Oh, shit. I am tired and The Stilettos just tore the roof off of my intended Debbie Harry narrative. I am already behind, yet I still need more time to honor this music.
Reminiscing on all of the most formative music to me lately got me healing some lifelong trauma. For me, and my mama.
It was many years after I became a punk and a feminist that I began to battle with my own internalized misogyny. This is both an important point in the discussion of women’s lives and work AND my personal life and work–emotional, psychic, spiritual.
And it is the work I have been doing on this blog that brought me to it. What made me punk? Actually, my mom. She is super square and not punk on the surface. But her inner strength in moments of total oppression is punk as fuck. She would never independently identify this way, but I am only punk because she left a man she loved because he kept almost killing me in drunk driving accidents, because she left a man who couldn’t love her or me or even his own child in a healthy way, despite many obstacles. She worked super hard to give us the best life she could, even though it was often substandard, BECAUSE OF THE WAY WOMEN ARE TREATED IN SOCIETY, AND THE LIMITATIONS THEY FACE IN PURSUIT OF NOT JUST THEIR OWN SELF-ACTUALIZATION, BUT THAT OF THEIR CHILDREN ALSO. So I am grateful to the project, and maybe even Loretta Lynn (!!!) for making me remember how totally punk my mom was in comparison. Let’s give it up for the very culturally Irish Catholic woman who left the church when they punished her for getting divorced when divorce was a difficult necessity. Let’s give it up for the woman who discovered, through a Black woman coworker who knew even more about surviving the obstacles, that you could totally be poor by yourself. Poor of pocket over poor of spirit and self-esteem, every day. And that–not just sometimes, but often–it was righteous, dignified, and necessary.
The moment I became punk was essentially the same moment my best friend convinced me I needed to tell my family about being sexually abused for eight years of my formative childhood. And coming out about this has driven a difficult wedge through my family ever since. But what is punk as fuck is surviving difficult circumstances–and, I think, crucially–continuing to renew and appreciate your connections to the people that held you up when you were definitely, righteously, courageously lost. Despite all of the anger you may have held problematically in your heart about them.
Punk music is the sound of me finding a voice and carving out space in the world for myself for the first time. It was hard for my mom when I was tearing apart all the clothes she bought me on credit so I could look like the normal, pretty girl I knew I wasn’t. When I was driving safety pins through my face and ears. (So lucky I never hit a nerve.)
It is those experiences and experiments that have resulted in the enormous appreciation and affection I feel for my mother now, at almost 32, grown, and truly aware of the obstacles.
I love my mother, and I think she was punk as fuck for someone who only knew its spirit through the radio, filtering in through the static of the mainstream, and a life that is not acceptable, even if the dominant culture says that it is.