An Open Letter To Amanda Palmer
I was one of the hundreds of faces you met this week. I was one of the dozens who stood enthralled at the record store on Tuesday. I read your blog; I follow your tweets; I know your songs.
You don’t know me, but I think there are some things worth knowing. Like how I tried to hide that I was crying, standing in the middle of that nameless crowd, until you looked at me. You looked at me and I didn’t care about the people looking at me, judging me for crying. I just cared about you and your music, and how your songs can make me cry in the very best way.
I want to tell you about the afternoon before, when I stood naked in front of my closet, rejecting every piece of clothing I own. How I stood in front of the mirror in outfit number four, hating what I saw, biting my lip so I wouldn’t cry and crying anyway.
I stood there and stared at myself, hating myself for being so fat, so ugly. I asked myself out loud “Why are you even doing this?!” A picture of you, standing on your box in a tattered wedding dress, hands on hips, face to the sky, flashed in my mind. “For her,” I told myself. “You’re doing this for her. So you can tell her thank you.”
I made myself quit crying and changed my clothes one more time. If there is any crowd on earth that won’t judge me for how I look, it’s a crowd of your fans. I hopped in my car and drove to Dallas, thankful that I didn’t know where I was going. Concentrating on the directions didn’t give me time to get nervous or anxious.
I got to the record store and there was already a crowd. I tried not to freak out, and wandered around for a few minutes, trying to get a spot where I could see. I must have been wearing a goofy grin because people kept smiling at me. Now I cringe at how silly I probably looked; in the moment, I didn’t care.
You and Neil came through the door. Someone whooped, we all clapped, and then stood awkwardly staring at you while you talked to the record store owner. I felt embarrassed for you; you took it in stride. You got up on stage and got out your ukulele and you were in your element.
You played your songs, most of which I recognized, a few I didn’t. I tried not to cry when you sang “In My Mind” then realized it didn’t fucking matter if I was crying.
You told the story about how you started playing the ukulele and I laughed, then you told the story about your mom selling your childhood home, and my heart ached. You said it was a house your were “close to” and I knew exactly what you meant. You sang “Dear Old House” and I felt sad and comforted at the same time. Sad because I lost my childhood home too; comforted because someone else in the world had the same feeling I did for a random set of objects and chopped-down trees.
You sang a few more songs and told a few more stories. I watched Neil watching you. His eyes were so full of love. I realized that I want someone to look at me like that. Like they respect me and admire me and love me for who I am.
Neil got up to speak and I found it hard to concentrate. My brain was screaming “THAT’S NEIL FUCKING GAIMAN!” The writer in me was trying to absorb every moment in minute detail. My self-doubt was quietly judging my talent against his, and finding me wanting. My creative self was telling my self-doubt to shut the hell up and just listen.
You sang “The Truth” and I nodded along, agreeing with every word.
“I’ve already spent too much time doing things I didn’t want to, so if I want to sit here and write and drink wine, you can bet your black ass that I’m going to.”
Neil got up and sang, and I watched you watch him and I saw the love in your eyes and I realized I want to look at someone the way you look at him.
You sang “Ukulele Anthem” and for the second time in my life I wished I owned (and could play) a ukulele. I think I will buy one for myself for Christmas this year.
Before I knew it, it was over.
I stood in line for an hour to meet you. It sounds silly, but it didn’t feel like that long at all. I talked to the people in line around me, and for a moment forgot that I’m painfully shy.
I got to the table where you and Neil sat, and you looked me right in the eyes. You made me feel like it was important to you that I was there. I handed you my journal and told you how to spell my name and you smiled. You signed the page with a flourish.
You looked up at me, and I felt so self-conscious, but I was determined to say what I came to say. I told you that you inspired me, that you helped me change my life. It sounds so corny, so ridiculous, but it’s true.
You see, about a year ago I was trying really hard to be happy. I thought that if I put in enough effort, I would stop being depressed and start being happy. I thought that if I pretended, it would somehow magically be true. I was at a decent job with a terrible boss. I was doing what everyone expected me to do. I told myself that was what I was supposed to do, what I needed to do. I wanted to be a writer, though. I was too afraid to leave the security of the decent job, regardless of how soul-crushing it was, for the insecurity of doing something I love. I didn’t have the guts to take the risk. Then I saw your Fuck Plan B hashtag on Twitter. I knew then that I would never be a writer, would never take the risk, if I kept waiting for the right time. The right time would never come. So I got up and went straight into my boss’s office and told him I was done. Two weeks later I was out of a job, but for the first time in my life I was happy.
You did that. You helped me find the courage to do what I wanted to do for me. You showed me that it’s worth it, that I’m worth it.
So when I said I can’t thank you enough, I meant it. I think you understood what I was trying to say and saw the honesty behind the sentiment. You grabbed my hands and pulled me to you and kissed my cheek, and I started to cry. I made a joke, told Neil he was pretty awesome too, hoping he would laugh and give me time to recover. He signed my journal and let me babble about my love of his work, then shook my hand. I told him ‘thank you’ with the same honesty, the same sentiment.
I was shaking by the time I got to the parking lot. I was overwhelmed – too many emotions all fighting to be felt at the same time. I was inspired, sad, determined, comforted, scared, brave. I was high on the experience.
Amanda, I want to thank you – for being you, for having the strength to be honest and real, for not being ashamed to show off your talent and your beauty. You’re amazing, and I can never thank you enough.
**I took over 100 pictures and not one of them is decent enough to post. I don’t have the Photoshop skills to save them, assuming they are salvageable. Special thanks to YouTuber watermellen89 for all the videos.**
Update: There are some amazing pictures in this article on Central Track, “Uke and Rally“.