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When We Were Young - Part 2
He’s a great songwriter, just kind of an asshole
Back when I saw him in the Spring time — randomly, after I thought he’d moved to Utah never to be seen again and he had gotten married — I had half-heartedly mentioned that it would be nice “just to see HIS band” at the festival. When he asked if I would be going, that had been my response. Festivals are hard to navigate, even for the concert savvy… but that’s another story.
But I guess I meant it when I said it would be nice to see just his band… since I’d never seen them live. And, unfortunately, I was a former fan of the bands music — even before I met him. I just never made it to a show because I had been busy pretending to be a “serious” twenty-something when the band had peaked — I was wearing headbands and dresses with leggings and ballet flats back then. I couldn’t get away with wearing emo bangs as a “wannabe young professional”, even though I did in fact listen to a LOT of emo music.
They hadn’t played together in seven-ish years, and they always joked that they never actually broke up — he had just gone off to try a different project without the others, and this was during the time that I had met him.
He’s a great songwriter, just kind of an asshole. That’s the honest truth.
I’m pretty sure that’s what a lot of people thought of him (still think of him?). Every musician goes through this weird “am I relevant still?” thing, and he had hit his early when the band stopped playing together. Music had mostly turned to what I call “The Neon Era” — overproduced pop songs that either had a feature from Pitbull or T-Pain or had some repetitive lyric a la LMFAO. It was the time of Cobra Starship and the neon purple American Apparel hoodie. There were no guitars anywhere to be seen or heard — and he had primarily turned to songwriting, wondering if he’d ever be “in a band” again.
He would mention to me that he would look in the mirror, trying to find the 7-year-old boy playing his guitar and pretending to be a rock star — but he claimed he couldn’t find him anymore. The music industry had seeped into his skull and everything was a marketing plan and a viral Tiktok.
When I met him, he was doing the Bruce Springsteen thing — rock, but heavily 80’s influenced. I’ve never seen a wall of synths so tall. It was during this era at a photoshoot (where I was the writer/creative director), the stylist pulled out some Vans for him to try. He refused to try them on like a f*cking brat. He claimed vans were “young boy shit” and that he had stopped wearing them back in his “Tabloid boyfriend” era.
I guess it's sort of like my “Lauren Conrad” era — you couldn’t pay me to put on a headband now. I can remember thinking he was a complete asshole for not even trying the Vans on and making such a big deal about it. And he gave me the whole shtick about an artist being “visually defined by their shoes”. “Leather Chelsea boots” was the vibe he was going for now, and we couldn’t taint the image by suggesting sneakers of any type. For someone so seemingly confident, the whole project came off kind of timid and insecure, even if the choice in shoes was strong, it always felt like he was asking the audience “is it ok that I’m doing this now and not what you saw me do before?”
Hard to explain. And while I get it — I’m not out here dressing like LC and trying to go to Le Deux on La Cienega, I’m also not being an asshole about it.
When I saw that the week between the WWWY Festival weekends, the band had put together a mini week long tour — including a date in LA, I thought I could skirt around the issue. I mean, he was married now, and probably wouldn’t even remember that he saw me on the street a few months ago in front of Joan’s on Third. But when I got a text saying that I had “gotten my wish” and it would be “Just HIS band” playing a full set, it felt like I couldn’t get out of it.
So, speaking of insecure, I bought two tickets and I asked my youngest hottest male friend to come with me. You know, just in case I ran into HIM face to face again, I wouldn’t be in a hoodie trying to hide from the rain, and/or trying to hide the emotions that were always ever-so apparent on my face.
Or WORSE, in case I ran into his wife I wouldn’t be by myself…
My hot young male friend was late as I stood in front of the tour bus on the street, watching the line enter the venue. My anxiety was at an all time high, and all I needed was for HIM to see me standing there alone.
I had worn a stupid pink crop top that I bought from Khloe Kardashian’s clothing line — thinking somehow I would invoke her “revenge body” spirit while wearing it. But instead, it was 45 degrees and I’m a native Southern California girl, so I was zipped up to my chin in a puffer instead. Like, a sexy marshmallow.
Finally, my young hot friend showed up and we made our way inside where I briefed him over a shot of vodka to take the edge off. “We’re really just here to see if he’s wearing his Vans again” I said to him, as I guzzled my double vodka Sprite.
We took our positions, slightly off to the side of the stage — where we had a direct view of where HIS feet would be for proper inspection. I wondered if I should ask my friend if we should stand closer together so we looked like we could be dating, but I instead found myself eyeing the room, looking to see if his wife had attended the show.
After one song — two things were clear: he was wearing chocolate crocodile boots, not Vans, AND he had seen me and pointed at me. Le sigh. Did that mean I could leave now?
My hot friend leaned in and said, “You should really just pretend you don’t know anything about him, and that you’re just a fan from 2008…. and enjoy the music.”
He was right.
And from that point, I sang along with all the other late 30’s emo fans all the songs that we loved and tried to forget I knew anything personally about him. Because yes, he’s a great songwriter, just kind of an asshole wearing chocolate crocodile boots.
He had kept his word about the Vans. Which I guess strangely meant to me that he had changed since those days. Just like me and those dumb headbands.
The show ended, and my hot friend asked if we should wait to say hi — I gave him the good ol’ “immediately no” face and said, “nah, I’ll just text him…”
And just as I looked up from my phone, there SHE was…. his wife: the woman I had only ever seen in influencer-posed hiking photos and with two different colored boots on the red carpet. I still haven’t figured out if he’d been dating her at the same time as me. She looked me in the face and of course didn’t recognize me…. She doesn’t know who I am like I know who she is. That’s the weird part of social media. Her skin wasn’t as perfect in person, but she was much taller and thinner than me — like most other women I guess.
I clutched my young friend's arm… it was like waiting for a panic attack or horrible gas pains to pass. I had some sort of weird hope that she wouldn’t recognize me — even though she never would — but the panic in me made me feel like maybe she could really see me looking at her profile after all?
On the way home, I had started the new Taylor Swift album, Midnights, and had unfortunately made it to “Anti-hero,” — you know, where the lyrics repeat on the bridge, “it’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me.” And I don’t know if it’s what Taylor meant, but I literally felt the energy drain from my body like I was being eaten by a vampire and like accepting, that maybe in that specific relationship — even if HE was the asshole — that maybe somehow I was the problem. You know, for just like, having expectations.
When I got to my house, I sat in my car attempting to formulate a text to him since I’d avoided waiting for him…. And what I came up with was some semblance of, “Great show tonight! Looks like maybe you did find the kid in the mirror who just loves to play his guitar after all.”
I know. Dramatic. I guess I had brought some emo home with me, and you know, there was the Taylor Swift of it all — but I did mean it. He looked happy to be playing songs that everyone knew the words to alongside some of his best friends in the world. He wasn’t worried about a viral Tiktok anymore, that’s what his boots meant.
Not even a minute later he responded with, “yeah I did, honestly” and then “so happy you came, thank you.”
I felt deflated. Happy for him, but deflated in that I was the one still going home alone at the end of the night. I guess it's one of those things where I wondered if anyone in my life had ever studied me that closely and seen me like I saw him — able to peg the change down to a single clothing item that meant he was in his “happiness era.” Could his wife do that?
More importantly, what item of clothing would replace my headbands? And would anyone even notice?