David Bowie versus The Golden Globes

Last night I watched the Golden Globe Awards at my girlfriend’s house. We had ballots and a contest to see who could guess the most winners (I did terribly – last place), but mostly we were in it for the red carpet clothes. We played a little game where we each tried to guess what designer each star was wearing. (I was *much* better at this game.) There were a lot of looks we liked, a few we loved, and many we thought could use improvement. (Give us four chairs, a microphone, and a show on E! and we could really wow you, I swear.)

But the overarching fashion theme of the night was…safety. There were few real risks taken – most of the dresses were predicable, safe choices. We all agreed we wanted more. Where were the prints? The side boobs? The gorgeous but not weird style breakthroughs? We lamented and laughed as we drowned our faux sorrow with Prosecco spritzers and giggles as we talked over every speech that was made.

This morning, as I slowly woke up (a little behind schedule, yes), my husband sat reading his phone at the edge of our bed. “David Bowie died,” he said. “What!?” I popped up, putting up a barrier of disbelief to what I knew was true.

I felt truly, deeply sad. I’d never met David Bowie (got close once, though), so I have no right to be attached to the man himself, instead of just his body of work. But Bowie was a game changer – you couldn’t help but feel like you knew him, like his work was not something he created and put out there, but that it was actually an extension of himself, that you were shaking his hand when his notes hit your ears.

Fashion icon (fun fact: in 2012, he was voted best-dressed person in British history), musical talent, and creative genius, David Bowie was a study in duality and grace. He bridged generations and genders, brought the funk and made it accessible. It was the kind of music you could listen to with your dad on a long car ride or with your friends before a big night out. We’re not all gonna be the same and that’s ok, it said. Let your freak flag fly and so will I, it said, because there’s a world of rainbows out there and everybody sees different things in the spectrum. And that’s where you’ll find beauty, he seemed to be telling us.

There was always a secret lesson in whatever he did – as well as a lot of flash and always a dark edge – but it didn’t feel like medicine. It just felt like you could both relate and make room for some new perspectives all at the same time.

David Bowie, you will be so missed on this Earth, and far into space, too. It seemed so easy for you to be so true to yourself. Could it have been? How much courage did it take to be David Bowie? It seems like a good question a lot of us could be asking ourselves right now.

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year is to wear more interesting clothes. It’s a vague and probably vain thing to resolve, but really it’s just a reminder to be less boring, and more artful, daring, creative. (Full disclosure: I’m currently wearing yoga pants and a Patagonia fleece.) But it’s not just my personal wardrobe and the Golden Globe nominees that could use a little injection of David Bowie’s audacity. It’s the entire world.

Between far-flung terror, horrors closer to home, and just trying to manage the minutiae of day-to-day life, it seems to me that we’ve all got to muster up a little extra courage if we want things to start looking up.

Sometimes being brave means putting everything I’ve got into just getting out of bed in the morning. Sometimes it means standing up for what I know is right – and teaching my kids to do it, too. And sometimes it just means having the courage to buck a social trend or norm and truly be myself. Because that’s when the good stuff starts to happen.

David Bowie didn’t set out to be an activist, but because of his actions, he had impact. We cannot say goodbye to you, David Bowie, because though your body may be gone from our world, we will not let your spirit die. Maybe we could all promise to try to be heroes in your honor, just for one day, in just one small way.

Video from Coub. Artwork and gif by Helen Green.

Meaghan O'Neill is a writer, editor, blogger wrangler, and the founder of Puddingstone Post. She was formerly editor-in-chief of TreeHugger, Discovery Channel online, and TLC's Parentables. Her writing has appeared in numerous print and online publications, and her book, Ready, Set, Green: 8 Weeks to Modern Eco-Living (Villard/Random House) was published in 2008. She lives in Newport, RI with her family.

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