Based on some things a certain female relative recently said to me, it sounds like I may have inadvertently messed up again.
Remember last year when I went to see my favourite band from my youth in concert? Well, my husband and I went to see them again this year. It was a different scene this year, being in a smaller city at a smaller venue. It was an outdoor concert in a beautiful location. Last year, I nervously talked to my favourite guitarist afterward, but I didn’t get any pictures or autographs. This year I was more prepared and I brought along a CD I could ask them to sign if I had the opportunity.
As it turned out, the opportunity arose after the show. After much of the crowd had dissipated, the band members came down from the stage and mingled with the people who remained. They were very kind and friendly to everyone. I got all of them to sign my CD, and I got selfies with two of them, including my favourite guitarist. The lead singer talked to me at length about the making of one of their albums, and it was fascinating stuff. My husband took a picture of us during that conversation. The lead singer also asked me to stick around and hang out with them for a while!! And my favourite guitarist even handed me a camera and asked me to take some pictures for them, really including me in what was going on. It was amazing, and the anti-anxiety medication I’m on made it relatively easy for me to navigate the whole thing. (Although it was still overwhelming to my senses and I was exhausted for days afterward.) It was a world of difference between my experience talking to the guitarist last year, and mingling with the whole band this year.
It was an amazing experience. I have rarely in my life had such positive social experiences. I went home elated. I was literally lying in bed with a smile on my face that night.
Perhaps needless to say in this day and age, I posted a few of the pictures on Facebook.
But then my bubble was burst. A certain female relative warned me that “some people” might be judging me for those pictures, thinking I was behaving inappropriately for a married woman.
So then I was wondering if I should clarify a few points on Facebook, such as:
My husband was with me the whole time.
My husband encouraged me to talk to them.
My husband was so delighted by the whole thing that he was taking pictures and video of me interacting with them the whole time.
I was not flirting. I don’t even know how to flirt.
I joke about how I had a crush on the guitarist when I was a teenager, but I’m not a teenager anymore and don’t feel that way now. I still find the guy exceptionally talented, but I’m in a different place now. I take my marriage vows very, very seriously and I am happy with my husband. I was very happy to be going home with my husband at the end of the night.
On the way home, my husband was talking about what a great time he’d had, and was saying he was sad the night was over. So obviously he wasn’t feeling slighted or like I’d been inappropriate with other men.
But then I was thinking, I don’t know if anyone was actually really judging me, or if it was just the one relative. So if I started clarifying these points on Facebook, I might be making a mountain out of a molehill and embarrassing myself further. So I haven’t posted anything of the sort, but I’m embarrassed and uncomfortable now, wondering what people might be thinking, and a little annoyed that I am always somehow misunderstood.
And why is it that I can’t have one good experience in my life without some kind of negative attached to it?
So, I went to the concert. The evening went much better than I thought it would!
My husband and I got off at the right bus stop (something I always worry about when using public transit in an unfamiliar part of the city) and easily found our way from the bus stop to the venue. Things were a bit of a blur for me once we entered, which is how I always feel entering unfamiliar buildings, but my husband located our seats and I was delighted that for the first half of the concert, there was no one sitting next to me (other than my husband on my right, that is). That helped me adjust to the environment a little better than I otherwise would have.
I was wearing a little black dress with silver-coloured sandals, a long silver chain, and big silver earrings. And I was having a shockingly good hair day, if I may say so myself. It’s taken me until I’m almost 43 years old but I have finally figured out how to manage my naturally-curly hair. I was a mess when I was younger, but I am quite well-groomed now. The one negative thing about the night is that after all the effort I had put into my appearance, I was dressed inappropriately. (I really wish I could show you a photo of what I was wearing so you could see what I mean, but I’m trying to stay anonymous here. Which is the same reason I’m not naming the band. Revealing who it was and when it was can easily give away my location.) No one else was dressed even remotely like me. The audience was made up entirely of middle-aged people and all of the women I could see were wearing plain t-shirts and mom-jeans or other extremely casual outfits. No little black dresses. No dresses or skirts at all.
I actually had this moment where I was confused by the fact that there were only middle-aged people there until it hit me: I am middle aged! These are my peers! And as usual, I am out of step with them.
How do other people intuitively know what to wear to an event so they all look alike? I have educated myself a lot about such things since I used to get bullied as a youth for being unfashionable, but I still always seem to get it wrong. I’m either overdressed or underdressed, but I never nail it.
I was able to see the stage really well from my balcony seat and I liked having a bird’s eye view of things. Once the music started, it was very loud. You know how if you step out of a dark building into bright sunshine, your eyes take a minute to adjust, and until they do you can’t see very well? My ears are like that, and when I’ve told people that, they look at me like I’m crazy, so I gather that not everyone has this experience. But when the loud music started, it was so loud I could hardly hear it, all I could hear was noise. After a few minutes, my hearing adjusted and I was able to hear all the detail and subtleties of the music.
Unfortunately, the opening act was only mediocre, and it was rather dull sitting through their show. But once the band we were there to see took the stage, I was swooning in music-induced bliss. It is difficult to even explain the effect my favourite music has on me. I don’t think most other people, especially at my age, have this same experience and I can’t even find the words to describe it. It is just pure sensory pleasure, like a high. It courses through my body and makes me feel deep and amazing things. This explanation is so inadequate but it’s all I can think of.
This is a band I was into in the 80s and 90s, and I was impressed that after so many years they sounded in top form. Especially the guitar player. He blew me away with how good he was. I knew most of the songs by heart and, although I don’t sing (perhaps that’s a topic for another post), I mouthed the words. I even yelled, “Wooooooo!” a few times. Out loud. That’s something I could never do when I was young (I couldn’t make any sound come out of my mouth when I tried) but it comes out quite naturally now as an adult when I am excited by music.
When it was over, my husband and I went to the washroom and met up back in the lobby. We were standing there discussing getting a taxi and wondering if we should wait a bit since perhaps a lot of people would probably be trying to get taxis just then. I didn’t notice that we were standing right in front of a table. As I’ve mentioned before, I am really not visually observant at all. Like it’s a real problem I have. All of a sudden, the band came out and sat down at the table, with the guitar player, the one who has always been my favourite, the one whose guitar playing transports me to another place, the one I, to be perfectly frank, used to have romantic fantasies about when I was a teenager, sitting directly across the table from where I was standing.
I don’t have a lot of experience with this type of event. I wasn’t expecting that. I was not mentally prepared for such an eventuality. And I will admit right now that I am a hypocrite. Throughout most of my adult life, I’ve always said that if I ever saw a celebrity, I would not go up to him or her and try to initiate a conversation, because what could I possibly say that would be of any interest to them? I don’t mean that in a down-on-myself kind of way, I’m just being realistic. They probably get tired of awkward people saying stupid shit to them. And there are very, very few celebrities I would have any interest in meeting anyway. Despite how it may sound here, I am not generally the star-struck type (at least not now, as an adult). Celebrities are just people, and I’m not really a people-person.
But this seemed different. For one thing, this was one of the very few people I actually would like to meet. And I didn’t have to approach him. He was right there. And he was looking at me. And he looked friendly. And, not knowing how clueless and unsavvy I am, he probably assumed I meant to be there, at that table. So, despite having nothing prepared, I started blurting out what popped into my head, which was:
“Hi! I’m so excited to be here, because I’ve been a fan of your music since the 80s, but I’ve never seen you live before! When I first discovered your music I was living in the middle of nowhere…”
“Oh, where did you grow up?” he asked, with a smile. That threw me for a second. I first discovered their music in 1989 when I was 16, and at that time I was living in a new town, not the town(s) I had grown up in until that point. But after a few seconds of processing, thank goodness, I realized I didn’t need to give him a big explanation. I think I am getting better at this, as I usually have the tendency to, in the spirit of complete accuracy and honesty, over-explain things and include details that are irrelevant to the other person. So I told him the name of the small town where I lived when I first became aware of their music, which was really what he was asking anyway, despite the way he worded it. (See, this is another thing I am getting better at understanding: What people mean, not just the words I hear them say. I was clueless about such things when I was younger.) He had heard of the town and agreed it was a long way from anywhere, but then he said something about how I could have made a road trip to one of the big cities to see them (it would have been a 5 or 6 hour drive to one of the major cities from there). So then I felt like, “Uh oh, he’s thinking I’m not a real fan; that six hours is nothing for a real fan.” And I could hardly start explaining what I was like: Afraid to get my license, afraid of city driving, and at many times in my life, too poor to spend money on concerts. Once these things had changed, they had stopped touring. But then he said, “I guess either way that’s a pretty long haul,” and I nodded.
He asked me how long I’ve been living in this city, and told me that he did the opposite, moving from a big city to a small town and saying how much he loves it.
Then he said, kind of cheekily, “I’m [name],” and held out his hand for me to shake. I said, “I know!” and shook it. Duh. He said, “What’s your name?” And I told him. “That’s my wife’s name!” he said, and showed me a tattoo on his wrist. I couldn’t make out what it was, but I assumed it had to do with his wife and I said, “Cool!” He told me his wife is an author (I already knew that, but I pretended I didn’t because I didn’t want to seem stalkerish) and he explained that’s why living in a small town works for them, because she can do that from anywhere.
Then he looked at my husband and asked who he was, and I introduced him, feeling embarrassed that I hadn’t already done so. The whole time I was kind of feeling like a deer caught in the headlights so I hadn’t thought of it.
Then his band mate next to him said something and he turned toward him and they were talking and I, because awkward is my middle name, just wandered away. My husband followed. So I didn’t get an autograph, or a selfie with him, or anything. I left empty-handed. But I was kind of feeling like I was occupying too much of his time when other people were waiting (this is something I wouldn’t have thought of when I was younger, but all the criticism over the years has made me aware of such things), and I was worried that I was coming across as odd, and of course I hadn’t planned to have a conversation with him at all (and I really prefer interactions that are planned), and although I was happy and amazed that it happened in spite of my lack of intention, I was relieved to make an escape.
My husband says I did well. I had a normal conversation with him about normal things. That was good. A friend of mine said later that she would have been very nervous meeting an attractive celebrity, and mentioned that she once had the opportunity to talk to someone famous but got so nervous and tongue-tied she didn’t actually say anything, and it made me realize: As crazy as it may sound, I almost have an advantage over the average person in this area. I am always nervous talking to people I don’t know well. Nervousness is my baseline. I have learned to talk to people in spite of my nervousness. It’s uncomfortable, and I probably come across as awkward, but I can do it because I have to do it because social nervousness is always there for me. Talking to one of my all-time favourite guitarists did not feel any more nerve-wracking to me than talking to a church greeter in a church lobby or talking to my doctor every time I have an appointment. I was jittery and awkward, yes, but I am always jittery and awkward. That is my norm.
I am also comforted by the fact that he talks to a lot of people and will quickly forget me. He won’t be thinking, “That woman I met earlier sure was awkward.” He won’t be thinking of me at all. That is good. I can live with that.
My husband and I went out into the night air and it felt really good. There’s something special about the sensation of night air on my skin on a warm, late-spring night. It’s one of those rare things that makes sensory sensitivity a delight instead of the hardship it usually is. It was 11pm and I was surprised at how active the city’s streets still seemed at that hour. There were other people streaming away from the venue on foot and I felt like it was safe enough so I asked my husband if he wanted to get the bus home instead of calling for a taxi like we’d planned, and he agreed. It might seem strange that I suggested deviating from a plan, but the truth was, after all that I was socially worn out and I didn’t want to make a phone call or have to talk to a driver if I didn’t have to, and these things tend to fall on me to do because my husband thinks people won’t understand his accent (he’s often right about that, to be fair). So we walked the two blocks to the bus stop and after waiting a few minutes, caught the bus home without incident.
Really, other than my outfit, the whole night could not have gone better, under the circumstances. I’m still kind of amazed that the band member I like best is the one who sat down right in front of me. I would have been happy to meet the others, of course, but the fact that it was my favourite was especially cool.
It even turned out that my husband really enjoyed the music! He grew up in England where this band never had success, so he was not familiar with them and only went to the concert for my sake, but he enjoyed it so much he said he’d like to see them again the next time they tour (assuming they do continue touring, that is). Maybe next time, knowing that they might be available for autographs after the show, I can plan out what to say in advance and maybe even get an actual autograph next time!
I just wish I could get a message to my 16-year-old self and tell her about the conversation. It was a nice experience for me in my 40s, but it would have meant the world to me in my teens!
Okay, I love music. The music I like gives me such tremendous sensory pleasure it’s almost like a high. Unlike most of my peers, I mostly listen to new music. In my youth I was very much into rock and classic rock, but now I like electronica, indie pop, dream pop, etc. I wasn’t happy in my youth, so I’m not really into much that reminds me of it. There are some exceptions, however. Some older music stands the test of time and I can still enjoy it for what it is without being reminded of anything in particular. Some examples are INXS, U2, and of course The Beatles (although the latter were actually from well before my time, but I listened to them in my youth nonetheless).
Then there’s this other band I’m not going to name (I have my reasons). They are seriously underrated, in my opinion. Their sound has always resonated with me and touched me on a deep level, and their lyrics are pure creative genius. I have a great deal of admiration and affection for this band. So when I saw that they are going to be in my city later this month, I got excited.
“Can we go see [name of band] the last weekend of May?” I asked my husband.
“Yeah, okay,” he said, as if I had just asked if he wanted to come to the grocery store with me.
I immediately ordered two tickets.
Now I’m like, what have I done? I don’t go to concerts. Did I forget who I am and what I’m like?
It has been more than 20 years since I’ve been to a concert. And the few concerts I did go to back in the day were not great experiences for me. The worst ones were festival-style. Just a big open field with a stage. I went to two of those. Both experiences were incredibly overstimulating. The crowds were insane.
I’m short, so I couldn’t even see anything. Every once in a while I would jump up as high as I could to catch a fleeting glimpse of Joe Elliot (he was the only one I remember really wanting to see), but otherwise I might as well have been sitting at home listening to a live album. Actually, that would have been better, sensory-wise.
At one of those concerts, I actually ended up alone, because I was getting overwhelmed by the crowd while the friends I was there with wanted to get as close to the stage as possible. I didn’t want to battle my way up there with them, so I hung back. Way back. I ended up right at the outer fringe. I was surrounded by people who were so fucked up they didn’t know or care where they were. Still, that was preferable to heading for the mosh pit.
At one point, I saw an abandoned piece of carpet on the ground. I sat down on it. Then I lied down on it. Then I rolled myself up like a burrito and tried to block out all sensory input. People probably thought I was high. I wasn’t.
Concerts at smaller venues, like the one I now have tickets for (this band isn’t exactly selling out arenas these days, if they ever did), weren’t quite as bad, except that I seemed to be like a magnet for intoxicated strangers who wanted to befriend me, when I was really just there for the music.
Regardless, it’s been a very long time since I’ve attempted to go to one. I don’t know if this is going to be okay for me. Maybe I am being foolish. But part of me is excited, because I really, really like this band. And the tickets I bought are for the balcony, which might be more bearable than the floor. It’s away from the thick of things, which is good, and I have a better chance of being able to see from up there. And I’m going with my husband, who’s a tall, masculine guy with a deep voice and a confident swagger, so being with him should keep me somewhat safe from strangers. And he will be willing to leave with me if I need to; he’s great that way. The tickets were not hugely expensive, thank goodness. I wouldn’t have even considered it if they were.
I am going to wear a little black dress. Should I do black tights and boots, or bare legs and sandals? I look much younger than my age (or so I’m repeatedly told) so I can probably get away with either. But tights are uncomfortable. Bare legs would show off my tattoo. I will probably do bare legs and sandals. But I would feel cooler in tights and boots.
We will probably take the bus there and a taxi home. I will be nervous being out late at night. Whenever I read about people getting mugged or assaulted in this city I’m always comforted by the fact that it only seems to happen after 11pm. We’re never out that late, so it won’t happen to us, I think. This time we likely will be out that late. I don’t know how long the concert will last.
It’s funny how my husband didn’t even bat an eye when I asked if we could go. He was totally unfazed. We’ve been married almost twelve years. When have I ever wanted to go to a concert? We went to a comedy show once, but never a music concert. I suddenly want to do something completely out of character and he’s like yeah, okay, whatever. It’s kind of comforting in a way. Nobody’s putting me in a box or expecting me to remain a certain way all the time. I like that.