Watching this season’s Niece episode of Louie on Sunday made me think something I don’t think about much as an adult.
That strange little girl was me at 13. I was more happy-go-lucky and social, but I was weird. I went weird at 11. I left for Summer camp that year a normal kid and came back a weirdo, hungry for music nobody had heard of. I remember telling my big brother about some band I’d heard called Depeche Mode. The counselors had played some shit that was nothing like the music we had on the radio. It changed my life.
Before that, I remember Adam and I owned a few tapes: the Ghostbusters soundtrack, Footloose soundtrack, and the Beat Street soundtrack. Don’t know why it was only soundtracks. I’m sure our parents (who likely co-selected these) had something in mind – or at least were just riding the culture wave of the day. The radio of the day played a steady mix of Van Halen and dance pop. Only.
What started as curiosity and discovery became rebellion: towards popular music, popular clothes, popular people. I wonder what was so attractive about it all, back then? Did I think it made me cool? Eventually, totally. I spent decades making decisions that were governed (and hampered) by whether or not something was cool enough or different enough.
No. As I look back, thinking about what did it for me that first weird year – listening to New Order, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Ramones, The Smiths. I was attracted by its sheer otherness – but it was also some really amazing shit. It surprised me. I felt smarter after listening. And I felt for the first time I could be anybody I wanted. I didn’t have to appeal to the anointed few at school who seemed to already have everything. Something inside me already knew I didn’t belong in their world, and that that was okay.
Maybe it meant there was no normal. There were just things that a lot of people decided to agree about – but that didn’t mean they were right.
I was lucky though. I didn’t have to really rebel to get there. I was slick enough never to fully be an outcast. I adapted and survived pretty painlessly. It wasn’t a reaction to being somehow broken. I wore black on the outside, but I didn’t feel like it inside. Not totally.
I put the song above into my annual anniversary mixtape for wifey. She’s exactly weird enough for me.