Sunday, October 11, 2015

Teenage Wasteland Mixtape

In my teens, I thought I was a real rock rebel.

I wasn’t.

More than anything I was a misfit, insecure and scared on the inside who paraded around like some kind of badass bitch hoping that everything I thought of myself and everything I felt wasn’t as blaringly obvious as I feared. That was me in a nutshell--always pretending to not give a shit, always hiding behind what I wore and big, scary words. A heart of glass masquerading as a heart of ice, me.

I can say that now that I’m 34 looking and feeling better than I ever have, but then? If this me traveled back in time to give young me some advice, young me would flip the bird and tell this me where to stick it. Young me thought of herself as wise beyond her years not realizing that years are a requirement. Maybe everything I went through did make me a little more mature than some of the other people I knew back in those days, but in no way did I have all the answers I thought I did. No one that insecure in her own skin has the answers to much of anything. Getting over that insecurity, an ever-present battle, is something that comes with time and a whole lot of effort, and maybe just maybe I will have half the answers I thought I did when I was young and full of it.

The songs you might find on an autobiographical mixtape from my adolescence are just as eclectic and confused as I was. In those songs, you can feel my rage from the turmoil and upheaval of my parents’ divorce and the aftermath of death threats against my mom and foolishly moving back in with my dad despite his history of abuse and drug addiction problems. You find evidence of my drug experimentation, of the friends loved and lost, of unrequited love and a budding sense of my own indefinable sexuality. There’s an air of melancholy to it all, to being such an outsider. But, simultaneously there’s a heavy forcefulness that shows just how much I *made* myself an outsider. It’s a soundtrack of contradictions, changes in tempo, and every over-the-top teenage emotion possible. Every song brings up a well of emotions and memories crawling out of locked boxes and dirty hampers and shadowed crevices to both electrify my senses and make me cringe in embarrassment.

It’s time travel that leaves you breathless and nauseated and weirdly nostalgic for days that you’re glad are over.

Teenage Wasteland Mixtape

1. Smells Like Teen Spirit—Nirvana

Did you call that? I bet you did or at least you could have because didn’t everyone who wanted to stand out think that listening to this would do the trick? I think it was supposed to be like some magic pill to take to instantly be about a million times cooler than you actually were at least until everyone took that same pill and it was no longer the edgy thing to do. The lyrics were nonsense, but that made it better somehow. More mysterious to explain to parents. And the naked baby on the cover outraged them which is exactly what made me buy it. I hadn’t even heard of the band, but I was fucking angry. I don’t know that I was angry about the divorce necessarily, but it was so much change, so much fear when my dad came around, so much guilt when I visited him, and so much resentment about my mom moving on so quickly and adding yet another element of change to the chaos and all I wanted out of life at that time was to make her just as angry as I was. Now, I’m not saying that was a fair attitude to have, but that revelation came with time and a whole lot of growing up. Back then it satisfied all my misery and channeled my anger into something I could deal with. That whole album was one of the first times I realized that music could do more than entertain for whatever brief time a song lasted; it can make you feel alive, make you want to keep living--which is something I contemplated a lot in those days.

2. Me & Bobby McGee—Janis Joplin

I moved back in with my dad not long after my mom moved in with her new boyfriend (who has been my stepdad for almost two decades or more than two decades or something like that). It was too much change for a kid my age (12/13) to take one, I guess. I don’t even know why I wanted to in the first place, but I missed my room and the dirt roads I grew up on, the familiarity…I missed home. My dad had his own bar in his house. He built the actual bar and the shelves behind it with his own hands. There were lighted beer signs on the walls and random things to do with dicks. It was definitely an adult area situated essentially in our living room. And, man, did he have a killer sound system. He had progressed from a turntable to cassettes at that point, and eventually got a CD player, but I remember listening to a Janis Joplin greatest hits cassette with one of his many girlfriends over and over and over. This song in particular takes me back to sitting on the kitchen counter laughing it up with her in some of my dad’s old clothes. She told me that day I had a little bit of Janis in me.

3. Say It Ain’t So--Weezer

I listened to a lot of stuff in the year and a half I stayed with dad. Most of it was his music—lots of Allman Bros and the Eagles, Floyd, Zeppelin, the Marshall Tucker Band, Little Feat…all the Southern Rock. But I branched out, too. I had a boyfriend (if you can call it that when you are 13ish) that introduced me to Alice in Chains and Korn and STP. And then my dad got himself a side chick whose son and daughter were a few years older than me. I started hanging out with them when I was just 13 and many of them were 17 or older. It wasn’t exactly the best parenting decision my dad made, but it was far from the worst, I’d say. Trying to kill me was probably the worst. The girl’s boyfriend was in a band, so I started going to their shows pretending I was about a lightyear cooler than I actually was. My life started to resemble something like Dazed and Confused… The parties were in fields, and I was with the band, but I was still Sabrina having bitches like Parker Posey telling me to air-raid when I just wanted to look like I might actually belong there. The band did a cover of this song that was remarkably mediocre, but I loved it anyway. Every time I hear it, it takes me back to the first few times I ever got stoned, listening to music in the middle of a field with people who thought of me as a tagalong they had to babysit while I pretended they actually wanted me there.

4. Glycerine—Bush

I lost my virginity the weekend I before I turned 14. It wasn’t a decision I made or had any control over; that choice was taken from me just like my innocence that night in front of my dad’s bar. I didn’t deal with it very well for a long time. Do you ever really deal with something like that “well?” Maybe not. Either way for a long time, I bottled it in, and lost all respect for myself, for sex, for the idea of choosing to have sex with someone you really love and care about. It warped my ideas about sex in general. I never saw it as special until I was old enough to have sex with someone I really truly loved, but that didn’t stop me from doing it, from seeking attention that way, and from making terrible decisions about my body. In some way, I think I was attempting to exert the control that I didn’t have that night in the worst possible ways. The first person I did choose to have sex with was just a friend, an older boy who was a friend of a friend that I started talking to on the phone regularly and flirting with. That’s the thing of it though. We didn’t even meet in person until the night I snuck out of my dad’s house to screw him in his dad’s shitty white Cavalier. I enjoyed myself in so much as it is possible to enjoy oneself while also being scared shitless about getting caught. Sixteen Stone, Bush’s debut album, was playing in the car and this song in particular always takes me back to that night. I stayed in touch with that guy for a long time, and even now I might hear from him every now and again. There’s a part of me that fell for him in my own way over the years, and a part of me that will always love him.

5. Low—Cracker

The stupidity in my decision to move back to my dad’s didn’t take long to figure out. My dad had moved yet another woman at the house that looked at me like the competition. His drug use had progressed to the point where he was doing coke all the time and sometimes meth. He was drinking more, smoking more weed, and then he got caught trafficking. He was in prison for awhile and married the woman when he got out, literally the moment he got out. They drove straight to the courthouse in the city he was doing time in and tied the knot. He was ever the romantic. He came home worse than ever before, and I knew it was either go or get beaten more. Go or get in an accident because of his drunk driving. Go or let him kill me. So here I was making another move after having dealt with all that and having been raped. I became a really apathetic mess. Truly. I was still getting all As, but I was high more days than not, drinking a lot, still dressing in my dad’s old clothes. My mom and her husband didn’t know how to deal with it, and I didn’t know how to deal with everything going on in my own mind. Depression, zero motivation, a complete and total lack of regard for them and myself. I was a fucking wreck. Taco Bell put out a completion album around this time. Do Something it was called and it was supposed to be full of alternative tracks. This one captured my don’t give a fuck attitude at the time while soothing all the chaotic swirls of emotion. I could listen to it over and over and sing the lyrics and actually get some peace from myself.

6. Loser—Beck

This one, like Glycerine, makes it onto my life soundtrack because it was such an instrumental part of my life. When I moved back in with my mom, she and my stepdad had moved into one of the nicest neighborhoods in this town. It was at that time, at least. Everyone I had become friends with had parents who were struggling to make ends meet. Most of them had single moms barely scraping by. And then there’s me living in this neighborhood with rich kids… So this became my theme song. It was a way to put down the thing that most of us actually wanted—some sense of security and a bit of status—if I had to guess, but I just know it made me feel like an imposter with everyone I knew and strangers alike. I hated it when I should have been thankful my mom met someone that could give her the financial security we never had with my father. You don’t see things like that though when you’re 16 and hanging out with a bunch of stoner kids. I do know that singing along to this song riding in the backseat of a car passing a joint around made me laugh and feel like none of that shit mattered.

7. Stickshifts and Safetybelts—Cake

When I think back on being young and stupid and trying to hard with the people I called friends, this song always comes to mind. I can listen to it now and have a few flashbacks of riding around in a little red pickup with a couple of my friends looking for a place to get stoned and listening to it back to back, over and over. Every single one of us would hold that long note towards the end then bust out laughing and do it all over again. I loved those nights when the song was all we needed.

Stumbleine—Smashing Pumpkins

“Nobody Nowhere Understands Anything….About Me. All My Dreams Lost At Sea….” That line still gets me even now, but in my teenage years the melancholy notes of this song and that particular lyric made me feel less alone in the world. I still get goosebumps when I hear it. I still feel that little swell in my heart from feeling the absolute bitter truth in that lyric while simultaneously hoping that maybe the person who wrote it really does understand what it might be like to be me. I needed that more than anything at the time I got really hooked on this band. I needed that feeling of connectedness especially when I could go into a room full of people and still feel alone.


I wish there was something I could share, some powerful melody that showed that I made it out of my adolescence relatively intact and unscathed and all would be fine like the triumphant moment at the end of an 80s high school movie, but there’s not. Finding music that connected me to other people and that made me feel less alone in the world was the only triumph that could be had back then. It took me a long time to deal with it, to process everything from those years in a way that left me stronger and better than before, but that’s where I eventually ended up—an improved version of me that made it in spite of and despite everything that happened earlier in my life and a version of me that still embraces her rebellious roots with purple hair, tattoos, and skulls on her clothes. No matter when it happened, it's a win in my book, and I still love laying back, hitting play on a nostalgic playlist, and traveling through time.


So today is, as always, Sunday Confessions with More Than Cheese and Beer. I hope you will check out her blog and the rest of the link ups. The prompt was low so be sure to join in if you have something to add. 

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