Millions of red-faced, newly-boobed tweens beg mom to drive them to the ampitheater. Squished in the backseat, they freshen the pink marker on glittery posters, try to steady their racing hearts, suck remnants of after-school snacks from wiry braces, and dab an extra glob of Sassy Strawberrylicious lip gloss across their child mouths for good measure. The lights dim. The curtain’s pulled. As music floods the speakers, throngs of these sweaty maniacs are slapped stupid by the star on stage. Screaming, thrusting posters covered in misspellings high into the sky, they are vying against a few thousand peers for the spot as Mrs. Bieber Timberlake Hanson.
I was this girl.
In junior high there was seldom a better night than one spent screaming and passing out in a fit of hormonal bombardment at an *NSYNC concert. I was just recovering from a devastating blow ( a lesson in why a real girl can’t marry a Disney cartoon prince) when Justin Timberlake’s radiant, blonde jheri curl glowed hope through my TV screen. Romance wasn’t dead, after all. It was alive and kicking. No, really. Have you seen the boy’s high-kick-pelvic-thrust-twirl? Some might consider it a signature move. I was sure it was a proposition.
Equally enamored schoolmates in tow, I spent my parents’ hard-earned money answering the lead singer’s tantalizing call. The way he sang to me (through the television screen), the way his sad, puppy eyes begged my soul for a date (through the television screen) was enough to counteract the advice and commonsense my parents had instilled in me. I made posters, shiny and pathetic signs. I was certain that the pop star just needed to find me, so most posters included large arrows pointing downward to my head. The more concerts I attended the more detailed and thorough my signs became. When standard hearts and glittery stars, ‘MARRY ME, JUSTIN’ and ‘GOD MUST HAVE SPENT A LITTLE MORE TIME ON ME’ didn’t exactly stand out among the crowd, I assumed ‘TORI LOVES JUSTIN. IT’S ME, JUSTIN. TORI. MY MOM SAYS I’M SUPER PRETTY’ would hit the spot. And when that spot wasn’t hit, well, things took a turn towards criminal. I was singing the creepy you-belong-to-me tune before Taylor Swift was potty trained with poster masterpieces like’WANTED. WANNNTEDDD. DEAD OR ALIVE’ and ‘WHAT IF BRITTANY WAS OUT OF THE PICTURE?’. How many security guards does it take to tackle a 6th grader? Oddly, just one.
Years passed. I read enough books to understand the blah-ness of *NYSYNC’s ballad lyrics. I learned most of the bubblegum pop artists were in their mid-thirties. Then Timberlake got blasphemous and went for a buzz cut. Glitter paint dried up. I couldn’t make myself beleive that pleather was cool.The thrill was gone.
But today, I’m faced once more with the urge to scream, shout, and throw a training bra on stage before I pass out. Sharpie posed dangerously close to poster board, the old, standard, super fan misbehavior is bubbling to the surface. The fine thing behind the frenzy?
Stop laughing at his hat, ya’ll. According to his lyrics he’s really sensitive. I head to The Grand Ole Opry tonight to witness the quiet awesome that is Ray LaMontagne. He sings. He fiddles his facial hair. He’s just geeky enough to never make eye contact. I suspect he is a part-time Park Ranger and possibly related to The Unabomber.Clearly you can see why I’m a fan. The only hiccup in my plans for a night with The Ray stem from expectations of social decency. I’m feeling quite conflicted about fine lines as they pertain to maturity and making-a-scene. Oh, Behavior. You never were much fun.
Good news is I’ve raised my standards since 1999. It takes a lot more than synthesized pop beats and dreamy hair to get this girl excited. In case you were wondering, it takes a beard and some folksy plucks of an acoustic guitar. Also whisper-singing doesn’t hurt.
Bad news is that the average Ray LaMontagne fan falls somewhere between hipster and tree hugger. Some wear bold-rimmed glasses and Italian boots while sipping macchiato. Others substitute patchouli oil for showers while rescuing orphan birds and recycling. As different as these types may seem, they share some very crucial traits. They are cool, calm, and grown.
My first instinct (albeit always the wrong answer) is to dress in flannel, stand on the sacred seats of The Opry, waive a few posters around, and finish strong with a hefty bra-to-stage toss. I went so far as to make said posters, just in case my last shred of good judgement gets lost en route to Nashville.
POSSIBLE WAYS TO WOO RAY WITH THE WRITTEN WORD
LET ME BE YOUR LUMBERJILL
I HEART BEARDS
I AM DIRTGIRL
YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO PUT A RING ON IT
and if things got extra desperate…
I’M GOOD WITH WOOD
Oh, shut up. That was clearly a reference to what I assume to be his rugged, lumberjack lifestyle.
Tonight, I’ll call dibs on the passenger seat, try to steady my racing heart, suck remnants of snack from teeth, and dab an extra glob of Chap Stick across my mouth for good measure. The lights will dim. Stagehand will cue the curtain pull. As music floods the speakers, I’ll be the sweaty maniac slapped stupid by the star on stage. Here’s to hoping hipsters and tree-huggers don’t mind a few girlish squeals.
Are you a super fan? What would your poster say?