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
“What are you going to 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 wherever it is that you encounter Jesus in the afterlife. Back then my answers were things like, “I love you” and “please forgive me” and “thank you for dying”, all which earned me gold stars at Sunday School but would certainly get me ejected from the Tegan and Sara Meet & Greet at the Sydney Opera House.
Despite workshopping the answer with friends during the week, I felt unprepared. My opening lines still needed a little fine-tuning.
“… it’s my job to obsess over you”.
“… I’ve spent the past four years documenting your every move.”
“… I talked some smack about “Love They Say” in my Heartthrob album review and, while I still wouldn’t cite it as one of your strongest songs from a lyrical standpoint, I realize now that I had probably been projecting some of my own personal issues regarding love onto that track and that wasn’t fair and I’m sorry.”
“… want to see a photo of my cats?”
My VIP ticket entitled me to a few minutes of face-time with Tegan and Sara before one of their Sydney concerts. Admittedly, I almost backed out in the 11th hour. Not because I’m shit at small talk; we had done enough phone interviews for me to know that Tegan and Sara are skilled conversationalists who can pick up my slack.
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 my “having a great time!” face looks exactly like my “kill me now” face. I was worried that Tegan and Sara could mistake me for being that guy — the one who’d show up to an event and spend the whole time looking totally above it, a little Too Cool For School, like he’d rather be at home watching re-runs of Rizzoli & Isles. I hate that guy. If Tegan or Sara, or any person, really, ever mistook me for him then I would be mortified.
In the end, curiosity beat down my weirdo insecurities. I forged ahead to the pre-determined fan meeting spot, the Sydney Opera House Box Office.
“Hello. I’m here for the Tegan and Sara VIP Fan Experience.”
It wasn’t actually called that, to my knowledge. I felt that the band’s fancy venue choice gave me license to be a little melodramatic. The box office lady clearly felt the same way. Rather than direct me to a rendezvous point, she triple verified my identify and slid a nondescript envelope across the counter.
“Your instructions are in this packet,” she whispered.
Very clandestine, Tegan and Sara.
The enigmatic packet contained a bright pink VIP lanyard with a tiny typed note, directing me to meet someone named Jeremy by the Stage Door. Or maybe his name was Jerome. 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 6:50PM. Sike.
While waiting, I treated myself to some $12 fancy vodkas because I was starting to feel anxious and fiscal responsibility flew out the window. (Laneia, do you remember what happened last time I met two Famous Queers at the Sydney Opera House? I’m still piecing back together my heart). By the third vodka, I’d convinced myself that my VIP ticket came with an invisible clause stipulating that Tegan and Sara weren’t allowed to be dicks.
I arrived at the fan meeting point roughly the same time a few small groups of lanyard-wearing asymmetrical-haired denim-clad ladies and a handful of dudes. One paced up and down, talking on his mobile, telling cool stories about his close personal relationship with the band. I considered striking up conversation with the only other fan going stag but then got busy removing and re-donning my jacket a half-dozen times instead.
Elusive Jeremy eventually appeared. He’s a ridiculously handsome man who speaks with the confident tone of someone who doesn’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 set up at the front of the room, where Tegan and Sara would greet us. After a quick chat, our photo would be taken and then shared with the band’s 805,703 Facebook fans, sans any Instagram filter to lift my skin’s natural washed-out hue. That part I wasn’t thrilled about.
I really liked Jeremy. He wasn’t like most other artist reps I’d encountered, the ones that would treat fans like hysterical teens before they even really had a chance to propose or pass out. Jeremy didn’t read us any rules, or remind us to stay chill. Maybe he sensed that we were far too awkward and/or terrified to do anything but hug our designated section of beige wall.
After 10 minutes, we were informed that Tegan and Sara were en route and it suddenly hit me that I still had no fucking idea what to say. Or even what my goals were? I wasn’t there to promote myself, or Autostraddle, or ask them to be my Instagram friend. It wasn’t there to talk music, either. Talking about music to musicians’ faces always feels so awkward when I spend so much time talking about it behind their backs, on our website. Admittedly, there was a fairly large amusement factor, and I knew I could spin it into a good story. But there was something else, too. Something more genuine.
Music aside, there’s a part of me that admires Tegan and Sara for affecting young queer lives. Maybe they didn’t change your life or mine, but you don’t need to look further than Tumblr to see how many queers credit Tegan and Sara for making them feel okay about the feelings they feel and taking up space in the world. I don’t know if that’s ever been their intent but it’s indisputable, and important. And if I had to communicate my respect for that in 90 seconds, I guess all I really wanted to do was shake Tegan and Sara’s hands.
Unfortunately, that would still leave me with 85 seconds to kill.
My panic attack was interrupted the sudden arrival of Tegan and Sara, who simultaneously sucked the air from the room while charging it with a million volts of charisma. They seemed so genuinely thrilled to be there!
When the first fan approached Tegan and Sara, and the room fell silent. It was so weird, that silence. Everyone was eavesdropping on the fan’s awkward attempt at conversation. I felt bad and tried to contribute some white noise.
“It’s a million degrees in here.”
The girl beside me smirked and said, “I know what you mean, they’re gorgeous.”
Except she didn’t know, because I didn’t mean that. It seriously was warm inside. I’d removed my jacket for the seventh time and my blood was still at a slow boil.
I guess eavesdropping got boring because people started chatting while waiting. A group beside me started devising their game plan: who would walk up first, who would pose first, what they would say. They really had their shit together. I was jealous. The one with the most alternative of hairstyles joked, “don’t hit on Sara in front of her girlfriend, you guys.” I had no idea which girl in the room was Sara’s girlfriend but props to her for not carrying a big stick.
It was my turn.
Sara and I shook hands. Firm grip. Friendly eyes. She said “Sara”. I said “Crystal.” She said “nice to meet you” and I repeated it back to her 2-3 times. She was wearing a leather jacket and olive green hi-tops with metal studs. She looked cool.
I turned. “Tegan.” “Crystal.” Firm grip. Friendly eyes. My mission to shake hands was complete. I said “nice to meet you” only once to Tegan but it didn’t make it any less true. I can’t tell you what Tegan was wearing because I had been glamoured (Twilight reference) by the impressive waves in her side fringe.
Tegan quickly established that I’d put minimal effort into attending.
“Do you live in Sydney?”
The fans who came before me had travelled from New Zealand. I’d just walked to the Opera House after work.
Sara said, “I really love your tattoo.”
She said other things about shading and colors but I was too distracted by fairly serious eye contact to recite it verbatim. Although, I do recall my smooth reply.
“I am SO GLAD that you like it! THANK YOU for saying so!”
My out-of-character enthusiasm was, in retrospect, possibly a subconscious attempt to compensate for my geographic privilege.
Tegan laughed at my intense gratitude for Sara’s tattoo compliment. I tried to reclaim my chill by deadpanning, “I didn’t do it, though.”
Sara said, “Well… yeah…”
The “duh” was delivered tonally.
I couldn’t hear the rest of her sentence over the sound of my dumb joke crashing and burning. Tegan began miming someone trying to tattoo their own shoulder. We laughed. I gave a silent thanks.
Sara, not at all ready to move on, observed that my tattoo created a nice contrast to my all-black outfit. She couldn’t have know that my predominately black wardrobe was, in fact, my primary motivation for choosing an insanely bright floral tattoo. In that moment I’d never felt so seen by anyone.
Tegan asked whether I’d seen them in concert before.
“I saw you perform last night.”
Look. There were probably many true statements that could have followed that sentence. For example, I could have said, “and I had a nice time!” or “I really enjoyed “I Couldn’t Be Your Friend”, or even, “a friend gave me a spare ticket”.
Basically anything would’ve been better than what happened, which was me leaving the confirmation of my attendance hanging awkwardly in the space between us.
Tegan, my social savior at this point, jumped in with an explanation of how this concert was going to be different to the concert the night before. I listened attentively. Sara countered that, actually, it won’t be much different at all. I panned another joke about how everyone always stays seated at the Opera House. This time they laughed. Crushed it.
“Let’s take a photo!”, Tegan said.
My farewell was neither proper nor dignified. As soon as I heard the camera shutter and felt Tegan and Sara’s arms relax from behind my back, I threw a wave in their general direction and bolted for the door.
One of them called after me, “Have fun!”
Outside, two long-haired lady ushers were hypothesizing the maintenance requirements of asymmetrical haircuts. Soon enough, they escorted me back to the concert hall, where the non-VIPs stood in. As I took my seat I noticed that the lanyard around my neck had two fresh autographs. I have no idea when that happened.
The concert started. I did have fun.