In 1981, my idea of “the cool girl” was a slightly overweight girl with messed up hair, who, to an outsider might have looked like an adorable homeless person. But she was no common homeless person. She might live in a squat but her style was as calculated as other cool girls across the land.
The hardcore sensibility was real mangy- shabby old clothes and messy, slightly dirty hair were the utmost. In the summer it was button down shirts with the sleeves pushed up, vintage pencil skirts or plaids and boots on our bare legs, ah new york summer. A bunch of the adolescent girls were pudgy, and wore baggy clothes that hid our bodies, olive drab and black sweaters, loose old man pants and overcoats in grays and greens with subtle plaids. In winter we added thermal underwear, flannel shirts, wool hats, wool coats, wool pants. Lots of layers. Black boots always, combat or motorcycle, the real issued stuff, no knock offs. I kept it real working class American, as did many of us. As I write about it I keep envisioning a J Crew line based on the Dorothea Lange dust bowl photos, yeah?
Looking back, the style was pretty amazing, but the music was so enraged. I suppose most of the kids on that early scene had trauma in their homes. To say all did would be a big assumption, indeed. Still we were all there, together, for a reason, yes? No one really talked about his or her reasons, not to me.
I remember that I really dug that there was this place, “the scene” where you could be so accepted and understood for what you were. I loved that were found each other, and could hang out in this group, even if some of us never even talked to others of us. The best part was you could look brilliant but you did not need to look pretty or show your body or do anything that you did not want to do. And at that time that was perfect for me.
Part of the arch of trauma and abuse is to get angry, gain weight and cover up, protect your self maybe? Later you might get promiscuous and take back your power, work shit out your way, yeah? Somewhere in their you could express yourself, make art. Then the path might come to a fork in the road- drugs and alcohol and some version of self-medication which can feel good, or the road less traveled, as they say, recovery and eventually peace and happiness, hmm? I hope everyone gets to the peace and happiness part, however their path.
All I know is that I quoted CRASS’s Berkertex Bribe in my private school high school yearbook, years ago. I used to know it by heart but forgot it long ago and had to goggle the lyrics (god bless the internet). I though CRASS to be brilliant motherfuckers, and I suppose they were…
To describe us as women, to describe us as men
To set out the rules of the ludicrous game
And it's played very carefully, a delicate balance
A masculine/feminine perfect alliance
Does the winner take all? What love in your grasping?
What vision is left and is anyone asking?
It is not easy to listen to those songs these days. I really appreciate them, though. It’s just that, man, I was furious. But I am not furious anymore. I am delightfully comfortable in my skin, happy to be alive and have good friends. Grateful for my past, the past that kept me alive till I got here. And thrilled to be here now……