“Just remember that everything is going to be okay today. Please don’t check the news,” one of my friends wrote to me today out of the blue on Facebook.
“What a very odd thing to say!” I thought to myself. “I must check the news!”
Moments before I started my internet search, horrific scenarios flashed through my mind. Did something happen in my hometown of Cincinnati? It couldn’t be an Al Qaeda attack, could it? Or another tornado that ravaged through the city? I couldn’t click fast enough.
I went to CNN’s web page, my online go-to for real news (sorry, Perez Hilton!). And this is what I saw:
I know that life is a fleeting, fickle thing. I know that at some time, everyone who is fortunate enough to be born into this world will one day die, famous or not. But nevertheless, this was something that genuinely shocked me and saddened me.
It was 1996, at the tender age of 13, by serendipitous chance that I saw the movie “Purple Rain” (my first R-rated movie, on VHS no less!) and was immediately mesmerized. I didn’t follow the storyline very well at that time, but that didn’t matter. All that mattered to me at that time was that voice, that music, that man who I couldn’t take my eyes off of. To me, there was something very je ne sais quoi about him. And THAT was what drew me in.
He wasn’t the quintessential macho man with bulging muscles or the typical blond haired and blue eyed teeny-bopper heartthrob like on the covers of Teen Beat Magazine. He wasn’t, at least by my peers’ standards, handsome. Yet I was immediately hooked. He was so different, he was so damn cool in my eyes.
I have to be honest here: He was my first major celebrity crush.
As I went on to explore the music that he had written, produced, and sung, I was utterly fascinated. Songs with backwards messages, profound metaphors, multiple meanings, and tantalizing combinations of once seemingly-innocent words that only he could have possibly put together. They were hella sexy (“Erotic City,” anyone?) and hella holy at the very same time. They were either songs strictly for the bedroom or for a place of worship, or on occasion, both.
Growing up, I had frequently felt ashamed of myself, for a reason that I couldn’t put my finger on; not back then, and not even now, all these years later. It was senseless, it was detrimental, but it was all too real for me. In Cincinnati’s Sycamore High School, a school straight out of a movie like “Mean Girls,” I was often made fun and bullied for reasons that I still cannot comprehend even today (such as being too short, having a “Jewish nose,” and so on).
Yet listening to Prince’s songs and reading about his wacky antics gave me a newfound confidence in myself. Perhaps feeling like I would never fit in, being an exception, an anomaly, a freak, a weirdo, and an eccentric was not a trait to be embarrassed about, but rather, something to be embraced and coveted.
His Royal Badness, the Purple One, Jehovah’s Sexiest Witness, O(+> , or simply Prince was someone with whom I could identify on many levels. He was different. He was talented. He was short. He was Midwest (no… scratch that. He put the “id” in Midwest!).
Not to be too cliche, but it truly took the wind right out of my sails yesterday. And though April 22nd, 2016 is technically Earth Day, for me, it is still a day of mourning. Thus, today I proudly wear my ruffled purple shirt and Love Symbol with pride, in homage to a man who ultimately made me want to be nobody but myself.
Rest in peace, Prince Rogers Nelson. I know that you are putting on one hell of a show up there.
Peace and be wild, y’all!
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