The shenanigans of a certain Mr. Benjamin Weasel at this year's SXSW festival spurred quite a bit of discussion about sexism and misogyny in punk rock and its surrounding community. While the situation itself was clearly negative, the conversations it sparked were interesting; people took a discussion about a "punk rock celebrity" and went beyond their feelings about the music. For most, it was more a question of morals and societal standards. Bands cancelled shows, fans swore of the purchase of a recently released album, others said "Good! She shouldn't have been throwing them ice cubes!" And so on and so forth. Still, most fell somewhere in-between or weren't sure how to react. But there was a reaction of some sort. It got people talking and thinking. And after all, isn't that what this "scene" was supposed to be about? Quite frankly, I don't think any of us do enough on that front. Myself included.
With that in mind, I was pretty excited when subsequent to the Weasel debacle, I Live Sweat posted an essay written by Lauren of the Measure[SA] and another authored by Candy Hearts' Mariel. Both write-ups focus on the role of gender, sexism, and the like within the punk rock community. They both take on the topic from different angles, with a very personal spin to the subject matter. It makes for an interesting read. Check 'em out if you get a chance. I strongly recommend them, if only to see what impact your actions might have on those around you. Male or female, we're all capable of feeling uncomfortable in certain situations. Just sayin'. Anyway...
I'd also suggest giving this article a read. I remember reading it years ago when it was first published in the pages of Punk Planet and completely forgot it existed until a buddy of mine in the punk rock thread (AP_Punk) recently brought it to my attention again. For those too lazy to click and read, the article focuses on "emo" music and the role females tend to play in the lyrics of said-songs. The author--Jessica Hopper--goes on to explain how this can have a negative impact on girls looking to be a part of said-scene.
There's more to the article than I'm laying out here, and I'm hardly doing it justice by focusing on just one aspect of the piece, but this is the part that hit home for me. One point the write-up drives home is that "emo" songs tend to paint the women in question as two-dimensional objects to be won or lost, the protagonist of the scenario told by the male narrator. The girls are always evil, the boys always innocent. Re-reading this now? It got me thinking about my own actions.
I spent high school living on a healthy diet of Green Day, Blink-182, MxPx, the Ataris, New Found Glory, and so on and so forth. Later in the game, Brand New and Taking Back Sunday came into play. But still, I wasn't the "emo" poster boy that the article references. That being said? There were still elements of it.
I considered myself the penultimate nerd: Awkward and lanky, book smart and unfashionable, unfunny and zit-ridden. But none of this was my fault. It was their problem. I expected people to accept me for who I was. I didn't need to change, they did. They were superficial and shallow. They only cared about "Johnny Football Hero." And me? I was the sad, misunderstood underdog. At least, y'know...In my eyes that's how it was. I took Mike Herrera's cue, scribbling the acronym for "Girls Schmirls Foundation" on notebooks, I listened to countless songs about break-ups where the girl cheated or lied, and I paid very close attention to Kris Roe when he sang "Love is wrong and girls are fuckin' evil!" I took it all to heart and wore it on my knuckles in acronyms.
Fast-forward to college. The details aren't relevant and neither is the year. But I fell hard. The "L" word was used, daydreams of a future together were expressed, and at the end of it all? She broke up with me under a small fistful of questionable circumstances.
Now, in this situation? I was wronged. And my initial reaction was a tirade that went something like this in my head: "Fuck her! How dare she! What the fuck? Stupid. Why? Why me? Fuck. Wasn't I good enough? I treated her right, didn't I? I cared! I put myself out there! Motherfucker! FUCK!" That's not verbatim, of course. And it's certainly not what flew from my lips. But you get the idea.
The self-pitying thoughts continued to hang over my head until I found myself on a date with someone who turned out to be a college acquaintance of the girl in question. When it came out that we both knew her, it was pretty apparent that we both knew very different people. The girl she was describing lived a life of belligerence and co-dependency. Among other things that throughout our entire relationship she kept from me. Hidden. If she wasn't clean when we were together, she hid it well. In hindsight? There were little things that I should have noticed that foreshadowed the whole ordeal.
And when things started to crack toward the end? She pushed me away. Sure, she should have done it more honestly and potentially hurt me a whole lot less. But she dealt with it the best way she knew how.
At least that's what I tell myself. It might not be the truth, but I'd like to believe it is. She never struck me as an inherently evil person when we were together. If she had? I never would have dated her. But things changed, she made her decision, and she peaced out. And that's when she became evil in my eyes.
See where the flaw is in that logic?
I said some pretty awful things about her. And I'm not saying that my initial reaction was unjustified or that the actions she took were justified either. But the take home from all of this? There's usually a story behind the story. Guy, girl, whatever the gender. People are who they are for a reason. And there's usually a rationale for their actions. Or some sort of justification. It might not be the right one. But there's a reason for it. And in this case? After a bit of reflection? I fucking should have seen this shit coming. There were signs.
It doesn't justify cheating, lying, stealing, or anything like that. But if you take some time to try and figure out the big picture and sort out why it all went on? You might get some peace of mind and give up the ghost. She's more than a line in a song and he's more than the subject of a blog entry. They're living, breathing human beings.
Treat them as such.
And for all you know? You might be the one to blame.
Sitting alone in a hotel suite in Chicago, listening to Marc Maron interview Kevin Smith. I'm not smiling, but I'm chuckling at the banter. Talk of marijuana, critically hated movies that I adore, self-loathing, etc. My ears are perked, my attention holding, waiting to hear Bruce Willis called out for being an asshole on the set of Cop Out. Or waiting to see if Maron will bring up his recent break-up, hoping to receive some sort of Silent Bob-esque advice.
I'm eavesdropping on two people I've never met yet somehow feel as though I know. Creepy, right? Sort of. But it's really no different than reading this very sentence. Or any of the previous entries. Why do you do it? Why do you read?
We're all just trying to fill a gap. We're missing something. So we latch onto these little things--these bands, these actors, these comedians, these "Real Housewives," these cooking classes, or whatever it is that fills your days and makes you feel just a little bit less alone in the world. We use them as a means to feel a connection. Some of us are capable of taking that connection and using it to forge friendships. Taking something superficial and putting the time and effort in to make it something real. Turning that Every Time I Die t-shirt, that Super Mario Brothers tattoo, or that New England Patriots hat into a friendship. That's the real trick.
It's not as easy as we think it should be. And that's because we're all different. This isn't a new thought, but it's an oft-overlooked one. Why do girls want guys with tattoos? It means they've endured pain. Why do guys want girls who are sexual? Because we're a bunch of horny creeps. What is it about a girl with a great record collection that makes a guy like me weak in the knees? It means we have something in common. What is it about a guy whose emotionally distance? The chase.
Don't get me wrong--the surface is important. But if you stay too focused on that? You wind up alone in your hotel room in Chicago listening to two insecure, middle-aged men banter about marijuana and movies. It's entertaining, but it's hardly a connection. I was scared, I was selfish, and I buried myself in all sorts of extra-curricular activities to run away from it. And I fucked something up real bad.
But it's never too late to start again.
Do yourself a favor: Start asking why. Why does he have that anchor tattoo on his right arm? Why does she own every Cursive record except Domestica? Why is she making you wait to sleep with her? Why doesn't he like to spend time with my friends? Why does he only text me once a week?
Always ask why. But only if you're genuinely curious about the answer. And don't be afraid of what they have to say. Throw it out there. If they won't give you an answer and it's something that's been weighing on your mind? Then they're probably not for you. And asking questions is the only way to form a connection, a better understanding. And most people aren't egotistical enough to assume you want to know about them unless you ask. But if you ask--they're more than willing to put it out there if somebody legitimately cares about the answer.
And without asking questions? You wind up alone, too tired to sleep, in a Chicago hotel room listening to two middle-aged men you admire asking each other "Why?" while you sit quietly on the sidelines. And you aren't alone because you aren't good or you don't have anything to offer. And it's certainly not that your friends don't find you funny. No. You're alone because you want others to ask "Why?" when you aren't willing to do it yourself. Now, that's a right selfish thing to do, eh?
If you really want to put yourself out there for others to see -- Ask a question. And care about the answer. And maybe that cute girl at the record store will tell you about the time she met Tim Barry and it changed her life. Or maybe that boy will tell you that the seemingly cliched anchor on his forearm is in rememberance of his grandmother.
Lots to say, lots to think, lots to sort through. And I've finally decided that all the podcasts, vinyl records, late-night conversations with friends, sex, running, caffeine, auto-biographies written by comedians, push-ups, essays, alcohol, and blog entries in the world are going to help.
I'm tired of the anxiety, the fear, and a seeming inability to move on with things. And I'm not just talking relationships. Life. Work. Friends. The past. I've always been resentful of change. Not because I "just don't like it," but because the future scares me.
Here's what I'm hoping to "get over" and "go for." And a few things I need to learn. In no particular order:
- Not having her available all day, every day to talk to. I need to learn to be alone with my own thoughts. Three years have passed since you met. People interact differently, you're 26 -- not 23.
- No more retail therapy. I don't need every single pressing of every single Gaslight Anthem release. It's simply unnecessary. And realistically, won't be fulfilling.
- Running will always be helpful, but it's a temporary solution and involves no actual human interactions.
- Working 12-hours every day for an entire work week is going to crush me. Physically and emotionally.
- Coffee after 6pm is a terrible idea.
- Dinner after 10pm is an equally terrible idea.
- Nobody is going to look at you like an idiot if you ask questions about grad school applications
- The "fuck 'em" attitude toward people who don't quite get your sense of humor just won't cut it. Lighten up, asshole.
- Much like running, writing is cathartic and helpful. But it's a temporary solution.
- Sex. See "running" and "writing."
- Stop comparing new people to old friends and ex-girlfriends. You can't replace them, but you can try to top them. Again: You're 26. You aren't 16, you aren't 18, you aren't 21, and you aren't 23. You're 26. And halfway to 27.
You only have so much time. Smarten the fuck up and take a look at what you have on your plate. That's too much to wade through alone.
I recently gave Blink-182's Enema of the State an active, start-to-finish spin for the first time in what must have been years. The result? Confusion. And some cringing.
It wasn't so much the music. I was a freshman in high school at the time, it was simple, poppy punk rock. The sheen of the production was easy for my young ears to take. Hell, a few of the songs still got me excited and made me feel twinges of nostalgia ("Wendy Clear" and "Mutt," specifically).
But the rest? Oi vei. "Going Away to College" and "Don't Leave Me" made me wince. And don't even get me started on the singles. Teenage poetry written by twenty-something males. Blech. This record was a big part of my life. It really was. The summer of '99 was all about Blink. But listening to those songs now doesn't fill me with nostalgia so much as it makes me wince. I understand why I dug it at the time. But it got me thinking.
Why do the simplistic, immature lyrics on that record disgust me...And yet, the Descendents write a song about food or farting and it doesn't bother me? The answer lies in intent. Laying out a simple statement about "liking food" is one thing, declaring love in a poorly written away message format ("This world's an ugly place, but you're so beautiful to me") is another.
Certain emotions deserve me. Others deserve less. I know this now at 25. But in my early teens? All I knew was the surefire paralysis that set in the second a girl spoke to me and a vague, general feeling that I wanted to have a girlfriend. These days, such simplicity would be welcome.
Summation? There's some shit us twenty-somethings just weren't meant to understand. I'm sure there was a 25 year-old in 1999 who couldn't figure out why I cared so much about that record.
Stop talking shit, stop complaining, and let the kids have their fun.
The new goal is to be ale to say, "Hey! This song is something I can't relate to!"
"And then I'll drink 23 more to wipe that stupid smile off my fuckin' face!" That pretty much sums up the weekend. I'm working out all the shit most people sort out when they're younger. I'm a late-bloomer. But I'm getting there. All of the working out, writing, and cleaning have been helping me avoid mistakes. And I've felt better, both physically and emotionally, since I started running again.
But all of those things are filling up my days. They're just time killers. Time killers that are helping me to become a "better" person, but still--time killers. I want to fill in the gap with something meaningful; something that involves a legitimate connection with a legitimate human being.
Despite the shift from winter to spring, the still-new-to-me apartment, a sudden influx of new music, and plenty to keep me occupied -- I feel as though I'm stuck in a rut. Where does this stem from? Lord only knows. It feels as though an old friend is tapping me on the shoulder. But this time around? I don't recognize the person doing the tapping.
I'm not sad. I'm not depressed. In fact, as far as what I do have going on? I'm content. But it feels as though there's something missing. Given the subtle wincing of the gut when I hear the gaggles of college girls pass my bedroom window each night, or see a cute girl with buttons on her messenger bag on the train, I have my suspicions as to what it is. It's been my experience that such feelings are never good. By nature, I'm a pretty shy kid. But it's not inherent shyness, so much as anxiety.
Of course, my head is in a much better place than it has been in the past. My head is screwed on straight, the pessimism is receding, and it feels as though I'm finally doing that thing--what refer to in the movies as "coming into your own." That's what it feels like, anyway. My full-blown independence has quite a bit to do with that, I feel.
Not to mention my new found solution to boredom: Goals. It sounds simple. And it sounds obvious. Because it is. Goals. Measurable, realistic, and attainable goals.
I have this list. It changes daily, with some items staying onboard for good and others rotating in-and-out as I see fit. Some are high priority, some are there just in case I feel the boredom creep in. That's when the trouble starts. The boredom. The more I move, the less I think. The less I think, the more I do. The more I do, the more opportunities I stumble across. The more opportunities I find, the more I can progress.
The more I progress? Well, fuck. The better I feel. It's so easy, isn't it? Hah! Says the kid who can't keep up with goal #1: "Write a blog entry." Sadly, it's low on the totem pole as far as priorities go. But at least I have calves of steel, a clean apartment, and a show to attend tomorrow night, right?
It helps to know that she's hurting too. And I say that with no malice what-so-ever. I wish she didn't hurt at all. But sometimes, feeling as though you aren't missed is the worst of it. And I'm apparently missed.
Of course, this brings about a whole new set of feelings. But I'm determined. I can find my way out of this crap, I can get beyond it. As of right now, though...I'm bruised. But better bruised than broken, right? Right.
That being said? Thanks to Dear Landlord for getting me through this week...
If you get the time, will you throw a line out?
I tried my best and I made it worse now
All of the things I wanted just keep drifting away from me
It's hard to relate, they laugh at the wrong times
Works out, always for the wrong guys
All of the things you love will just leave you broken and alone
Please don't leave me alone
Drag me back onto shore
I'm drowning in the lies that I've heard before and
This time I'm telling them I can feel the walls are closing in
In on me, I can't breathe, please believe that I'd leave
I just can't seem to find my way out of here
If you want to wait I'll come out and meet you
I'm always late and I know you
Got lots to do and that's how things are now
That's the way it goes
It's just that last year was worse than I could say
Graveyards and heartbroken handshakes
Maybe we should just leave it as it was
At goodbye for now
Feels like more than a lifetime
Since everything was alright
Now every day's a lifetime
It feels like a lifetime
Just remember the last time
Leave it at goodbye
Pessimism, optimism, heartache, and hope. All in the same song. Beautiful.