I have never considered myself like everyone else; even as a child. There was a distinct difference in how I acted and thought, perceived the world, and how deeply I felt. My heart always ran and still runs very deep and I always had a highly vivid imagination – I was, and will always remain, a huge dreamer. I could be found sporting my mom’s red robe as a cape, while singing into a wooden spoon and dancing in front of the radio. I would have given the world to be a ballerina and/or a singer. Alas, dancing lessons were not available for someone as poor as me. Growing up in the deepest working class, with mom working as a cleaning woman to support me and my brother, while I was taking care of the household at 8, didn’t leave money for dancing or singing lessons.
I used to disappear into an imaginary world, filled with heroes and brightly clad people; kings and queens, princesses and princes and all things fairy tales are made of. I did two things: I read a huge amount of books – and I listened to music. Escaping into a fantasy world saved my life. It saved me from doing drugs or picking up drinking, the chosen past time for a lot of working class, latchkey kids and teenagers.
I was drawn to the outrageous performers: David Bowie, Freddy Mercury, Boy George, Robert Smith, Adam Ant, Steve Strange from Visage – just to name a few. I loved the make up. I loved the theater and the outrageous clothing. I had more gay than straight friends. I was a proud New Wave girl (something that later on turned into Goth) when I was a teenager. Besides a stint of a few years, I never, ever dressed or looked “normal” again. I also remained non-committal to any scene or crowd and kept friends of all colors, backgrounds, religions, looks and creed. But I always favored the artists and dreamers. This is who I have been for all of my life.
Of course, I started out dressing “weird,” to stand out and be different (it’s what one does at 14) and because I hated how mean society was. I was escaping my bleak surroundings, the bullies in school and the utter helplessness I felt growing up. I was rebelling against a system I thought favored the shallow and beautiful. Now, as I look back, I realize that the reasons ran much deeper: we dreamers were just made differently! Most of us dressed and expressed ourselves in ways that reflected how we felt. David Bowie was such a person. He was bending all the rules on what you’re supposed to be; on having to decide if you are gay or straight, a boy or girl, into rock, glam, or whatever else floats your boat. He and the other dreamers taught us that love at first sight was OK and that following one’s heart wasn’t stupid at all. He was the space man, the goblin king and androgynous super hero, and I loved him for it.
I found solace in knowing that people like him existed and I spent hours escaping into magical worlds of wonder and true love when listening to their music and reading my fairy tale books. Doing this kept me sane and I don’t think those who didn’t experience this will ever understand why we then feel as if a piece of our soul is ripped out when one of these magical beings dies. I guess, some of us felt all along that we were floating in a tin can and David Bowie took some of that loneliness we aliens feel away.
PS: I also cried my eyes out when Freddy Mercury died! I am still sad about this one, too.