Amanda Palmer: ‘I’m scared of being alone, but fear doesn’t help’

The singer, 42, on meeting David Bowie, the importance of honesty and regretting her regrets

My earliest memory is of falling down some stairs, going into a kitchen full of adults and not being believed – which thrust me into a life of convincing performance and entertainment.

I met David Bowie for 45 seconds when Dresden Dolls were opening for Nine Inch Nails in New York. I melted to a puddle on the floor, not just because I had met him, but because he knew my band and liked us. I thought: “Kill me now before anything bad happens.”

My worst habit is a toss-up between being dissatisfied with everything I do and eating the skin off my fingernails. I think one probably manifests the other, and vice versa.

I figure shit is going to happen and we’re all going to die. The further you go into your life, the less there is to be afraid of because being afraid doesn’t help. But I’m scared of spiritual devolution; of becoming less mindful over time. Also of being ignored and alone.

When you hit 40 you find yourself in this strange feminist no-man’s-land of empowerment-through-face-architecture or empowerment-through-fuck-everybody and I’m definitely more in the fuck-everybody category. But you have to be careful what you say – the last thing you want to say in front of your 56-year-old friend who just got divorced and got Botox is how you feel like it’s so sad and pathetic that everyone wants you to get Botox.

I find myself constantly torn between honesty and compassion, because I realise that my ageing teenage style of radical honesty is not necessarily always compassionate. If you want to be a good feminist and a good humanist, your job is not to make people angry and upset all the time; your job is to proceed with compassion.

If you aren’t able to honestly, openly, constantly communicate with your partner, then nothing else matters. Your actions don’t matter, the sex you have doesn’t matter, the power struggles and the financial strains and the problems with this, that or the other thing don’t matter.

I spent a lot of my life regretting. There are certainly actions that I have taken in the past that have hurt me and have hurt others and were regrettable, but I don’t really believe in regret as a good place to stand in the present. It doesn’t help.

I mind that other people mind me getting older. It bothers me how much other people in my environment manifest concern about ageing in a way that is made to make me feel bad.

Amanda Palmer will be playing the Norfolk & Norwich Festival on 20 May (


Hayley Campbell

The GuardianTramp

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