PA’s blog is always great and this thread brought back some funny memories:
Like a lot of American boys in the younger Gen X cohort, I went through a cringe-worthy embarassing stage, from about 12-15, that I did my best to forget, but now approaching fogey-hood I can at least look back at it with some self-depreciating humor. It was at this stage I was desperate to be “cool” and my instincts for what was “cool” were astonishingly wrong-headed.
I had a couple of older guys I looked up to and thought were “cool” so did my best to ape their sensibilities, especially in terms of pop culture. I figured that if I dressed a certain way, got a certain haircut, and listened to a particular type of music I would be “cool.”
Of course the opposite happened, I turned myself into a complete dork. I was subjected to a certain amount of peer pressure which I went along with because, well, I was a 14 year old.
The first bad 80s crap I desperately wanted to be involved in was … god, I’m so embarassed to admit this … “punk.” For whatever crazy reason, I saw those bands with weird hair and weird clothes as “cool” and one of the older guys I looked up to had a sort of “New Wave” style and listened to punk rock. So I figured if I did the same thing I would be cool, too.
It was weird too because punk was already old and no one really liked it anymore but for some reason I’ll never understand, I was just convinced it was the “modern” thing. I was always 10 years behind the times, even then.
The funny part was I actually hated punk rock. The kind of music I listened to because I actually enjoyed it? Hank Williams Jr., AC/DC, Tom Petty and the Talking Heads. But, no, I wanted to be cool, so I actually spent a lot of time listening to the worst band of the 1980s, Black Flag. I actually thought there must be something wrong with me, because all the “cool” kids seemed to love Black Flag, and I thought it was unlistenable garbage – which it was. The Clash had like one good song but it was so overplayed I got sick of it quickly.
I so wanted to look like Sid Vicious, but I suspect it actually came across more like The Village People, Junior League.
Movies were the same way. The “cool” kids thought that A Clockwork Orange was the greatest movie ever. It wasn’t. It was pretty bad, honestly. Not terrible as far as “serious” “thinking” movies go. I’ll go ahead and scandalize hard core film fans, but Eyes Wide Shut and The Shining were Kubrick’s best films and the rest – even 2001 – weren’t particularly great (2001’s ending was just a punt that failed miserably.)
I love Heathers, one of my favorite movies, but my attempts at playing Christian Slater’s JD likely reached nuclear levels of dorkiness.
I was desperate to not be “metal” because those were “rednecks” – “redneck” was a slur I learned from a friend and always associated it with the wrong crowd. My friend’s parents got divorced and he was separated from his upper-middle class yuppie father and had to live with his Christian mom and his step-father, an uneducated blue collar guy from the rural south. So everyone bad was a “redneck” and I somehow associated long haired “heavy metal” types with rednecks.
But, I actually liked heavy metal. Megadeth, Slayer, that stuff was pretty good – far better than the “punk rock” which was utter shit. But, no, I wanted to be cool.
Fortunately, at 16, I kind of “gave up” trying to be cool. I stopped cutting my hair and grew it long, way past my shoulders, like any good Viking. I stopped listening to music I hated and started listening to what I liked. While it likely had more to do with actually reaching puberty (and getting a driver’s license) than it did my fashion sense and musical choices, coincidentally at 16 I actually started getting attention from girls and I didn’t even have to wear those ridiculous Doc Marten’s anymore.
Then, what do you know, “grunge” happened. All of a sudden I was cool and I didn’t even have to try! Flannel shirts were no longer “redneck” they were actually fashionable. Heavy music with actual melodies, played with some amount of talent, all of a sudden made that Black Flag shit fade off into the background. Grunge was the perfect mix of metal and the kind of “New Wave” quirk I actually, honestly liked. Alice and Chains was pure heavy metal but also “alternative” to some degree.
And, yeah, while I still maintained a thing for Winona Ryder and Molly Ringwald “manic pixie dream girl” types, I actually found that it was a lot of fun dating normal, blonde haired, blue eyed lifeguards, regular good girls from church that might let you kiss them by never get past second base, and even those conventionally pretty gals that had a sort of 90s “neo-bohemian” earth mother style, which basically meant they didn’t perm their hair and wore hippie skirts with no panties.
Ah, the 90s were awesome. The last best decade before America went to hell in a handbasket.