Last year, I wrote regular columns for this site, filled with chortle inducing tales of daring-do involving rock stars, endless highways, and the odd spot of sparkly goo on my cleavage.  I haven’t written one of those columns in a long time, mostly because my life of late has been markedly devoid of highways, rocks stars, and sparkly goo.  I have, in short, been acting like a grown up, which has had some stupendous effects on my career but has left me sipping hot tea alone at night, fantasizing about that time I drove over the Golden Gate Bridge at breakneck speed with my hand out the window scream singing “Crazy Train” to God, thinking I had never been more alive.  I keep sitting down to write a humor column, but you know, there is just no way to spin paper grading to make it funny.  Ok, there is, but I might get fired if I did it.

On the up side, my down time has had remarkable effects on my career.  I teach college full time.  Simon and Schuster is about to publish my first novel.  I’m preparing to go on book tour.  And bonus, I am really, really caught up on my Netflix.  (What about that final episode of Breaking Bad, kids?  Did you just want to die?)  But darlings, I keep going back to the lines from the first Roger Clyne song I ever heard him sing, the one that made me fall desperately in love with him, rock-n-roll, and the road, and it went like this:  “Tell your momma your daddy done quit his drinking.  Tell your momma your daddy done found the Lord.  Tell your momma your daddy done quit his cussin’, his fightin’, his carryin’ on, but don’t you tell your momma goddamn, your daddy’s bored.”  I’m afraid those lines have become my mantra.  Goddamn, your daddy’s bored.  Ok, I’m one crucial organ and a neck beard short of being a daddy, but still.  I’m bored.

Which brings me to neck beards.  And the way I broke my fun fast during holy week, which was probably the opposite of what I was supposed to do.  During the week I should have been eschewing pleasure while somberly thinking about Jesus dying, Frank Turner came to town, bringing an opening band full of neck beards with him.

Who is Frank Turner, you ask?  Frank Turner is this adorable rock star from the UK who sings things about still believing and jumps all over the stage like a pogo stick and has killer dimples, and while I couldn’t find it in myself to develop a whole hearted crush on him (I think my crush impulse is broken–I still have a mad crush on Roger Clyne, but everyone else, including Robert Downey Jr. can suck it), I fell wildly in love with his music, and with rock-n-roll, and the road, one more time.  (Is that what this is going to be about?  I was going to make this about the boys I met at the shows attempting to woo me, and failing miserably, and me feeling like a failure as a woo-ee.  Also, I wanted to talk about neck beards.  Let’s go with that.)

First, the neck beards.  To help you understand why the neck beards were so upsetting to me, you must know this about me.  Rock-n-roll is the best sex I’ve ever had.  Watching some pretty miracle boy (Roger Clyne) bathed in red lights channeling the universe through a guitar just does something to this girl.  Once, I got narcissistic and ran a Google search for my name, and I found out this guy had written a blog about watching me at a Roger Clyne show.  He said (in a cheeky, mocking tone I found very displeasing) I looked like I was having sex, like I was having more fun than any girl had a right to while standing up.  The sad, beautiful, humiliating truth of it is he was right.  That IS what is happening to me when I watch rock-n-roll.  Or at least when I watch Roger Clyne.  So I sorta expected some of that to happen for me at Frank Turner, especially because Roger Clyne has been off the road forever, which has left my life markedly devoid of rock-n-roll passion.  Cue the neck beards.

I’d made up my mind before the show to develop at least one crush, just for the night, because I’m tired of feeling like a sexless school marm, and I’m not dead yet, damn it.  So when the opening band filed on stage, a little thrill ran through me, then dissipated rapidly because the band looked like the cast of Duck Dynasty.  I mean, dudes, these guys had beards to their navels.  I know this is popular now.  I know you boys think you’re being edgy and cool and possibly sexy, but you are being none of those things.  You are being gross.  I understand that underneath those hideous, horrifying, unkempt, stringy, flea-bitten masses of facial hair, there may have been some very nice faces, but damn if I could find them.  I kept looking, you know, because I wanted, really wanted, to develop a crush.  But I couldn’t.  Boys, I was standing there, BEGGING to develop a crush on someone.  I would have developed a crush on Mr. Beans if he was standing on that stage, just so I could say I’d had a crush, but your neck beards prevented me from accomplishing my goal.

Am I hurt?  Yes.  I feel betrayed by the neck beard band.  Am I outraged?  Kinda.  I mean, come on, guys.  The world doesn’t ask that fucking much of you.  You don’t have to wear makeup.  You can keep your gray hair or shave your head.  Your undergarments contain no wire.  You are allowed to sport comfortable shoes at all times.  You can roll out of bed and throw on some torn jeans and still be considered wildly sexy by society at large.  Arm pit hair?  Not a problem.  Leg hair?  Hot as hell.  Pedicures?  Never.  All the world fucking asks is that once every week or so, you run a goddamn razor over your face.  That’s all we fucking ask, and you can’t even do that.  You have to come to rock show sporting neck beards, so that the very desperate lady in the front row can’t even develop a decent crush when she needs it most, and no, I don’t give a damn that you had fantastic guitar hands and killer abs.  Let me reiterate.  No matter what else you have going on, if you have a goddamn neck beard, you can never, ever be sexy.  Not saying you have to be sexy, boys.  If you want to be anti-hot and stick it to the man (woman), grow a Rip Van Winkle beard.  Just know that is what you are doing.

Whew.  I’m glad I got that out of my system.  Just doing my part to raise awareness of the psycho-sexual impact of neck beards on the female populace.  Moving on.

The neck beards drove me to drink.  Did I mention I’ve quit drinking, for the most part?  Well, I have.  Except I couldn’t develop a decent crush with all those neck beards running around, so I figured getting myself a pair of beer goggles might help matters.  Two glasses of wine and a healthy buzz later, this kid came up to me.  I say “kid,” but it turns out he was in his thirties.  He looked like a kid to me though, which probably says something about how old I’m getting.

Anyway, he was cute, and he bought me a drink, and told me he’d been following Frank Turner around.  He was from New York.  I acted stunned and impressed that someone would go to such great lengths to see a rock star.  I didn’t mention that in the 15 years I’ve followed Roger Clyne, I’ve covered enough miles to have circled the globe at least five times.  It didn’t seem important, plus, it’s fun to pose as a non-groupie when you can, because being a legendary groupie kinda sucks in a lots of ways.  Every time I hear, “Are you THE Tawni?” at a Roger Clyne show, I want to shoot myself.  Or say, “Yes, but I’m smart, and successful, and a great mom, and lots of other things too, and no, you can’t grab my boobs.”  I should probably put the part about not grabbing my boobs up front, because that’s what it always comes down to.  People–men and women–grab my boobs at Roger Clyne shows.  It doesn’t happen to me anywhere else.  Only at Roger Clyne shows.  I am happy to report that my boobs did not get grabbed even once during the two Frank Turner shows I attended.  Sometimes you wanna go where nobody knows your name.

So this Rob chatted me up, and I decided that since I had failed to develop any crushes during the neck beard band, I would try to develop a crush on him.  We flirted, and I had a moment of true joy when he warned me that he was way older than I was.  I told him I was quite sure he wasn’t, and he said, very seriously, “I’m 34.”  I was deeply, deeply touched that a 34-year-old thought he was way older than me.  I almost askedhim to grab my boobs–my way of saying thank you for the compliment–but I didn’t.  I also didn’t tell him I was 42.  I decided to be a young-ish non-groupie for the evening.

So then, Frank Turner came out.  And if I was going to develop a crush on anyone, damn it, it was going to be him, because that kid is shiny and smart and beautiful and uninhibited and talented and all of the other things that make me develop crushes on people.  But I couldn’t focus because now Rob had it in his head that we were together, which was weird because we’d only talked.  But whatever.  I decided to go with it.  I wanted a crush, right?

At first, he started touching my waist, which was creepy, but I tried to overlook it, in the interest of developing my crush, but then he got all territorial and put his arms on either side of me and rested them on the stage, effectively putting me in a cage.  Anyone who knows me is now saying, “Uh oh.”  The last thing you ever, ever, ever want to do is try to put Tawni in a cage.  Tawni is cute and sweet and smiley, but if you put her in a cage, she will rip your fucking face off and run.  I don’t know if I could abide Roger Clyne himself trying to put me in a cage like that.  Ok, I probably could, but other than Roger Clyne, no one puts Tawni in an arm cage.

So Tawni started signaling to Rob, with an ever escalating series of gestures and body language, that she was unhappy with the cage.  A slight wriggle.  A drink “accidentally” spilled on him.  A few well-placed foot stomps.  A fierce elbow jab to the ribs.  And finally, finally, finally, a shrieked, “GET YOUR FUCKING HANDS OFF ME” because if you are messing with my juju during “I Still Believe,” your life is in danger.

Can I just say Rob never took the fucking hint?  He didn’t.  That cage stayed around me during the entire show.  It became this battle of wills, and I guess he won, because he never moved a freaking muscle.  The cage went from him trying to be sexy to him trying to prove a point, the point being, “I don’t give a shit if you want me or not–you’re mine.”  Meanwhile, the crowd around us was growing ever more dense and mosh-y, making my cage smaller and smaller.  Suffice it to say, I did NOT develop even a slight crush on cage boy.  My only consolation is that I probably left bruises on his toes and rib cage.

Which brings me to night number two.  I actually prayed before the show that someone cute and innocent and nice would flirt with me and make me feel human again, but that nothing would come of it, and no one would get hurt.  These are the kinds of things a 42-year-old woman looking for a crush prays, because she has seen one too many times how horribly awry crushes can go and is really pushing her boundaries even thinking about flirting with someone.  I probably should have added that I wanted to actually get a crush on the flirter.  Sometimes, you need to be specific when ordering from the universal menu.

Like clockwork, Mr. Cute-Innocent-Nice showed up behind me in line.  He was in his mid-twenties and was extremely handsome and clearly believed we were in the same age range, which flattered me immensely.  Two nights in a row, I was mistaken for a young woman.  Score!  It may have been the bad lighting, but I’ll take it.

My boy started a conversation with the killer opening line, “So are you totally stoked to see Frank?” which is better than some lines I’ve heard (“Can I touch your boobs?”) and worse than others (“You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.”).  He too had road tripped to see Frank, and I again acted impressed that someone would road trip to see a rock star, failing to mention that I had spent a great deal of my adult life doing just that.

I told him he was very good at the groupie game.  He said that he wasn’t sure he had enough cleavage, and I helped him adjust the zipper on his hoodie.  “It’s a fine line between sexy and slutty,” I told him, and we settled for some mid-level cleavage, because he really wanted to get Frank’s attention without being perceived as a whore.  It was funny and cute.  I told him I was a college teacher and that Simon and Schuster was publishing my novel, and he clearly thought I was a pathological liar.  I realized that my real life is so fantastic that people think I’m lying when I tell them about it, and this made me very, very happy.  I didn’t feel the need to convince my boy that I was telling him the truth.  I didn’t really care if he thought I was lying.  What I cared about was developing a crush.

Long story short, I lost my boy as we were filing into the theater, but he found me again and bought me a drink and told me I was beautiful.  We danced together during “Photosynthesis” and “Glory Hallelujah” with an incredible amount of passion and joy, and truly, I should have developed a crush on him.  He was adorable and sweet and funny and smart (opening line notwithstanding).  He did have killer abs, but he did not have a neck beard.  He did not put me in an arm cage.  Still, when he asked me if I wanted to go hang out after the show, I said no and bolted and drove away wondering what the fuck is wrong with me.

What is wrong with me is this.  I’ve seen the wizard behind the curtain too many times.  I’ve seduced, and I’ve been seduced.  I’ve given it all away, and I’ve taken it all from other people.  I’m tired of the dance.  I’m bored with the games.  I’ve seen more than my fair share of beautiful abs.  What I want now is a beautiful soul, and it seems my heart is completely incapable of being enamored with anything less.

Damn it.

My road trip home was two hours of bad mainstream radio pop.  When Lady Gaga sings about bad romances and it makes you cry, you know you’ve got issues.  “I don’t wanna be friends!” you shriek, and you mean it.  You ask yourself this question: “Am I completely incapable of ever developing a crush on anyone in the world but Roger Clyne again?”

I think the answer to that question is yes.  I am broken beyond belief.  I will never have a crush again.  Roger Clyne has ruined me for all other men, or arm cages have, or neck beards have, or something has, and I will tour the world selling books, trying and failing to develop crushes on the men I meet.  This is my future, boys.  It’s grim.

So when I ask you, with heartfelt passion to at least do me a solid and try to help me be human again, what I mean is don’t grow a fucking neck beard.  This getting crushes thing is hard enough without you throwing copious quantities of unkempt facial hair into the mix.

ADDENDUM: Roger Clyne is going on tour next month.  Even if he has sprouted a neck beard the size of a small shrub, Tawni will still have a crush.

ADDENDUM 2, @ NECKBEARD BOYS:  This is what rock stars are supposed to look like:

About Tawni Vee Waters