Sunday, November 01, 2009

A middle-aged Emily the Strange

This Halloween I had class, so my husband Rick decided to join me in San Fran while my daughter's bio dad stayed with her at home. They went trick-or-treating and had a nice, long visit, which was good because she doesn't get to see him often. Rick rode the motorcycle down to The City which meant we could tool around on Halloween on the bike, rather than fighting for parking with the mini-van.

After class on Halloween, Rick and I went out to dinner then returned to our friend's apartment so I could put on my costume. I decided to be Emily the Strange, one of my favorite characters. When I was 12 I was just as dark and sullen, so I have a soft spot for that nihilistic child. With a long black wig, darkened eyebrows I shaped downwards to give me that angry-child look, and black lipstick, I embraced my inner goth-girl. Unfortunately all that black made me look as haggard and sleep-deprived as I feel. Whatever. I pulled on my Doc Martins and my "seeing is disbelieving" t-shirt and declared "I'm Emily the Strange at middle age."

We sped across town on the motorcycle under a moon that was just on the edge of full. Mist poured in from the ocean and I shivered a little in my black leather jacket. The sidewalks were filled with people dressed up in silly and seductive costumes, and the closer we got to Market street, the drunker the people seemed. I felt a rush of euphoria, a tingle of freedom. I was on the back of a motorcycle holding on to the man I loved in the city I loved and for one night I was free. No child to tend, no phone calls to make, no dishes to wash. I am Emily the Strange and the night is my friend.

A friend of ours is in a Sisters of Mercy tribute band called The Reptile House and that night they were playing at a bar called Annie's on Folsom street. We parked the bike and went to the door to pay the cover. $7.00, or $5.00 in costume. Cool. I handed him my $5.00 just as he said, "Seven."

"I thought it was five in costume."


"I'm in costume."

He looked me over closely, then recognized I was wearing a wig. "Okay, five."

When I walked into the bar I realized dressing up like an iconic goth chick wasn't exactly a great costume to wear to a punk bar on goth night. As I looked around I saw many people dressed in black with long black hair and black lipstick, only they weren't in costume. This was what they wear out, what I used to wear out before I was old enough to get into bars legally (but I managed to). I laughed. Rick said, "I told you."

Whatever. He bought me a saki (I LOVE Annie's because they serve saki) and we found our friend who was about to play drums in the first band, a tribute to Souxie and the Banshees. The lead singer had a bad cold so sounded terrible but had good energy, and the musicians were great. Dancing in the front row, I sipped my little bottle of saki and fell into the music. I have never outgrown my love for goth music and I felt that euphoric rush of freedom again.

That feeling was quickly followed by the stupefying realization that I'm getting old. This was the first time I'd been to a tribute show for a band I listened to when I was young and the understanding that I was that goth girl 20 years ago was stunning. It's all going too fast; I'm not ready to be middle aged. I just figured out who I am and what is important to me and it's too late to go back and start again. Can I please have a little more time?

More friends arrived, both parents who'd also managed to take the night off from kid duty. We drank and chatted and listened to the music and slowly my blues faded (I'd been channeling Emily the Strange a bit too much, I think). When The Reptile House started, I stood in the front row and danced every vestige of sadness away. The euphoria returned as I sang along to the songs I knew and felt my inner goth girl stir in remembrance. I may be older now, but that girl I used to be is still a part of me. She just needs to come out and play now and then.

My husband and I managed to stay almost to last call, then we hopped back on the bike and sped away through the nighttime streets of San Francisco. I held on tight and let him drive, not worrying about where we were or what we should be doing. Rarely do I have a moment where I'm not in control of something, so those moments on the back of his motorcycle were liberating. He's a good driver and I trusted him to get us home. I relaxed and watched the city zip by.

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