One of the loveliest songs in the Modern Greek repertoire was written for the movie “The Misfit,” released in 1979. The film starred Pavlos Sideropoulos, at the time a Greek Jim Morrison, who, like Morrison, died from heroin addiction in the time-honored fashion of the era’s rock gods. The film was a flop when it was released, but became a cult classic along with the signature song.
The song is “Na M’Agapas.” It can be translated as “Please Try to Love Me,”* and is in the chorus followed by “as much as you can.” The singer is beseeching his girlfriend, writing to her at 5 AM out of great need and because, in his eyes, she is all that is left to him in the world. It is all terribly romantic and it is all about him and his desperate need to be loved.
An utterly unromantic version of the theme was one of the anthems of my Northern European youth: Johnny Rotten screeching, “We only wanted to be loved!” over and over again (for seven full minutes) in a falsetto bearing zero resemblance to that of Barry Gibb. Rotten is not addressing the one and only, it is more a cry for societal acceptance, but it resonated with his audience in both senses.
The need to be loved – accepted fully by another human being – drives the young to an extraordinary degree. Part of it is no doubt a function of the drive to procreate. Agreeing to procreate with someone is perhaps the most primal kind of acceptance: your genes are good enough to be the genes of my future children. Michael Douglas knew a thing or two, when he picked up the much younger Zeta-Jones with the line, “I want you to be the mother of my children.” He skipped straight to the primal crux of the matter and won the girl.
Moving through middle age as a female – becoming a crone – brings new revelations on the nature of love. The ability to produce children ends for women long before the sex drive and life itself are extinguished. Freed from the need for that primal acceptance necessary to reproduce, a much different horizon opens up where love is concerned. First and foremost it allows for genuine self-love, often a stumbling block in youth.
When we search for that perfect set of genes in youth, we are not always so tolerant of how the genes express themselves. It may be a primal acceptance, but only rarely is it a genuine and full acceptance of the other person. We measure the love we feel we are given, and mete out the love we return accordingly. With self-love and resting comfortably in yourself comes the ability to love with no objective in mind other than to love. The wonder comes purely from being able to love, not from obtaining something – sex, marriage, children, submission – from the beloved.
It seems ironic that this ability to love unconditionally, innocently even, develops with age, when it is so craved by the young. With age, you also gain character, confidence, even a degree of wisdom perhaps. The wine has matured nicely, but the casket is scarred, stained and faded. To appreciate the wine you have to look beyond the outward manifestation to what lies within.
Especially for straight women, this poses a conundrum, since men do not experience the same liberation from the need to reproduce and find it difficult to overlook the stained casket (Johnny Rotten from above being a notable exception). More is the pity, since the forgiving love of a hearty crone might just bring the same wonder to the recipient as to the giver. Thanks to being a crone, however, she will be fine either way.
* For any language nerds out there, it is a hortatory subjunctive, the subjunctive being marked in Modern Greek by the particle ‘na’.