Monday, January 22, 2007

From bed to verse

My using the Shirelles' "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" in The Thrill of the Chaste to illustrate common misconceptions about premarital sex has caused a minor kerfuffle in the feminist blog world. Amanda Marcotte's post at Pandagon (which puts the f-word right upfront, as is Marcotte's wont) states erroneously that I got the song's title wrong, then appears to imply that Carole King was responsible for the song's subject matter. "King does have a history of writing love songs where the unfairness of male power is a recurring theme," the blogger writes.

I'm sure Gerry Goffin would be surprised to learn he's exposed "the unfairness of male power." Goffin, King's husband and co-writer, was the lyricist of the duo, and "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" was his idea, as chronicled in Ken Emerson's Always Magic in the Air and elsewhere.

"Will You Love Me Tomorrow" is an undeniable classic. Its lyrics' power comes from the fact that the situation they relate resonates with many listeners' experience.

Yet the driving emotion of the words is not love. It's pathos.

"Tonight with words unspoken/You say that I'm the only one ..." The protagonist is giving her body and her heart away to a man who hasn't even verbalized a commitment to her. Indeed, it's not even clear that he's said he loves her.

A man having sex with a woman he really loves — especially a woman like the song's protagonist, who is clearly hoping for "a lasting treasure" — would never allow her to doubt for one minute that he loved her. That's part of the nature of love: It is empathetic. A loving man wants nothing more than to let his beloved know he does love her and is not going away.

As I write in The Thrill of the Chaste, if you have to ask if he'll love you tomorrow, he doesn't love you tonight.

Buy The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On at