Candidate From My Past- February 6, 2014

The news that former American Idol runner-up and Raleigh native, Clay Aiken was running for congress in North Carolina brought a smile to my face yesterday. I watched him in numerous TV interviews during his media blitz. His red hair, familiar native twang and sparkly eyes reminded me of another time. A quirky phase I went through in my life.

His campaign announcement video via You Tube

I have already voted for Clay Aiken. Oh, yes. I was one of millions who voted for him back in 2003. My roommate and one of my dearest friends, Sara and I shared an apartment near campus. I was 21. I turned 22 that summer. We were college seniors who were just a summer semester away from graduating when we watched every episode of American Idol. Okay, I made Sara watch every week because I was captivated by this kid from my home city.

He had a nice singing voice. We were just two years apart in age. I knew some people he knew and he just seemed like a really nice guy. I loved seeing a hometown kid succeed on the nation’s most popular show. I joined the message boards and encouraged Clay support with my AIM icon. I bought the Rolling Stone magazine with his picture on the front and made Sara go to a Kelly Clarkson/Clay Aiken concert with me where I may or may not have bought a t-shirt. I understood why girls were all about him. He was non-threatening and charming. Unlike some of the “Claymates” however, I was not surprised when he came out a few years later after his fame from the show had faded. I was happy for him that he felt like he could say that he was gay and be who he was.

Am I a little embarrassed of my silly infatuation in 2003? Of course. I was a little too old for that. But, I think the reason I had a summer fling with Clay Aiken was that subconsciously I was clinging to my last bit of lighthearted, teenage fun. Voting for a contestant on a reality show was a welcome distraction from my first real-world scary, frustrating job search. That was the summer I ended my internship, finished my final classes of undergrad and had interviews for a real jobs at TV stations. That was the summer I said goodbye to my college friends and moved back home with my parents because that’s where the job was and I had no choice but to face the startling, adult reality that I had no money and no where to go. Little did I know, when summer turned to fall I would fall in love with the man who would eventually become my husband. I quickly left the room at my parents house for an apartment I shared with him. Stashed in that girlish closet were old prom dresses, sorority photos and even a Clay poster taped to the inside of the door where no one would see the evidence of my fandom.

photo (75)Me and my husband in Oct. 2003

Yesterday, the 32-year-old woman that I am now rocked the baby and wiped the nose of the three-year-old I have with that same man I met the year Clay Aiken became famous. I reminded my husband that he went with me to see Clay at the NC State Fair and the Raleigh Christmas Parade back then. He laughed and rolled his eyes telling me that he must have really been in love to have done all of that. We watched one of his interviews  last night and listened to his views on issues he wants to address as a potential congressman.

I can’t vote for or against Clay this time. I live one district away, but I wish him luck and thank him for bringing back memories of a funny, fleeting time in my life. I wondered how his political career would pan out and wondered if I would remember the day he announced he would run for office. I think this may be a funny, fleeting time in my life too. It is the first week of my life as a stay-at-home mom. I’m sure I’ll look back fondly.

Good luck Clay. While you campaign to get voters to mark your name on a ballot, I will always remember when Ryan Seacrest campaigned for you and I called a 1-866 number over and over, just to be a silly girl for just a few months longer.


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