Riot Grrrl

Black Eyeliner vs Sharpies

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When I was a 17 year-old baby, feminist wannabe, I would take black eyeliner and scrawl words like, ‘slut,’ ‘bitch’ and ‘whore’ on my arms and (if I was feeling really brave) my legs. I would also pair baby doll dresses with ripped tights and knock-off Docs. It was the 90’s and I was playing a part in a fleeting, feminist cultural mini-moment called The Riot Grrrl Movement. I was probably too young to really understand the steeped in irony and anger mission and message of the movement (I am not really even sure that you could call it  movement) but I wasn’t too young to feel the intense pain and power of those words. It was shocking but deliriously freeing to wear those words on my skin in full view (mostly to bookstores and Waffle House). It was a phase. The feminism and ‘fuck the rules’ attitude stayed but eyeliner became something regulated to eyes (thankfully) and although I did finally score some real Doc Martens, they now occupy a corner of a box in my closet.

I have been thinking a lot about that lonely, angry 17 year-old girl lately. Everything was so painful for her. Life was so very sharp and hiding and numbing, so very comforting. I was 17 when I discovered the fluffy, dulling effects of pot and alcohol (but mostly pot). I wish that girl would have had someone to illustrate the second and third act of that story. I wish someone would have told her that life was beautiful without all of that shit… But I don’t have a time machine and I know ‘should have’ is an epic waste of time.

What made me think specifically of my “Riot Grrrl” days was the very strong compulsion I have had lately to scrawl words on my arms and legs, this time in sharpie. Over the past few weeks, I have written, “Do the next right thing” across my wrists and “enough” on my ankle and the back of my hand. Is it my inner riot grrrl coming to the surface or my inner wounded teenager seeking solace and healing? Now instead of acting out, I am trying to take better care. I am trying to remember, not let go. 

Today was a bit of a shit show. I am trying really, really hard at my job. I am being consistent and holding students accountable, per mandate from my administrator. I try to pretend that it is easy. I am trying to move forward and stay positive but the tapes in my head, the ones that tell me I am going to fail, that I am stupid for thinking I could do this job and that I am only working for a recommendation at the end of the year (because I am afraid I am going to be laid off or worse, fired) are playing on a relentless loop. Being a hard ass in the classroom means that not every student adores me. It means that not even every other student adores me. Being a drunk last year means that my administrator doesn’t fully trust my judgment and still wonders if I am going to revert to my flakey ways. It all means I am not PLEASING everyone AND I am shocked and disappointed at how sad and freaked out I am by that… 

The writing. It all comes back to the writing. As a teenager, I wrote on my arms, in composition notebooks and on pieces of canvas to survive and process the horrors of my childhood and adolescence. As a woman, and especially a woman in recovery, I write to survive the horrors of my addiction to process the pain I have both suffered and caused via this disease. I write so as not to drink. I write to recover. I am writing here tonight so I can walk into the classroom tomorrow, head held high, possibly with sharpied arms, ready to keep trying and maybe even love myself and the world just a little bit more. 

Maybe I should try tattoos next.