THERE ARE numerous saying that, when paraphrased, all impart the same caution: “Never meet your idols.” More likely than not, they won’t live up to your expectations, the reality of who they are will never comparing to the image that both they and the media like to tout as their true selves. They could even just be a downright jerk and ruin your fantasy altogether. But no one tells you that if you meet your former idols or crushes or obsessions later in life, you might not even care.
I learned this last week when, fifteen years after the fact, I met my middle-school rockstar crush- Billy Corgan from The Smashing Pumpkins at a concert. To be honest, when I realized I was going to meet him I didn’t feel anything, and not because I felt numb with nerves or excitement, but because I wasn’t affected, which is surprising about someone who I’d delusionally sworn would be my boyfriend while I was going through puberty. I didn’t care anymore — or at least I thought I didn’t. We met and said “hello” and I took a photo with him because I know that thirteen year-old me would slit her wrists if I didn’t. Yes, because 13 year-old me was, pardon my language, angsty as f**k — due in part to the music of Corgan and The Smashing Pumpkins.
As a blonde girl growing up in the South with two parents who were still married, there really wasn’t much for me to be angsty about, but when I listened to the Pumpkins, I knew that there was a world out there that I wanted to experience and I knew that pain was a part of it, and that to really live I needed to experience that pain. (Even if it that pain was made up and only existed in my head.) My parents probably should’ve put me in therapy right then and there. I wanted to be the bassist (until 1999), D’arcy Wretzky. She was cool. She was the epitome of a rocker chick. I wanted to feel the torture in my soul that the band wrote songs about because if you don’t experience the lows in life, you can never fully appreciate its highs.
But, back to the present (or the present of last week), Corgan and I met and took a photo and that was that. My friend with me was jealous I’d gotten a photo and aside from posting it on Instagram with a lyric from one of their hit songs, “Zero” from the album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, I thought I was done. But then Corgan (the only remaining original member of the band) took the stage and it brought me back. I don’t know if it was nostalgia or if somehow hearing him belt out “The world is a vampire,” somehow became my DeLorean but it immediately brought me back to a time before I knew that shoes with red bottoms existed, and I struggled to remember if I remembered to pay the bill for my car insurance this month, or beat myself up over a piece of writing that was either rejected or edited so heavily I couldn’t even recognize it as my own anymore.
As I sang along to the lyrics that somehow came back to me instantly (even though I can’t remember what a covalent bond is for the life of me), it made me forget all of the things we worry about on a daily basis and for those twenty minutes, the music reminded me that I have emotions, even if I didn’t when I was face-to-face with Corgan. The music meant something to me, and it reminded me of the person I was and the parts about myself that I’ve missed after becoming a seemingly-responsible adult. Granted, it’s not like I can run away from my responsibilities, but it was an escape that I didn’t even know that I needed and, to be honest, it did more for me than a massage or glass of Sauvignon Blanc could have ever done.
So, while I’m sure that when most people meet their idols, their delusions of grandeur are shattered and disappointment sets in, meeting my former idol reminded me of who I was and who I still am somewhere deep inside. I may not be that angsty teen anymore, but finding out that an important part of you still survives through all the bulls**t that life throws at you is something that’s a better holiday gift then a pair of red-bottomed shoes.