Words without experience," said Vladimir Nabokov, "are meaningless." He might even have been right about that, under some circumstances. But there are some experiences you hope are nothing but words; I have always found it difficult to believe that Nabokov's obsessive Humbert Humbert, unreliable narrator that he is, was actually seduced by twelve-year-old Dolores Haze.

But if Humbert is unreliable, what about Gerry Goffin?

This song has perplexed me for more than half a century. Why is this Pretty Young Thing coming on to some Old Guy? And that line about "I belong to somebody else" — is this his major motivation, or is he just using it as an excuse to blow off the young lady? Were he unattached, would he be receptive? What does she see in him anyway? Why was Donny Osmond covering this song at the ripe old age of fourteen? And how come all these Officially Virtuous Men were white?

Seriously. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were white, and so was Doc Pomus, but they had the Coasters singing this:

I tried to talk but I just stuttered,
What's your name? What's your name?
What's your name? What's your name?
Young blood, young blood, young blood
I can't get you out of my mind

The results: an unfortunate meeting with Dad, who isn't about to put up with this sort of thing, and a loss of sleep. Chuck Berry, more experienced at this sort of thing, noticed Little Queenie over by the jukebox: "She's too cute to be a minute over seventeen." And, well, we're talking Chuck Berry here.

Of course, older woman/younger man presented no such issues. Bobby Goldsboro's "Summer (The First Time)" explained it in one line: "She was thirty-one / I was seventeen."

How is any of this relevant to my existence, you ask? Well, I was thirty-three or thereabouts, and she, um, wasn't.

We'd run across each other out in BBS Land; she said she was sixteen, and that she would rather talk on the phone, and for some reason I handed over my number. We talked. And we talked. Might have been a dozen hours, maybe more, over a couple of weeks, before we agreed to meet at a user-group gathering. As a precautionary measure, we arranged for individual chaperones, hers an older brother, mine a woman with whom I was getting nowhere. We met, but we didn't have much time to ourselves; she was surrounded by her own peer group, and my ostensible date left with one of the younger guys.

We met again at a user-group meeting, at which time I discovered her real name, which was something else, and her real age, which was, um, twelve. I also discovered that the family had decided to remove her telephone extension.

And then they moved away, and that was the end of that. Except that about a decade later, she was back in town, and we had lunch. As a precautionary measure, she'd brought her current partner, an Older Woman. A splendid time was had by all, and that really was the end of that.

The Vent

  25 September 2017

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