For the past few days, fifty percent of the running dialogue in my mind has included the lyrics of a random Prince song. When I’m in the car, washing my hair, cooking dinner, speaking with my husband or on the phone with my mother, at some point in the conversation my mind takes me back to when I was four years old and first became aware of the majesticness of the amazingly danty, hyper-sensual pop star. Outside of my parent’s embrace, he was my first introduction into the wretched agony that could sometimes be known as love, showing the world in a way that only he (and Beyonce) could, that love can make you happy or sad, it could make you dance or destroy a room with a guitar (or a bat). That in it’s best and more purest form, love can manifest magic before your very eyes.
Every time I have thought of him since learning of his death, my mind takes me back to my paternal grandmother’s house, where I would sneak and watch Purple Rain with my siblings and cousins when I was a kid. Like all giants who have passed on, I still have so many questions: How did his feet move so fast? How did he gyrate THAT high off the ground? How did people make bootleg movies in the 1980s when camcorders were the size of a suitcase? Did my grandmother know that we were watching that movie (along with Coming to America and I’m Gonna Get You Sucka) every – single – time we came to visit her?
….I have so many questions.
Shaking off those thoughts, I think back to my favorite scene of the movie and suddenly have the urge to pick up my imaginary neon pink and leopard print air guitar and serenade myself with the epic and only real instrumental that comes to my mind when I think of the late artist. You know which one I’m talking about, right? That moment in Purple Rain when Prince finally liberates himself from his inner demons and played the song written, in part, by his abusive father (who had just tried to shoot himself in the head).
[Air guitar in hand. Bending back on one leg. Arched back. Eyes closed. Head rocking.]
I didn’t know what the heck any of this meant as a kid but I wanted to experience it. If Purple Rain would allow me to look at someone from across a very dark, smoked-filled room and make them know exactly what I wanted from them then it was apparent that it was a very good thing.
Even as a tot too young to know anything else, something deep within me recognized that his angst, his passion, his willingness to move through and use his emotions with otherworldly honesty was unique – a rarity to be marveled at because I would not witness it often.
More than with Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, Prince’s death made me feel like a portion of my childhood had died. Not that either of the aforementioned artists were less significant, but despite his many rumored sexual partners and suspected (and assumed) drug use in the 80s, death was nowhere on my radar when it came to Prince. Like Yoda from StarWars, I suspected that 1,000 years from now, Prince would still be here — a bit smaller in statue but anciently wise.
The day after he died, I woke up only to be greeted by my distraught five year old laying on the couch, staring up at the ceiling in bewilderment. Did his little soul know that the world had lost a huge creative force? Did he sense mommy’s sadness at dinnertime, as the sweet melody of Prince’s songs rang through the air over my phone’s speakers?
“Mommy, something is wrong.” He said as soon as he saw me.
“I know. Something is wrong, Prince is dead. But what’s wrong with you?” I countered.
“Something is wrong with my penis. It’s freezing but it’s not cold!” He whispered worriedly.
Dammitttttttt! I thought as I shook myself out of my funk and my mind began to race. Not today Lord, not today, I am not mentally prepared to handle this today.
His words were still suspended in the air as I began to rue the day I decided to talk openly to my sons about their genitalia.
I wanted to turn around and go upstairs. I wanted to pull the covers high above my head and turn on “1999,” as loudly as possibly and make the world around me disappear.
But I knew that I couldn’t. This was not a drill. I had to give him an answer.
I figured that I had two options: I could make him feel embarrased about a normal bodily function or I could make him know that everything was okay…that his non-cold freezing penis was just a part of life.
Thinking of Prince, I smiled and knew exactly what to do. I kissed away the creases on my concerned child’s forehead and gave him a big hug.
“I don’t know why your penis is freezing.” I told him. “Go ask your daddy.”
Rest in Power Prince Rogers Nelson.
May heaven be filled with electric guitars and pretty girls.
May it rain down purple in the presence of the sun/Son just for you.
For your viewing, listening and dancing pleasure…