January 14, 2016

Forever and Ever

 
Every now and then, a celebrity death strikes you as terribly personal -- and when something gets personal, I can usually be counted on to write about it. While a great many greats have left us in the meantime, the last moment I felt such an impulse was on hearing the news of Robin Williams' passing. Before that, it was probably the death of John Hughes -- an event which to me felt so deeply personal that my reflections on it remain tucked in the confines of a private journal. 
 
At 6:00am Monday morning, while toasting a bagel for breakfast, I heard a tiny buzz from my boyfriend's cell phone. Confusing own phone for mine, I picked it up and was greeted with an unexpected notification from the New York Times, bearing the jarring headline: "David Bowie Dies at 69."

Several thoughts raced through my head, all boiling down to one essential impression: This man was seemingly immortal. As I scrolled through countless statuses and articles relaying individual reactions to the news, I discovered I was not alone in this thought. In reading through them, I felt comforted. However, it took me until nearly lunchtime that day to recall my on Bowie story -- and why this news hits so hard.
 
One winter day, at the impressionable age of almost-fourteen, I found myself on a holiday shopping trip to Costco. After half a decade of exclusive listening to our hometown Golden Oldies station, I had recently unearthed my parent's Best of The Bangles cassette. This was the year I also discovered the simple thrills of small-town thrifting. Cyndi Lauper and Molly Ringwald were on the cusp of becoming my forever-heroes. I was at the onset of a three-year 1980s high, and on this particular day, what should fall under my nose but a Best of the Decade 3-disc collection
 
It was unjustly encased in an era-inappropriate burnt orange and beige box, clearly begging release of its synth-infused, neon sparkle glory. I picked it up, a holy grail revolving in my palms, and found a small inset photo on the back cover. It featured a peroxide-haired man in a light-tone blazer and undone bowtie, snarling into a microphone: "David Bowie," the caption read. 

This was my first glimpse of a world that would forever shape my personhood. My progressive obsession with the 80s lent me the confidence required to dress the way I wanted, find the friends I needed, and liberate my puberty-stifled wacky personality. I'm sure I didn't understand this man's power until long after the first time I played (and re-played) "Let's Dance" on my portable CD player. Perhaps not even after I bridged the link between the name on that caption and the one in the opening credits to my favorite movie, The Breakfast Club. Today, however, I know I have him to thank for helping me "turn myself to face me," for inspiring me to dance, and for granting me permission to reinvent what no longer seemed relevant.
 
Thank you, Mr. Bowie, for simply being you.

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