'Be anxious for nothing..." ~Philippians 4:6

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

MUSIC TALES: THE GROUPIE

A musician asked a singer friend if she'd sit in with his band on his next engagement. She hadn't been out in a while, and was happy for the opportunity to do something she enjoyed. She was also looking forward to the seafood on the venue's southern-themed menu.

She was enjoying the break between sets when a young woman approached, and asked if she could ask her a question. The young woman had been introduced to her a few years ago as the musician's student, and she'd seen her occasionally at other musical events. One thing the singer noticed every time she'd been asked to sit-in, was that her musician friend had quite a faithful, local following. The attendees who'd amused her the most, were several women--all singers of varying skill and genres--who were clearly smitten with him. They'd all misread his graciousness, professionalism, and attentiveness as personal interest. She could certainly understand what the attraction was, herself. Besides his stellar musical skill, he was tall and good-looking, intelligent, college educated, gainfully employed, childless, owned his own business, home, and vehicles, was extremely talented, and heterosexual. He was also (clear to everyone not wearing blinders), a confirmed bachelor.
 
When the young woman sat down, the singer said, "Sure. Ask away!" She thought the question would be about a song, and was quite taken aback when the young woman asked, "Do you hate me?" It took her a second to process the question. One, because it was so out of left field, and two because, if someone had offered her a million dollars to recall the young woman's name, even though she'd seen her several times, she would have been out of luck. 
The singer sighed. She'd been having such a good time. If she'd wanted drama and stress there were so many other places she could have gone. She could have stayed at home and raked the leaves in her back yard...in the dark. 
"Do I hate you? That's pretty strong, don't you think? I don't even know you!", the singer said. "Besides, you would have to have done something awfully heinous for me to hate you. What did you do?" 
She was hoping the young woman was joking, but she wasn't. The young woman attempted to argue that they weren't as distant as the singer believed; that they were peers; close friends even, by virtue of their mutual acquaintance, and music was at the center of their relationship. She had been laboring under the misapprehension that they had some kind of bond. 
The singer suddenly felt as if she was back in elementary school on the playground, surrounded by kids, and being confronted by a frowning classmate who said, "I heard you want to fight me".

The young woman said she felt that the singer had once snubbed her; she concluded that the singer had an issue with her presence. She thought the singer owed her attention, and from one encounter, decided that the singer wasn't as nice a person as she'd thought. To prove her point, the young woman said they had been "together" at another venue for a concert. Frankly, the singer had forgotten about it, probably because it had occurred months ago. The singer remembered that when she'd arrived back then, the concert was about to begin. She had been hurriedly seated at a table where the young woman and a gentleman were already sitting. She learned it was one of the tables designated for the guests of the artist who was performing. She greeted them both, and then focused her attention on the stage. The young woman tapped her on the shoulder to formally introduce her to the gentleman. She'd eerily rattled off the singer's resume to him. The singer interrupted the rather flowery introduction, and told the gentleman she was merely a proud mom and pointed out her daughter who was on stage. She smiled, and turned her attention back to the concert that had started. To get the optimum view, she had re-positioned her chair. Her back was to the young woman while the chatty friend was at her left. He had been a bit loud and obnoxious throughout the entire concert. She remembered she was a little annoyed by his incessant need to editorialize everything that took place on stage. She was trying to enjoy the music. She wasn't interested in talking to anyone at all, and definitely not while a live band was playing.
The young woman cried, "You were at my table and you talked to my friend, but you didn't talk to me! It hurt my feelings! I just thought you didn't like me!" The singer was still dumbfounded. The young woman continued. "I admired you, and I even took time out of my busy schedule to come to your show once!" The singer was sitting there staring at her; struggling to find something tactful to say, other than, "What do you want? A prize?"
Apparently the young woman had been angry with the singer for many months
"You hurt my feelings! I even unfriended you on Facebook!" The look on the young woman's face was such that she expected the singer to be devastated. Maybe the singer shouldn't have laughed, but she did, and said, "Listen. I don't know who three-quarters of my Facebook friends are. I just accept friend requests, and when people start behaving badly, I delete. You unfriended me and I didn't even notice. What does that tell you? And as far as your friend goes, if you recall, he was talking to me. You didn't see me initiate a single exchange, did you?"  
The young woman thought for a second, then mentioned how annoying her friend could be, which made the singer wonder why she would invite such a Chatty Drunken Cathy to a live concert in the first place. 
The young woman was relentless. "I looked up to you. We're both singers. We were together, and you ignored me." 
The singer wasn't sure why the young woman felt that their common interest placed them in some instant sorority in which she was obligated to engage her. She discerned there was something more to her behavior, and had no doubt that if the young woman kept talking she would reveal it. "I just thought you were being mean to me!"  
The singer was beginning to feel really old, and the mother in her was rising up. "You know", she said, "A good way to repel anyone is to be too needy, to be unreasonable, or to be a bully. Think. We didn't plan to go to the concert together. We didn't ride together or coordinate our arrival time. I was about to say we were there for the same purpose, but now I'm not so sure. What I am sure of is that we weren't together. It was merely a coincidence that we were seated at the same table."
The singer asked the young woman how old she was after she asked, "Well, now that I know you don't hate me, can I resend you a friend request?" The singer informed the young woman that her daughter was a few years older than she, and she had very few acquaintances who were her age. The young woman said that the singer didn't seem to care about her feelings. The singer told her that if she didn't care, she wouldn't take the time to talk to her. "No one wants anyone walking around with an axe to grind, but if you're determined to think I have a problem with you, there's little I can do about that. Another woman may not have been so patient with you. You're a young woman. I'm afraid you're going to have your feelings hurt quite a bit if you don't learn how to honestly categorize your relationships. You have family, friends, acquaintances and coworkers. Don't blur the lines between these people."

It seemed as if someone was whispering in the singer's ear and telling her what to say to the young woman. "Your admiration for someone does not obligate them to give you the time of day. I meet and work with people all the time-- and have to reintroduce myself all the time. People don't have to remember you. It's business. That's not the case with my true friends."  
The young woman repeated that she had supported the singer in the past, and admired her as a performer. "I came to hear you. I want to get to your level of singing. Maybe in five years I will have it, and be able to get on stage, too." 
The singer told her it would be wise if she'd simply be herself. "Why don't you think you have it now? Today? Work with what you have. You don't want to be an imitator. Just do what you do best. Compare yourself to your last performance. Don't try to meet the standard of someone else". 
The young woman seemed agitated, then blurted out, "He seems to like your voice a lot. I want to sing like you. I'm not there yet." 
The young woman had just exposed her hold card. Her real problem was that in spite of making sure she was front and center wherever the musician was performing, and although he had never deterred her from attending his shows, he had never asked her to sing. Her issue was partially with the singer, but mostly with him, and she wasn't nearly as bold about confronting him, (perhaps fearing his indifference or rejection).

The singer knew she needed to be tactful. The young woman was a bit fragile. It occurred to her that people really do confuse social media interactions (any interactions for that matter) with authentic friendship, particularly if mutual friends are involved. People are looking for, and demanding engagement; expecting others to play by their rules in an arena where there don't seem to be any. The singer didn't want the young woman to make a habit of it, or become one of those too familiar spirits who everyone avoids like grim death. 
She asked the young woman, "How often do you see me?" "Umm...Not that often", the young woman said. "Where was I born? Is my mother alive? Where did I attend school? What's my favorite food? Where do I live? What have I been doing for the last year and a half? What's my phone number? When was the last time I've called you? Have I ever been to your home?" 
The young woman couldn't answer. It seemed as if a light bulb went off in her head. She apologized. The singer said, "You were looking for, and have been planning a confrontation with a stranger. We are not friends. I'm sorry, but right now, I can't even tell you what your name is. I've seen you before, I've been as polite as I feel compelled to be with anyone, but we aren't buddies. You shouldn't have any expectations or demands concerning me. Friendships are mutually determined and identified. You can't think, imagine, or assume that you're friends with someone. The other person has to consent, too. You don't own people, or get to decide who they associate or work with, either. Oh. One more thing for the record, he's my friend, period, so you can relax and stop behaving like his security detail, and actually enjoy the music. Look. He's single. Guys have been known to encourage women and give them false hope; behave like they're part of a loving couple privately, but act like a brother or even a stranger publicly, but women have to be smart. You have to be smart. Pay attention to what a man does, and make sure it isn't in opposition to what he says. I don't know if I'm touching a nerve, but if I am, get your self-respect back. Face reality. Look around. Everyone in here is here to applaud him. He attracted everyone. They admire his talent just like you do. But they're not going to leave here thinking they're his friends. Stop targeting people you think are encroaching on your perceived territory. Stop trying to intimidate people by making your presence known and preening around like a peacock. I'm here, having fun, but essentially, working. It's intimate and enjoyable and there's chemistry but it's work. I didn't come to socialize. People who come to hear the band aren't looking to be confronted by their loved ones. They don't care who they are--unless they're band members, too. They aren't looking for permission or authorization from you to demonstrate their approval. You're insignificant to everyone except the people who really matter in your life. Stop studying and comparing yourself to and going after the people you think he prefers. You'll drive yourself batty."

The singer thought that would be the end of their conversation, but the young woman apologized again, and lamented how deeply she, and people in her age group "feel", and how she thought it was right to love and befriend everyone, and not set boundaries. The singer told her that was risky, and not everyone her age behaves that way, or shared her conviction. "If you keep up the practice of expecting everyone you've met to return your affection you're going to be one heartbroken millennial. Just because people are nice, or helpful, or attentive doesn't mean they're in love with you. Just because you show up somewhere a performer doesn't have to share their stage. You want to be in genuine, mutually acknowledged relationships, not one-sided, imaginary, dishonest ones. 

The young woman continued, "I think God wants me to love everyone!" The singer shook her head. She thought it was interesting how God got trotted in to the conversation. "He does want you to love everyone. But you have to know what loving means. God doesn't want you to check your brain at the door. The Bible admonishes you to love your neighbor as yourself. Expecting others to validate you is a sign that you've got some self-love work to do. The Bible also says "Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it comes the issues of life." You'd better set some boundaries. You're a fool if you don't." 
The young woman frowned. The singer said, "Don't get mad at me. I didn't say it. God did." 
The young woman's next statement, as she repeatedly tossed her hair, was telling. "Most women are jealous of me because I'm so attractive. I thought maybe you were jealous, too." 
The singer knew the conversation was about to end, and it was time to take the gloves off.  
"Wait. So that's your go-to thing to excuse your own insecurity? Vanity? When another woman doesn't acknowledge you, not because you don't matter, but because you simply aren't a priority in her life, you assume she's jealous? Your looks can't be what you trot out to make yourself feel better. It can't be the orange you compare to another person's apple. Is that your problem? You think you're prettier and more committed, so you should be on stage? You've got your panties in a bunch because he's sharing his spotlight with old hag like me? Is that why you go to his shows and mean mug, or pretend to befriend every woman in the room? Whoa. Do you really think you're in a serious relationship with him and are deserving of the consideration and attention he gets? Does he know this? Does he agree?" 

The young woman profusely denied the singer's facetious allegations. The singer laughed for referring to herself as an old hag. "A TV judge is famous for the quote "Beauty fades; Dumb is forever". You've got to know that you have more going for you. Listen. Don't ever project your insecurities, or how you're feeling onto other people, and for God's sake don't go creating relationships in your head that don't exist. Perhaps other women aren't jealous, you just want, like, or need them to be so that you can defend the conclusions you draw. Perhaps you're the reason others don't respond to you the way you want, or aren't intimidated by you. Insecurity is loud. So is crazy. You just can't go around looking for fault in others, and reasons to dislike them because you've got some heart issues. Did you really ask me if I hated you because you think you're better than me, or because you want to be me? Trust me. You don't want to be me, or anyone else. You don't know anyone's story deeply enough to want to trade places with them. You don't know why I sing the way I do. Do you think we have the same agenda? We don't. You think we're equals. We're not. I'm old enough to be your mother, and I'd tell my daughter the same thing I'm telling you if she were to ever demonstrate the confusion you've shown. One last thing. There's a difference between being supportive, and being a possessive nuisance. Annoy, or try to deceive any man and your beauty won't mean much. He, too, will ignore you. Oh, and when it comes to live music, people don't look at it. They listen to it. Pretty can't mesmerize people whose ears function properly. Pretty can't hide poor musicianship, a lousy voice, or stray notes." 
The singer felt like a grandmother and wanted to say, "Now, go somewhere and saddown, li'l girl."

The singer was glad when a longtime friend approached and sat down. She'd sensed the singer was in a bit of a pickle. "You okay?" The singer told her her friend that she was fine. Her friend had actually encouraged her to accept the invitation to sing. "You need to get out of the house every now and then. You need some me time. Don't abandon the things you love to do", she'd said. 

The young woman picked up her purse, walked away and sat down at an adjacent table with another regular who, too, could have benefited from the conversation. 
The singer just shook her head, and realized that the groupies' M.O.'s are nothing if not consistent. It occurred to her that they all come to the performances, sit in a cluster as close to the stage as they can get, schmooze, and pretend that they like and are fans of each other. The goal is if the musician or his band members look their way from the stage, they'll have to see them all and acknowledge at least one of them--and they each think that at some point during the concert, they're going to end up with a microphone in hand.
No one gets a bigger kick out of their collective silliness than the musician's elder sister who joined the singer and her friend at their table after the young woman had walked away. "Was that nut bothering you?" The singer told her she could handle it. "They can't get to him so they want to be your friend now, huh?", she laughed. "Girl, he ain't paying them no mind. They're just pathetic. All of 'em. When they come crying to me for advice, I just ask them "Do you have a piano keyboard attached to your behind? If you don't, good luck thinking you'll ever have 100% of his time or attention."

The singer was feeling sad for her gender--particularly the ones who are enamored with musicians. "A woman has to be one strong, secure, independent cookie with a life, passion, business, and friends of her own in order to sustain a relationship", she thought. It occurred to her that she sees very few good, happy relationships, but lots of sponsorships. Too many women seem to be willing to finance a guy's lifestyle for the privilege of claiming him as their own. Too many think their looks and resources will eclipse a musician's passion for the music--and even make him neglect or abandon his instrument. Too many aren't enjoying the music, they're anxious; fearfully keeping tabs, exposing vulnerability, and revealing the absence of trust in their relationships. 
She figured that what she'd just experienced was why so many musician friends say they prefer not to have their significant others around when they're working. They lament how the women in their lives don't understand their commitment to music; don't appreciate the time and effort and investment involved. Once they decide to be exclusive or marry, the women deeply resent their hours, rehearsals, practice time, investments in equipment, travel, tours, and inconsistent business dealings. They also become suspicious of other women on the job. Groupies who become wives and girlfriends become frustrated and eventually utter the ultimate fighting words: "Why don't you get a real job" or "We don't spend any time together!" 

The singer hoped she'd at least encouraged the young woman to think...get back the power she'd given away, avoid embarrassment, stop viewing herself in the skewed image she had of others...and just think the next time she let her insecurity (or delusion) get the best of her.

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