This evening I was sitting on the porch with my husband reminiscing like people in their 30′s do.
Sean started singing my favorite old punk songs and we began to laugh over the ridiculous lyrics. How deep they thought they were! Going to take down the man (whoever he was) and change the world with mo hawks and combat boots. I hadn’t thought far ahead to exactly what the world should be, mind you, I only knew I was displeased with it’s current state and I took their word that thing called “the establishment” was clearly something that needed disestablishing! In reality of course, all anyone did was sing about it. Nobody actually “did” anything b/c they were too exhausted from the shows the night before. You can only fight a war so much when the corporate world closes at 5pm and you don’t even bother rolling out of bed til 2. Perhaps the ideals were in need of just a little tweaking…
I’ll never forget going to a show promoted as “Ska against Racism”. I’m not sure what kinda racism there really was in DC in ’98… and I certainly wasn’t sure how a bunch of punk guys moshing in an old warehouse style club while their girls held their beers was going to stamp out what little might be hanging around but, I blinked away that thought when my favorite band got on stage.
My own personal idol in my late teens was a girl who went by the name of “Poly Styrene”. Yes, as in styrofoam. She was a take-no-crap-from-anyone, combat boot wearing, short haired girl who, on behalf of her band, screamed extremely insightful proclamations from stage such as: “I’m a cliche, I’m a cliche! you know what I what I mean? I’m a cliche I live next door! Yammer, Yammer, Yammer! boredom boredom! boredom boredom!” amongst other moving lyrics. She was THE leading lady of the 1970′s punk scene, but who am I trying to impress here anyhow? Behind her extremely loud, juvenile lyrics was a deep need to express herself in the only way she knew how.
I wanted to be her. Like really be her. She was of course, before my time, but I got her cds and watched her old videos. She was mis-inspiration in a mixture of other absurd idols I had – like a girl called “Edie” who had 3 kids, and a bright red mohawk so tall that she had to bend her head to the left to fit through the doorway. She resided in an apartment building-turned-hippy-commune with her husband and kids in downtown Chicago with a bunch of other mixmatched bands we loved and I thought she was just too awesome.
Once someone said to me that punk girls were just pathetically weak girls looking to cover up their pain by putting on a tough, impenetrable exterior. (I’m not sure what excuse the guys have.) They claimed it was all just an elaborate act to make up for their own lack of self worth. I laid into that person pretty severely.
…and then I shaved my head.
Tonight, I found out that Poly Styrene died last week of breast cancer. She left quite a legacy for herself in the scene. She was in the midst of putting out a new album, which was apparently in a disheartening coincidence, released on the same day she passed . She was 53 and still preaching her feminist message but with a softer new age sound as she had gotten involved with some hare krishnas at some point.
When I first saw a punk-video on tv one day and I became fully swept up by the punk ideals. Taking on this persona of a tough girl seemed like a good way to go. Nobody messes with punk girls. It gave me a certain confidence in myself to walk into a room and be the only girl who didn’t look weak and flowery. I felt strong and powerful to be able to tell it like it is. I don’t think anyone would have messed with me. I got a job at a place where the boss was a old rocker from back when who drank a little too much on the weekends, so she let me dress however I like. For reasons I don’t really understand, I was pretty successful with this job, regardless of the fact that I had to deal with people face to face.
For a while the idea of throwing all cares to the wind, packing all my belongings into a suitcase and hitting the streets in search of a new punk family seemed like the way to go. Living life from one show to the next. Finding someplace to crash, eat and get to the next show. Throwing all my cares to the wind sounded excited. Of course, then I found my dearest–who was okay my tendency to be just a bit overly ambitious, and I married him and had a bunch kids instead… but you know how it goes. It really wasn’t a well thought out plan to begin with. I could never hack living the life of a real punk–I sleep with like five pillows and I am serious about my nightly face-washing routine. It would never work.
The punk scene is appealing to certain people because it is a way to connect with other people for a common goal – usually people who don’t fit anywhere else can find a purpose there, if not a really good distraction. They embrace that feeling of being an unwanted misfit by wearing it proudly with their ripped clothing, shocking hair styles, and loud music. They relate to a world which they feel has rejected them, by rejected it back. It’s not all that hard to read between the lines. The entire thing is fake in one sense, but in another it’s actually refreshingly truthful. It’s just truthful in way that most people don’t want to hear. The truth is our government is corrupt, and people do view women as brainless sex objects… but while most of the world beats around the bush on these topics, the punk just tells it like it is.
The punk life it pretty much it’s own end because hardly anyone makes it to 50 still calling themselves a punk. They either die as a result of all the hard living or they become religious.