The Eagle’s song Lyin’ Eyes is such a distinctive song even in modern times. For the over thirties, I’m sure you know the words, but have you stopped to consider their meaning?
She lives with an older man of wealth who the narrator suggests is cold towards her (but let's not confuse this with him not loving her). At times she feels lonely whereupon she spends time with a younger man who dreams of a future for them both. Her promise to him is that one day they'll be together always—because of the way she feels about him in contrast to the way she feels about the older man—, but right now she must return to the older men.
Such a duplicitous life has her crying on reflection. The older man she loves and stays with, the younger man she loves and leaves. But does she love either?
In everyday speak, she loves the younger man because culturally we are taught love is a feeling. If this were a movie, we would expect her to go to the younger man and follow her heart because love speaks from there. Yet, there is no bestowal of love in that relationship. The lyrics are clear in that her love is ‘only’ bestowed upon the older man. In saying this, she loves him rationally. And yet, she does not ‘feel’ love for him. So, does this mean she feels nothing at all for him?
No, it does not!
The song tells us the younger man has her feel romantically as she once felt for the older man. Such a reference—we can assume—is the romantic feeling of falling in love which she seems to have felt some time back with the older man. But now she feels differently.
In the movie We Don’t Live Here Anymore Edith tells Jack that 'you love the one you’re having the affair with.' Jack feels this way for Edith, romantically, in that ‘falling in love’ way, but he also has deep feelings for his wife, Terry, who he’s been married to for many years. The same will be true for the lady in Lyin’ Eyes. If she didn’t feel something for the older man she would be less inclined to lie to him about her trips across town and lament with tears of the situation she finds herself in.
And so, the answer to the question is she loves the older man and does not love the younger on the basis that love is bestowed, not felt. This is why she cries at night. She longs to be with the younger man who she feels romantically towards, but knows to be with him means loving him in exchange for loving the older man who gives her the life she enjoys.
For clarity this means she 'loves' the older man, and in everyday language is 'in love' with the younger man. The former includes reasoned immense value, commitment to attend and tend to the beloved and abstracted ownership of them. The latter includes emotional value, commitment and attachment but is absent of the reasoned (and much strong) attributes of the former.
To the cynic, however (and regardless of the nuances of love described above), they see a gold-digger who uses the older man to better herself.
Culturally, there is a view that romantic love ‘must’ include romantic feelings, and love cannot be exploitative. But, are these two points true?
Who are we to decide what rational lovers should feel? Or, decide a lover’s benefit? Firstly, feelings are personal, so qualitatively and quantitatively they are not our business. If a lover will only love in the presence of romantic feelings, good for them. If, however, they will love in the absence of such, then what’s wrong with that as long as their love itself is authentic?
Secondly, wouldn’t it be true to say if a lover is treated badly we would expect them to leave their beloved? So, love has expected benefit if good treatment is expected. Are we, therefore, to decide the quantity, or quality, of such benefit for any lover?
Well, there you have it. Have a listen, look up the lyrics and see how you feel about the song with a slightly different perspective. Maybe you’ll find a gold-digger in there, but read and listen for hints in the lyrics, there is more than meets the eyes and ears to this clever song.
You can find the lyrics here.