Every kid goes through phases. That’s how you learn about the world/yourself, at least according to motivational posters and Psychology Today. But when I was a kid, I took phases to the next level. I put my back into whatever my current phase was. I went big or went home.
Image via A Hen's Nest
I won’t bother telling you about my standard Spice Girls phase or my requisite obsession with Titanic. I won’t tell you about the time I fancied myself a serious athlete after accidentally catching a fly ball in a park district softball game (It was quite poignant. I even wrote a poem about it in junior high).
Instead, let’s just skip ahead to high school, where I made finding myself into a full time job. It started freshman year, when I realized I was tired of being the uptight goody-goody. I wanted to shed my good girl image and shock people by how badass I secretly was. That’s a common theme throughout my romance with phases; I like to surprise people! To challenge their preconceptions about the world! To shake up their social constructs! I wanted to tell them “just because I look like someone who reads a lot of Jane Austen doesn’t mean I can’t say ‘f*** you!’ So..f*** you!” (Note how I can't even bring myself to type the word uncensored.)
My first phase of the sort was what I’ll call my punk phase. If you’re a fan of actual punk music or culture, please forgive me. I realize the concept of “punk” was greatly bastardized at the turn of the millennium, and I admit the small but incriminating role I played in its transition from counter culture to “I bought these jeans pre-ripped from the mall!”
I also need to apologize to other circa 2002 wannabe punks. I apologize for dragging up bad memories of yourself. But we all need to face our demons. You know how, when something bad happens, people always say “we’ll laugh about this later”? That’s how we need to be about our shared history of Hot Topic shopping sprees. We should just shake our heads and chuckle whimsically when we think of those Good Charlotte CDs in the back of our closets.
Image via Amazon
I owned this "album"
If I’ve learned one thing in my time on this earth, it’s that if you laugh at your past self, people think of your current self as a separate entity, not to be held responsible for the transgressions of your past self. In other words, if you ever killed someone, you should just wait a few years, go to the cops and say, “Man, what an incredible loser I was a few years ago! I actually [uncontrollable laughter] killed someone. Ugh can you believe it? What a friendless freak I was!” They’d most likely just laugh jovially along with you and offer you a donut.
“Happens to the best of us!” they’d say.
The fact that I “turned punk” my first year of high school is pretty downright cliché. I had just graduated from a teeny, tiny Catholic grade school, and my body had started to look like that of a human being (and less like a lima bean) for the first time in my life. I was reinventing myself as any good suburban, upper middle class girl should. It’s a rite of passage.
It all started when I attended a birthday party that somehow inexplicably had a live band. This sounds way cooler than it actually was. And let me point out that I have not since been to a party with a live band, unless you count my cousin’s wedding, but that’s an entirely different kind of party and band.
Anyway, this band played a few Weezer songs and my thought process went like this:
I like these songs → this band plays actual instruments → Weezer must be a respectable band → I should start liking respectable music (see “Spice Girls,” above) → I will now be a Weezer fan.
Image via Stereogum
I still kinda like Weezer...is this embarrassing? I don't even know anymore.
I don’t know if Weezer is or was ever considered punk. And by “punk” I mean the Sum 41 type of punk. (According to Wikipedia, the most reliable source around, they are widely considered to be alternative rock, though the phrase “pop punk” is mentioned on their page). But at that moment, it was decided: I was now a punk.
At my next trip to the mall, I stocked up on wristbands and bracelets that looked like commercialized bondage gear. I got one of those belts with the metal studs all over it. I bought a few black T-shirts with “punk” bands on them (and this stupid T-shirt too). I tried to trade my gym shoes for converse, but I was too poor, so I bought some faux converse at Payless and called it a day. I even bought some blue hair dye because I was convinced that no one would understand my inner turmoil and teen angst if I didn’t have blue hair.
Image via Hot Topic
In true punk fashion, I asked my parents first if I was allowed to dye my hair. My mom carefully considered how the blue hair would make her look as a parent, and how it would affect my burgeoning babysitting business. After laboring over the pros and cons of having a blue-haired daughter, she finally decided that it would be best if I didn’t use the dye.
And for that, I am eternally grateful. You may be able to make fun of your past self for rocking out to Simple Plan, and you may laugh heartily with the po-po about committing a murder, but you can never live down dyeing your hair blue. If you dye your hair blue, you will forever be Someone Who Once Had Blue Hair. The very fact that I tried to have blue hair is upsetting enough.
Fess up: Were you ever a "punk?" What are your most shameless transgressions?