"Welp, I think we found our woo girl."
I didn't so much whisper as I did direct a targeted cone of sound at Loverboy's ear as the target of my ire was sitting just to his left. The concert was in full swing by then. We'd just taken our seats, and the group of women next to us were immersed in the experience up to their eyeballs.
Each "I love you Zac!" made me roll my eyes on the inside. We're 500 feet and 20,000 people away. He'll never hear that. Yes, because logic and the arts are besties. Didn't you know?
Ms Woo was feeling no pain. That much was obvious. But, she was a happy drunk, soaking in the arena concert experience. She was what every stock photograph or crowd shot would tell you a young concert going woman would be; exuberant, joyous, and practically glowing about being eardrum-deep in watching her idol sing. And that was apparently too much for some people.
We knew something was up when security rolled in literally 7 deep. They pulled her aside and started talking to her. We asked what was up, and the security person we talked to stated they' been given a report that this gal was drunk, belligerent, and was throwing beer cans. No such thing happened, and we made sure to tell them this. Moments later, the lady security guard talking to Ms Woo called out the person who made the false complaint. In a voice heard above the roar from the stage, she let them know that Ms Woo had paid for the seat, and she has every right to stand. However, by this time, the moment was over, and Ms Woo was seated, hunched over in a way that screamed she would give anything to be invisible in that moment, eyes wet with tears. I would come to find out that the family who complained also decided to take out their frustrations on Ms Woo directly, screaming at her, and telling her about how she was an awful person because their 9 year old couldn't see the stage.
I'm slow to accept the label of empath, but my senses were more than a little overloaded in that room of thousands of individual lives and emotions. At least I had been until this woman was, by all accounts, being bullied by some pretty terrible parental role models behind us. I saw Loverboy talking to her, pointing to me with his free hand (Being distraught, she grabbed his left hand and held on like a shipwreck survivor hoping not to drown.) When asked what he was saying, he nodded towards Ms Woo and said "I was telling her that whether she knows you or not, she has perhaps the biggest ally in you." That's when I leaned in and told her that she has every right to stand, and she in fact, had done nothing wrong. Her only "crime" was to lose herself in the concert experience.
I told her that if she stands, I stand. And nobody will mess with either of us because, look at me. I look fucking mean. Blue hair, ball and chain Hot Topic strand of "pearls" for a necklace, murder red lipstick, and a dress in the loudest skull pattern I could find. Nobody will mess with you if you appear to be with me. You stand. I stand. They jaw at you, they deal with my mouth. And that should be insured by Lloyd's of London. She nodded, and stared into her lap a bit, squeezing Loverboy's hand a little harder.
I turned around to see if I could find the people who had ruined this woman's night, and made eye contact with the husband. I held his gaze until he looked away. I did the same with the wife when I returned from the restroom. Unsurprisingly, this family chose to leave before the encore. I'm sure it was to beat the traffic.
By happenstance, we met up again after the houselights came on, and we'd all had a chance to recycle the beer we'd had during the show. After a round of high fives, and my blue wig getting a surprising amount of literal pets, I said to them that if they take anything from the night, know that it's ok to take up space. Had candid camera watched our row, the difference between how Ms Woo and I reacted would have been clear. Where she retreated within herself and tried to make her space small, I sat up like I had rebar in my spine, squared my shoulders, and draped my arms over both armrests. I moved more slowly, and with more purpose. It was as if I was preparing to have my ring kissed, and the whole thing was instinctual. I wasn't going to start a fight, but I was ready to end it. And it dawned on me that this is rather new. That comfort in where my autonomy and allowance ends and the influence of others is allowed to begin. I know for myself, I spent most of my life kowtowing to the comfort of others. I think this is something most women are taught, directly or indirectly; yield space to others. Sacrifice your comfort because that's what women do. And it's not ok.
I hope Ms Woo remembers what I said. Not that I think she was 5 sheets to the wind. But when your emotional state has gone through the wringer like hers did, it's easy to forget details. But, I hope she, along with every woman, learns that it's ok to be larger than life, to take up space, make noise, and live life out loud. I hope they learn it sooner than I did, and if I can help someone try it on for size, I'll consider that paying to forward.