On April 21, in this year one fan has already dubbed the "2016 slaughterhouse", we lost another beloved musician: Prince. Only three months after music fans lost David Bowie we once again found ourselves feeling strangely like something had happened directly to us. Never having met the man, we felt the sudden empty space he left behind.
Maybe Prince is different because, even at 57, he still seemed young. Maybe people who defiantly break the rules always seem that way. He wanted to keep what was his; who couldn't understand that logic? Long after he became a multimillionaire, he seemed to represent anyone who had ever worked an honest day. Good for you, we thought. Even when he temporarily stopped having a name, we didn't care: we knew who he was.
It was okay that he broke the rules. He deserved to have exceptions made. And even if maybe he didn't, how could you resist him? If you weren't affected by his handsome looks, his humor won you over. And if that didn't, his guitarwork surely did.
It's a shocking thing when rules of the world suddenly apply to such a creature. We want to call it unfair, and then remind ourselves: life makes an exception for no one.
In a perfect world Prince might have been exempt from anything so common as a hip injury, or the flu. Or something in addition to the flu. Unconfirmed reports say he may have been HIV positive for years. Hearing this, his audience, raised in the HIV panicky 80's, seems to be responding with a resounding "So what," and good for us that we are.
So many of us are old enough to have been around the block a few times; maybe more than a few times. We may be highly prone to hearing whatever news may come with a pause and that same, "So what" response. We may hear evidence that our hero was just human, that viruses exist, that maybe pain medication prescribed by a doctor sounds a whole lot better than another surgery. So what.
It's a glorious phrase and one we should maybe say more often.
Maybe it's good we feel close to this man for no reason. Maybe we can feel close to anyone, and there are plenty of anyones who could use a few "So whats." Maybe we can keep those open minds as we vote, as we donate to charities, as we walk around human and pass other humans on the street, as we speak and act, as we make mistakes and say we're sorry.
Go turn 30. Or 40. If you're brave, age beyond that. Be impulsive by starlight and regret things over breakfast. You too will pause when you hear a headline. You'll be aware of all the human facts left out of any headline, the sweeping epic story that has gone untold. You'll be less likely to judge the choices someone makes because you know one day you may have to make those choices. You won't fool yourself by thinking otherwise.
The world will get to you; it always does. You'll have to decide what you call good and what you call fair, knowing that others might think your decisions are wrong. You'll have to wake up each day, starting over, no matter what you've done the night before. You will, with each day, be more and more the type of complicated, imperfect person whose life would require more than one headline to describe.
So many of Prince's fans are children of the eighties. We learned, through our decade, the crime it is to spend more time judging than you do loving. We're in the middle of our adulthoods, deciding each day how to put that lesson into action.
We may watch the news, not feeling like we need to know what killed Prince but maybe feeling like it's something we should hear. We'll handle it, whatever it is. To his fans the details won't cause them to measure out how much they care or feel. We won't be misers. We will not budget. The words, whatever they happen to be, will just state the fact we already, painfully, know: he isn't here.
We can think about this man, the one who invented a symbol and chose what he wanted it to mean. We can, right now, and with no music playing, belt out one of his songs as sassy as we please. We can sing loudly and maybe badly. We can get some of the lyrics wrong and not care. We can prance and gyrate and embarrass our teenage children.
And when they ask us why, we can tell them the truth: this is what love looks like.