The formative years of adulthood are filled with growing pains. As a teenager, I struggled to come into my own, awkwardly trying on a series of personas to see which one would stick. Initially, I tried being preppy, wearing yoga pants and Ugg boots with a fur-lined jacket — but it felt unnatural. Inevitably, my nerdiness came through, and next thing you know, I put on bright purple sparkly American Apparel leggings underneath a long black dress to complement my short high-lighted blond hair with side bangs and my very poorly drawn, almost cartoonish eyeliner.
In tenth grade, feeling edgy, I pierced my lip and nose, and decided to try on some alternative looks. The chicken scratch eyeliner remained during my times as both “emo” and “scene.” “Emo” meant teenage angst, dark makeup, square black-rimmed glasses, fake stretched ears, and locking myself in my bedroom with My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy on full blast. Being “scene” just meant being a colorful “emo” kid — I looked the same, plus fluorescent shutter shades, mismatched neon green and hot pink socks, and Hello Kitty hair clips.
But my most embarrassing (and most memorable) ~alternative look~ is the one I now call “the punk rocker who had never listened to punk rock.”
One Saturday afternoon, I took public transit from the suburbs to the city and purchased a Ramones t-shirt from a store called The Rock Shop in downtown Vancouver.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t very familiar with the band in question, knowing only that they were a go-to amongst punk rockers.
After updating my wardrobe, I diligently sought out a boyfriend to match my desired alt identity, and I found him. He had a lip ring, a backwards hat, a longboard, several different punk rock band tees, a bullet belt, and a chain hanging off of his Dickies jeans.
I felt so cool whenever my classmates watched me hold hands with my older partner as we left school and headed into town to grab pizza. I desperately tried to give off the feeling that I didn’t care about anything, and my face was in a constant scowl.
I spent nights at home teaching myself how to actually be punk rock. I tried styling my hair into spikes and learning how to longboard. After tiring of brushing out gross matted hair for hours on end, falling flat on my face, and gaining a bunch of new bruises and scabs, I moved on to fashioning a denim vest. I’m no seamstress — in fact, I almost failed sewing class that same year — so my attempt resulted in a haphazardly cut up jean jacket with patches miserably hanging off of it.
This persona lasted for less than a month (my boyfriend dumped me after two weeks and I still can’t name a song by The Ramones), but remembering my excessive eyeliner and gelled hair never ceases to make me laugh and simultaneously cringe.
I gave away my Ramones shirt to another boyfriend. My winged eyeliner is now generally on point. I still can’t sew, nor do I listen to (or even like) punk rock music. I don’t really fit into any aesthetic niche, but my teenage trials led me to who I am today. I still conjure up possible versions of myself, imagining what I’d be like living in another place or embarking on a different career path. I’m always excited to try new things, even if they don’t work out, and I borrow this enthusiasm from that kid who was willing to try on new identities until they found the right one.