All She Wrote: Darling Nikki


Nicole_CrewsMe (to bartender in Juarez): What’s that stain running across that wall? Was there something pushed up against it?

Bartender: Si. La gente.

Me: ¿Que? What do you mean “The people?”

Bartender: It is the, how do you say, Grinding Wall.

Me: Ah.

When your name is Nicole and Prince decides to write a dirty song about your nickname when you are in high school, all hell breaks loose.

You can’t enter a school dance or prom without some wiseacre dorky DJ (yes, DJs used to be the AV club guys) cranking “Darling Nikki” at full volume. It doesn’t matter if you are a virgin or a bona fide tart — it has the same effect. It’s slut-shaming before slut-shaming is even a verb.

So what the hell are you supposed to do? Might as well embrace it. I mean it is Prince and he’s pretty badass. (And it could be worse. My boarding school roommate’s middle name was Eileen and I know that having boys yell “Come on Eileen” at you 10 times a day must have gotten old.)

And so it came to pass that my first, loin-lingering ache of a grind had Purple Rain as its soundtrack. I don’t even remember the boy — nor the venue — but I know that we danced at least half the length of the album and Nikki was my name from there on out.

Miss Ruby (answering the phone at my parent’s house): Crews’s res-i-dence. Who you want to talk to baby?

Prank Caller (cranking “Darling Nikki”): Thank you for the funky time!

Miss Ruby: Lawd. Child ain’t got any sense.

“Let’s Go Crazy”

Slowly, and also at least partially thanks to Prince, my childhood wardrobe of Lacoste dresses and Tretorns was being replaced with something more likely seen on the newly-minted channel MTV than “Family Ties.” My girlfriends and I would secretly shop at Foxy Fashion and Merchant for parachute pants, striped jeans, studded belts, puffy shirts, pointy pumps and granny boots. We slashed our sweatshirts Flashdance style and cut our hair in harmonious asymmetry. Whatever cash remained we spent on concert tickets, vinyl and door covers for after-hours gay clubs where we could dance the night away — at least until 4 a.m. This was no cotillion. This was no beach music shagathon. This was full-on “Nasty Girl” and we were the Vanity 4.

“When Doves Cry”

We may have listened to the Dead Kennedys, Social Distortion, Black Flag, the Replacements, REM, Hüsker Dü, Circle Jerks, Minutemen and Suicidal Tendencies but we danced to Bowie, Prince, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Duran Duran, the Cure, Depeche Mode, the Smiths, INXS, the Police and anything else with a dance beat.

We were overachievers by day and hung out with hairdressers and retail Romeos at clubs by weekend night. We posed with punks in garages and underground venues and generally veered between all of these worlds with ease.

It was a fine time to be a teen and after all of these years, I think “Darling Nikki” suits me just fine.