Yesterday, while already feeling sorry for myself for being waylaid by sciatica, I got the news that Prince had died that morning. I realize this is a man I never met and never would have, (despite my youthful fantasies of meeting him somewhere when he decides I’m the woman he has been looking for all his life) but the news hit me hard. I’m pretty sure it will go down as a time-marker in my life, like the moon-landing or the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. “Do you remember where you were when you heard that Prince died?” “Oh, yeah! I was lying on my couch with sciatica (which I don’t get anymore because I lead an active, healthy life of youthful vigor), scrolling through Facebook, when my husband called…” I actually cried all day and still would be if not for an intense effort to stop looking at Facebook and YouTube.
I was sad when David Bowie died. I am always sad when we lose an artist that made the world a better place. I felt devastated when Michael Jackson died and I shed many tears over his loss. It is particularly heart-breaking when their death was at their own hands, such as Robin Williams. It’s hard to imagine someone who brought so much joy to so many people could be in so much pain himself. I was sad when Joe Cocker died. He was a big part of my childhood, and losing him was like losing a piece of my mom again. Still, no other celebrity death has hit me like Prince’s.
I spent a good deal of my energy yesterday telling myself I was being ridiculous. I’m pretty good at berating myself and I did a great job of it. “Seriously, why get so upset at the death of someone you didn’t even know?!” “You’re being so dumb, Lynn!” “What a loser…”
In the shower today I had some memories that changed my perspective on what I had lost. I remembered watching Purple Rain over and over on a rented VCR with high school friends. I remembered Prince blaring from a car in the parking lot of my high school while getting ready for track practice. I remembered watching my mom reading the jacket sleeve of 1999 and being horrified at the lyrics. (‘Guy, Mom, I don’t listen to the words, just the music. Jeez!’) I remembered being at my high school boyfriend’s house, barbequing and listening to When Doves Cry. And for the first time in a long time I remembered being at a beach bonfire after having seen Sign of the Times with my friend Alicia. I was in college. My future husband and father of my children was also at the party, but we weren’t together yet. I was busy flirting with some guys who were there on military leave, giving them a fake number when I left. Alicia helped make a good impression on them when she broke out into a Prince impersonation that culminated in her crawling through the sand scream-singing Purple Rain. “Honey I know, I know, I know times are changing…” Hilarious! There might have been alcohol involved.
Yes, I have fond memories of the music of David Bowie and Michael Jackson. But Prince was the music that accompanied- practically orchestrated!- my entire transition from naïve kid, eager to explore and grow up, to young adult woman, ready to be a sexual being and figure out my place in the world. Prince was urging me to be myself no matter what. He was telling me that, despite the shame my mom had instilled in me, the dark, sexual part of myself was ok. He was telling me to grow fearlessly. I am now finally ready to listen. Forgive myself. Be myself.