The Grammys

Posted on March 5, 2015


Okay.  I am a few weeks late in putting this one out.  If you read my last post, you know that I was away on an anniversary trip with my wife.  I was a complete slacker on that trip (it was wonderful), and then paid for it the next week by playing catch-up[1].

So let’s take a look at the Grammys.  Sam Smith cleaned up with the song, “Stay With Me.”  As many have pointed out, the melody line is basically the same as Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down.”[2]  Lyrically, it is as a slightly more plaintive version of Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight” or (somewhat ironically) Sammi Smith’s recording of the Kris Kristofferson tune “Help Me Make It Through The Night.”  In any event, the lyric must be resonating with a lot of people as it was not only a hit, but managed to garner the most support from Grammy voters.

Lyrically, this is a plea for a one night stand with a veritable stranger  (or perhaps for the stranger to stay at least stay the rest of the night) as an analgesic for emotional pain.  On the one hand, this would actually achieve the immediate desired effect.  The brain would get a boost of dopamine and endorphins along with a release of the hormone oxytocin.  Together these would produce a greater sense of wellbeing.  You can achieve a similar result with cocaine[3] (not that I would recommend that as an alternative).  In some ways, Sam and Sammi are going to get what they were after without having to obtain illegal drugs.

So then what’s the problem?  You are hijacking the system.  Sex is an attachment behavior.  Oxytocin is designed to make you attach to your sexual partner.  In relationship, it is the cuddle hormone.  In casual sex, it is the hormone of bad decisions.  In relationship it keeps newlyweds well bonded in those first years of marriage while a more mature love is still developing.  It acts in favor of attachment and closeness.  In casual sex, first, it can cause one to become attached to someone who really is not a good partner.  Early in relationship, the other person may be able to cover up the relationship red flags well enough.  If you become sexually involved early, by the time the signs become evident, your brain has already bonded to this person.  Second, if you are having numerous partners, your attachment system is really getting jacked up.  The effect of the oxytocin becomes diluted and makes it more difficult to form effective attachment relationships.

It is a normal part of the human experience to need someone to whom you matter to whom you can turn for comfort and support.  Isolation is inherently traumatizing for human beings.  Sex with strangers is no better than other types of drugs for meeting this need.  In our culture, there is a tendency to use intercourse and intimacy interchangeably.  They are not one and the same.  If you have the former without the latter, you are missing the best part.

[1] Not to be confused with playing Ketchup.  By the way, why did they change the spelling from “Catsup” to “Ketchup?”  Why was “catsup” pronounced “ketch-up” anyway?

[2] As an aside, the late George Harrison received a lifetime achievement award posthumously on the same night.  George lost a million dollar suit for his song “My Sweet Lord” for its similarities to the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine.”  George Harrison and Tom Petty played together in The Traveling Wilburys.”  The circle is unbroken.  Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handy.

[3] Incidentally, brain scans of regular porn users and regular cocaine users look very similar, same regions deadened.