Is Anyone Out There? Can We Talk?

In case you don’t know me, or this is your first time here, I’ll just start by saying this: I liked Prince. A lot. And I’ve been one of those annoying people on social media sharing my feelings about his recent death. I think I’ve been pretty minimal about this sharing in relation to how I feel while sitting in my house – which feels like it’s pulsing with loss – but still, I guess I’ve had a decent amount to say. I don’t know; what’s the cutoff?

I mean, I blogged about how I felt, you guys. Not once, but twice…and according to this article, I’m feeling like that’s just not cool. As a Midwestern woman it took me a really long time to learn not to bottle up my emotions and that it’s okay to feel things. After that article, though, I’m feeling, well, shamed.

Or I was, for about 3 minutes. Until I remembered that it’s okay to talk about how someone affected you. It’s okay to share experiences. And I’m genuinely sad for you if you’ve never been so deeply moved by an artist that you want to find some connection with others who felt the same way after that artist dies, just as you did while they lived.

Yes, I’ve shared in the collective eye-rolling at the people who have never mentioned a celebrity in their whole dang lives suddenly crying from the rooftops about their extreme devotion to said artist, once he or she is no longer with us. I didn’t think I’d survive the onslaught I saw after David Bowie died, but I did. I also didn’t post anything about him because while I appreciated him as an artist, I didn’t feel I really had the right to make any claims on him since I had no real history with him, aside from really liking a lot of his songs, and watching Labyrinth as a kid. I did, however, appreciate reading the stories shared by those friends of mine who did. I felt it helped me to know him and, more importantly, to know my friends better. One thing I never would have said to a single one of them – old, deep fans or obviously new – is that they needed to chill on the expression their sadness, or that it wasn’t legit enough. Oof.

I try not to speak about those things about which I don’t know. When there’s something, or someone, I feel I need to talk about, though, what better (in a ‘for better or worse’ way) place than Facebook? The cesspool of narcissism and somewhat free speech and the ability to block people if need be. The place we all check to see what’s up, the place we sometimes meet to mourn together. As I said: for better or worse.

The above article says doing these things is a call for attention, a way to take the death of a celebrity and make it All about You. Certainly, it is in some cases. For most, though, I think this sharing of stories and memories is a way to make it all about Them: the celebrity who made you feel something new and exciting and confusing and powerful, and who now – maybe after a long time away, maybe after a concert you just saw last month – you want to honor that moment, and share it.

It’s a way of saying “hey, I’m FEELING right now…is anyone else out there? Can we talk?”

Whatever the reason for sharing, or oversharing, or suddenly discovering an artist from all the talk you’ve seen after their death and therefore deciding you are their number one fan; who cares? Who cares why people share? Who are we to judge? If the record store had a bunch of dusty albums sitting around for years that suddenly sell out after the singer of that band dies, who cares? Be happy that more people are discovering the sound you’ve loved for years. More people to talk to at parties, you know? It’s not a competition, people. Settle down.

I am lucky in that on the rare occasions I have felt the need to share my sense of loss about a significant public figure dying – Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Maya Angelou, Prince, Whoever – no one has shamed me for it. Others have approached me and together we have talked and discussed our memories, favorite passages, songs, poems. I’ll do the same when Joni Mitchell dies. Leonard Cohen. Anne Lamott. Kate Bush. And probably even Sy Safransky, the editor of my favorite magazine. Hope that’s okay.

But for now, you do you. We won’t judge.

One thought on “Is Anyone Out There? Can We Talk?

Add yours

  1. I never felt a connection to Prince or his music, but so many of my closest friends did/do. Knowing what a major loss this is to them has affected me via the empathy route. I’m so narcissistic for making it about me! Haha.

    Years ago, when my dear friend killed himself only days after his girlfriend (also my friend) killed herself, a terrible person publicly shamed me for the way I was grieving. I can’t remember what I said or did in my grieving to make her judge me so harshly, but it was enough to smother me in that initial wash of shame, followed by a vow to never ever judge the way others deal with loss the way she judged me. It is all very personal, and very real.


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