Sometimes songs remind me in a roundabout way how many things have changed in my lifetime, and how what I thought was my future as a little girl ended up changing completely within a few years. Thank you, Massive Cultural Shift! Unless you have stood in this space, with one foot rooted in deep tradition and one in a limitless future, it is hard to describe, and hard to impress the conflict in integrating the two over time.

Oddly enough, the song that got me thinking about this was “Daydream Believer” by the Monkees. It was a lyric that never sat quite right with me when I was a kid, and now I think I know why. As I interpret it, it is not a particularly pretty picture, despite the catchy chorus and the cheeky tones of cutie-pie Davy Jones. It is the story of a young couple, who come to find that the very real grind of daily life and the responsibilities of marriage are not all that romantic. At that time, it was the norm for women to be married by age 20; men just over 23, and to get right on with producing a family. Now, when it is common for people to delay getting married until their late 20s, 30s, 40s, or even to forgo the whole damn thing, getting married at 20 seems rushed and foolish.

In the song, the young married man begins his day, like every day, and wakes reluctantly to the relentless alarm bell, and uses that cold and stinging shaving razor to prepare himself for another day of tedious work. His bride, the Homecoming Queen, the Daydream Believer, the beautiful popular joyful glowing girl, the one he was lucky to get, begins her day too. It’s one of decidedly-unregal and non-dreamy housewifely tasks like cooking and cleaning and ironing and doing whatever she can to make her husband’s life easier, “without dollar one to spend.” He worries that he has let this lovely creature down. She wonders where her white knight and Prince Charming went. They are struggling, and they look different to each other now than they did on their wedding day, full of excitement and hope. They are playing house, and trying to pretend, or hope, that it will all be OK someday.

Sonny and Cher in “I Got You Babe” are in the same boat, but are a little more cheery about their poverty and isolation. They have each other, and that seems to be sufficient nourishment. They have rejected a typical life, know that there is a high cost to it, but are up for it. Of course, real-life couple Sonny and Cher didn’t make it. Behind the equanimity of “I Got You Babe” and shared sunny hippie sentiment, there was a controlling man and an unhappy woman, and she eventually broke away. They were one of the millions who came together in tradition and crumbled with the rise of feminism and changing times. They could not adapt nor grow as a couple. At Sonny’s funeral I remember seeing a broken Cher speak in such grief, in this cracking voice, saying how much she admired him and how much she loved him. Sad, especially so because I doubt she was ever able to tell him that after they split.

The lyrical couple in “Daydream Believer,” did they make it? I don’t know. Some couples just gritted though it, made do, worked and believed in the dream, and sometimes it came true. Some stayed together because they were afraid to make a change. Some divorced or annulled, and started over. Jobs for women slowly started to expand, making it possible for them to live independently from a man, and men also began to want more from a wife than a housefrau; they wanted a real partner, and friend.

When I was little, there was no option to not get married and not have children. Not really. You might someday go to college, but your real purpose in going would be to attract a quality husband who would support you and your future 3.5 children. If you had a job, it would be as a shopgirl or a teacher or a secretary, and you would be expected to give it up the minute you got married. Men were supposed to be the Almighty Protectors, providers of safety and solvency and surety, Mowers Of Lawn, Fixers Of Car, Smokers Of Pipe. But as we have all come to accept through endless pop psychology books, Phil Donohue and Marlo Thomas television specials, and common sense, men and women are more than a set bunch of gender roles. Tradition is part of most people, yes, but each human takes on the world in a unique way, and should be able to be free to choose the life that best suits him or her. That seems sensible, right?

Because I choose to be somewhat silly, I now give you this funny remake of “Daydream Believer.” Right on!