I usually forget it is Grammy season until after it is over and people are oohing and awing at what went down. This year, on account of Whitney Houston’s death, the event was in the forefront for me and for many who grew up mouthing her lyrics in grade school halls. I had perhaps like most people, lost track of Whitney and have only conjured her image (the 80′s one) in the last several years when hit with the ear worm “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” at the DMV or trying to hit the high notes of “I Will Always Love You” because what year haven’t I done that for fun. But suddenly it strikes me, there is something parasitic about our relationship to celebrity and nothing points to it more than when one falls from grace. It is, I think, built in to the equation: the great heights, the extreme public scrutiny, the plunge, the overdose, if not the almost more sad collapse into obscurity and lack of productivity…and then the overdose. Why am I even thinking about this? Why don’t I let the loss of an icon be a loss of an icon? Because I am fascinated by the way people deal with falling. Falling out, falling over, falling for, falling from… And I think my fascination with it is born of the same unsettling inevitability that all obsession masks: we all gonna die, yo. The self destructive tendency–the, “Oh let’s just get this over with.”– is something we work so hard to repress that as soon as somebody on a pedestal–a poster, a book cover–engages in that behavior we get to appreciate it at a distance.
Every year I am feeling a little more like I get it. I get why that saying, “Youth is wasted on the young,” makes sense. I get why I wake up staring at the wall of the old folks home across the street feeling like I don’t have far to go and why many of us would prefer to die young and glamorous than be cast out of society as our elders seem to be. I get why I am terrified of having not “succeeded” at what I have been doing the last several years, and regret not having pursued more of my dreams and goals. And I don’t just mean this in a superficial way. I think of all the ways I could have been more useful to the people around me. I think of the time I spent on my vanity projects, or projects that I muddied with wrong intention or misappropriated boundaries.
Goddamnit. I get why we rubberneck at celebrity deaths like they are mirrors back into our own lost, obscure, meaningless experiences.
And ultimately I am grateful that I will get to wake up tomorrow, for now, trying to hit the high notes.