There are two main reasons I never go anywhere. One is social anxiety. The other is I never have the right shoes.
Both those things nearly kept me from the Girl Talk show last week, as well as a third: It was not a show at which I belonged.
There’s a good chance that you’re not familiar with Girl Talk. This is understandable. Especially if you’re on the north side of 40. For the uninitiated, Girl Talk is a deejay (aka Greg Gillis) who creates club mixes that seem to be one long fusion of hip-hop samples mashed up with almost every classic rock song riff you’ve ever heard. Prince, U2, Simon and Garfunkel with Ludacris, Jay-Z , and Usher. It’s loud and frenetic with a backbeat that makes the room shake.
This is not music I would naturally come across, except that it ended up as the staple soundtrack for my Sunday morning spin class last month. I found the mixes so infectious, I downloaded the album and have been listening to it all day, every day for weeks.
Before I even wrote this column I had a name for it: It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time. That sure does sound fatalistic, I thought. So I decided to try and reserve judgment until after I’d actually seen the show. What Happens When A Neurotic Middle Aged Woman Ends Up In A Mosh Pit was another possibility that kept popping into my head. Stop it. Just find some shoes and go.
My maiden voyage with Girl Talk existed under the most ideal circumstances imaginable. A music business friend was able to get tickets to the sold out show. He also got us VIP access. The theater is a mile from my house. We scored a free parking spot, right across the street. It was raining, so I had a built in excuse to wear my Timberlands. And the show started at 9 PM, well over an hour before my bedtime. Still, I worried.
My 16-year-old asked me if I was excited to be going. “I’m nervous,” I told him. “I don’t know what to wear.”
“Yeah. Everyone is going to be judging you,” he said, reminding me I would be effectively invisible. Which I was – not only invisible, but removed. Our VIP status allowed us access to a small gated area that stood about four feet above the dance floor. We could easily see the stage over the heads of the floor crowd and were not packed shoulder-to-shoulder with what appeared to be every 18-24 year-old in the tri-state area. It wasn’t like a “box seat” at the opera – it was just a cordoned off slab of concrete. I called it my Safe Haven.
Overlooking the dance floor we had a perfect view of those individuals being lifted overhead and redeposited within the crowd, the confetti and balloon mayhem, the sweatband boys and the girls dressed for drama.
This kind of show is probably not for everybody, and I’m pretty certain that includes me. I was never a club girl, even in my heyday. And I wear more on the beach than most of the girls were wearing that evening. But the deejay is masterful. There was a long piece about him in the New York Times Magazine a few weeks ago and the description of his exactitude made me think of things I’d read about Ira Glass. Standing in my Safe Haven, it occurred to me that, aside from my companion, I might be the only one in the whole theater who has ever even heard of Ira Glass.
I thought that life with a teenager and my constant exposure to the Girl Talk album would provide all the preparation I needed for a night like this one. But what prepared me most was an electronic exchange with a friend, hours before the show:
Me: I’m having second thoughts about Girl Talk.
Him: Be not afraid. It is fun, and fun is good.
Me: Sometimes I’m not so good with fun.
Him: Even if you don’t like it, I guarantee there will be plenty to write about. For example, there’s usually a guy whose only job is to reload and fire the toilet paper gun all night.
Me: Toilet paper gun?
Him: Oh, and don’t forget some earplugs. Fun can get really loud.
My sensible shoes and I ended up leaving the show a little early, in part because my senses had reached full saturation, but also because I didn’t really want to know what this crowd would be like once the music shut down.
I woke the next day at 7:00 for an early morning spin class in which I found unexpected delight in the instructor’s nine-minute ELO mash-up, as well as his butt jokes. The music was loud, but there I didn’t need earplugs. Who says I don’t know how to have fun?