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teenage hero worship

When I was sixteen, I decided to become a punk. After an early adolescence of grammatically specious urban pop, rap and boy bands- and having hit the dreaded years of ‘middle high’ at a public girls’ school- my identity and self-image were in disarray. Then I discovered a band; a band that would, without resorting to hyperbole, change my entire persona- my whole life. That band was Good Charlotte. Yeah, yeah, quit your snickering.

Good Charlotte may live in the embarrassingly nostalgic regions of many of your minds, those spiky-haired young rapscallions, but at sixteen years old, the GC boys made me realise what music could be. No longer were my superficial worries worsened by the ludicrously high standards of beauty and sex appeal put forth by modern pop and rap music videos. I had been a ridiculously shy lass in junior school; I once cried and had an anxiety attack because I had to perform the lead in a simple, unimportant drama exercise in a group of five- in front of a maximum of twenty other people. I was not a showboat at this point.

But along came the Good Charlotte boys, straight outta Waldorf, telling me that being an individual, standing out of the pack, was a great and super cool thing. I had never known such moxy. It seemed that almost immediately that I began tearing my clothes, painting rebellious and anti-everything slogans on my jeans and jumping face-first into mosh pits. I began to crave the attention I once wanted to avoid. I didn’t care much- in fact; I thrived on it- when mothers would scowl at me and my similarly anarchic friends loitering in shopping centres.

I used the words “conformist” and “sheep” together more times than I would like to recall (though I don’t think I ever cottoned onto “sheeple”). I sprayed neon colours in my hair. I sewed nonsensical patches onto my cargo shorts; the more ludicrous, the better. I wore knee-length rainbow socks and, when the Avrilpocalypse descended, men’s ties. I listened exclusively to three genres and three genres only: Punk, Rock, Grunge.

I talked about getting tattoos of anarchy symbols and how great it would be if Sid Vicious was still alive. My friends and I pushed each other around shopping centre car parks in supermarket trolleys and tried to skateboard around the parked vehicles before splitting our meagre change to buy Cokes or ice cream at McDonald’s and take advantage of their hospitality…usually by turning over bins, or my getting thrown in them.

Why am I telling you all of this? You’re probably cringing on my behalf and wishing I would stop spilling all this embarrassing teen-nostalgia all over you. My long-winded and eventual point is: adolescence is a bullshit time. It’s hard, painful and confusing. Oh, it can be insanely fun, too: there’s no way that even now, only seven years on, I could do the things that my sixteen year-old counterpart did- or might want to. It might be nice to have that Lisa’s energy, passion, flat stomach and disregard for convention, but that’s the folly and glory of youth, savvy?

So how does one deal with those six or seven years of affliction? Well, much the same way many of us deal with it now: music. Art. Inspiration. Creativity. I can’t speak for others, but I was never more passionate about music and writing and the joy of creation than I was when first discovering it. The first time I heard Led Zeppelin’s Battle of Evermore, I was frozen. Lying on the floor, the record crackled and I couldn’t bear how beautiful I found it to be. Hormones? Teenage zeal? We’ll never know.

Although we sneer at the youth that guffaw and bumble on the train, or wear their hair over their faces like an angsty cactus, we must be reminded that, in some way or another, we were all that way inclined. We all did things that our adult selves, when recalling it, have to squeeze our eyes shut and pretend never happened.

The downside of this overzealous newfound passion is usually a much higher risk of eventual disappointment and loss. At sixteen, you could easily be thrown into a pillow-clenching fit of depression when you find out your favourite band broke up. You’d find yourself genuinely angered if you found that your favourite musician had a significant other (because you had a chance, right?)

The obsessions we get ourselves into can be dangerous to our mental health; I recall many arguments over trifles of nonsense; in school, a Sex Pistols super-fan I knew asked another girl- who dared to claim to be a Pistols fan herself- if she could name five of their songs. When she could, she made her name another five. When she did, the girl remained angered, but maintained the ‘poser’ would never love the band as she did. This is the kind of backward-arse stuff that becomes very important during puberty. The tribal instinct, the thick crowd mentality of teenagedom, makes the music you like and the bands you call your own very important.

But I suppose a shadow of our former obsessive, overemotional selves remains in the present day. I know I would be thrown into a hideous depression if The Decemberists broke up, and my musical and creative obsession still runs fairly high; one never stops loving things like that. Nowadays, things like work, social obligations, feeding the cats, running errands, they all get in the way, making less and less time for artistic treatment- whereas the most I had going on at sixteen was a glam rock bass player boyfriend and the banality of school. And even school allowed me ample time to slot 1984 or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in my history book- clever little devil.

(Image credit: 1.)

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