He was exactly, exactly, exactly what he was.
You know? And here is what we are now missing: a supremely talented man, 5 feet 2 inches tall, nearly always in high heels and some form of ruffles or lace or miscellaneous silky attire. Makeup and jewelry. And who wore that shit like nobody’s business. That’s it, or at least part of it. Prince wore his clothes and his persona and his life, none of it wore him. HE OWNED EVERYTHING. Including the symbol that brought him so much ridicule.
I didn’t know many girls who were in 7th or 8th grade in 1984, who didn’t want some kind of relationship with Prince. I know I did. My best friend at the time was a girl named Carrie, and Purple Rain was it for us. If you went to a slumber party and didn’t hear Erotic City at least once, well, then you knew you should probably cut all ties with the host. I envied Appollonia with every fiber of my being. And Sheila E. Take Me With You, I wanted to tell him.
Back then, we wouldn’t have had any idea what was so appealing about this unusual, and unusually talented man from Minneapolis. Yes, it was the talent. You couldn’t miss that. But it was also the absoluteness of him. Prince was what he was, 100% and without apology or explanation.
I remember that around that time, I was getting my hair cut by my aunt, who is very wise though she would undoubtedly say she isn’t. I must have been worried about someone being mad at me or not liking me or some other type of middle school drama. “Listen,” my aunt told me. “Not everyone’s gonna like you. But not everyone’s not gonna like you, either.”
There are hardly any entirely true things in life, but if you ask me, that is one of them. I know that now. Prince knew it always. He stayed what he was like without trying too hard or looking to prove anything. I said before that he owned his persona, but I don’t think he really had a persona. I’m talking as if I knew him. I didn’t. But I think the persona we all saw was really it. Hi, I’m Prince. Have a seat on my purple sofa.
Back then it was a little hard to accept that not everyone was ever going to like me. I don’t know when it changed for me but these days, “needing you to like me” is not among my long list of neuroses. It’s not that I don’t care what people think of me, I do. Sometimes. It’s just that I care more what I think about myself. And the times that I think I’m an idiot bother me way more than the times someone else thinks so.
Like now, writing about Prince, I feel kind of idiotic. Like, what? Do I think I have some unique perspective on a man who’s been talked about more in two days than I ever will be in my life? Do I feel like a super-fan who just HAS to make my statement? I don’t know. But as I occasionally do, I’m saying what I want to say anyway and telling myself that maybe I am an idiot, but hey, not everyone’s gonna like me anyway. And at the same time, not everyone’s not gonna like me.
As for the music. I rarely force my own musical inclinations on my kids, mainly because that is the one sure way to turn them firmly against my musical inclinations. Batdance was one of the few exceptions. This was several years ago, when they had not yet realized they should hate anything I like, and Batdance became a regular request in the car on the way home from day care. My husband was somewhat opposed to the trend due to the lyric that says “Get the funk up.”
“That’s really nice, letting our kids listen to that,” he said.
“It says ‘funk,’” I said. “It’s not like I’m making them listen to Darling Nikki.”
Now, of course, I wish I had forced more Prince upon them, so that I could explain all this to them. “This is important,” I would tell them. “You have to be how you are.”
As it stands, when I told them that Prince died, they said, “Who’s Prince?” I could have cried right then, but not really. Because you know, that just isn’t what I’m like.
I will leave you with a lyric from one of my favorite Prince songs ever, called 7.
There will be a new city with streets of gold
The young so educated they never grow old
And a, there will be no death, 4 with every breath
The voice of many colors sings a song
That’s so bold
Sing it while we watch them fall