this was my own "it gets better" story (kinda), posted on 4/07/09 and i thought it apropos to rerun it again, a year and a half later, in light of current events. on the off chance a teen should wander across my blog, i want you to know that it does get better- way better- and whatever problems you are experiencing in high school, they will pass, and happier times will come around, i promise.
smashing it up (maison21 gets personal)
it's amazing how an object, a smell, a taste- something you haven't thought about in years- can instantly transport you back decades. for proust, it was a madeleine (didja ever expect such a highbrow literary reference here at m21?), and for maison21 it was a framed poster for a punk rock single (aaaand... bringing it right back down again).
last weekend at the m21
you see in the summer between junior high and high school, my parents sold the home i grew up in and uprooted me to an entirely new part of town, where i wouldn't know a soul at the new high school i would be attending. all of the friends and neighbors i grew up with would be left behind- only a 40 minute drive away, but for a kid without a driver's license, it might as well have been mars.
my life. this was a 3 1/2 week bus tour that was literally "europe's greatest hits- 25 cities in 25 days!". nonetheless, however white trashy the trip was, it had a significance in my life that reverberates to this day, particularly the trip's starting and stopping points.
the chateau de versailles one morning, and then taking in the brand spanking new, just opened, post-modern industrialism of the beauborg (pompidou centre), the next. i decided then and there to become an architect (a dream later abandoned in favor of interior design, when i discovered that to be an architect, you had to pass physics- an impossibility for right-brained me). trying to reconcile my love of antiquity, rococo & gilt, with my love of modernism, post-modernism & all things new, has certainly informed the aesthetic of my adult life (and career), and is something that still brings me great joy to this day- like chocolate and peanut butter, m21 simply thinks they are "two great tastes, that taste great together".
"they're punkers, into that punk rock. you'll want to stay away from that lot- they're dangerous". well, they didn't look very dangerous to me- they looked carefree, and happy, and cool- like they were having the time of their lives, and could care less what some grumpy old cab driver- or anyone else- thought of them! before we left london, timid little teenaged me made my way to a london record store, where i asked the clerk if i could buy some punk rock (what ever the heck that was). he sold me an album by the damned- "they were the first", in his words, and i carried the record (un-listened to) through the rest of the 24 cities on our tour, and then the 11,000 miles back to san diego, and really didn't give it or the london punk rock kids, another thought for the summer. i was more excited about the preppy and fashionable new clothes i was buying for the school year- in europe, no less- than some record album i couldn't even play in our hotel room...
no, i didn't see dame vivienne westwood in london, but i did glimpse tons of street kids emulating the style she helped create...
back home, i started at my new high school, dressed in the new clothes purchased abroad- candy colored lacoste polos and trendy skinny jeans- thinking i would be hot stuff on my new campus (ironically, tres similar to the uniform i wear today). and i would have ruled the school had i been going to the high school in my old neighborhood where preppy, fashionable and academically inclined were the tickets to popularity. my new school? not so much. being beach adjacent, it was full of surfers and jocks (if you missed a shot on the racquetball courts, it ended up in sea water!). the dress code of the day was flip-flops, board shorts and an old t-shirt. academically inclined? again, not so much, more like "beach & bong" inclined.
i was instantly a fish out of water, and over time, though i tried desperately to adapt and fit in, i was branded a freak, and worse- a fag (true, of course, but it sure wasn't fun to hear at the time). i spent the first semester of my sophomore year wandering the halls during lunch period because i didn't have any friends to sit with, and was too scared to venture into the populated cafeteria or quad for fear of getting food thrown at me (really- food thrown at me- no lie).
after school though, my thoughts returned to the record i bought in london- i would go home and listen to it over and over, and even added more to my punk rock LP collection by laboriously searching out the one record store in town where english imports were available- no small feat in pre-internet suburban san diego. as i listened, i'd think of those brightly colored punk rock kids i saw in london- seemingly so happy and carefree, and so very opposite of the way i was feeling at school everyday. at some point i just said screw it- why bother even trying to fit in if i'm never going to be accepted? if the kids at school think i'm a freak and a fag, then i'll show 'em freaky and faggy! so i went to the salvation army, bought an armful of vintage clothes, and then to the drug store for a box o' hair dye,and never looked back.
30 years later this may not sound so radical- we see freakier kids all the time now, right? , but trust me, at the time i was weird. i was officially the only freak at my high school, and you know what? it was the best thing i could have done. the taunts just didn't sting as much, once i had made up my mind not to give a flying you-know-what.
People call me weird, oh it's such a shame
Maybe it's my clothes, must be to blame
I don't even care if I look a mess
Don't wanna be a sucker like all the rest
smash it up- the single from my yard sale find at the top of the post, and my teen-aged self's oft repeated mantra.
within no time at all, i had a circle of friends outside of high school (college age kids... who could buy beer!) and at school, i eventually developed a circle of new wave girlfriends to laugh and eat lunch with. the threats would still come- jocks would wanna kick my "faggot punk rock ass" or call my girlfriends "new wave sluts" but i would just respond "is it going to make you a more of a man, to beat up a girl or a fag?" and 9 times out of 10, they would slink away. the tenth time, i'd get punched, but it was worth it to stick up for my friends (and myself too).
moi at 15? 16? this was the evening of my transformation from preppy to punk- my mom chronicled the event with our polaroid.though i ended up never to going to prom, or any other high school landmarks, i had a blast doing my own thing, and funny thing is in the years after graduation, more often than not, what i heard from the people who knew me then, was: "i really admired you in high school & i wish i could have been more like you- i was just miserable trying to fit in all the time". one dude who tried to make my life particularly miserable ended up crying during his apology! i told him there was nothing to be sorry for- not being part of the in-group was one of the best life lessons i could have received, and literally, made me into the person i am today. i'll never be scared to do something different than the norm, march to my own drummer, or miss an opportunity, solely because "nobody else is doing it". things i might have never learned if things were different!
so what does this have to to with decorating, or design? nothing really. it's just been on my mind, and hey, since it's my blog, i think it's important remind my adult self every so often, of the simple lessons i was lucky enough to learn as a teen:
#1- be true to yourself and stand up for your beliefs,
#2- not to worry so much about what others think of you- they'll come around as long as you follow #1
and last, #3- sometimes, it feels good to take a punch for a friend.
now, if you made it this far, and want to listen to some music that for better or worse, helped shape yours truly, i give you "smash it up" by the damned:
to find out how you can help GLBT teens in crisis, please visit the trevor project.