During the wee hours of the morning not too long ago, I found myself sitting in a hotel lobby surrounded by several musicians who were swapping war stories while drinking Grey Goose and Diet Coke and eating cold takeaway pizza (the culinary delights of being on tour!). Each of these musicians is extremely talented and some of the biggest sweethearts I've ever encountered. And I don't bat the term "sweetheart" around lightly. Ask anyone in my life and some will say that they've never heard me utter the term to describe anyone, much less a group of middle-aged (plus) men.
During this little outing, I was in desperate need of a restroom, but the hotel, which was located in a metropolitan downtown with a large unhoused population, kept the lobby loos locked and the front desk employee who had the magical key was nowhere in sight. I was growing more desperate by the second when one of the musicians [I'm going to call him Jay to protect the innocent] said that he would take me to his room to use the bathroom. [Yeah, yeah, I see your dirty little mind face-planting into the gutter after hearing that a musician was taking a woman to his hotel room, but this was not one of those situations.] Jay proceeded to explain that he was locked out of his room and couldn't rectify the situation in that moment since the front desk dude was MIA. However, he showed me a key card and said that it was to one of the other musician's rooms and he'd take me there to use the facilities. After we entered the room, Jay introduced the male inhabitants and then pointed to the bathroom, which I quickly dashed into. After a few minutes of chit-chat, the guys gave each other big bear hugs and told each other that they loved each other before making their way to the door. The guy whose room it was then grabbed a couple of half-empty pizza boxes from the dresser and instructed us to take them to the others who were congregating in the lobby in case they were hungry (which was very thoughtful).
Once we returned downstairs, the founder and lead singer of one of the bands rolled through the lobby doors, sauntered over to the group, and tossed a takeaway carton of basmati rice onto the table in front of us. This prompted some looks of confusion and a few guffaws. The singer said that he had been up the street at a great Indian restaurant and thought we may like some rice...at two o'clock in the morning...with no entree or other side dishes, or forks. I wanted to know if there was any naan and mango chutney to be had, but apparently not. One of the musicians from the same band, a friend of mine from Britain, stated that he grew up on basmati rice from Indian joints in the United Kingdom and since he had to get on a plane in a few hours to visit his girlfriend that he would pass, which prompted more giggles from the gang.
The conversation resumed and it was fascinating to listen to these men talk about their careers, the woes of the music industry, and the creatives who inspired their music. The founder of one of the bands told a tale about meeting Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters) years ago, and how that meeting was a (partial) catalyst for starting his own band. Awhile later, the guys, fatigued from travel and sweating it out on stage under bright lights, stood and offered their goodbyes. A scene then unfolded that I will never forget; it was one of the sweetest, most poignant situations I have ever witnessed.
Every single one of these men gave each other proper full-on hugs (no side hugs or claps on the shoulder), and unabashedly told each other "I love you, man" and "Hope to see you soon" and "Be safe, friend." I was absolutely gobsmacked at this open display of affection. I had just witnessed a similar display upstairs in the room in which I used the bathroom, but I thought perhaps that emotiveness was an anomaly. I grew up with emotionally distant men (understatement); it was exceedingly rare to ever see or hear them express emotions of love. I was in awe of the musicians' open display of affection towards one another...and I loved every single second of it.
The next day, I called my best girlfriend, Jennifer. Jennifer is the fabulous counterpart to David, and has been for many years. David is an ex-professional boxer, ex-Ford fashion model, and current session drummer and prolific songwriter who has worked with some of the biggest names in music. Yes, both Jennifer and David have it going on, and they are the two most spiritually evolved human beings I have ever met. They make an amazing couple and bring so much joy to my life.
Anyhoo, I was chatting to Jennifer and told her about the musicians and their open display of love towards one another, and how I was in utter awe of them. Jen was not at all surprised and offered some interesting insight. She said, "Joanna, you have to understand that musicians have lost people they have loved to accidents...plane, car, motorcycle...and to drug overdoses and alcohol poisonings. They know first-hand what it's like to endure gut-crushing heartbreak. These men understand that tomorrow is not guaranteed and that they may never see each other again. They are also of a very tight-knit brotherhood where they understand each other without speaking, and when they do talk, they finish each other's sentences. They live in a world that very few people really understand, and at the end of the day, they are all incredibly emotionally sensitive men. This does not make them weak, quite the contrary. It makes them stronger than most men because they permit themselves to feel on such a deep level, and they are secure enough with themselves to openly express emotion towards others."
After my call with Jennifer, I thought of all the years that I have spent dating highly analytical types who have trouble expressing emotion when I should have been focusing on sensitive creatives who feel deeply and have no problem saying "I love you!" to the people in their lives. I reflected on past romantic relationships and realized that although I have experienced exactly what I was meant to in this lifetime, and thus have learned very valuable lessons from these partnerships, that I have not always chosen men who align with my values. This is partly because I permitted some very challenging life events to beat me down and erode my self-esteem instead of understanding that I had the power, and duty to myself, to maintain a positive self-image regardless of what life threw at me. Maintaining my self-worth was in my control the entire time, but I bought into the notion that life happened to me, not for me. The woman I am today places a tremendously high value on people who have their act together because I have worked tooth and nail to get myself sorted and grounded. Part of having one's act together includes being secure enough with oneself to be vulnerable and unashamed to openly express emotion.
Jennifer was spot on and reminded me of a lesson that we all seem to forget as we go about our busy lives. A future is not guaranteed for any of us, and the people who are in our lives today may not be here tomorrow.