“SERIOUSLY? You’re not wearing that, are you? You’re never going to find a man in that get-up,” my youngest sister spat, her lip curled in disgust.
“No, I’m not wearing this. What you see is a mirage, a trick of the eye. You must be needing glasses,” I snort back.
“Really? That jumper is disgusting. Look at me. I’ve been married most of my adult life and I still make an effort for my husband,” she volleyed back.
The thought of how she “makes an effort” for her husband momentarily made my stomach turn until I realised that she was referring to how she dressed.
It’s true. She married young and has never knowingly committed a sartorial sin.
To set the scene …We were getting ready in our hotel bedroom before heading out to a gig later that evening. My six sisters and I were all staying in the same hotel in Dublin city centre before an Aslan concert and I was sharing a room with the youngest one of them.
I find it amazing that my sisters think they can say whatever they like to me. It appears that my status as a single woman makes me fair game for any sort of criticism they might muster in any situation.
On this occasion, though, I stood firm. Yes, I was wearing an old, woolly sweater whereas she was standing there resplendent in designer palazzo pants teamed with a chiffon blouse. To me, she looked like she was heading out to a garden party in June, rather than a gig in a sweaty venue in the middle of winter.
“It’s f***king freezing outside, so yes, I am wearing this. You can lump it or like it,” I reasoned, before heading out to meet the others, slamming the door behind me.
She had no right to tell me what to wear, especially to a gig. Gigs were my domain, my natural habitat. Whereas my youngest sibling had married as a child bride and retired from the social scene to raise a brood of rugrats, I spent my time checking out new bands in every dive in Dublin. It didn’t matter how dingy or trendy any venue was; to me, every gig was an opportunity to hear live music. It was what I did, it was my thing.
And so it was, all these years later, that I found myself surrounded by sisters and their respective husbands/partners/lovers at an Aslan gig.
There we were, drinking and laughing, dancing and singing along. The place invariably got hotter and hotter and the familiar smell of stale beer and body odour filled the air. I peeled off my woolly jumper and tied it around my waist, like a young one.
Just then, I heard the opening bars of one of my favourite Bowie songs, Five years. I was transported back in time to when I was a teenager lying on the sofa, listening to records and dreaming of a time when I was old enough to escape from my home town.
Back at the Aslan gig, life, at that moment, was perfect.
I loved it. My sisters loved it. The strangers beside me loved it. We were all a big mass of sweaty, singing love.
Afterwards, I was standing in the alleyway beside Vicar Street waiting for my family to come out. I lit a cigarette and was thinking about the whole night when someone beside me asked: “Well, what did you think of that?”
“Good lord, it was brilliant. Really special, wasn’t it?” I replied, looking at the stranger in front of me. He was in his late 40s, was tall and thin and had grey, curly hair. “Can’t believe they sang Five years, can you?”
“Yeah, that was fairly special … him playing the opening track of Ziggy,” the stranger replied.
There ensued a conversation about the merits of Bowie’s 1970s back catalogue as opposed to the drivel he produced during the 1990s. We were kindred spirits, just then. A connection was made.
But it was also getting chilly so I untied my sweater from around my waist and pulled it over my head. By the time I had the jumper back on, the man had gone. Disappeared into the crowd, never to be seen by me again.
What did I say? Did I offend him? And we were getting on so well, too. What went wrong?
My sister, of course, would later blame it all on the jumper.