Whitney Booth – Just Me and Taylor

At our Feb 2016 theme “Alone,” co-host Whitney Booth delivered a delightfully funny “confessional” piece on her love of Taylor Swift and that time she went alone to one of Tay’s concerts…as a grown woman. 

Just Me and Taylor

In the last few years, I’ve learned to do a lot of things by myself that I might otherwise always do with a friend, boyfriend, or a large group of folks. Going to the movies is a pretty easy one — I mostly want to be left alone  when I do that, anyway. When I used to travel alone for my job, I got used to dining out by myself — sitting at the bar is faster than waiting for a table and I would almost always end up having a conversation with someone. It took a bit of gumption to decide on it, but traveling by myself has uncovered some of the deepest joys I’ve yet to know in this life. 

Live music was one of the big draws that attracted me to Nashville twelve years ago, and in that time I’ve dragged a number of friends along with me to shows all over town. It’s obviously way more fun when both parties in attendance are equally excited about the concert or share a love for the artist, and that’s been the case a lot of the time, but not always. When I was dating someone for a long time, I got used to having a go-to concert companion. I knew that I could buy two tickets and we would both go and it would be fun, but when I was single again, that changed. Sure, I still had lots of friends I could call up and invite, but for some of the bigger shows I wanted to see, the tickets would go on sale so far in advance that it was hard to make any firm plans. 

I looked to my fictional mentor for all things hopelessly romantic, Ted Mosby, for direction. When Ted Mosby receives a wedding invitation, he RSVPs for two, even when he is single— it’s a bold act of hope that by the time the wedding rolls around, he’ll be in love, or at least excited about the possibility of love— maybe even with the mother of his kids. Following suit in pure Mosby fashion, I started buying two tickets to shows without a specific guest in mind —who knows where I’d be several months from now?! Pulling a Mosby felt like a way of breathing life into my hopes and putting those possibilities out into the universe — not that I was so hard up for a boyfriend, but it was nice to think about how much fun it might be to take a really great date to this concert ten months from now. And sure, I’ve ended up selling a lot of single tickets and standing next to a stranger, wondering then if this person might be my soulmate before quickly deciding “no, probably not.”

In the summer of 2013, I was spinning in a delayed whirlwind of Taylor Swift fever. I’ve never been a big fan of country music so I suppose it makes sense that she caught my attention at a point in her career when she was leaning almost fully pop. Like a lot of folks, I had decided Taylor Swift was a whiney girl whose subtlety in breakup anthems left us wanting. I hadn’t ever really listened to her until she dropped the single, “We are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” which I listened to approximately 26 times in a row one afternoon. It wasn’t until that year that I became obsessed with one song at a time until I was fully enamored with her Red album, which I had ripped from a 9 year old’s CD copy while I was working as her nanny. Taylor Swift would be playing three nights at Bridgestone Arena that September and a lot of my friends were going, but the tickets had gone on sale over a year before and all three nights had almost sold out immediately. There was no chance of me jumping in with a group of friends who had been planning on it for so long, but I was wearing that album out and was already experiencing serious anticipatory FOMO. I had to go. In a fit of Taylor-fueled excitement, I grabbed my phone, searched for a single ticket on Ticketmaster, and bought it.  

I hesitated to share my excitement with a lot of people because I knew I’d be met with the dreaded question, “Who are you going with?” At this point, I hadn’t been to any concerts alone. Many of my friends wouldn’t flinch at the news of my going out solo, but this was not my typical genre or taste and there was something inherently creepy about a 27 year old woman going alone to a Taylor Swift concert. With another adult who wears Taylor superfandom with pride? No big deal. With a group of kids squealing with excitement to see their favorite star? Not weird at all. Alone? At this show. A little weird.

But the night arrived and I had shared with a few trusted comrades just how out of my mind excited I was. I put on my red lipstick, chugged a Coors Light in my kitchen, and drove myself downtown. I gave myself a little bit of time so that I could have a drink at the bar at Merchant’s beforehand, so I parked in a garage and took my time walking down Broadway, smelling the cigarettes and spilled whiskey from ten thousand nights before, feeling the anticipation that hung heavy in the dusky downtown air. I ordered a cocktail at Merchants, all the while breathing deeply and reminding myself that there was nothing weird about being alone and doing something I wanted to do, believing that this would be a great night and that I had everything I needed — ticket, red lips, ID… well, almost everything. I sprinted back across Broadway, bargained with the garage attendant to let me out and back in without paying twice, sped home to grab my ID and tried again. I went straight to Bridgestone this time, directly to the beer line, which was delightfully short at this Taylor Swift concert, since her fanbase was still mostly underage.

Ed Sheeran was opening for her on this tour. I didn’t and still don’t care about him, but I have never experienced a surge of positive energy and excitement like the one I felt when I pulled back the curtain to walk into the stadium that night. Red blinking signs filled the seats, girls screamed at Beatles-Ed-Sullivan Show decibels — I’m not remotely ashamed to share that I teared up a little. I couldn’t remember a time when I had been in the presence of such genuine excitement — I’m not sure that I had ever felt the magnanimous joy and enthusiasm that filled Bridgestone that night. 

…Until about an hour later. 

I don’t know if any of you have ever been to a Taylor Swift concert, or if you have an idea of what to expect from a big stadium show like this, but I was not prepared for the level of sheer, nonstop entertainment and unadulterated fun that would keep me on my feet, dancing and singing for three hours straight that night. Say what you will about Tay, but I love her. She works hard, she shows incredible amounts of kindness to her fans, and during her concerts, she’ll give at least one breathy, impassioned speech about loving yourself and how that, with the love from your friends, is so much stronger than all the mean things that people will say about you when they try to tear you down. Oh, and she moves through the air on a floating pedestal while she does this— to get closer to the nosebleed seats! She’s amazing and seeing her perform live only magnified my admiration for her. 

The great thing about being alone at a concert is that, instead of turning to your friend who might not like these songs as much as you, you just look ahead, throwing your fangirl arms in the air and singing as loud as your lungs will let you because this is for you. You don’t have to worry about anyone but yourself. Sharing this with someone equally excited is, perhaps, the ideal situation, but I learned that night that it’s a close second. And it’s followed even more closely by a third option that I doubt I’ll ever find in a more truly joyful form than I did that night. My seat was in the first section off the floor, about halfway back from the stage — to my right was a group of four people about my age, with whom I hoped desperately to blend, and to the left was an eleven year old girl. 

She and I had shared some excited glances earlier in the night, but as Taylor moved through the stadium, dazzling us with her best songs, both old and new, our communication of squeals and claps and jumps-in-place cemented our connection. We mirrored one another’s dance moves, including series of dramatic, head shakes to accompany each “trouble, trouble, trouble”. She lost her mind when Ed Sheeran joined Taylor on stage for “Everything Has Changed’ and I lost mine when Taylor sat at her enormous piano and flung her hair back and forth in “All Too Well,” stirring my emotions and undoubtedly racking up a sizable bill with the chiropractor. During a set change, as Taylor spoke about love and loss over vague lead-in music for the next song, I turned to my new friend, leaned down to her level, and shouted, “DO YOU THINK SHE’S ABOUT TO DO LOVE STORY?!?” She did. And I cried at the key change. 

A bunch of my close friends were somewhere in the room that night. I could have easily texted them to meet up in the lobby after the show, but I didn’t. There were 19,999 other people with whom I was now permanently bonded by this magical experience—their energy would be impossible to forget and their screams would ring in my ears late into the next morning. I had made a new little friend who I would never see again. Love filled the room and spilled out onto Lower Broadway. But being in that sold-out arena, in that square foot of dance floor in section 104, in my body, with a belly full of expensive beer and a heart full of joy, I was alone. I was alone and I was grateful. I was alone, just like every other person that night who stood up, strong and sure, screaming loud enough so the person with whom she was never ever ever ever getting back together would hear.

Whitney Booth – Fear

Enjoy Tenx9 first-timer Whitney Booth’s story “Scared of Everything” that she told at our October theme “Fear.”

October has always been a tough month for me. Not due to any unpleasant anniversary or memory, but because October has always meant having to spend 4 weeks of my life pretending I wasn’t afraid of everything around me, or strategically avoiding it all.  As a child, I learned to avoid the small-town drug store where rubber motion-sensor rats would squeal and wiggle in their traps as I passed. My mother would say, “I need to run into Fred’s to pick up a prescription” and I would respond with a gaze that meant, “It’s October 4th. You know I’m waiting in the car.” And it worked. My class would make monthly trips to the public library to hear campfire-style stories, and for the October one, I made multiple extended trips to the bathroom.  My family and friends knew to expect this from me.  At the age of 3, my parents bought me a cute jack-o-lantern costume for Halloween and I was so afraid of its black triangular eyes, I wouldn’t even let my mom take it out of the drawer. If she even walked NEAR the bottom drawer, I emitted a warning signal to express my displeasure.  Same went for many a baby doll or Barbie gifted to me.  If it had weird eyes, it lived in the drawer.

I continued this cautionary lifestyle into my later childhood years. My dependable voice of reason in dangerous circumstances earned me the nickname “Chuckie” (as in Chuckie Finster, the red-headed allergy-ridden baby from “Rugrats”, obviously not an allusion to that terrifying movie about the doll that comes to life, which, of course, I’ve never seen.) Forget about scary movies. I learned that lesson long ago. Even a scary scene in A scary movie. Nope. Once in high school, I thought I had outgrown it and tried not leaving the gathering when my friends decided to watch Jeepers Creepers, but then I didn’t sleep for several nights.

It may be bold to call myself a fairly well-adjusted adult, despite this strangeness buried deep within me, but I do think I’ve turned out alright. Halloween became fun again once I got to college. Clever costumes like Quailman from Doug replaced gross masks like the Scream guy dripping with blood. (yes, that’s 2 Nicktoons references in one story.) Sometimes a friend wants to take a Haunted Tavern tour for her birthday and I show up prepared with my headphones in my pocket (just in case I need to excuse myself for a bathroom stall Netflix-sesh), but will pitch an irrational fit when someone suggests a follow-up trip to The Slaughterhouse. Because I know and love myself, there are certain things I will always avoid: horror films, haunted houses, the rubber snake aisle of a toy store, and “Night on Bald Mountain”, the final musical number in Disney’s Fantasia. And I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping distance from things or situations that scare me, but no one is perfect.

A couple of months ago, I set off to backpack around Europe by myself.  I’ve always wanted to do that, I found a window, and I went. 16 days – just me and a backpack full of wrinkly clothes. Certainly, as my departure date approached, I felt anxious about the trip but I wasn’t really afraid for my personal safety or anything like that. I had traveled alone before and knew how to not be an idiot, for the most part. No dark alleys, don’t drink an absurd amount with a stranger, that kind of stuff.

Early in my trip, I spent about 24 hours in Prague, definitely the most foreign-feeling place on my trip, meaning: there’s no Czech Republic expo at Epcot. Prague is really lovely – gorgeous architecture, great beer, lots of goulash.   I walked all over the city that day, taking pictures of buildings I can’t identify, avoiding street vendors and hurrying through touristy areas with a death grip on my purse.  It turned out that everything in Europe that I wanted to see involved climbing a thousand stairs or walking up a giant hill.  The Strahov Monastery and its adjacent Strahov Monastic Brewery were no exception. By this point, it was late afternoon, the sun was just thinking about starting to set. Also upon this hill is the Petrin Observation Tower, which is basically the Czech attempt at the Eiffel Tower. It sits at the top of Petrin Hill, which is covered by a huge park that stretches all the way back down to the city streets. I was already up there and God knows I wasn’t going to climb up that hill again in the morning just to see the fake-Eiffel tower, so I started heading that way. I saw the tower, all lit up in the now-dusky sky. I took a picture, and promptly turned to head back to the street on the north side of the Park and walk home.

My tourist map showed me which street I could take to walk around the park to get back down to the city’s center. But the street sign outside the park didn’t match what I saw on the map. I walked to the other exit and that wasn’t right either. I couldn’t find either of these streets on my map, and the darkness was encroaching upon an already ominous situation. I took a deep breath, and started walking into the park. “Surely,” I thought, “this path will eventually get me through to the other side, or I’ll see a central place with a sign or something.” So, boldly and brimming with idiocy, I walked further and further into a park, in the dark, by myself.

Surely I’m not the only person left in this park. It’s huge. I convinced myself that I would meet others to whom I could mime my confusion and point at the map. I did not. I just followed the poorly-lit path. I came to a fork and, with literally no argument for either side, I picked one. I chose poorly. Coming to a dead-end in a fort-like structure, I turned on my heels and flew out of there, back to the fork.

“Why did I have to go see that stupid fake Eiffel Tower? I’m going to be in Paris in 2 weeks.” My flip flops slapped my heels as I increased my pace and widened my stride. As I zig-zagged back and forth through this park, I tried to convince myself that I was at least going downhill. I was alternating audibly cursing myself for being such an idiot and bargaining with God, that I might be delivered from said idiocy when I heard music. I slowed down a bit, rounded the corner at the switchback, and saw a little cottage. I thought, “Oh Jesus. Okay, okay. If I needed to stop and ask for help, I could knock on the door of this little house.” There was obviously someone home, the lights were on, music playing. I followed the path around to the front of the house, where I glanced in the window, only to see a room with orange goop lining the walls and ceiling – it looked like what I imagine the inside of a dragon would look like, were you to be swallowed whole and light a match like they do in cartoons. The place was crammed full of weird sculptures and the walls were covered with paintings of witches and mythical creatures, mostly topless female ones in a variety of blues and greens. Trees may have been flourishing in there. I don’t know – my memories are not terribly thorough because I stayed in that spot just long enough to turn away from it. In the blur of my headspin, I saw the word “magic” on the sign and that was all I needed to see.

A cacophony of expletives blasted off my lips and I took off in a dead sprint. Good GOD. I think I ran for about a mile. All I could hear in my head was a quip that I had made many times before leaving for my trip. “I mean, I just think if I’m gonna get “taken”, it’s gonna happen in Prague.” Jesus Christ. Thought you were sooo funny and now you’re lost in this damn park with this crazy magic freak show house. The f-bombs and the divine bargaining grew louder with my desperation, and on I ran. Eventually, I saw the headlights of a car pass through the trees and the cool breeze of relief rushed over me. Lights. Civilization. YES. I almost put my face on the sidewalk when I reached it. Instead, I walked into the first restaurant I saw and mimed “big. beer.”

The next night, I was in Salzburg having another big beer or two with some new friends at the hostel: two guys from Canada who truly loved Nickelback, and a brother-sister duo from California. I was excited to share my harrowing experience with them. As I got to the part about the house, which I found out later is actually a museum of fantasy art called “The Magic Cave”. Oh yeah, and the artist claims that each piece was inspired by a personal experience in the realms of fantasy. So anyway, as I got to that part of my story, I made sure my new friends knew that this encounter was all the more comically horrific since “I’m scared of everything”. John from California astutely interrupted me to say, “Yeah, I’m sure you are. That’s why you took off to backpack through Europe all by yourself.”

He made a good point. All my life, I’ve bought into this role of being “the Chuckie” – the one who didn’t want to float down the shallow man-made waterfall. The one who decided in 4th grade that I was “too old” for dressing up and trick-or-treating.  Sure, I don’t love being startled or frightened, but I’m not scared of Halloween or taking risks, or even of being alone in a park at night. Even so, personal safety gets a pass. I bought a house and live in it by myself. I tell the truth, out loud, even when it’s not easy to say or hear. I get out of bed every morning and show up and live my life in a world that is really confusing, in a world that can be dark and very truly scary.

But I’m not scared of everything.  I’m realizing that being a person every day makes me pretty damn brave, but that doesn’t mean that fear doesn’t creep in on me. I do suffer from the clinically self-diagnosed FOMOs (fear of missing out). I know that’s a cute thing people say, but I really am afraid of missing something. I’m afraid that my life won’t happen the way I think I’d like for it to happen. I’m afraid of finding myself stuck in a relationship with someone that keeps me from thriving. I’m afraid of not spending enough time with my family and realizing it when it’s too late to change that. I’m afraid of being anything less than the person I’m created to be.

There’s always something.  Maybe it’s a doll with creepy eyes. Maybe it’s the sneaking possibility that you can’t will things into turning out a certain way, even with meticulous planning. I’m starting to think that the fear of what might scare me down the road is probably far scarier than the actual thing down the road—fearing future fears. It may seem ridiculous, it may be ridiculous, but we all experience it in one way or another.  This October, I’m still scared of all kinds of shit, but I’m owning it and that helps a little and, for today, that’s enough.