When I was in middle school, I owned a pair of black and white platform Mary-Janes that I got from a punk shop online, a jean jacket that I covered with buttons from Hot Topic, a pair of fingerless gloves with red plaid patches on them and chunky blonde highlights. I was punk. I was the punk-est kid in the whole school. I never wore matching socks because I was quirky and I had a pair of Converse with skulls on them. Also my hair was short. Take that, other girls.
Then came picture day, which was the best opportunity I had to prove myself. While all the preps and jocks were primping and preening before their photo, I was ready. I proudly walked across campus to the gym where the photos were being taken. Platform Mary-Janes. Jean jacket. Spiked bracelets—which were technically against the rules, but I was punk rock and that means RULES DON’T MATTER. Black lipstick—which I still have with me to this day. Then to top it off, that morning I asked my dad to style my hair in a mohawk.
My dad told me that he was pretty punk in his younger days and he said that egg whites and sugar were the ultimate hair product. Whip it into a meringue and once it’s in your hair, blow dry it to keep it stiff.
I remember walking out of my mom’s car that morning feeling absolutely invincible. I was the coolest kid in the world and so punk rock. I sauntered into the gym with a perfect scowl on my face, and you could see the photographer’s face fall. I was everything that a parent feared their child would become.
I sat in the stool, still scowling. The fake backdrop was bright and flowery and I was doom and gloom. The woman said to smile and I said nothing. She waited a moment and I didn’t move so she took the picture.
My parents were good enough to let me experiment in fashion, but had they known it was picture day, there was no way they would approve. So I made sure that they didn’t know.
I had won. They didn’t know until the pictures came back. I successfully tricked my parents into letting me look like a punk for picture day. That was a huge accomplishment for me. I can’t imagine a moment that I felt more triumphant than when I walked away from the gym, stumbling over platform shoes a size too big, and hair tall and stiff.
Fast forward seven years and I still maintain something of a punk façade. I wear the patched up jacket and the big black boots. The main difference is that now I understand that it doesn’t matter if I spike up my hair in a Mohawk or scowl in photos. Punk is something more. Punk is who you are when nobody is looking.
And as I lay in bed with a big ol’ cow stuffed animal as a pillow and a teddy bear that my mom got me because I was sad, I know in my heart that I am the most punk rock person in the world.