HIGHWAY 101 and Identity 101 Evolution of Punk Rock Princess from San Francisco
When I was a teenager one of the most important things to me was to be original. It was clear to me that not only did I not fit in, I did not want to. Even sometimes when I was able to “pull it off” by being normal enough or popular enough even for one day, I kind of felt sick to my stomach about it. At the time I did not have language for what I felt. But now I know that who I had to be in the world according to who other people expected me to be – was not who I actually was. But did I even know who I was? Not really. Life did not afford me that many opportunities to SEE or KNOW who I was and so I was in the dark, like many…
Now that I am all growed up ( 38!), I know who I am. But I also know, that I was already who I am when I as a teenager too – but just at another stage. Imagine a rose when it is in a small bud, you are not able to see what it will become when it blooms, but, it is still the same rose, just in a different shape until the time is right to become another shape. Since I did not know how to “fit in” and we moved all the time (like every six months almost), I got to be the new girl over and over. And one of the really cool things my mom did for me was to invite me to try new inventions of myself at each school. The last one didn’t go off so well, ok, try another one. Then she would do her best to help me make up something new to be. In retrospect, most of the girls I tried to show up as were a part of me, but just a part. A fragment expressed for a fleeting time. I also knew we would be moving soon so if it didn’t go off so good we would probably be moving soon anyway.
I tried out a lot of different “me”s. I even changed my name to Jesse one time. One time when I was only 10 I wore hot pink spandex pants my sister brought back from London. Now I thought they were the coolest things I had every laid eyes on. But having something cool and being somebody cool were two different things. I remember walking to school that day with my white shirt with shiny satin ribbons to match the pants and people staring at me. I lost a few friends (imagine their mean laughter and me trying to hold my ground anyway). I had a few outstanding revelations about how mean people were. Thankfully we moved again soon after that and I did not where the pants in public again, but I cherished them like a sacred object, I knew there was something to those pants – powerful enough for me to think they reflected who I was, and powerful enough to make other girls stop being my friend. And I thought bravery got points! – well not at school, later in life maybe. I still remember the feeling of that hot cool spandex on my thighs, and how good it felt to wear something that felt more like who I actually was. As I grew older I became more and more dissatisfied with my options – both clothes wise and identity wise. Who the world at school seemed to be and who I seemed to be where in direct conflict in my soul. So one day I gave up fitting in (imagine hearing a sigh of relief).
At one school I even tried claiming the wild story of my family instead of hiding it – I thought that might work. Well try telling your new school friends your dad was a heroine attic, your mom a fashion designer and your other mom a lesbian on the hill, your aunt a tai chi sie fu, your cousin a wild child, your sister a business exec and the story goes on…did I mention my grandmother wore something akin to leopard spandex and rhinestone cat glasses even working at the College of Marin? Anyhow, being the new girl this time didn’t go very far because that oh-so-authentic story actually created me as an outcast almost instantly. There was one girl, who I had already forged a fast friendship with, who also abandoned me, everyone else I could do without, but when she shunned me I decided to take it on. Why not? I would be moving soon anyway. What did I have to lose since I already lost everything? Oh yes, and I was 17 and living on my own at this point. So I went and sat by her, and she ignored me. And I said something like this: “So let me get this straight, because I am the child of a drug attic and a dress designer, and a little wild, for that reason you are no longer treating me like a friend? Why wouldn’t you feel sorry for me, have compassion? Instead of dropping me?” Well, miracle of miracles my logic made sense to her, and she turned to me with wide eyes and said, I don’t know. And that was that, and we were good friends from that point on – and in fact, it sparked something in both of us. Call it a wild hair. But the next thing I knew we were making plans to change our hair, our “look” so there would be no chance for anyone to know we were not wild. We plotted out our look from W Magazine and fringe punk rock bands and the “mod” movement (imagine hearing, shout shout let it all out). Then we made a plan to start with the hair and the shoes. I followed through – and she didn’t. I had a bleach blonde flat top with a single braid and many buckled punk rock black pointy shoes from San Francisco and she, did not. However over time her and the others began to get more and more wild. I however, got wilder. But it had already started a long time ago…
This was one of my hardest schools ever. And at the same time it gave me the push I needed to continue making the leap into my own identity. This is the place where I was called a slut for the first time, almost got my ass kicked by a high school drop out, and tried drugs for the first time. And all of these adventures furthered my desire to be who I was, even though I did not, still, know much about her, at age 14. The girls at this school who were popular at this point where too far for me to even try to reach so I just decided to stay small. To not even try. That is how it started. I should have known. Then it was a boy, an older one who was kind of “mod’ said how cute I “could” be if I dressed differently. I rolled with it but inwardly, was horrified. I begged my mother to help me with my clothes. The next day we managed to pull some things off and I came onto the radar for the other girls. The boy, to my dismay even said I did a good job. Wow. Now here’s the thing, I could still see how very far I was from ever being like the others. My life was too weird, and frankly I felt exhausted by the conversation of how to fit in. I began looking and learning at the outcasts, who had NOTHING at all to do with the popular girls, they were the stoners and the rockers – and I thought they looked the hottest of anyone I had ever seen – and I actually had never seen anyone dress like that. Safety pins and buckles, torn on purpose jeans, dark eye liner and I an I could give _ _ _ _ look on their face (which was still nicer than the look on the other girl’s faces. These girls looked like they did not give a you-know-what about little miss in her white jeans, keds, pink tank top and real gold chain necklace and curled hair. I began to model myself after the wild ones, while staying somewhat in the middle group of girls who took me in, and whom I loved, or thought I did. As I did this, something magical began to happen. I started exploring my own attitude, and how I wanted to “show up” – my own kind of “cool”. I started doing unexpected things, and being wittier and outspoken, and flirting with the popular boys and girls with my wit. This became a threat, not just to my middle girls, but also to the popular girls and I found myself strung betwixt two places which were decidedly uncomfortable. Then came the day when a girl was going to kick my ass, for “having sex” with a boy who used to be the boyfriend of her cousin, and the thing is, I was still a virgin at the time, and he was not even her boyfriend anymore. It was so confusing. I was horrified. She was a drop out, and big and bad and mean and for days would come after school to beat me up. I would leave early and sneak home. It was horrible. This happened for days. Meanwhile everyone was talking about me and shunning me. It was one of the most horrendous experiences I had ever experienced at that time. I did a lot of soul searching. Oh, and it was the same guy in question who told me I could be cute if I dressed better. Thanks a lot. And I did kiss him, but nothing else. AND he was no longer the other girls boyfriend when it happened. I guess I said that already as if it matters one tiny tiny bit. Finally I got sick of hiding and I went straight out to where she would be to face my fate. A crowd gathered. It was right after school and there were still tons of kids including the boy – and my friends – and the ex girlfriend. Wow. I was strangely very activated, and bored at the same time. “Look I am a virgin” I said, as if that was somehow going to make everything ok. Duh. Did I say duh? Then I turned directly to the boy in question , and said, “Hey _____would you clear this up for me? Tell them the truth”. As if that would fix it. He did not say a word. Ok I thought. Now I know how the world works. Maybe I didn’t before, but I do now. The feeling inside of me was like someone, me, had died. A part of me which would not be retrieved for a long time, a chain of personal events that headed down hill fast. I only got back up hill with some of those things a few years after I got married. Meanwhile, back at the schoolyard. The girl was backing up to smack me, and I looked around at my friends for support, none came to my aid. I was perplexed. I remember the girl’s breath smelled like mustard. Then a HUGE girl, who had been held back several years, that is why she was so huge, she towered over us. She was an outcast, but not like the rockers, but just because she was different. She came and stood in front of me facing the other girl directly. I cannot remember what she said but the crowd and the girl quickly disappeared. I had helped that girl a few days before by doing her hom ec sewing assignment for her. She told me she just could not do it. So I cut class, did her assignment for her while we sat together, saying nothing, on the couch in the library. I didn’t like my friends so much after that – and I had heard the real wild kids went to school across town – so I hightailed it outta there and headed back to the wrong side of the tracks, where I belong.
To be continued…next is: Alameda, The Wrong side of the Tracks and where I went wrong, and where I went right…