This is a letter to the genre of music, not necessarily anyone called Punk. If your name is Punk, I’m sorry for the confusion. Perhaps you should pick a less confusing and ridiculous moniker.
Anyway, dear punk, the genre. Thanks. Some say you are dead, but you’re not. You live on in our hearts.
When I was about thirteen years old, I hadn’t met you yet. I was a straight-laced, quiet girl with terrible hair and even worse glasses. My mother with her curly, thick English-German hair didn’t understand the concept of straight Nordic blonde hair and forced me to get perms to make my hair curly, which just made it worse. Straight blonde Nordic hair doesn’t take well to perms.
I was not cool or popular or anything at all really. I had no sense of identity. I was white paint, vanilla pudding, a clean chalkboard. I wanted to blend in and not be noticed. My biggest fear was being in the spotlight. I hid behind everything and everyone. I was waiting for something to add a little color. I was a huge dork, but not even the king of dorks. I was a low-level dork, somewhere around level three.
I had Jane Fonda glasses–the kind that take up your entire face like this:
In eighth grade, I got contacts! That helped. I didn’t have to wear the ridiculously ugly glasses anymore. I got a haircut and stopped getting perms, but I was still a dork. I got beat up a lot. In eighth grade, I had a bully named Kim. Gym class was especially fun. Thanks, Kim.
Ninth grade was even worse. I was transplanted from a small Catholic school to a massive public high school. There were more bullies and more invisibility. And then, I met you. Specifically, I met a boy named Matt who introduced me to you. He made me a mix tape that forever changed everything. These were just a few of the songs on it:
This is what happened when I listened to the mix tape:
I listened to it over and over and over again. And when I had fully digested it, I went and found more and more. I made it my mission to know everything about this genre. Fortunately for me, it was a pretty good year for punk, even though I caught the “punk movement” near the end.
I stopped dressing the way my mom wanted me to. I stole all of my dad’s flannel shirts. I shaved part of my head and dyed other parts. Safety pins were a fashion accessory. I drew on my clothes. I went to the surplus store and bought myself a used pair of combat boots and an army jacket that I always wore. I stopped giving a single shit what anyone thought of me. It was liberating.
Instead of trying to blend in, I stood out. I still didn’t like the attention, but at least when I got attention, it was because I looked different, not because I was. People focused more on my appearance than my innate shyness and dorkiness. Standing out was the best camouflage I’d ever found. The bullies went away. I made friends. My sense of humor showed. I stopped trying to impress anyone.
So, punk, I’d like to thank you. Had you not invaded my life, I might not have ever emerged from my safe little chrysalis. Or, if I had, I wouldn’t have been such a dramatic and colorful butterfly.
I still listen to you, punk, though not exclusively anymore. You will always be a part of my life. I will always have a soft spot for the music that brought me one step closer to being myself.