On June 8th, at approximately 11:30pm, I was standing on a little side street in downtown Norfolk, Virginia, hoping for an opportunity to meet some rock stars.
Yes, my 50 year-old ass was having a serious groupie moment, and I’m not ashamed to admit it, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Until then, the only musical superstars I had ever met were Ty Englund – he of Garth Brooks’s 90s Stillwater band; Rick Trevino, another country star; and the iconic Paul Stanley of KISS.
When you’re busy raising five children and you began that life immediately after you turned 20, there’s not much time for hero worship in the literal sense. You’re busy changing diapers and seeing to school projects, juggling their care and housework and a 40 hour a week job and, in my case, attempting to be the kind of wife their father demanded. That meant that he was the superstar in my life, and he and the kids were the only people I was allowed to pay any sort of enduring attention to. My love needed to be single-minded on that front; there was absolutely no room for friendships and get-togethers and concerts and good times. Besides, there was no money for that. Aside from concerts I attended in high school and college, I never saw an actual arena concert by a big name act until 1994. We scrimped and saved for that, and it was a big deal. He took me to see Garth Brooks. (Had he known that, whenever I performed my wifely duties, I was pretending that he was Garth, he probably wouldn’t have taken me. I know, TMI, but that’s a given when you visit my little world. Suck it up, buttercup.) It was sometime soon after that when I discovered that my marriage was not normal and that there were wives out there with friends and at least a semblance of a social life. They didn’t “serve” their husband by remaining at his side at all times, attending to his every need, and remaining silently supportive of every tall tale he formulated in order to make himself seem more important than he was. They had a vague sense of identity, whereas I didn’t even know what that meant in terms of marriage. Having never observed the intricacies of a marriage except for on television, I had a very old-fashioned idea of how it was supposed to be if you wanted him to be happy, and he was all-too happy to make sure that I stuck to that.
When I discovered my “voice” it was, to my surpise, pretty loud. And it told him that I was unhappy, and that I wanted him to GO AWAY. He was taken aback and, for the first time, began doing things to try and “make me happy.” Lingerie on my birthday. (For who? Really? Does a mother of 5 have time to figure out how to put those pieces of lace on her war-torn, stretch-marked body?) Roses on Valentine’s Day. Allowing (yes, I know) me to get a tattoo. And indulging and encouraging my love of music by taking me to 1 or 2 concerts a year.
There were restrictions, of course. He did not want me to reveal my body by wearing a miniskirt at an Ozzy Osbourne concert because “You’re a mother. It’s not respectable.” A nose piercing was “out of the question. You’re the mother of my children and you’re not going to walk around looking trashy.” Guess what was the first thing that I did when we broke up? If you guessed that I got my nose pierced, you win 3 stickers! Even more ironic was the fact that his next wife “looked like she fell face-first into a tackle box”, as a friend of mine observed. But hey, I’m not shouting “Hypocrite!” Well, maybe I whispered it.
Anyway, how I got from that mouse of a hausfrau to the Fangirling Goddess that I became on the night of June 8th was a long and winding road filled with a few encounters with celebrity that convinced me that I couldn’t manage to hold an intelligent conversation with one if I tried. Paul Stanley touched me and it was like I floated out of my body and watched that whirlwind meet and greet from afar. Other chance encounters always saw me stupidly mugging or looking frozen. I was awkward, I was tongue-tied: the epitome of starstruck.
What made me think that standing outside a bus after a Ghost Ritual, in my red plaid miniskirt and fishnet stockinged-feet because my shoes fucking hurt after 4 hours of standing and cheering and alternately singing and screaming in the pit, was a good idea? It was late, there were perhaps 12 other fans milling about, and the husband (The second husband, my One and Only, henceforth occasionally referred to as a saint) had to pee. But this was it. I had been waiting for this opportunity for months. Ghost is notoriously friendly and accessible to their fans, to the ones who are willing to wait for the masks and costumes and makeup to come off and the stage to be broken down and loaded up. If one was willing to be patient, one would likely be rewarded. It also helped to recognize the faces beneath the masks, because officially, that isn’t yet publicized and it’s surprising that so many fans still choose not to know, and yet want to meet them after the show.
I’m in love with the band’s lead singer. Okay, not “in love” in the sense that a 14 year-old wants to marry her crush, but he is talented, magnetic, sexy, and a goddamned musical genius whose music has been stuck in my brain since the moment I heard it. Not since KISS have I been this mesmerized, and the husband will testify to this fact, because he has often said that my musical taste is schizophrenic. I will be listening to metal at 1pm, big band at 2, and at 3, I have moved on to classic country; much to his displeasure, I might add. With Ghost, it’s simple: I have to listen every day. I am floored by the music every day. Call it an addiction, obsession; I don’t care. It is all of that and more. It is freedom to be who I am and to laugh at elements and formalities in society that I find unbelievable. It is pageantry and sexuality and camaraderie amongst other fans. It is being held in Papa Emeritus’s charismatic gaze when he croons “Can’t you see that you’re lost without me?” and believing it is true.
I needed to meet the men behind the masks: Papa Emeritus and the Nameless Ghouls. So fucking what if I’m a grandma? I’m a hot grandma with badass taste in music and a newfound sense of quiet confidence. Being a grandma also identifies that knowledge within me that realizes that less time is left than before, and I need to do all the things before I can’t do them anymore. Tobias Forge – Ghost’s Papa – has held me hostage in his gaze and with his voice since I first encountered Ghost. So attempt to meet and engage in a conversation with the sexiest guy in my current universe (while the other sexiest guy in my universe stood by my side, saint that he is) and not simply gawk at him stupidly? My body was ready to be struck by the lightning force of his presence. I was willing to give it a try. My sincerest hope was to convey my love and admiration, to show him respect and appreciation, and to hug him. Yes, cop a bit of a feel with the approval of the husband, who understands that this man is on my “Laminated List” and that I might not be joking.
I’m so glad I did. Because it was everything I had hoped for, and so much more. It meant more than meeting Paul Stanley in that I had time to say what I needed to say and because Tobias is so patient, kind, and lovely. I was momentarily blinded by his beautiful, green eyes and his angelic face, but then he disarmed my gawkiness with the grace and quiet ease in which he allowed me to speak. Because Ghost is still “anonymous”, no photos could be taken, but had they been snapped, I imagine the most naked look of bliss was shining in my eyes. I felt young, carefree, and I may have squee’d, covertly done a happy dance, and gripped the husband’s arm so tightly he probably had finger marks the next day.
It’s all good. I am a 50 year-old woman who played the role of groupie for two glorious days, swam in the ocean for the first time ever, and made the husband laugh at my gaping like a 6 year-old at airplanes flying over big cities. I am DOING ALL THE THINGS. Life is but a blip on the radar. I get that now. Will I do this again, when given the opportunity?
You bet your ass.