July 27, 2004 was my last day of work before I went on vacation to Texas to see my friends. It wasn’t a terribly busy day at work, but it was new release day. I was working in the music department at Barnes & Noble, and Tuesdays were the typical release date for most albums and it was always a day of resetting and displaying the newest items. Early in the day, a woman came in looking for Scissor Sisters. I had never heard of them, but they had a CD released that day. We had received two copies. She was very excited about it and told me I should check them out. It was a common recommendation from folks coming in to buy albums by their favorite artists. I rarely paid any attention to it. But this day was different. I was driving to Austin that evening, and really wanted something new to listen to on the way. I had already picked out another album, k.d. lang’s Hymns of the 49th Parallel, but I wanted something new. So, I picked up Scissor Sisters debut album blindly on the customer’s recommendation.
The drive from Tulsa to Austin isn’t very direct and goes through some very slow towns. I had been driving on US Route 75 for a while when I decided to give my new music a try. I popped it in, not knowing what to expect. “Laura” was fun and quirky… okay, okay… I could get into this. And then “Take Your Mama” played. Something struck me about that song in ways that most songs don’t. They were singing about my people. I had listened to LGBT artists before, which I now understood this band to be, but rarely did their songs speak to my experience or people I recognized. Not only was this album about people I understood, the music was so incredibly good. By the fourth track, “Mary,” I was starting to cry.
I pulled over in Henryetta, playing the stop off as a stop for gas. After getting gas, I called my friend Lori and told her about this band and how moved I was by them already. I felt silly, and it was silly. Life hadn’t felt terribly fair at that point. My friend John had died in May, and since I worked with him I was constantly aware that he was no longer there. It consumed me. I find my journeys through grief harder than they seem to be for others, at least based on the stories of other experiences. That point in my life felt like a series of losses. I had lost a grandma and a great grandma at the end of 2000, my other grandma in early 2002, and then my last living great grandma in June 2002. It had felt piled up and needed a lot of time for me to deal with, but before I had really fully dealt with it John died. For more than a year, during which time another friend passed away, I was extremely sensitive and didn’t know how to manage my feelings. So, there I was in Henryetta, Oklahoma calling a friend and crying because this band really understood gay people. I wasn’t ashamed then, and I am certainly not now.
I listened to the rest of the album when I got back on the road. It was such an amazing piece of art and I was in absolute awe. Even my least favorite tracks on the disc were songs I really enjoyed. This album changed the way I thought about music, and came to me in the exact moment I needed it. I’m so glad I was able to experience that album, as well as subsequent Scissor Sisters releases. They have all been wonderful.