Alexi Laiho. Cheekbones.

Alexi Laiho is the reason why I know I have cheekbones.

Let me back up. In the years in between Sprout’s birth and now, I have lost two siblings, an aunt, and the only set of grand-parents I had alive. I have become the official Black Sheep of my Mom’s family. My husband has deployed once more, left the Army, and moved us across the country during the hottest part of the year. And I had Pudge.

Somewhere along the way my immune system decided it hated my thyroid, and left me dealing with a long list of symptoms, leaving me a casualty of the war between white blood cells and hormones. The stress of everything broke me, and I collapsed in on myself.

Then my husband got back into metal. He started going to concerts and watching videos and listening to it more. He bought a guitar, and then another, and then another, and then another. He started a blog. One evening, I saw a box. Holding an EMG Alexi Laiho signature pickup. Alexi Laiho was on the box.

The world stopped turning for a moment.

I was looking at the living embodiment of teen-age Jennifer dreams. The ultimate bad boy. That crazy rush of hormones that marks the start of a crush hit my brain while I was still staring at his picture.

First I hit Google, where I obsessively read everything I could about Children of Bodom. Then I listened to their music. Not played it in the background, while I was doing something, I sat in my bathroom, while the girls napped, and listened to it.

I nurtured this crush for months. One morning, after not sleeping while getting the girls back to bed, after dozing on the couch while the sun came up, a sick baby on my shoulder; I staggered into my bathroom. I felt every year, every single day of my life, as I stared at myself. A little voice, a little insidious voice started whispering in the back of my head, that I was not the type of woman Alexi Laiho would want. “You are not a take-charge person and you haven’t been for years.” “He would not want you.” “You are not worth his time.”

I spent a few days so wrapped up in that voice, that I could not concentrate. The house went to hell, I didn’t play with the girls, I barely remembered to feed the girls. I burned dinner. I didn’t sleep.

That voice was right. He would not want the girl who had been devastated by life, who had withdrawn rather than fight back. I realized I did not want that girl either, I didn’t want to be her anymore.

I bought makeup a few days later. I bought highlighter and bronzer and watched Youtube videos on how to even use what I bought, more makeup than I have ever bought before. I remembered to pluck my eyebrows. I bought lotion, and then more lotion, and then even more lotion. I bought lotion that matched bath soap and body spray that matched both. I started painting my toes again.

One morning, I actually used the bronzer. And I discovered, I have cheekbones.

I have cheekbones.

Now, months after I saw his face on that box… I am not who I was. I am still me.

But I am not who I was during those dark days.

I jumped into the world of metal. Hubs bought me a guitar. And then another. And then another.

I started reading photography tutorials again, I started taking pictures again, I remembered to take my camera out of my bag.

I went to a metal concert. Yeah, I went to see Children of Bodom. I stood in between the mosh pit and the rail, in a crush of humanity, screaming until my throat was raw. I did not have a panic attack. I did NOT have a panic attack.

In the middle of all those people, I did not cry, I did not get the itchy feeling that precedes stress hives. I didn’t get the overwhelming urge to run to the bathroom and hide, even when I was sure Abbath was going to summon Satan while playing.

I am standing now, wobbly, but standing, on the far side of the most trying years of my life. But I am no longer hiding. I am no longer afraid.

The next time I see my favorite singer perform with his band, I will be ON the rail, even if I have to stand there for hours.

And no, I am probably still not the girl he would want. But that is ok. I am, and will be, eternally grateful for the cheekbones. For reminding me to scream back at life when it seeks to level me.

But I don’t need him to want me. I will not wither away if he never sees me.

I am bad ass all on my own.

~Jennifer

Postscript: My crush on Alexi Laiho did not cure me. That will take modern medicine, and I will be perpetually thankful that I have good doctors who can treat me. But, that crush, that one-sided, adolescent crush, propelled me to change things. It prompted me to do some soul-searching, to find my inner bad-ass when she was buried underneath layers of grief.