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Pictures in the Rear View Mirror
Susan Hornfeld : I'm With the Band

Pictures in the Rear View Mirror

I'm With the Band

By Susan Hornfeld

The Plus One

The other night I was walking with my friend on our usual Tuesday evening, and she was telling me about her new love interest. He is a violinist in the symphony. Whether he is playing in town or in another city, she often goes along. It's a date, but for most of the evening she is on her own. She assures me that she doesn't mind at all, but I couldn't help thinking back on hundreds of nights over our four years of high school that I spent watching my boyfriend play in the band.

At first it was exciting. There was a faint glow of reflected celebrity for me as the girlfriend of the leader of the most popular local band in the city. The gaggles of girls who worshiped the band envied me as the girl going steady with a band member. But after a while I realized that having a musician for a boyfriend came at a price, and it wasn't cheap.

As a freshman I spent a full year sitting to the left of the stage watching other couples sway to the romantic tune that signaled the last song of the night. Exactly one hour after the dance ended my curfew kicked in and if not delivered to my door on time, my Dad would turn me into a pumpkin. So, after the forty minutes needed to pack up the band, David and I got to spend twenty whole minutes together. This scenario was repeated for each school dance, every pool party, and all backyard gigs.

And The Band Plays On

By sophomore year I found that being able to say, "I'm with the band", no longer compensated for sitting out every dance. As the band became more popular, those previously envious girls took on the aspect of steely-eyed gunslingers, looking for an opening to take me out. Like most musicians, David felt that talking to fans was just part of the role of the band leader. That was the first-last straw. So like most teenage girls I saw dancing and flirting as a part of my role. It didn't take long before our devotion took a dive.

Once he realized that two could play that game, he came up with a novel solution to our standoff. He vowed not talk to groupies during his breaks and I was free to dance with pre-approved surrogates from his circle of friends. That got us through 10th grade.

But as juniors the band's popularity soared and my frustration grew. They played Homecoming, Fall 'Fest, White Winter Nights, and the Valentine's Day dances. It was official; being with the band was a drag.

The First Last Straw

So for the rest of the year we broke up, made up and broke up again. During the off times I dated a string of guys who asked me to dances and actually danced with me. But my heart wasn't in it. Somewhere in the last set of every gig David would dedicate a sad love song to me and it never failed to pull me back in. But the next-to-the last final straw came when his band was hired to play at our junior prom. My choices were to go alone, go with one of his friends or stay home. I stayed home. But now I was definitely not with the band.

The Final Last Straw

Though we became "friends" we didn't date at all in senior year. But out of the blue, three weeks before the Senior Prom, he asked me to be his date. A newly emerging band was hired to play and for the first time in our dating history he would be just another attendee at the prom. That night was the very first time we danced to the greatest love songs, Ooooo Baby Baby, My Girl, When a Man Loves a Woman and scores more. As it turns out the only way we could have a date was if he was no longer with the band. And for one night that was just what happened.

But during graduation week I met the guy I would date for the next four years. He was a farmer, not a musician, and it was a relief to go to a party with my boyfriend, not just in proximity to him. I would never again date a musician from a band; it became a non-negotiable filter for every guy I considered dating ever after. Even if not currently with a band, anyone with any musical talent whatsoever, anyone who had even the smallest potential for joining a band, lost points on my vetting score sheet. An overreaction, you say? Maybe, but in the last forty years I have never danced alone.

The Five Loneliest Words

So I was saved, but what about my friend? On our next walk, as we neared home I listened to her describe another of her non-date dates and decided that I had to warn her. Like any good friend I told her this story, meaning for it to be a cautionary tale. I did my best, but sadly, all that star power blinded her to a truth she would inevitably discover. Shaking my head, I left her with my most sage advice. I stressed that though it was a violin not a guitar, and a symphony not a garage band, she might keep in mind that the five loneliest words in the English language are, "I am with the band." •

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© 2012 Susan Hornfeld. All rights reserved.

Susan Hornfeld lives in Michigan with her husband Roy and Baylee, the dog. More »

6/6/12