That Was Then, This Is Now: My Torrid Love Affair With Prince

Apr 20, 2013 by

That Was Then, This Is Now: My Torrid Love Affair With Prince

This was Prince when I was first introduced to him:


Drool …. be still my 11-year-old heart.

This was me then:

Young and innocent to the ways of the Artist named Prince.

Young and innocent to the ways of the Artist named Prince.

My older sister Monique had come home with her school book covered with his angelic, amorphous face that was neither male nor female, safe nor dangerous, innocent nor jaded, just beautiful and wholly desirable and powerful enough to create sensations within my mind and body that my life’s experience had not yet prepared me for. That was the beginning of what would become a lifelong obsession and quest that has yet to be resolved or figured out.

In junior high with my rebellion against my parents and God burning at its hottest, I tried to run away from the suffocation of rules and rules and more rules to Minneapolis to become a Prince girl. I hadn’t quite figured out what that meant, I was 13 after all, but I imagined it had to be better than the restriction that was my existence living at 19915 Dunbrooke Ave where to even listen to his music meant sneaking away into my closet with a tape recorder on so low I could hardly hear it.  With my growing love for Prince kept in the shadows, it only made it all the more precious to me. He was my little secret, and I loved him.

Junior high, a Prince girl in the making.

Junior high, a Prince girl in the making.

Seriously, what chance did I have against Prince and the magical incantations that were his lyrics like:

 I know my heart is beating,
my drummer tells me so
If U take your life 4 granted,
your beating heart will go
So don’t sleep til U’re guilty,
‘cuz sinners all R we
There’s others doing far worse than us,
so B glad that U R free

You're on crack if you think I could resist this. Crack!

You’re on crack if you think I could resist this. Crack!

High school brought with it a shift in my serious affections. There was another man, real and tangible, who began to if not steal my heart from Prince at least share it with him. The childhood crush I had with Marc grew into something that made Prince’s songs less about Prince and more about life, my life to be exact.  For example, listening to Erotic City didn’t provoke sexual fantasies about Prince, it provoked hot and heavy realities with Marc.  Just sayin’.

Providing the soundtrack to my teenage hormones.

Providing the soundtrack to my teenage hormones.

Marc and I were in the throes of teenaged love. And we were both Prince fans, so that helped.

My high school hormones.

My teenage hormones in the form of the cute starting quarterback.

In fact, I’d known Marc for several years before we officially started “dating.” But make no mistake, our first date was to see Purple Rain at the Old Towne Mall.  Of course it was.

From that starting point Prince remained a fixture in our love relationship, which eventually grew to include two beautiful boys, Ryan and Cole. Marc and I pride ourselves for how well versed the boys are in all things Prince. We’ve dragged them to concerts across states, listening to Prince tapes and later CDs along the way. Prince was as much a part of our family as football or sweet potato pies. He just was, and still is. During a recent trip to visit Ryan and Tara in Arizona, Ry played his Prince playlist while we talked and reminisced over times past over full bodied red wine and the fat, wet kick drum that Prince used to favor so much. And, below is a recent text message from Cole containing nothing but the title of one of Prince’s recent and, well, forgettable songs:

Rock Love Affair ... a forgettable song, but Cole knows it.

Rock Love Affair … a forgettable song, but Cole knows it.

Cole had visited us in Seattle over Christmas when we all lamented over the bad songs Prince had been making recently. We mocked his latest effort, Rock Love Affair, and Cole thought it would be funny to, months later, send his random text.  He was right. It was.

Prince, he was our guy… Sigh.

Last night, Marc and I went to see Prince at the ShowBox in Seattle.  We were so excited. Although we’ve seen him upwards of 10 times, we’d never seen him in a venue that small, that intimate. The “closest” I’d ever gotten to Prince before was front row at the Pepsi Center in Denver one night.

I had only returned from a harrowing missionary trip to South Africa that morning and had just enough time to say hello to our kids, shower, get dressed, and fight the jet lag on the way to the premium seats Marc had spent an arm and a leg on. My mind was somewhere between the squalor of the shanty towns I’d been in and the flashing lights of the gigantic stage that was still too small to contain the big brightness of Prince. I watched the Artist saunter across that stage performing his greatest hits effortlessly, masterfully. He jumped from the piano to the guitar to the drums writhing on top of speakers or grinding on the ground as he liked. He could do it in his sleep if he wanted to. He was that good.

As the show came to a close, Prince sashayed over to our seats singing “I Would Die for You” on the way. In a moment when time stood still, Prince hovered directly over me, stared me in my eyes in the way that steals your breath, pointed a finger at me and said “You” and then he pointed his finger at himself and said “I would” and then he formed his fingers into the shape of a gun and pointed it to his head and said “die for” and then, pointing his finger at me once again he smiled and said “you” all the while holding the gaze that held my breath. In a stupor, I raised me finger to him and made the same sacred promise before he strutted toward some other woman with those same wanton words dripping from his lips.

You, Nicole. I would die for YOU.

You, Nicole. I would die for YOU.

My lord …

But that? That was a big venue. This would be small, close, and perfect.

In shopping for new shoes to wear to the concert, I went to Nordstrom. The sales person asked if it was a “special occasion” and I answered truthfully, I said yes. I told him Prince was coming to town and he, being my junior by at least 20 years, responded by saying he didn’t really know much about his music. I asked him who were his favorites, he spouted off several artists and then said he really liked Frank Ocean and Miguel. I smiled and told him he knew more about Prince’s music than he knew … he got it.

My name is Prince and I am funky. My name is Prince, the one and only.

My name is Prince and I am funky. My name is Prince, the one and only.

On the rainy night of the concert Marc and I stood beneath our umbrella as a guy “with the band” approached us and, for no reason, gave us VIP passes that enabled us to get into the venue early to grab some of the better seats.  I could not have been more thrilled.

We eagerly took our seats and waited along with everyone else in that packed house for the show to begin.

At last Prince took the stage, opening with the song Marc guessed he would … Let’s Go Crazy. And crazy we went. The place erupted like the talent from Prince himself. He played that guitar like the virtuoso he is. It was great. After the raucous applause ended, Prince said something about loving R&B but feeling a little Rock ‘n Roll tonight.


Yeah, that’s what he said, and that’s what he meant. In between playing some of his more popular songs, he played a wealth of his more recent and unfamiliar ones. I sat in my special, VIP seat looking at the man who sung to life some of my most precious memories choosing not to revisit them with me. Prince while still Prince was a different Prince. Not just in the way time ages us but different as in changed.

All I wanted to do was take a drive down memory lane riding in the seat of Prince’s Little Red Corvette but Prince was driving a new car that wasn’t little, red or a corvette. Don’t get me wrong, whatever he played was better than anyone else alive today could play it. I mean that. He’s talent personified, still. But I wanted the Prince I’d come to know, love, depend upon, seek out when I needed to be reminded of times good or bad. I was dashed a bit. And even when he did play his familiar tunes like Sign of the Times, She’s Always in My Hair, Forever in My Life, and even Purple Rain, the magic had already disappeared, evaporated just like the years since I first encountered him and the idea of him in 1978.

Prince today, older, wiser.

Prince today, older, wiser.

Life changes. Time moves. People do too. Prince is a man and, more over, a man who is an artist. Of course he would evolve, expand. We all do, or at least all should. I know and believe that. It’s just that, for a night, I wanted the veil between life and death, yesterday and today, to stay fixed and firm for just a moment longer, for just one song more.

Me today, older certainly but perhaps not nearly as wise.

Me today, older certainly but perhaps not nearly as wise.

I have found this whole thing quite troubling. It has moved me to the point of tears even. When asked by Ryan how the concert was, I couldn’t help myself from blubbering my distraught musings. “We can never go back. Time keeps going,” I said choking. “Why can’t things stay the same? The past is just over.” (I know, it’s hopelessly dramatic and stupidly simple)

“But, mom,” my smart baby said.  “That’s what memories are for, to remember. You can still remember and enjoy those moments.”

He’s right. I can. And I will.

I’ll remember with gratitude how colorful Prince has made my life, how much fun we’ve had as a family trying to figure out what the lyrics to Starfish and Coffee could possibly mean, and how awesome it was to see Ryan wake a young and sleeping Cole during a concert because no one should sleep through a live performance of Purple Rain ever. No one. Not ever.

(My super secret recording from the Showbox …)

You know, as I think about it, that concert was actually pretty damn awesome. I was lucky to be there. And, you know what? Prince is as amazing as he’s ever been. He’s still a Sexy MF too. Thank you Prince for watching me grow and helping me, in your uniquely musical way, to grow ever still.

Peace and Blessings,


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