, Cyndi Lauper said, "Money changes everything". It did.  I never thought of myself as selling out. It was more like buying in. My sixties idealism had become a dead end street. I more or less missed the 70's with my head in my hands trying to work my way though a toxic relationship while earning an MBA. The 80's  was a time to be alive. I traded my love beads for silk ties and grabbed for the brass ring.
The 80's are long gone. I'm not into serious goal planning any more. It's far more important to try to live in the present moment.  I try to follow my heart now. I have a positive outlook most of the time, but it's tempered by the sight of storm clouds on the horizon. I try not to give into the fear, but it's hard to imagine how we are going to avoid Armageddon with a group of people who broadcast the beheading of prisoners while spewing hate. A great dark age could easily befall us.
One of the most memorable thing about the 80's  to me was the hubris-the idea, the utter delusion, that a bunch of famous musicians could "come together as one"-and record a song that would lead to the end of hunger in Africa. We ignored entropy then, that's why the cute little meme of the butterfly effect doesn't work. "But if you just believe, there's no way we can fall."

12 comments:

  1. We were idealistic back then. Not such a bad thing when you're young. Sorry your first marriage was such a disaster, my friend, but it seems you came through it as you should. as a learning experience. Even Buddha had to live as a beggar.

    Being a basically positive person, it's difficult for me to envision an upcoming dark age. But the last one happened due to Christianity, and now Islam is the largest (and perhaps most influential) group of believers/zealots. It *could* happen here.

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    1. Hi Daddy:
      When you start burning people alive in cages, one could argue that the descent into madness has begun.

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    2. What I find ironic is that the zealots really believe that their barbarism will force others to bend to their wills. Women will all start wearing tents with eye-holes and staying at home, living only to "service" their masters. Everyone will give up whatever religion they had chosen and embrace their version of Islam. What a confused place it must be, in their heads. And threatening to blow them to pieces will only please them, since they truly believe they are on a fast track to heaven. Since they don't care about their own lives, they sure as shit don't care about anyone else's.

      It's a clash between the 13th century and the 21st. I presume modernity will prevail, but it's going to be a long fight. Even here, there are sects who keep themselves apart, choosing to live in the past. When the only interaction we have with them is buying their furniture, we enjoy the peek into the past they allow us. But if the Amish, the Mennonites, or the Hasidic Jews ever tried to enforce their stern version of God's law on the rest of us, they wouldn't be so benignly tolerated. The only reason they succeed is because they keep to themselves. I just read about the largest recent measles outbreak being among the Amish, where over 300 people got it, since none of them get vaccinated. Crazy, in this day and age, to risk disease and death for your children because of your belief in a "big-daddy in the sky"...but even seemingly intelligent "modern" people make ill-advised choices.

      If the Islamic extremists really wanted to create their new caliphate, the best way would be to settle down and live an isolated life, like the Amish. But they're like conservatives the world over. It's not enough for them to force their immediate families to obey their view of right and wrong. They must force the entire world to accept it, lest their own young people begin to wonder what life might be like "on the other side." That's what will ultimately doom them.
      "How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm, now that they've seen New York?"

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    3. What strikes me is that religion becomes evil in direct proportion to how zealous the believer is.

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  2. I write strong, assertive female MCs, usually paired with beta males, sometimes with alpha around the edges. I just bought your book to see how differently you write this kind of pairing. And my husband refused to finish my last book, telling me there was "too much sex" in it. I'm wondering if he'll think the same about your book, since it's not written by me.

    I love Minneapolis...in fact, I love the whole state of Minnesota, which is why my latest series is set up there. Husband has relatives up there, and we visit once a year, when we can get enough time off work to camp up there. Gives me another reason to want to read your book.

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    1. Thanks Fiona:
      I write for people like me with short attention spans. Hope you like it. I have a couple more in the pipe line.

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  3. Hi, Spencer,

    I love your open-heartedness. And I definitely agree about dancing. It can be much more erotic than actual sex.

    Don't believe the dark ages are coming. That's just playing into the hands of the fanatics.

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  4. I started a comment along the "descent into darkness" lines, and then thought better of it. I'm not sure that there are more bad things happening now than there used to be. The things that do happen, though, get broadcast around the world at the speed of electronic gossip, which is in itself an incentive for increasingly dramatic instances of evil.

    We don't hear much about the happy times, so it's especially nice to read about a magical time in your life, Spencer, and to celebrate the emerging butterfly without worrying about the meme of the "butterfly effect."

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  5. Sometimes I think the world is going to hell - quickly, but then imagine if we'd had radio and TV back in the days of Crusades and the Inquisition and the Hundred Years war - what has actually changed?

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    1. Indeed. If anything it was more brutal then. I don't now about you but a bunch of guy charging each other with swords and shields ala 300 seems like a horrible way to die.

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  6. Your post brought me back to that magical post-divorce feeling. I believed with all my heart that it was wrong to get divorced. I felt so guilty about doing it. And yet there was this undeniable happiness that insisted on bubbling up as I became free. I remember telling my sister I was getting divorced and she said, "You sound...excited." I didn't want that to be true, because I worried that made me a bad person. But god it was true. I'm glad you had that same magical experience of freedom.

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    1. Annabeth:
      In a private session with the divorce counselor I asked him why I didn't feel bad. He said it was because 'your marriage died a long time ago and you've done your grieving already.' Yup.

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