June 2002. Manhattan, Kansas. I just ended my sophomore year at K-State. I decided to live in Manhattan that summer so I could take a few summer courses and make some easy money working at the local snow cone shack.
Scott was my new boyfriend at the time. He decided to live with his parents for the summer. To this day, he regrets that decision because he could have prevented me from making a dumbass out of myself in front of Kenny Chesney.
It’s 2002. Kenny Chesney was not the huge superstar he is now. Or maybe he was. Hell, I don’t know. I didn’t listen to country music back then. This was 3 years before he married Renee Zellweger. His album “No Shoes, No Shirts, No Problem” was just released a few months prior. “Young” and “The Good Stuff” were two of his popular songs at the time. I had to google all of this because, like I said, I didn’t listen to country music.
It was a hot Friday afternoon. I had the day off from work and classes. I went where I always go with a day off – the gym. I guarantee I was whisper rapping with headphones to “Hot in Herre” by Nelly while on the elliptical machine. No one had iPods in 2002. Everyone used arm band radios.
I finished up my workout and headed for the door. Some guy working at the front desk stopped me.
Hey! Come here. Look at this.
I walk over and look at the sign-in sheet he was drooling over.
Look who’s here.
See? Kenny Chesney!
Big country singer? He’s in town for Country Stampede. He’s headlining tomorrow.
Oh. Hm. Cool.
I leave and get in my car. I call Scott on my cell phone.
Hey, you love country music. Do you know who a Kenny uh…I think he said Chesney?
Kenny Chesney. Yeah. He’s there for Country Stampede.
Oh. Well, he’s here at the Rec. Some weirdo guy was drooling over the sign-in sheet.
GO BACK IN THERE. Mark, Julie is at the gym and Kenny Chesney is there working out. Yeah! I know! Out of all people, Julie runs into Kenny Chesney! Ok, I’ll ask her. Hey, Julie. You there? Go back in and get his autograph.
Are you serious? I don’t know who he is or what he looks like!
Please! Go back in and ask the guy to point him out for you.
An autograph? What about a picture? I can go back to my apartment and get a camera.
He might leave! Just get his autograph.
Ugh. Fine. I’m all sweaty and I have no make up on. Whatever. You are lucky I have no idea who this guy is.
I go back inside with a pen and paper. I walk up to the weirdo with the sign-in sheet.
So, uh, where did this Kenny Chesney go?
He’s upstairs with the weights. What are you doing?
Getting his autograph for my boyfriend. What does he look like?
Ok. He has an orange Tennessee shirt on. He has a black hat on too. He also brought his huge trainer. You won’t miss him.
I walk up to the weight room. Weirdo was right. I didn’t miss him. Kenny was standing, talking to his 300 pound trainer in between bicep curls. Everyone in the room was staring at them, whispering and pointing. No one would come within 10 feet of Kenny.
Geez, who is this guy? Whatever.
I walk up to Kenny. First thing I noticed was his height. My memory tells me I was at least a head taller than him but according to google, he is only 3 inches shorter than me.
Hi. Are you Kenny Chesney?
Oh. Can I have your autograph for my boyfriend? He’s a huge fan of yours.
And you aren’t?
Ha! Um, I honestly have no idea who you are.
I give him my guilty smile.
He laughed again and started to sign the piece of paper.
What is your boyfriend’s name?
Scott. Thank you so much for doing this. Sorry for interrupting your work out.
I looked around. Everyone in the room had their mouths wide open in shock.
Oh, it’s fine. Here you go. What is your name?
It was nice to meet you, Julie.
He looks me in the eye and puts his hand out. I shake it. His eyes fall to my chest then back to my eyes again.
NO! Uhhhh…did he just do that?
I mumbled thanks and walk off with Scott’s autograph. I run back to my car and call Scott again.
Did you get it?
Yeah, I got it. Perv looked at my boobs.
What? What happened?
His eyes dropped from my eyes to my boobs and back to my eyes again. Whatever. I can’t really imagine that guy on a stage. He’s so short. And he’s soft spoken, very polite. Other than his not-so-polite eye flicker. I swear, all you guys are the same. Bunch of pervs.
You need to stop taking so many women studies classes. I’m sure it was in your head.
Uh, no. Your little Kenny Chesney dude looked at my boobs. I’m just stating a fact. I’m not bothered by it. I seriously need to see him on a stage sometime. There’s no way he’s entertaining to watch.
Go with your friends to the concert then! You’d have fun.
I have to work. Country music sucks.
Well, thanks for getting that autograph for me. You have no idea how lucky you are to meet him.
Not a big deal. I’ll see ya next weekend. Bye.
Fast forward to 2013.
My boyfriend, Scott, and I are now married with kids. We hang out with the same group of college friends. Scott and I still use any free time to work out at the gym. Scott listens to old school Usher and Nelly on his iPhone at the gym. I listen to Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, or Eric Church. I have gone from saying country music sucks to listening to nothing but country. I know very well who Kenny Chesney is and all the words to his songs.
Exactly 11 years later, that “short, soft spoken, polite, other than the not-so-polite eye flicker” guy sang to tens of thousands of people at Arrowhead Stadium. And I was one of them. I was in the crowd holding up my beer, dancing and singing along to “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem.”
Kenny was drenched in sweat, bouncing all around the stage singing his heart out, pounding his chest. He was smiling the whole time, having as much fun as I was in the stands.
Kenny Chesney is a completely different person on stage than that Kenny Chesney guy I met in college. I did find one similarity though. The music videos shown behind Kenny on stage had one theme: drop dead gorgeous women in tiny bikinis on a beach.
He totally still does the eye flicker.