Stratocasters, Tattoos and Poker-Playing Grandmas

I played a Fender Stratocaster today.
OK, well “played” may be too strong a word here, but I strummed a chord. An actual chord that my little fingers created on the fretboard from memory. And it sounded good.

Yes indeedy, I’m a Torrid 41-year-old learning to play the guitar. In my opinion, the fact that the popping of my electric guitar cherry was with a steed so studly as a Strat bodes well for my future musical development. Also a plus–I have a good teacher. And he has long hair, which is key. No tattoos, though, so I may have to have a chat with him about that.

In other news, Gwen Stefani is hot. These two facts are linked, I promise you. Just hang on for the ride a bit.

Let’s go back to the guitar. I wanted to try something new, and the idea of learning the guitar started pulling at my petticoats. The Silver Fox, in his infinite wisdom, recited the oft-quoted adage (quoted as recently as this week by my Dublin taxi driver), “Happy wife means happy life.” The Irish cabbie added in a witty bit about the husband and his not-so-relevant requests, but we needn’t go there just now. Long story short, a month or so before my 41st birthday I found myself skipping out of the local town music shop alongside my darling spouse with an Alvarez AF-75 acoustic guitar strapped to my back in a gig bag. Happy wife, indeed.

So far, so good–I now know about seven chords, and, though the very excellent long-haired music teacher proved a bit too heavy on the pocketbook, which is a shame, I’m getting coaching from the Silver Fox (who plays quite well) and receiving some surprisingly high-quality virtual tutoring sessions via guitarist and teacher Tomas Michaud’s YouTube instructional videos. If you haven’t heard of him, head on out to for more info. He really is fab.

Aside from actually being able to play a new instrument, guitar also makes me feel like kind of a badass. Which brings us back to Gwen Stefani (see–I promised). Like Halle Berry, Jennifer Lopez, et. al., she’s part of the Golden Forties Valhalla set. She gave birth a few short months ago, and she’s already in better shape than most high school track stars. She’s 45 and her skin looks to be as flawless as her new baby’s hiney (I know, there’s a makeup excellence factor thrown in there too–for Gwen, not the baby). Also, per this evening’s beauty article in my Facebook newsfeed, she’s been dubbed to be as “ageless” as Halle, J. Lo. and the rest of the gang. Clearly, she’s rocking the Torrid Forties.

That’s the key point today, and the thread that links Gwen and her microscopic pores to my new guitar. Novelty. Evolution. Exploration. Newness. We need to disrupt the status quo every once in a while, throughout our lives and especially now when we’ve worked our asses off to get to a space of “comfortable” with work, family, and ourselves. We need a little bit of a construction project to keep us from falling into the trap of auto drive, which will have us sailing so comfortably through life that we don’t remember to dig into it. We don’t want that challenge to come to us by way of loss or struggle or illness. Let’s get back in the driver’s seat and pick a great hunk of ice at which to chip away.

We can’t all host The Voice, but there’s a ton we can do. Switch up your hair color like Kelly Osbourne–or stop coloring it, like I did (Summoning the Enchantress has the scoop on that). Get a tattoo. Try yoga. Wear spandex workout clothes, or learn to rock a bandanna like Bret Michaels or my new get out of jail free card Bruno Mars. Learn to play an instrument. Take singing lessons if you want to. Just do something to keep the edge on. That’s the kind of thing that keeps you Torrid.

My grandma, whom I adore, is the perfect example of this practice. She started playing poker after the age of eighty. She started Wii bowling a few years later. She’s in it. And man, there is no one more Torrid than she.

I don’t know if I’ll ever graduate to the level of “really good” on the guitar, but that doesn’t matter one lick (get it?). Like writing, like penning Overture and this blog, the practice of playing guitar opens up a new space in my still-developing brain, opens my eyes to a new appreciation for the art form, and opens my personal box of “selfness” just a little bit wider. I can only hope that one day, my collection of self-enriching gems can begin to compare to that of my grandmother. Even Gwen would strive for such great fortune. Double down, Grandma.

Photo Credit: Duncan Brown (Cradlehall) via Wikimedia Commons


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