Verklempt. The vapours. However you slice it, people all over the world are feeling a collective amalgam of emotions over the same person, Prince. Earlier this year, when David Bowie passed I was sad for the loss of one so influential who also happened to be married to one of my personal sheroes, Iman. However, I wasn’t gutted. I shed a quick tear and listened to his music for a day or two. When Phife Dawg died I couldn’t hear Tribe out in public without tearing up. Now, as I sit here with tears slowly streaming down my face I don’t know how to describe my feelings. I have a headache, my stomach feels like I’ve been on a tumultuous boat ride and I have that burn in my chest that comes when you’re trying to hold something in.
Prince meant something to me. He was legend. The closest I got to seeing him live was going to a Morris Day and the Time concert when I was a freshman in undergrad. In 1990 Pretty Woman came out. One of my favorite scenes in this movie was the bathtub one.
Vivian was all of us, singing Prince out loud, out of key, probably thinking the bathroom acoustics make her sound better than she actually does. When she realizes Edward is in the bathroom with her she says “Don’t you just love Prince?” to which he replies, “More than life itself.” When I would ride on the expressway with my mother I used to ask for three songs consistently, “That one from Pretty Woman”, “Little Red Corvette”, and “Raspberry Beret.” I used to alternate between hanging my head out the window like an unruly puppy and surfing my hands on the wind currents like the cool kids in the movies. Whenever I hear any of these songs I get flashes of the highlights of my childhood when I use to smile all the way to my back teeth. Today is the first day where listening to these songs hasn’t put an infectious smile on my face.
When I was a kid, I unfortunately wasn’t the smartest. I remember looking at Prince and seeing his appearance and thinking he was a bearded lady or gay. His perpetually painted and pretty visage conflicted with what I thought was a man. I saw the older black women around me fawn over the man and women fall on the floor on VH1 specials. When I asked why he donned crop tops and eyeliners I got a resounding “who cares, he’s prince.” That was as good an explanation as I needed. I credit Prince with helping me to grow my view of gender norms and sexuality at a very young age. When other kids would make fun of people for being “fruity” or that other “f word” I would say “who cares, Prince wears makeup and lady’s clothes.” The black community can be fairly rigid when confronted with people that don’t fit into a pre established mold because of our foundation in the church. It was rather refreshing to see my community openly love a man that fit in no box.
My hope for the future is that people look back on Prince and appreciate him not just for his musical genius, but also for the barriers that he broke. I hope that my generation and future generations continue to push boundaries and accept nothing at face value. I hope that communities far and wide learn to just say “so what” when confronted with people who don’t fit into their molds. He was a Jehovah’s Witness who loved the bible and Rock and Roll. He personified the duality of man like none other. When conflicted about what path to choose for yourself “porque no los dos?” Prince meant something to me and I hope one day he will for you too.