Let me tell you a story. A story of long ago, and a tale as old as time. A story of girl meets boy.
Just kidding - though there is a girl and there is a boy, and surely do they meet.
So. Once upon a time a girl met a boy. A boy who her best friend said was waaaaay too much of a punk for her (sorry for the Avril Lavigne reference, but it’s true high school trope). So the girl told her best friend that she would become a punk rock girl, so that the boy would notice her.
If you haven't figured it out already, the girl in the story was me, circa age 15. Now, me at age 15 was kind of a loner and definitely a weird kid, and as with most high school kids I generally tried to fit in. The trend in my high school was very influenced by the early 2000s emergence of gangster rap, led in large part by Eminem, Swollen Members, and pot, and I will absolutely admit to liking Swollen Members and buying their album (they had some catchy beats, so sue me), but besides hearing it on the radio I never bought into this white-kid adoption of black culture. On the surface I mostly conformed to the remnants of 90s pop culture - it may not have been popular with the "cool kids," but it was socially acceptable within my small group of friends. Little did they know that the alternative lifestyle was already deeply embedded into my soul.
I'll never forget seeing the music video for Green Day's “Basket Case” for the first time; I laughed so hard I cried at their shenanigans, and promptly went in search of their music at our local library. I couldn't have been more than 11 or 12 at the time, so I can't believe that my parents let me come home with (and subsequently make a bootleg copy of) Nimrod, what with songs like “Hitchin’ a Ride” and lyrics like “Nice guys finish last… your sympathy will get you left behind”… I subsequently spent the next few years covertly watching Much Music's Friday punk show, searching out obscure metal albums like Closet Monster on trips to Vancouver’s Virgin Records store, and being immediately obsessed with Yellowcard's breakout single “Ocean Avenue” when it hit the Internet radio airwaves.
So it really wasn’t much of an intellectual leap for me to want to translate what I had been listening to and feeling inside to my external appearance. The cute punk rock guy in my class was just a handy excuse that my boy-obsessed best friend could get behind (she of the ever-changing personality to suit the needs of whatever current boy she was crushing on). So a plan was hatched, band shirts & a pink plaid skirt were bought, and I debuted the new look at the first school dance of the year.
The whole stunt was totally lame in retrospect (except for the shock factor, since that never ceases to amuse), since I didn’t get the guy, but the change in out style was more symbolic for the shy high school girl I was. From that point on I felt like I had more of a voice, a voice which could be one of dissent within a very controlled social situation and one which gave me my own individuality outside of the herd mentality that dominates any group of friends when we’re young.
My dressing like a rebel phase lasted for the majority of high school, and since then it’s come and gone depending on my mood. The look is one of my favourites, but I’m not really the kind of person who can be defined by a single “style” (which is awesome for expanding my wardrobe exponentially, but terrible when it comes to choosing how to dress) - which over time has led a lot of people questioning exactly who I am. The smart ones figure out that I’m not definable, but the rest of the population that only perceives a narrow part of my personality throws out the accusation “fake” faster than you can say “punk’s not dead.”
Which of course, brings me to the thesis of this entire expose: it’s not how you look, how you sound, or a single instance in your life that defines you. Like the punk movement itself, we are each a swirling vortex of contradictions that seeks to find freedom among the banal and incredible experiences that are life. We are the riptide and the tidepools, eyes lined in sooty black with a welcoming grin on our lips, being swayed by people that surround us as we stand still as a stone and alone in the crowd. We can be defined for a second, but then we change to suit ourselves in the next moment and become a new being entirely. Through rebellion we find the freedom and understanding to make our own way in this world.
So to all the haters (and that’s what you’ve always been) - bring it on. I know who I am, and while I may not wear the uniform of your suicide girls during my 9 to 5, I’m still a punk rock girl deep in my soul. And a million other selves as well.
*image from Tumblr
*image from Tumblr