Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Ruminations on the Big Five-Oh...and Clay Aiken

So…I turned 50 years old last week. As I stood over the blazing birthday cake surrounded by family and friends trying to come up with a wish before I blew out the candles, my life briefly flashed before my eyes. I vividly recalled that when I was younger, I thought of 50 as ancient, decrepit, over the hill, done. For years, I contemplated that reality with fear and dread. And while it’s true that this society has a tendency to marginalize “older” women, I have to say that now that I’m here standing on the summit contemplating the view, I’m beginning to see that getting hung up on numbers is a pointless exercise, and that age really is a state of mind. My father used to say that as long as you stayed engaged and interested and kept trying to learn new things, you would never get “old.”

And I think he was right. Lord knows he never did.

Throughout the course of my intrepid adventures as a proud member of the Clay Aiken fandom over the past four years, I have met a lot of fascinating, funny, vital, and yes…engaging and interesting women of all ages, from 15 to 85. Indeed, the reason I’m here posting on the internet -- and this blog in particular -– is because of some wonderful fans I first came to know online, and then, to my great good fortune, in person. So many generous, smart, compassionate people whom I would never have known if Clay hadn’t decided to camp out in that American Idol audition line in Atlanta four-and-a-half years ago.

What is it about Clay that attracted such a scintillating group? Well, I suppose I could put it down to simple good taste, but it seems to be more than that. We were, and are, drawn to a great, unique, once-in-a-lifetime talent, but also a good and decent person who clearly has made it a priority to make a positive difference in the world. Someone who inspires others to do likewise. I can’t, of course, speak for everyone, but I know he touched something in me that made me want to be a better person. And I know I’m not alone in that…it seems to be one of unifying qualities about Clay upon which many seem to agree. Something a vast number of us have in common.

Which is not to say that we’re all alike. Oh, no! Far from it, despite the media’s penchant for lumping us together into a big amorphous blob of “crazy Claymates.” We’re quite a diverse group actually, coming from all different kinds of backgrounds, and certainly don’t agree on everything -- or anything, at times. Everyone, it seems, has a different idea of what Clay should do next, what kind of music he should sing, where he should tour, what kind of tour it should be, what should be on his next album, even how he should wear his hair and whether his new teeth are flattering (I say yes, not that Clay has asked me for my opinion!). But amidst the all the good natured argument and extrapolation, you can feel the unwavering support -- not just of Clay, but of each other, too.

I’ve never really been a fan of anyone before, or followed anyone’s career this closely (well, not since I was 13 and had 28 posters of Bobby Sherman taped to my pink bedroom wall). If anyone had told me that at this point in my life, I’d be traveling to multiple concerts in far flung cities, sharing hotel rooms with people I didn’t know well (needless to say, I do now!), haunting Ticketmaster and broker sites in a quest for the best seats, standing in bus lines, and participating in other fan-related activities (I have a vague and somewhat embarrassing memory of balancing on a dumpster at a chain link fence next to a venue in Vegas with some other fans whom I met there), I’d have told them to get some professional help. And I couldn’t have imagined that I would find myself huddled for hours on a blustery street corner in downtown Chicago in the subzero predawn cold, just to get a quick handshake and an autograph on my copy of Learning to Sing. Nor would I have believed it if someone had told me I’d be agreeing to buy upgrades of tickets I already had, sight unseen, to a concert in Indiana from a fan I’ve never met over the phone from Vancouver while standing in a rest stop alongside a cornfield on I-67, enroute to the concert. But that, believe it or not, is a fairly typical experience for an internet Clay fan.

And many of us have discovered creative and technical abilities we never suspected we possessed, and learned a few new skills. We’ve learned how to take excellent photographs and video, make montages, wallpapers, DVDs, CDs. Some have been inspired to write poetry and skits and songs and articles and fiction. As for me…I always knew I could write, but I never had any idea I would be good at writing comedy, much less putting it out there for public consumption! And I certainly had no clue that I would enjoy it so much.

Am I grateful to have had the opportunity to do these things? You bet. Do I regret any of the time and effort and money I’ve spent? Hell, no. Is my life better because of the knowledge that you can always count on a Steak 'n' Shake to be open at two in the morning on your way back from a concert when you're jonesing for a chocolate shake? No question. Do I feel younger than I ever have? Absolutely.

For those of you out there who have yet to reach this milestone, I can tell you that I am living proof that the popular adage is true: “50 is the new 30.” And Clay, pretty much…it’s all your fault.

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Anonymous said...

Pink I love hearing your stories. You are the kind of person that has made this fandom so much fun. I hope Clay reads this blog, because I believe it would make him very happy. And you are so right about the number. It doesn't matter. Being blessed with good health is a good thing too. Can't wait to see you on the road again. Good times ahead, thanks to Clay. IU Gal

Anonymous said...

Wonderful blog! I can relate to all of it and the great fans I have met as a result of my travels and the internet. Clay has certainly made all of us feel younger and enjoy life more!!

Rhea said...

Hey, happy birthday. I am not yet 50 but I do recall thinking how darned old that sounded. I've got two years to go. Now, I have a question. Are you my sister? She had Bobby Sherman posters and we had a pink bedroom. Hmmmm.
The Boomer Chronicles

Anonymous said...

Pink, I was more of a Davy Jones gusher myself but I know exactly what you mean. I turned the big 5x10 this year also. I have never been one to pigeon hole my taste in music, fashion or culture clash of any one kind so I found it interesting that in the past year only that I came to actually finally "get it". I'm more of a Greenday person with some Elvis Costello and Frank Sinatra thrown in. So imagine my shock and disbelief in discovering I had now become obsessed with this dorky guy who for some inexplicable reason suddenly made me urm...excited(?)

My husband is 10 years my junior and I've never felt my age before, but now he says I look even younger than him and I have Clay to thank for that. Yes, thankyou Clay and may you have many more converts to take into shangri-la with you!