Don't Go Changing . . .Teenage angst is not new. Today, we have pills to combat the symptoms of this adolescent anguish. In the 80's and 90's, we just channeled our frustrations through meaningful song lyrics. I have always been more of a jazz, soul and r&b gal. But, for a brief period in my teen years, I fell in love with Robert Smith from The Cure. I sat in my locked bedroom with the lights out and sang along with Johnette Napolitano to the Joey in my head. My cassette collection broadened from New Edition and Aretha Franklin to include The Replacements and Red Hot Chili Peppers. I wore bright red lipstick and all black.
Although I would never have described myself a fan of the punk band, Fugazi, their song “Burning” meant so much to me when I was seventeen. I used a lyric from the song as my senior quotation in the high school yearbook. “I wanted a language of my own. I mouthed the lines of this crowd that surrounds me. Punctured and parceled, I fold my hand.” It matched my senior photo. In it, I am crouched in a precarious sitting position wearing jeans that have large red and yellow flowers hand sewn down one leg. That leg is bent at an angle and tucked close to my body. I am hugging my opposite leg close to my chest. I have bare feet and a bit of a scowl on my face. My hair is wild and curly. The runner-up choice for the caption under this photo was unprintable with the profanity. It was my favorite line from the film Heathers:
"I don't really like my friends. It's like, they're people I work with and our job is being popular and shit."
In junior high, I was in a clique of the most popular girls in school. We dominated everything. We were smart, athletic, pretty and well-dressed. We made out with boys, but we didn’t smoke cigarettes. We took the free condoms from Planned Parenthood, but we didn’t use them. I carried a small faux crocodile purse to school stocked with every variety of prophylactic: colored, flavored, ribbed, glow in the dark. In the school gymnasium, there was a small locker room sectioned off from the main changing area. The girls and I took that over as our own private boudoir.
I had three lockers to myself filled with clothes that I would change into between classes. I had panic attacks before I knew what they were. If I felt insecure or anxious, I put on a different scarf or changed my pants. People at school thought I was fashionable, not crazy. What they didn’t know was that I had a disorder. I had been diagnosed obsessive compulsive before OCD was mainstream. My obsessive behavior was changing my clothes. In my closet at home, I kept a calendar of all the outfits I could make from the clothes I owned or could borrow. I made sure I never arrived at school wearing the same thing twice in my whole eighth grade year. It made me feel accomplished.
My parents complied with my erratic behavior because they were so involved in their own personal war against each other. As long as I had all A’s on my report card and kept quiet, I was fine even if my bald therapist thought otherwise. My mother barely noticed that I would often bring a bag of clothes with me to school and change several times in the car on the way there. She was the designated victim in the family and there is never room for more than one of those.
While other girls binged and purged their way around their insecurities, I accessorized mine. It is a behavior that is not clinically severe in my personality today. However, every once in a while, when I feel particularly out of control in life or unconfident about my body, the behavior will recur. I will look down and see that I am half naked and standing in a pile of clothes in front of my closet. Sometimes, I choose those moments to call my mother, pick a fight and then make myself a martini.
" And if you're somewhere drunk and passed out on the floor. . ."