How Quickly They Turn...
Updated: Aug 24, 2019
When I was in 9th grade the landlord sold our house out from under us and we had to move in the middle of the school year. The move was tough on me for a couple of reasons;
There was no warning. We left town the night before Thanksgiving 1970 to visit extended family in Indiana (500 miles away) for the holiday weekend. Upon returning we learned the house was sold and we had to be out by January. We had lived there for 4 years.
In the school district we moved from, 9th grade was the 1st year of high school; in the school district we moved to, 9th grade was the last year of middle school, so I was relegated from high school back to middle school. It felt like a demotion. The textbooks and curriculum were different. My grades suffered.
I had developed a network of musical friends and most of them went to the prior high school. The basis of our friendships revolved around music, playing in bands and "related activities."
After the move I still maintained those relationships and activities - especially the main band I was in; Open Road Conspiracy.
So I was the new kid at a new school and didn't know anybody.
One day my gym coach said, "EuDaly, you're skinny and long-legged, I bet you'd be a good runner. I want you to run the quarter mile and see how you do."
So I ran the quarter mile barefoot on asphalt with a track team guy pacing me - he struggled to keep up. I don't remember my time but it was very close to the all-time school record.
"All you need" said the coach, "is a decent pair of tennis shoes and you could beat the all-time record easy! I want you to join the track team!"
Looking back on it, I probably said the wrong thing the wrong way;
"No thanks, coach, I've got better things to do than run around in circles every afternoon."
"What could possibly be more important than breaking the school record?"
"Rehearsing in the afternoon with my band" - end of discussion.
Thereupon began what I now realize was a harassment campaign probably instigated by the coach. Not only was I the new kid, I was a pariah with no school spirit.
People (usually jock-types) I didn't even know were accosting me in the hall;
"Hey man, why are you such a jerk!? Where's your school spirit? Why won't you join the track team!?"
I was never swayed, not even close. I was not the least bit interested in athletics, and nothing was going to get in the way of me doing what I wanted, which was playing guitar in a band. But in the meantime I had to endure slings and arrows everyday at school from people I didn't know. I felt uprooted, outcast and beat down, and I missed my former school and the daily interactions with my musical friends horribly.
Then a few weeks later, as fate would have it, my band was booked at that very same school for a 3-hour afternoon "sock-hop" - a dance in the gym. And, as I remember, for the first time, real money; we made $15.00 apiece. We were a 5-piece band so I assume $75.00 was the gross. I don't remember how the gig happened; I certainly didn't book it.
I was understandably nervous. I had already learned that it was easier for me to play for people I didn't know, and here I was having to play for people I did know, or at least who knew me, and furthermore, they were already biased against me. If they didn't like us I was the one who had to face everybody the next day. I really didn't want to do the gig but was outvoted by the rest of the band.
There was another reason I didn't want to play the gig. I was in this band and playing these gigs (and the accompanying "activities") - school dances like this one, coffeehouses, special events etc. - on the sly. My parents didn't know about it. I had a younger brother in 7th grade. I didn't think he would be at the dance but if I played this gig he might find out and have leverage over me. However, the rest of the band was not going to pass up getting paid just so I could avoid trouble at home. So I had to take one for the team.
We played the gig.
It was a resounding success.
My brother told me later that, the next day, the coach told his class, "That band yesterday played the best version of Blue Suede Shoes I've ever heard!" It was then that my brother found out about my extra-curricular activities. And I was right, he did hold it over my head, the little bastard. As it turns out, he overplayed his hand and held it over my head a little too long. By the time he told on me, I didn't care; it was too late for my parents to be able to do anything about it. I was too committed. They realized they couldn't stop me and when I officially committed myself to music as a career a few years later, they were very supportive.
The harassment ceased and for the rest of that school year, I was cool and popular. I went from being a jerk with no school spirit to hip - from one day to the next - all because I played guitar in a real band. I knew I hadn't changed - people's perception of me is what changed.
While I enjoyed relief from the persecution I had been enduring, it entered and stuck in my mind that this was because of the guitar; it wasn't real friendship, it wasn't because of me, it was the guitar. People went from dissing me one day to wanting to be my friend the next day because they saw me play guitar in a band.
And if people are that fickle, I thought, it could just as easily go the other way.
How quickly they turn.
So I didn't let it go to my head.
It was at that point in my life that I began to think about and take stock of who real friends are, and why. I realized I needed to be careful about who I let in.
I've recently come across an interesting term: asymmetry of intimacy. It occurs because one is a public figure; you know me but I don't know you.
I also subsequently learned about the psychological phenomenon of transference, how it can manifest as positive or negative and how, because I am somewhat of a public figure, I can easily be the object of transference; one psychologist I've spoken with about it characterized me as having a "high transference liability."
I only spent one semester at that school. I have no lasting relationships from it. At the end of the school year we moved for the second time in six months and that Fall, again, I started over at a new school. However, I had learned that I could leverage my love of music and playing guitar into more than just playing guitar; I now had a technique for gaining acceptance and popularity; the guitar was my ticket.
So that gig taught me that, yes, there are people who want to get close to me simply because of my guitar playing; there are people who are attracted to me because of what I do, not who I am. I'm not complaining; it comes with the territory. In some ways, what I do is because of what I am. The dichotomy between doing and being is less stark with someone like me than what is usual in our culture.
Nevertheless, there is asymmetry of intimacy; it's not unusual for people to come up and talk to me like they know me, and I have no idea who they are. To add insult to injury I am horrible with names and always have been. Sometimes I know who the person is but I just can't remember their name. It can be very awkward, especially when I should introduce them to someone else who is standing there. It must be exponentially worse for someone who is really famous.
On the other hand, it's not all negative; being a public figure - a musician - has also been a doorway into some really deep and lasting friendships - usually with other musicians, but there have been some real friendships forged with fans as well, people who come to see me play on a regular basis, who love and have benefitted from what I do, and who stepped up and helped me in a time of need (see An Open Letter).
Sooner or later you find out who your real friends are. As for the others...
How quickly they turn.
P.S. The term "asymmetry of intimacy" was, as far as I know, coined by Richard Beck, who is a philosopher, theologian and psychology professor that I follow. His blog is Experimental Theology. He used the term off-handedly in the context of being a public figure. That particular blog is here. I thought the term was interesting and very descriptive. I have since thought a lot about it.
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