In an interview, Michael Stipe had been asked what attracted him to an audience member. He listed the following: skin; white clothing; sparkle.
Was he using ‘sparkle’ in a metaphorical sense, to describe a certain magnetic something that some people possess and others simply don’t? I had a creative spark, I knew, but did I have ‘sparkle’? Was I too plain to be described as ‘one of those girls’?
Fuck it, I’m using glitter.
Such was my sparkle, so enthusiastic my glitter application, that everyone in that car was shining like a synthetic diamond by the time we got to the New World Music Theater. My friend was angry that I had be-glittered the boy she had a crush on. Fuck the boy you have a crush on. He’s a slouchy emo college shit who will fuck your roommate in a couple months and you’ll stop talking to me before we’re twenty-five. This story isn’t about you, it’s about my R.E.M. concert.
I had saved and I had scalped. Fifth row, center. Everyone else went off to college and had sex and drugs and crying late at night to people wearing blonde dreadlocks and I had gone to work in an office, for fifty to sixty hours a week, because my life was not as good as theirs. My life was not as easy as theirs. I was skipping my twenties, by force, but, by god…I was pulling down some major overtime. That overtime bought me two tickets, fifth row center, for the band I had loved for years.
And I mean loved. Loved, like, how other bitches loved the Backstreet Boys or whatever shit bitches were into back then. I owned over a dozen R.E.M. shirts. I owned patches. Stickers. Bootlegs. Box sets. Videos. Posters. From the ages of thirteen to sixteen, I probably drew or painted fifty or more pictures of members of the band. I loved them enough to throw off my cynical bullshit and squeeze my tits into a white tank top and get out the glitter, ok?
It was close to the end of the concert when they started to play ‘At My Most Beautiful’ and Michael Stipe sang to me.
As he sang to me, I panicked.
I thought, he cannot be singing to me. I had planned to make this happen, but there is no way this is happening. How can I tell if this is really happening? This story cannot be, ‘One time I was pretty sure, I mean I think, Michael Stipe sang to me?’
So I waved at him. A dorky, awkward little wave, from a dorky, awkward, giant girl.
He smiled a really big smile and he did that weird full-arm bouncy point thing he had been doing since about 1990, right at me. Michael Stipe stiped at me. It was a Michael Stipe point. It was a stipe. He stiped at me.
I was nineteen, and overweight, and had been having a really shitty year, and I was covered in glitter, and in a couple hours I would eat so much fried food at Denny’s I would feel ill, but damn it, I was here. And I WAS at my most fucking beautiful. Because I was happy. And now Peter Buck was smiling at me because he had seen. And later Mike Mills would smile in acknowledgement that I knew all the words to ‘It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)’. And Bill Berry was off farming something somewhere and hopefully very happy and I was happy for him.
That concert was one of the very best nights of my teens.
I really liked R.E.M.
(And yes, I know Michael Stipe is gay.)