1993: I am five years old and watching TV unsupervised when I happen upon the music video for “Dreamlover.” Who is this perfect woman? I ask myself. I spend the remainder of the year emulating the video – frolicking in open fields and longing for a hot air balloon to whisk me away.
1994: Mariah releases her inaugural Christmas album, Merry Christmas. My dad tells me that holiday stuff is always cheaper after Christmas, so in an effort to seem like I understand how money works, I ask him to buy me the CD on December 26th… at full price.
1995: “Fantasy.” Enough said.
1996: While flipping through the C’s at the local music store, I learn that there are still many Mariah releases I do not own. I embark on a fanatical campaign to acquire her entire catalog – including CD maxi-singles and VHS concert tapes. I also spend hours meticulously furnishing a lavish Mariah scrapbook, which essentially becomes my Sistine Chapel. While in the midst of compiling information for the scrapbook, I discover that Mariah and I share the same birthday (327 WHAT WHAT), and the whole thing is a lot like that moment in The Princess Diaries where Anne Hathaway learns she is of royal blood. (Or something? I don’t remember The Princess Diaries accurately.)
1997: Mariah releases her magnum opus (/the answer to everything ever), Butterfly, and ALL BETS ARE OFF. This CD becomes my best friend and helps me cope with everything from my parents’ divorce to my frequent existential crises to my destructive and crippling addiction to Oreos. (I was clearly a very damaged nine-year-old.)
1998-2002: I continue to follow and support everything Mariah does, but in an effort to fit in with my friends (all of whom are boys who somehow don’t understand diva-worship), I do so secretively – effectively going into the Mariah-closet. As a result, I become dead on the inside.
2003: High school begins. I clandestinely attend a Mariah concert alone and feel the presence of God in the theater.
2005: The stellar Emancipation of Mimi album is released. I hesitantly reveal my extreme excitement to my best friend Fran, who is also a huge fan, and she effectively drags me out of the Mariah-closet. Like Mimi, I am emancipated.
2006-2011: With each passing year, I grow more and more outspoken and unapologetic with my public love of MC. I go to concerts. I stand in my truth. Mariah eventually just becomes an inextricable part of my persona and identity.
2012: I am twenty-four and working in music and television in New York City. I manage to finagle my way onto the guest list for a random launch party for a Caesar’s Palace thing at Gotham Hall, where Mariah is making a rare appearance and performing. I bring Fran as my plus one. The setting is living room-intimate, Mariah’s eyes sync up with mine twice, and life is a dream. Much to my chagrin, though, Mariah and I don’t get to formally meet. But I take what I can get.
2013: A friend of mine who works for Jimmy Fallon surprises me with tickets to a taping of a Fallon-Mariah interview in promotion of “The Art of Letting Go.” Mariah and I still don’t get to meet, but again I take what I can get.
Monday, February 10th: Mariah puts out a teaser for her new single, “You’re Mine (Eternal).”
Tuesday, February 11th: I read a press release early in the morning that states that there will be two versions of the song released on Wednesday, along with a video premiere and a Mariah interview TAPED LIVE FROM THE TELEVISION NETWORK FOR WHICH I WORK. I freak out for about twenty minutes over how there’s a chance I won’t be allowed anywhere near the taping, but my hysteria is calmed when I get a phone call from a colleague close to the production who is aware of my status as a Mariah disciple and gets me on the list.
Wednesday, February 12th: I spend the entire day in a perpetual state of nervous excitement. When it’s finally time for the taping, I head up to the floor of the studio and feel as though I’m living in a surreal alternate universe. As I’m standing outside the studio entrance, I see Mariah’s entourage emerge from the hallway, followed by the deity herself. She is everything I expect her to be and more – wearing heels, calling people “dahling,” and radiating an energy of playfulness. Mariah’s best friend RaeRae (whom I immediately recognize from Instagram and the song lyrics to “’Betcha Gon’ Know”), takes a spot beside me as we wait for Mariah to make her formal entrance onscreen. Mariah stops right in front of the both of us for a last-minute touch-up, smiles at me as if we know each other, and I have to restrain myself from reaching out and pulling her into my arms for an impromptu embrace.
Backstage during the taping, I go back and forth in my head trying to think of ways to introduce myself to RaeRae without looking like a total creeper. I finally settle for, “Hi! I’m Nic. I totally recognize you.” We proceed to have a conversation about photo booths and dogs and children in which I’m awkward and blubbering on account of the fact that I’m FREAKIN’ TALKING TO MARIAH CAREY’S BEST FRIEND, but we eventually exchange Twitter handles, so I decide that I couldn’t have been that embarrassing. (Or RaeRae is just really accustomed to being fanatically approached by Mariah-obsessed weirdoes. Probably that.)
When the taping ends, the wonderful guy who got me on the list (to whom I am eternally grateful) pulls me into the studio where Mariah is hanging out and drinking Dom Perignon with husband Nick Cannon, Jermaine Dupri, MTV’s Sway, and a number of other people who are all desperately trying to get as close as possible to her. I recognize that the odds of my getting any one-on-one time in which to actually talk to her are slim to none, as there’s simply too much competition with people who actually seem to know her from somewhere. I come to terms with this quickly, though, and am willing to take what I can get. (As per usual.)
During a random photo op in which I’m creepily hovering/mouth-breathing over Mariah’s head, RaeRae pulls out her phone and takes a quick video. Later on, the Dom Perignon gets passed around and I take a swig directly from the bottle. Yes. I take a swig of Mariah Carey’s Dom Perignon. From. The. Bottle. After about twenty more minutes, it’s time for her to leave. I give her a smile and a wave and a round of applause, and she reciprocates. (Minus the applause, but whatever.)
At the end of it all, I go downstairs to my work-wife Mila’s office, where I’m delighted to find her still working past nine o’clock. Still on a Mariah-high, I give Mila a highly dramatic retelling of the night’s events. We then log in to Facebook and find that the video RaeRae spontaneously took earlier has just been posted. TO MARIAH’S OFFICIAL PAGE.
For the remainder of the night, I ride a feeling of floating all the way home to my apartment. It’s as if I’ve been whisked away by a hot air balloon. The experience of the past three hours has confirmed that what I’ve always said is indeed true: Only three things matter in the end – how much you loved, how much you forgave, and how many times you were in the presence of Mariah Carey.