21 April 2016

"Honey, I know I know I know, times are changing...": A Blog for Prince, my Prince, and our Prince

“I am yours now and you are mine. And together we’ll love through all space and time. So don’t cry. One day, all seven will die.” –Prince, 7

When I was 8 years old, I had one of those small trampolines. On an almost nightly basis, my mom would put on Prince’s album Purple Rain and I would take to stage on the trampoline and perform from start to finish his album. From Let’s Go Crazy to Purple Rain, I lip synced. Every. Single. Song. #LipSyncForYourLife.

I believe that Michael Jackson may have been my first “boyfriend, "as I remember dreamily staring into the opened album Thriller. However, when I was introduced to Prince, I felt something else. While I thought of Jackson as my boyfriend, Prince was without a doubt my first “lover.” I mean, he was sexy and beautiful. And yes, at 8 years old, I probably had no idea what that meant, but I knew that Prince made me feel things. All the things. 

When David Bowie died earlier this year, I remember thinking how tragic it was to lose someone so important to the lives of so many of us—well, you know, us weirdos. I read countless social media posts about how Bowie was the performer who taught so many of you that it was okay to be weird, but also to cross and question traditional lines of gender and sexuality.

You had Bowie. But I...see, I had Prince. And he was everything to me.

And so, I danced to Prince. I sang to Prince. I performed Prince. I was IN LOVE with Prince. And from as long as I can remember, Prince has been woven into my memories.

When I was in the 2nd grade, Purple Rain the movie came out. I somehow convinced my mother to take me and my best friend Kim to see the movie countless times. Hell, maybe my mom was in love with Prince too. Shortly after the film came out, my mom remarried. I got a new house. I got some new friends too—two girls a year younger than me—Chelsea, my neighbor, and her friend Eliza. The three of us were obsessed with Prince. We had crushes on some boys from our school. So, we choreographed a dance to the song Let’s Go Crazy that involved all types of acrobatics on the couch at Chelsea’s house and some very interesting costume changes. We practiced often. We were sure, once we performed this for them, this would win over the hearts of our elementary school boyfriends.We never did. But I'm still convinced it would have worked.

When I was in the fourth grade, there was a talent show at the end of the school year. My sister, Ashley and I were performing. But also, some of our neighborhood friends were performing too. In particular, Alvin and Calvin, twins, were set to perform Prince’s Kiss. They performed the song flawlessly in Prince wigs and they brought down the house.

And these early memories are the way it has always been. Prince was just always there. When I was in high school, my friend Chelsea called me to tell me she had an extra ticket to see Prince perform in Charlotte and invited me along. Although in the years leading up to that night, we had grown apart, we sat there that night reminiscing and laughing about our childhood days of Prince.

Into my adulthood, there was never a dance party that I threw or attended that Prince did not figure into prominently. And it wasn’t just the songs he performed. It was all the amazing songs he wrote, like When You Were Mine and Nothing Compares 2 U.

If ever there was a musician that echoed the sentiment of my eventually-to-be-written book on music and memory…it is Prince.

I can remember my dance company performing to I Would Die 4 U, while I stood in the wings performing all the dance moves (actually, I'm doing them right now). I can remember listening to Diamonds and Pearls as I dressed in babydoll dresses for junior high school, well, okay, and early days of high school. I can remember how my favorite lyric of all times (and singing about countless ex-boyfriends) in Raspberry Beret was “Overcast days never turned me on but something about the clouds and her mixed....She wasn't too bright, but I could tell when she kissed me, she knew how to get her kicks…” I can remember how my friend Matt Tomich made me a mix with the song, I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man. I can remember me and my friend Sam Favata listening to If I Was Your Girlfriend while I was on a several week road trip around the Southeast. I can remember when my dearly departed friend Dan and I listened to the song 7 and he spray-painted the walls of his apartment with lyrics from the song. I can remember Carly and I driving up to the mountains for a writing retreat and dancing our butts off to Kiss in the car. I can remember when my ex-boyfriend Justin and I threw a party at my parent’s house and we played Prince’s version of Nothing Compares to You on repeat at least 15 times while we both belted out the song to the rest of the party. And who didn’t listen to 1999 like a million times on New Years? And I can’t lie, one of my all time favorite songs was of Baby, I’m a Star. Just turn it on now, I dare you. You can’t stop dancing. 

One, two, three, four
Hey look me over
Tell me, do you like what you see?
Hey, I ain't go no money
But honey, I'm rich on personlity
Hey, check it all out
Baby, I know what it's all about
Before the night is through
You will see my point of view
Even if I have to scream and shout... 

And I remember that every single fucking time, Art and I went somewhere with a jukebox, we ALWAYS played Prince. See, Art and I were both really obsessed with Prince. There were nights, when we were at my apartment on 7th Ave North talking about some shit, we played Purple Rain on repeat and cried our little eyes out. We decided when we both get married (either to each other or to other people) that we would sing Prince at the wedding. Hell, I think we even talked about dressing like Prince for the wedding. And only a couple of weeks ago, Art left me a message where he reminded me of this. 

I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted one time to see you laughing
I only want to see you laughing in the purple rain... 
As I sit here right now listening to 1999, I find my body betrays me. It knows every beat. And while I want to weep for Prince, I can’t help but dance. Because like my mentor said to me earlier, “It’s how he would have wanted it.”

One of my last memories of how Prince was woven into the memories of my life is the night of my dissertation defense. After a successful defense, my mentor, Richard took me and a group of friends and faculty out for dinner. Towards the end of the evening, Richard stood up to make a toast. He started with, “Dearly beloved…” And I began to laugh. He continued, “We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.” And then, I jumped in, “Electric word life it means forever…” And then, for the rest of the toast, we went back and forth with the lyrics. I’m not sure everyone at the table had any idea what we were doing, but it was a moment for me. And I can't think of a better way to celebrate finishing my PhD than to incorporate Prince into the matter. After all, he's always been there.

When I heard the news today, while I was making my way to campus, all of these memories flooded my mind. I wrote to Rami, my partner, about the passing of Prince. Since he isn’t from this part of the world, I’m not sure he initially understood the significance. As I tried to explain, I kept thinking just what it was that Prince meant to me. And as articles have flooded the interwebs, I think I’m not alone in figuring out what it was that Prince meant to me, and to us.

He taught us it was okay to be weird. He taught us to embrace the non-binary of gender. He taught us that we could be just about anything we want to be. He taught us that we could change our names to whatever the fuck we want them to be. He taught us how to be fucking sexy as hell. He taught us how to dance. He taught us how to really live life. And he taught us how to walk into a room and be the coolest motherfucker in the room.

Because, Prince, you were the coolest motherfucker in every single room.

How can you just leave me standing?
Alone in a world that's so cold?