2016: The Year of the Groupie

I got asked out on a date the other day.

At first, I didn’t know what to think.  Since I met Akash (my then boyfriend, now husband) when I was 18, my ‘adult’ dating experience was limited to the first few weeks of college, a little over fifteen years ago, so I was a little out of practice.

I must admit, I was surprised about how open I was to the idea. In the past, I had criticized this potential suitor for talking too much, not being attractive enough, watching too much TV, and being incredibly awkward at times.  I was also so used to having a built in plus-one, that it strangely hadn’t occurred to me that I had options.

Still, my indecisive waffling started to take hold, and I began my constant stream of ‘what-ifs?’

“What if I go and it makes Akash sad?”
“What if the kids see me leaving this close to bedtime and freak out?”

The clock was ticking.
My date was waiting.

The concert venue doors were supposed to open at 7:30pm and it was already 8:00pm.

“What if I can’t get in now because I am late?”
“What if the show is sold out when I get there?”

“What if I can get in, but when I open the door, everyone turns and stares at me because the show already started?”  

I hashed out questions like these both out loud and in my head for twenty minutes, paralyzed by my inability to make a decision. Meanwhile, my daughter incessantly pushed the button on a singing stuffed snowman we had recently unearthed from the depths of our Christmas decor stash.  As a nasally and slightly demonic “Jingle Bells” played for the 1,000th time, Akash looked me and said, “You can either stay here and listen to this all night, or you can just go and at least give yourself a chance to have a good time.”

After weighing all of the pros and cons, I touched up my lipstick in the bathroom mirror, looked my soon-to-be companion right in the eye and told her to get over herself.  Then, I kissed my  handsome husband goodbye, walked out into the rain, and took myself on a hot date.

At first I was slightly bummed that I couldn’t find anyone to come with me to the concert, but I understood.  It was late on a cold and rainy Seattle Sunday – the very end of a long weekend filled with kid’s birthday parties, baby showers and holiday prep.  I didn’t even buy tickets in advance, partially because I wasn’t sure I could commit to going by myself.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my alone time, but generally it involves Netflix, a bottle of wine and a hundred pushes of the ‘Play Next Episode’ button.

The night of the concert, I had been sitting in traffic on the way home from a three year old’s birthday party.  The kids were whiny, tired and hopped up on cake and a big part of me just wanted to throw them into bed and then pass out myself.  But I couldn’t quite shake the feeling of what I would be missing out on.  I loved this singer ever since I saw him on NBC’s show ‘The Voice’ (I told you I watch a lot of TV) and had the chance to see him perform at a house concert a few months prior. He is the real deal.  Since tickets were only $12, I couldn’t find a compelling reason to stay home.  I mean, if Taylor John Williams is within a twenty mile radius of me, and I love his music, why wouldn’t I go? That is the great part about living in a city, right?  You can just drive a few miles and see incredible live music any day of the week.  Plus, Tim Riggins and the rest of the Dillion Panthers would be ready for streaming when I got back.  Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.

I found a parking spot right in front, which I always take to be a good omen for things to come.  To avoid the temptation of using my phone as a buffer, I intentionally zipped that crutch into my bag, vowing to only bring it out to take a few pictures.  I even resisted the urge to make a beeline to the bar, because I really wanted to be totally present.  I felt like I owed myself that. (Side note: I did buy myself a beer later, because, let’s face it.  Once I realized I was officially not responsible for anyone but myself for the next couple of hours, I felt like I owed myself a beer as well).

Wonder Band

I purchased my ticket outside, “One, please” and walked in, not knowing what to expect.  There weren’t any seats at the venue, just a couple of long benches around the perimeter and a big open space in the middle, which I assumed would fill up with dancing people once the drinks had a chance to kick in.  I stood next to a full bench for the first couple of songs and when a lady came back from the bathroom to reclaim her seat next to her family, they shifted down a few inches and motioned for me to come sit.  As I sat there, I closed my eyes for a minute and just basked in the talent that exuded from stage. I couldn’t help but be in awe of the hundreds of thousands of hours that go into making a show happen. Thinking of how these artists cultivate their craft to create this music that people then come to feed their souls with.  They are raw, vulnerable, exposed and powerful.  And there I was, lucky enough to be sitting in the audience with about fifty other strangers, absorbing it all and feeling the same way. From the anticipation of that very first note, there is something magical about seeing someone in their element without any distractions. Just you and the music. What a beautiful thing for these artists to be able to connect people in that way.  Not only with one another, but also to themselves.

While the next band was getting ready to start on stage, I felt a tap on my shoulder and someone asked if the space next to me was taken, “No, no please.” I said, patting the bench as I scooched over to make more room.  When he sat down, I realized that he was one of the band members who had just performed. I suddenly felt a bit starstruck and embracing a bold moment, I leaned over and said, “Hey, nice set up there!”  I immediately felt stupid and start thinking to myself, nice set?  Who says that? Is that even the right lingo? Ugh. Way to be cool, Mariss (I also told you I can be awkward).  He was gracious though, and we got to talking.  It turned out that his girlfriend is also an amazing singer who I had seen in concert a few years ago at a show that was coincidentally their third date. I love it when the world feels big and small at the same time.

Taylor John Williams

One of the best things about being on a date with myself was that I was free to make my own rules. I could stay out late which meant I could linger as long as I wanted to after the show.  I am famous for these long goodbyes.  My husband often jokes when we go to any type of get together that he needs to bring a sleeping bag and a pillow to be able to catch up on sleep while I make my way out of the party.  As I say my goodbyes, I usually end up remembering a question I forgot to ask, which inevitably leads into another conversation and before I know it, it’s an hour later and Akash is still waiting in the car.
As house lights grew brighter and people filed out, I met a girl who had just moved to Seattle from Washington DC and we talked a lot about fun things for her to do and see in the city.  Then I saw the guy I had been chatting with earlier and he introduced me to a few of the other band members. I even got to meet Gabriel Wolfchild who was another of my favorites on ‘The Voice’ and just happened to be at the show.  My heart raced as I listened to their stories about life on tour.  Long goodbyes for the win!

Just as people in our newly formed circle were about to finally disperse (sadly, even I can’t make an goodbye last forever), the gorgeous lead singer of the opening band, Wonder, came up and asked us if anyone had a pen to sign an autograph for someone.  With my favorite pen tucked away safely in my clutch, I looked around hoping that someone else would step up to the plate. I am very protective of my pens. Seconds passed as people rummaged through purses and futilely patted their pockets.  She was about to walk away, and I knew what I had to do even if it was risky.  “Wait!” I said as I hesitantly handed over my pen. “Thanks!” she beamed as she skipped off and disappeared into a crowd of adoring fans.

I knew I would never see my beloved pen again. At first I was bummed, but quickly realized the new life that my pen would now have.  I thought of the song lyrics it would write and the autographs and bar tabs it would sign on the road.  I wondered how many people would use it to sign up on an email list to get updates on the band or the doodles it would sketch on an album cover.  It could also quite possibly end up on the floor of a tour van, wedged in the impossible space between the driver’s seat and the console, and even that would be pretty badass.  In some teeny, tiny, strange, way it felt like I could now somehow be a part of it all, like it was my contribution to the craft.

Going to that concert really was one of the best nights I had experienced in a long time. It felt refreshing to be out in the real world, creating a space for myself to enjoy time with the person who has known me the longest and who has been there with me through thick and thin. Even if she sometimes talks too much, could stand to lose ten pounds, says awkward things from time to time and watches way too much TV, she is actually pretty darn fun, and I don’t ever want to take her for granted.

In the spirit of new years, fresh starts and true intentions, I am vowing to try and go see live music at least once every other month.  In fact, I just bought tickets to see Grace Love & the True Loves at the Tractor Tavern on January 10th (Seriously, if you haven’t heard of them, click on the link below to hear their version of “Mean to Me” – sigh).

So, basically my 2016 resolution is to become a creative groupie.  If my favorite pen can do it, what’s stopping me?

Links to Music:

Taylor John Williams
Rory James
Grace Love & The True Loves
On a date

Marissa B. Niranjan
has been dating herself for technically 33 years, but things just got serious.


  1. I’m an inveterate quote clipper. I have boxes full of yellowed newspaper and magazine pages with underlined words that have moved me, made me laugh, or seemed to perfectly describe something about me or something I love. I desperately want to clip several wonderful thoughts you have written here. Thank you for sharing this extraordinary essay. Now I have to find an app that works as a digital clipping device!


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