Monday, December 23, 2013

Looking at You

"Just one look/ That's all it took," sang newly minted Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Linda Ronstadt. Love at first sight has long been a favorite topic of songwriters, but here all that happens is two people looking at each other.

Oh, and noticing that the other one was looking back.

The line "I was looking at you when were you looking at me" is the first and third of every chorus. They repeat so often, it took several listens to realize that in the last chorus, the clauses reverse: "You were looking at me when I was looking at you" [emphasis mine]. In other words, "Oh, so you were looking at me as much, and in the same way, as I was looking at you."

Perhaps a more accurate word would be "scoping," or even "ogling," in the sense of "evaluating positively." Or, the pre-teen speaker rates her: "I was looking at you while you were looking at me/ Baby, you're OK!"

Cupid's arrow is swift, indeed: "It took just one glance... I didn't stand a chance," he admits, and "I took one look at you/ My heart took flight/ I saw those eyes of blue/ All I did was... sigh."

There are no missing words at that ellipsis, just a dramatic... pause. It is also to be noted that most song subjects are blue-eyed, if only because more rhymes with "blue." In "Brown-Eyed Girl" and "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man," those phrases do not end on, and so force the songwriter to rhyme, the word "brown."

We also find out the precise time frame for this tennis game of glances happening: "My heart began to pound/ When class did start/ When class was through, I knew/ I had lost my heart." So, an hour or so, when they were supposed to be listening to the math teacher.

On the next chorus, we have the question, "Did you catch my eye?" when we know for absolute certain that she did, because that is the entire message of the song. It could be rhetorical... or just amateurish. A better phrasing might be, "You sure caught my eye." Or even, "Oh, did you catch my eye" inflected to mean, "Did you ever!"

This time, the story has a happy ending-- the interest seems mutual: "The bell rang, you got up/ And walked out of the door/ Then you glanced back at me/ Now I know for sure."

Simon deserves praise for not writing "walked right out the door," which would have been obvious and lazy, but would have sent the entirely wrong message-- that she was upset at having been ogled, and stalked off, nose skyward. But he would have to learn that "glanced back" is too hard to sing.

During class, he was trying to catch her looking at him without her catching him trying to-- a near impossible game of cat-and-mouse. But then she glances back and him and he feels reassured. And of course, extremely happy that his interest is returned, and by such an "OK" person at that.

He saw her "looking at [him]" when he was "looking at [her]", and bang-- without a word exchanged-- they are in a relationship. "Now I know you're mine," he smiles, confidently.

Yes, folks, it's just that easy.

Whole textbooks have been written about the communicative nature of sight. Seeing is powerful, which is why animals have such incredible vision and why people have spy-scopes. Being seen is weak, which is why animals have camouflage and people have tinted windows.

Except when, of course, when being seen is powerful, which is why birds have stunning plumage and we have stages and TV cameras.

The fact that she is willing to let her see him look back at him lets him know that the attraction is mutual. If he plays his cards right when he actually speaks with her, and he pays off his positive first impression, his confidence may prove out.

It would be interesting to use this song as a catalyst for class discussion about the way seeing and being seen are communicative by themselves, even without words: How do you present yourself; what do you want people to think when they see you? How does it feel when people look at you positively, or negatively? What do you see, in the mirror? Are you careful in how you look at other people? How do you feel when you catch someone looking at you, like in the song?

And how are all of these questions answered differently by teenage boys and girls?

These are all things we know intuitively, yet saying them openly might really help kids, well, watch how they are looking!

Next Song: Lighthouse Point

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