Paul Anka's original 1957 recording reached Number 1 on the ‘Billboard Best Sellers in Stores’ chart (although it climbed no higher than Number 2 on Billboard’s composite ‘Top 100’ chart). It has reportedly sold over nine million copies. ‘Diana’ also hit Number 1 on the ‘R&B Best Sellers’ chart. It also reached Number 1 on the UK's ‘New Musical Express’ chart, staying there for nine weeks, and sold 1.25 million copies in the UK.
I recall being so taken by this song as a 15 and 16-year-old teenager that there was a period of about six months out of my dating year in 1958, that I would purposely look out for attractive looking girls in my own age range or a few years older called, ‘Diana’. My aim was to meet them, date them, and finally, impress them by serenading them with the song 'Diana' one moonlit night before ‘popping the question’. Please note that my question was never one of a marriage proposal. Being less acquainted with classical mythology in my teens as I would become in later life, at the time of my pursuit of ‘Dianas’, l never knew that the Goddess Diana was the goddess of wild animals and the hunt. Who knows? I may have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. Perhaps it was the Dianas I sought who were actually trying to ensnare me instead of the other way 'round?
I dated a few young women called 'Diana' during my 16th year of life, although I must admit in all truth, I would have dated any female beauty of fetching features during my later teens, even had she been named ‘Mucky Molly from Miry Lane’ (a lane commonly known as 'Lover's Lane' to residents of Windybank Estate. Halfway down Miry Lane, off the roadside, was a grain field where sheaves of barley grew tall enough to conceal any loving couple from the main road once they lay down. This lovers spot was a place where many a young man or woman either found true love in the heat of a summer passion or some other kind of love in the long grass during the warm months of July and August. Many a young male found his manhood in that farmer's field, and many a young woman lost something valuable to their personage, reputation and marriage prospects! Such losses could be her self-respect, her name or her virginity.
There were clearly double standards commonly practised during the sexist sixties of Great Britain. Whereas the young men ‘getting caught in the firing line’ would generally be viewed as being no more than ‘Jack the Lad sewing his wild oats’, the young women ‘caught short’ could look forward to nothing less than communal disapproval and local approbation. The male hunters would carry their overfilled testosterone bags all around the pubs and dance halls in Cleckheaton, Heckmondwike and Gomersal in those days, emptying them at every opportunity, while the highest fear of any a young woman was remaining unmarried into her mid-twenties and being called ‘an old maid’. Even when the word ‘spinster’ was used to describe the unmarried status of a young woman in her early twenties, the word was spat out in a suspicious-sounding manner that questioned her sexual status.
The sixties were undoubtedly days when moral codes were applied differently to any young man or woman committing the same sexual act. Society discriminated greatly against all females, much more than any male. Whereas men could fight, fart and f…k when and where they willed, women were still clothed in a blanket of male subservience and male 'protection'.
The ‘battle of the sexes’ was being unfairly fought on infertile ground (especially following the introduction of the 'pill'), where men assumed the moral high ground and the women of the times could only stay stumm, ‘lay low’ and preserve their feminine protest for the ‘Women’s Movement’ of the 1970s, headed by Germaine Greer and millions of feminist followers reading ‘The Female Eunuch’ as they paraded the streets in protest and burned their bras at public demonstrations.
The sixties were undoubtedly the age of 'double standards' whenever judging the actions of the single young man and young woman who became sexually entwined and were later ‘found out’. The women were dammed by society if they did and dumped by their boyfriends if they didn’t! Their willingness in agreeing to ‘making love’ outside marriage confirmed them in the eyes of decent society as 'sluts, harlots and sexual Jezebels' who were prepared to shame their families, sully their reputations and ruin their marriage prospects; all for a three-minute furtive roll and fumble in the barley fields of romantic exploration.
The only way a young man could persuade a decent girl to ‘show all’; particularly if she was a young woman who wanted to wear white on her wedding day (whether she was as pure and untouched as the colour of the wedding dress suggested), was for the man to pay up front for a promise of the goods yet to come. By making a public declaration of his commitment to marry the young woman five years hence,(and placing an advertisement of his intentions in the local newspaper), the man could often sample the goods before his sworn declaration of 'I do', by placing an engagement ring on the third finger of his fiancée’s hand. He knew that such a public commitment would considerably increase his prospects of getting his intended bride to raise the flag for him and to show her true colours before their wedding day.
Indeed, according to historians, the reason why engagement rings are placed on the ring finger of the woman’s left hand in most countries is that it was believed that this finger contained a vein (the vena amoris) that led to the heart. But according to fiancés of the 1960s, he knew that by placing the engagement ring on her third finger, it would be more likely to lead him to her bed long before the 5-year-period of engagement had expired.
Indeed, in England, there existed a legal redress called ‘Breach of Promise’ between the middle ages and the 20th century. This Act stated that any woman whose fiancé broke off their engagement could sue him for ‘Breach of Promise’, whilst a woman, (who was historically regarded as the weaker sex), was permitted to change her mind without penalty. The last prominent case was in 1969, when Eva Haraldsted sued George Best, a prominent Irish footballer and woman philanderer for 'Breach of Promise'. Part of the reasoning behind taking 'Breach of Promise' action in court, was the increased likelihood that many women 'engaged to marry' would not only have lost all future marriage prospects but would be vied as being 'damaged goods', having probably lost their virginity also during the lengthy engagement period.
Back to girls called ‘Diana’. Strangely enough, while there were many more women in my life before my marriage at the (then) old age of twenty-six, I never did date another female after my 16th year of life who was called ‘Diana’. That is unless the young women of the late sixties had cottoned on when they attended the Saturday night dances and provided the young men with whom they dallied with 'false names', as most of the men had done to them for many years past?
Love and peace. Bill xxx