This Letter Crystal Sent Me About Meeting Tegan and Sara

Ed. note: This is a letter Crystal wrote to me telling the story of the time she met Tegan and Sara in Sydney. After reading it, I did what any sane editor would do and asked if we could publish it on the internet. Enjoy! Love, Laneia


Dear Laneia,

“What will you say to Tegan and Sara?”

I used to get asked that same question at church, except it was about Jesus and what I’d say when I met him at the pearly gates, or whenever it is that Jesus supposedly comes out to greet you in the afterlife. My answers were things like, “I love you” and “please forgive me” and “thank you for dying”, which earned me gold stars at youth group but would most certainly get me ejected from the Tegan and Sara Meet & Greet at the Sydney Opera House.

Despite workshopping my friends’ “what will you say?” question during the week, I felt unprepared, like my ideas for opening lines were still in need of fine tuning.

“Hi…”

“… it’s basically my job to be obsessed with you”.
“… I’ve spent the past four years documenting your every move.”
“… when Heartthrob was first released I talked some smack about “Love They Say” and, while I wouldn’t cite it as one my favourite Tegan and Sara songs from a lyrical standpoint, I realise now that I’d been projecting some of my own personal issues regarding love onto that piece and even though my ribbing came from a place of levity and not malice, it wasn’t fair and I’ve felt terrible ever since and I’m sorry.”
“… do you want to see a photo of my cats?”

The VIP ticket that I held entitled me to a few minutes of face-time with Tegan and Sara before one of their Sydney concerts. (This wasn’t some sort of sweet music editor perk — any fan was able to nab a ticket to meet them). Admittedly, I nearly backed out in the 11th hour. Not because I’m shit at making small talk; we’d spoken on the phone before and so I knew first-hand that Tegan and Sara were skilled conversationalists who would pick up my slack.

Tegan_Sara_VIP

I nearly backed out because I’m shit at looking excited.

Laneia, you’ve met me. I’m a soft talker and a silent laugher. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell whether I’m having a good time. I was worried that Tegan and Sara could mistake my low intensity presence as a trait of that guy — the one who’d show up to a fan event but spend the whole time looking totally above it, like he’d rather be at home watching re-runs of Rizzoli & Isles. I hate that guy. I hate him so much that if Tegan or Sara, or any person that I respect, ever confused me for him then I would be totally mortified. I would just die.

In the end, excitement and curiosity beat my weirdo insecurities. I forged ahead to the Box Office.

“Hello. I’m here for the Tegan and Sara VIP fan experience.”

It wasn’t actually called that, to my knowledge. I just felt that the band’s fancy choice of venue gave me licence to be a little melodramatic. The lady at the box office felt the same way. Rather than direct me to a rendezvous point, she triple verified my identify and then slid a nondescript envelope across the counter.

“Your instructions are in this packet,” she whispered.

Very clandestine, Tegan and Sara. Colour me intrigued.

The enigmatic packet contained a bright pink VIP lanyard with a tiny typed note attached, directing me to meet someone named Jeremy by the Stage Door. Or maybe his name was Jerome. There’s no way to confirm this, the note self-destructed as soon as I read it. Despite being called in at 6PM, it appeared that I didn’t actually need to be anywhere until 6:40PM. Sike.

I treated myself to some $12 vodkas while I waited because I was anxious and fiscal responsibility just didn’t feel as important as alcohol right then. Remember what happened the last time I met two queer idols at the Opera House? It was crushing, I was nervous about putting my fragile fangirl heart back out there again. By the second drink, I’d convinced myself that my ticket had an invisible clause stipulating that Tegan and Sara weren’t allowed to be dicks. Not that they seemed like the type.

I arrived at the Stage Door roughly the same time as a dozen lanyard-wearing asymmetrical-haired ladies and a handful of dudes. One of them paced while talking on his mobile, telling cool stories about his personal relationship with the band. I couldn’t tell if he was part of our group, maybe he was legit someone’s third cousin. I considered striking up conversation with the only other loner in the waiting area but instead got busy removing and re-donning my jacket a half-dozen times.

Here’s a thing about the Sydney Opera House: No one under the age of 50 is ever really certain of how fancy you’re meant to dress when you go there. There’s no formal dress code, per se, but sometimes I’ll be standing in the forecourt admiring those beautiful white sails and I’ll start wondering about how Jørn would feel about the display of tattoos in his House and shame myself into covering up with some sort of tailored cloth situation.

Elusive Jeremy eventually appeared. He’s a ridiculously handsome man who speaks with the confident tone of someone who wouldn’t have time for stragglers. So when he said “follow me!” and charged off through the loading dock, we all but ran. He led us into the belly of the House, past a large staff cafeteria filled with crew and down a dark, dank corridor and then into the saddest boardroom in Sydney. Everything was beige and circa 1973.

Jeremy asked us to form an orderly executioner-style queue against the boardroom walls. He explained that, one by one, we were to approach the point-and-shoot camera that had been set up at the front of the room and that’s where Tegan and Sara would greet us. After our chat we’d have our photo taken, which would be shared with the band’s 805,703 Facebook fans sans cropping to minimise my mega structure or the application of the X-Pro II filter (instagram reference) to lift my skin’s natural washed-out hue.

I really liked Jeremy. When I used to work on tour crews I’d see artist reps treat fans like hysterical teens before they’d even been given a chance to propose or pass out. He wasn’t like that. He didn’t read the riot act or tell us to be cool. Maybe he trusted us. Maybe he sensed that we were too terrified to do anything but hug our respective sections of beige wall.

The announcement came that Tegan and Sara were en route. It hit me that I still had no fucking clue what I was going to say, or even what my goals were. I knew that I didn’t want to self-promote or Auto-promote or convince them to be my twitter acquaintance, that’s not me. I could’ve told them how “The Cure” was my favorite part of 2010, but talking to musicians about their music to their face feels so strange when I spend so much time talking about it behind their backs, on our website.

There were other things that could be said, things that weren’t about my enjoyment of Tegan and Sara’s music but had more to do with me wanting to be there, except they felt too big to be articulated in two minutes or less. I mean, Tegan and Sara change lives. Maybe they didn’t change yours or mine, but they’ve helped so many people realise that who they are is okay and what they feel is okay and that they’re understood and valued. Perhaps that was never intentional but it is inarguable, the proof is all over every queer girl’s tumblr. That’s just so huge.

I guess that, if I was to distil all my admiration and respect for this fact into one non-creepy gesture that could be achieved within a 90 second time-frame, all I really wanted to do was shake the Tegan and Sara’s hands. That’d be enough. Unfortunately, it’d also only take 10 seconds. I’d have at least 80 seconds left to fill.

Any oncoming panic attack was interrupted the arrival of Tegan and Sara. They simultaneously sucked out the air from the room and charged it with a million volts of charisma. They appeared so genuinely thrilled to be there.

The first fan approached them and the room fell silent. It was so weird, that silence, with everyone listening in. I felt awkward on that person’s behalf and attempted to contribute some white noise.

“It must be a million degrees in here.”

Good one.

The girl nearest to me smirked and said, “I know what you mean, they’re gorgeous.

She didn’t really know what I meant, though, because I didn’t mean that. It seriously was warm. I’d taken my jacket off for the seventh time that hour and was still dying.

The room started talking again. I eavesdropped on a group of nearby queers who were devising a game plan. Who would walk up first, what they would say. They had their shit together, I was jealous. The one with the most alternative hairstyle began handing down little morsels of advice such as, “don’t hit on Sara in front of her girlfriend, you guys.” I had no idea which of the three bystanders was the girlfriend but props to her for not bringing along a big stick.

Then it was my turn.

Sara and I shook hands. Firm grip. Friendly eyes. She said “Sara” and I said “Crystal.” She said “nice to meet you” and I repeated that back to her two or three times. She was wearing a leather jacket and these olive green hi-tops with metal studs and looked amazing.

I turned. “Tegan.” “Crystal.”  Firm grip. Friendly eyes. My mission to shake the Quins’ hands was complete. This time I said “nice to meet you” only once but it didn’t make it any less true. I can’t tell you what Tegan was wearing because I’d been glammoured by the impressive waves in her side fringe.

Tegan quickly established that I’d put minimal effort into attending.

“Do you live in Sydney?”
“Yeah.”

The fans who came before me had travelled to the Opera House via a plane from New Zealand. I’d just walked there, after work.

Sara said, “I really love your tattoo.”

She said other things about shading and colours but I was thrown by some pretty serious eye contact and can’t recite it verbatim. I do remember my smooth reply, though.

“I am SO GLAD that you like it! Thank you for saying so!”

The out-of-character enthusiasm was, in retrospect, likely a subconscious attempt to compensate for my geographic privilege, i.e. the close proximity of my office to the Sydney Opera House.

Tegan laughed, presumably at my intense gratitude for Sara’s compliment. I made an attempt at impassiveness by deadpanning, “I didn’t do it, though.”

Sara said, “Well… yeah…”

The “duh” was delivered tonally.

The sound of my joke crashing and burning was so loud that I didn’t hear the rest of her sentence. Tegan began miming a person trying to tattoo their own shoulder. We laughed. Thank you, Tegan. Solid save.

Sara, not quite ready to move on, observed that my tattoo created a nice contrast to my all-black outfit. This was exactly the reason I’d gotten it done, as a matter of fact. People used to comment on the lack of colour in my wardrobe and so I reasoned that an insanely bright floral tattoo would balance everything out. No one had ever made that connection before. Sara does not know this but, in that moment, an eternal bond was formed between us that will never ever be severed.

Tegan asked me if I’d seen them in concert before.

“Yeah, I saw you play last night.”

There were many true statements that I could have followed that sentence with. For example, “It was amazing!” or “Your performance of “I Couldn’t Be Your Friend” was badass” or even, “I liked it more than your Sainthood tour.”

Ultimately anything would’ve been better than what I rolled with, which was to leave the confirmation of my attendance at their concert just hanging awkwardly in the space between us.

My social saviour Tegan Quin jumped in with an explanation of how Friday’s show would be different to Thursday’s show. I listened attentively. Sara clarified that, actually, it wouldn’t be much different at all. I made a joke about how everyone stays seated at the Opera House. They laughed. Crushed it.

“Let’s take a photo!”, Tegan said.

We did.

Crystal_Tegan_Sara

Cameras transform me from a somewhat collected individual into a hot anxious mess, and therefore my farewell was neither proper nor dignified. As soon as Jeremy took the pic and as I felt their arms relax from my back, I threw a wave in their general direction and bolted for the door.

One of them called out, “Have fun!”

Outside, two long-haired lady ushers were discussing the potential maintenance requirements of alternative lifestyle haircuts. Soon enough they escorted me back to the concert hall, where the non-VIPs were. As I took my seat I noticed that the lanyard around my neck had two fresh autographs on it and remembered that while Sara had been talking to me about my tattoo, Tegan stepped up REAL close and reached out towards my waist, which would typically make me jump back or at the very least look concerned, but frankly I’d been so paralysed by Sara Quin’s intense eye contact, that I couldn’t think about what was happening anywhere below my chin. Clearly this was when Tegan had signed the lanyard, but I still have no idea when Sara got her name on there.

And the concert was rad.

xoxo


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Crystal is Autostraddle's HR Director. She resides in Sydney, Australia, where she wears black clothing almost exclusively and listens to Green Day as enthusiastically as she did at 13.

Crystal has written 298 articles for us.

39 Comments

  1. Thumb up 6

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    I know the experience must have been mortifying for you, but I was cackling aloud while reading this. (Can Crystal write letters about everyone she meets now? Everyone.)

    I too am sometimes mortified by the thought of what I would say if I ever were to meet Tegan and Sara or Rachel Maddow or Megan Rapinoe, and then I get reassured that I live on the other side of the planet and the chances of that are negligible. (Not at all pressed that I didn’t buy tickets for their performance in Singapore, not at all)

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    also, reading this makes me feel really, really lucky you were one of my counselors at camp. because i get how quiet and soft spoken you are, and i am secretly terrified of everyone, and i doubt we would have spoken at camp if it hadn’t been for you being my counselor. and now i get to consider you my friend and i can read the great things you write on here and feel all proud and stuff.

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    This was amazing. Definitely all of the awkwardness/awesomeness I would imagine meeting them would be. Thank you for sharing!

    Also, are Sara and Tegan shorter than I realized or is Crystal taller than her gravatar made me think she was? :P

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    Last year I met Christopher Paolini, who was my childhood crush because he wrote a book at sixteen, like hello, how is that not impressive? I thought I would be pretty cool about it because I am no longer mad-crushing on him and actually not a huge fan of his books anymore, but holy man was I wrong. I guess childhood crushes never go away? So I practiced what I was going to say to him over and over while waiting in line (which was “Thank you for writing books that I can share with my brothers because they never get excited about reading”), and it came out nicely but it only took about five seconds! But he was very friendly and asked me some questions and also complimented my tattoo (!!!).
    So I guess what I am trying to say is thank goodness for cool celebrities who know how to casually converse with nervous fans, because if there had been an awkward silence I would probably have started crying or thrown up or maybe both.

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    I think you held it together pretty well. As another quiet type, this is the sort of thing I’d have had to get extremely tipsy for. Like, not quite drunk, but just on the borderline. That’s when I reach my peak of wit and chattiness (or so I like to imagine), but before I get to the point of obnoxiousness.

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    Oh my god i love Tegan and Sara they’re both my idols if i met them i would be so Exited aside from all of the screaming and smiling a lot but i don’t care i love them and i always will Tegan and Sara [please come to Saskatoon Saskatchewan and i REALLY WANT TO MEET YOU GUYS LIVE AND IN PERSON PLEASE] From Qwylynn Age 12

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    I felt so bad for you at how awkward this was but was laughing out loud the entire time. You’re adorable, please write more things like this!!!!!e

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    I am just recovering from this experience (LAST NIGHT). I also didn’t know what to say and seemingly decided to go with awkward staring. But Tegan said my name was pretty and that she liked my boots. Best night ever.

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    OMG.
    Okay so, I have been working at a French/Spanish Bistro for three years as a server. We used to be located in a punk rock bar and I served some pretty cool people there, including Ivan Coyote.
    When we moved to a up-and-coming trendy neighborhood, closer to the suburbs, the decor went up and notch and the clientele changed a little bit. Nonetheless, we have been getting tonnes of media coverage and awards.
    I have (obviously) been a huge Tegan and Sara fan since I first saw them at the Winnipeg Folk Festival around 1999. As I grew up and came out, I feel like they have been with me every step of the way. I have seen them every time they have come to Winnipeg, and their concert for “Heartthrob” in February was no exception.
    I bought tickets to the show the second they went on sale and gave them to my girlfriend for Christmas, as we are both big fans and made sure to book the day off of work. When Heartthrob came out I ordered it as soon as I could off of iTunes, hellbent on learning every word before their concert a month later.
    I went and the concert was amazing and I drank too much beer and sang every word and cried and laughed and made out with my lady. It was awesome.
    So fast forward exactly one week later. It’s Tuesday. Not a very busy night at the restaurant, so I’m usually the only server on. I love Tuesdays because I get to work with my worker “M” who is also a queer lady in our city and because it’s such a small scene we have a lot of mutual friends and a lot to talk about. We debriefed on the week before the tables started coming in and endured the kitchen staff poking fun at us while listening in to our conversation about the concert the previous Tuesday. There are two floors in the restaurant so we seat upstairs first. This particular Tuesday was unusually busy and we had a large reservation later in the evening so we had some overflow downstairs. I was in the weeds. (Server term for completely F***ING BUSY) Being the only server on, I was spreading myself thin and asked the bartender to take a few tables for me. I was closing out a bill when M runs up the stairs. I have been dreading this moment because this means my large reservation ha arrived downstairs. I groaned.
    “Not now, M. Please no.”
    “Emily, I don’t know how to tell you this…”
    “Tell me what?!” I frantically replied while waving bills around like a madwoman.
    “…It’s Tegan and Sara downstairs.”
    “M, please don’t fuck with me right now. I’m busy”
    “No, I swear. It’s Tegan and Sara downstairs RIGHT NOW.”
    I looked up and I could see her shaking. OMG. Tegan and Sara are here. And I am serving them. Commence instant sweating, hyperventilation, squealing and everything else.
    Okay, WHAT? Wasn’t I at their concert last week? What the heck were they still doing in WINNIPEG? I ran downstairs to the kitchen and had a fit.In a good way, but I had to keep it short because, duh, I’m busy.
    Kitchen staff, “Emily, keep it in your pants and get back to work.”
    I walked out as calm, cool and collected as I could possibly manage and was greeted by the friendly smiles of my celebrity crushes and their tour manager.
    They were awesome.
    T$S and crew had gone from Winnipeg to Alberta, and were driving back through Manitoba on their way to their first tour date in the states and had a night off. And they had come into MY restaurant!
    They stayed for four hours and brought in the entire crew. Lights, sound, band members. They were all there. I couldn’t believe it! And to be honest, recounting it now I don’t remember very much except for floating around the dining room trying my damn best to make sure everything was perfect.
    The chef and owner came out at the end of the night and everyone did a shot together. They closed the place down and were so lovely to serve.
    Towards the end of their meal, Tegan got up to go to the washroom. My computer system just so happens to be in the hallway to the bathroom. So, as she was walking by – I tried to keep anything that might give me away as being completely and udderly obsessed with them out of my voice – and asked how the tour was going. What brings them back to Winnipeg? And would they PLEASE take a photo with me? Of course Tegan said yes and before they left she grabbed Sara and M took a photo my iPhone and I instagrammed the shit out of it.
    Anyway. That’s that. Best serving experience ever. Awesome people. Awesome music. And I can totally relate to Crystal’s letter.

    And of course, the photo evidence. Because there is no way my lesbros would believe me!
    http://instagram.com/p/WgRbyot1hs/#

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    I met Tegan after a show in 2007. I had made them a cake and written a letter which I had handed to their merch girl. So I solved the “omg what do you say?!”-conundrum by asking whether they had gotten the cake and she was like “aww that was you? thank you.” She also said “Don’t worry, we won’t sue you” because I had included my e-mail in the letter as a way to “get in touch in case they want to sue me if they got food poisening” (which was 50% joking and being clever/flrity and 50% me panicking they would somehow think I was an insane stalker type person. In hindsight including an email actually made it all seem worse, but fortunately they got the joke)
    After the show me and some others also talked to several band members till 3 or 4am on the street in front of the tour bus. They gave us beer. It was a good night.

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