My husband and I have kept our wedding vows, but we haven't always played by the popular rules of marriage. We've gone to bed angry. We've bickered in front of the children. And we can't seem to swing the recommended monthly night out. So what keeps us together? Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. I exaggerate--but not much. Every couple needs a shared passion that doesn't involve their kids. For my parents, it's gardening. For our close friends, it's public service. For us, it's Springsteen.
Bruce doesn't know it, but his music--tender ballads, angry anthems, rowdy dance tunes--has sustained us through 17 years of road trips. Jersey Girl was the first song at our wedding. We played Born to Run on the way to the hospital to have our first child. And The Ties That Bind has never failed us. With Bruce still outdoing himself at 50, we're counting on him to shepherd us into middle age and beyond.
I'm not ashamed to say that we traffic in concert tickets, tapes and T shirts. Over our children's protests, we play all Bruce, all the time--Backstreet Boys be damned. And while we loathe Ticketmaster for never letting us buy truly great seats, we're still hoping to get MIB'd (the legendary "Men in Black" roam the arena an hour or two before each show, upgrading early arrivals from nosebleed sections to the front row).
Not long ago, my husband got me a subscription to the Bruce forum at luckytown.org where fans post concert reviews and analyze lyrics. Thus fortified, on June 3, I flew to Atlanta to see back-to-back concerts with my sister Kimberly and our JANEY sign. Bruce didn't play our request, but from our seats behind the stage we could tell he adores his wife Patti Scialfa, who plays guitar and sings in the band.
My selfless husband was home with the kids, but he and I will soon rendezvous with 19,998 of Bruce's faithful at Madison Square Garden. Among them, no doubt, will be some of the lovebirds we've encountered at backstreets.com the husbands who've scored tickets to surprise their wives; the Colorado couple who planned their honeymoon around the New York concert dates. Christopher Phillips, the site's overseer, says one woman asked him to ask the Boss to propose to her boyfriend for her at an upcoming show. (Phillips couldn't oblige, but, Bruce, if you're reading this, an engagement hangs in the balance.)
Tragically, on July 1, after playing 71 cities in 15 countries, Bruce and the band will shut down their 1999-2000 reunion tour with the last of 10 sold-out Garden shows. Fearing serious withdrawal, I consulted relationship guru Pepper Schwartz, author of the forthcoming book Everything You Know About Love and Sex Is Wrong. "If Bruce is just one thing among a lot of other important things that you share," she said, "you'll handle this loss the same way you've handled other losses." (I didn't dare tell her about our beloved cat Clarence--named for Bruce's saxophonist, Clarence ("Big Man") Clemons. Seven years after our pet's death, his ashes are still in a box in my closet.)
I mumbled something about how Bruce helps keep us young--to which Schwartz responded that we're like every other youth-obsessed boomer couple. "It's not so much Bruce as what he represents for you," she said. "Vitality, romance, adventure. That's more important than being part of a fan club." Maybe we won't need rehab after all.