Home > Red Spiral Notebook > [February, 1995] Damn Those 3-4 Years

[February, 1995] Damn Those 3-4 Years

My hair wasn’t nearly this bright, but it’s about how I imagined myself looking on the inside. [photo by Softness on Flickr]

2/6/95

Lots and lots and lots to write. How vague to be remains a dilemma.

I dyed my hair purple. The top is VERY bright and noticeable, the bottom is darker but looks violet in the sun. Combined with bluish-purple lipstick, blue mascara (& nail polish), turquoise eyeliner and glitter (silver) below my eyebrows. I looked like such a freak and loved it. The strange stares, the hushed conversations as I walked by, the halted comments (“that’s an…interesting look you have there”), it was wonderful. I felt this great power and release. I finally spelled it out (Anita gets confused every time I use that phrase).

A month of stalking the hallway and nothing but brief glimpses. Ooh, I need a code name. Claudia got a great one: Mercer. Perfect.

So we were walking through the hallway and as I’m walking I’m staring at him (I’m switching tenses now). This time he’s looking at me too (with a look of—as Claudia described it—interest). I said hi to Didi and looked back down at him (again looking at me). Claudia and I started walking and I knew he asked who I was because I heard Didi say my name.

Saw Mercer later in the day too. Damn those 3-4 years.

This marked a turning point for me in high school, so I remember it quite well. I even remember what I wore that day: a purple tie-died t-shirt, cut-off shorts, and two pairs of tights (torn-up black nylons over fuchsia ones). It was hardly scandalous, but the combined look was drastically different from the generic fashion of my classmates and marked a dramatic departure from my days of trying to blend in and look like them. It should be noted that I started wearing the glitter make-up before it became fashionable, when it was only sold in alternative and specialty stores that catered to club kids and drag queens. In fact, I bought my crazy make-up at House of Field (the shop she owned years before Patricia Field went on to do wardrobe for shows like Sex and The City and Ugly Betty) from a stunning effeminate blonde man who would go on to be the transsexual cult figure Amanda Lepore (pictured below). Kind of fitting, looking back on it.

Amanda Lepore

I don’t know what there was to spell out. I felt apart, different, freakish even, and wanted my outward appearance to finally reflect that. It was the physical manifestation of my I-am-not-like-you-and-nobody-understands-me teen frustration. The feeling of release came from no longer caring about conforming to my high school’s standards of appearance and asserting my individuality. At 17, it felt pretty powerful. I was teased and bullied from 13-14 for the way I looked (not something I chronicled in my diary, because it was too awful to recount), but I no longer worried about being made fun of because I was owning my freakishness. I walked those halls with a confidence I hadn’t felt in years. And my self-empowerment must have shown, because I was never bullied at school again.

“Mercer” was the code name for Neil, who I referenced before, but not directly until now. Neil was not just a punk, but the only punk in our entire school. He wore dirty clothes riddled with tears and safety pins, had green and orange hair, and a baby face that was often masked with a look of disdain. Unfortunately, he was considerably younger than me (a few years in high school matter more when the age difference is more than a year or two), so I felt immensely guilty having a crush on him. But the crush was born out of intrigue more than anything else. There were so few kids at Hunter who so blatantly defied convention in their outward appearance that Neil provided the same relief from the homogeneity. And sure, I thought he was super-cute, but more than anything I just wanted to know him.

And now that I was coming into my own and not afraid to stand apart from the masses, I also caught his attention. And maybe, just maybe, he wanted to know me, too.

  1. Liz
    November 26, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Many years later (mid-2000s?) I saw Amanda Lepore going into a club as I was coming out of it. I never was much of a club person, but I did feel a thrill at recognizing the muse I’d seen in so many David LaChappelle works of art. She was wearing nothing but carefully placed strands of pearls (and presumably, heels)… :)
    I went through my phase of looking different, dying my hair etc. At one point I looked like a parrot: my roots, then a strip of bleached blonde, followed by a strip of green, then blue, then purple, and the rest (the bottom 10 inches or so) was magenta. This was also the period of time when my glasses were vintage ones with rhinestones. :)
    A kid on the train once said to me sarcastically, “Nice hair,” to which I responded in the same tone of voice, “Nice outfit!” He was dressed all in white, sort of hip-hop style.
    Another time, a man said to me, “What kinda drugs was you on when you did that to yo’ hair?” I loudly replied, “I wasn’t on any drugs THEN!”
    A couple of years later, when my hair had grown out enough to cut off all the damaged bleached and dyed parts, and I just had normal glasses, I found myself wondering why people *weren’t* staring at me on the train anymore. Then it clicked. :)

    • November 26, 2012 at 6:35 pm

      Haha, I like your response to the “Nice hair” guy, I wish I had talked back more when I got the “it’s not Halloween” comments. And I totally know what you mean about being used to the strange looks. I had that same adjustment (NOT getting stared at) after growing out of the goth period, though I did get another taste of it when I dyed my hair bright pink four years ago. These days, I’m perfectly fine with being incognito. :)

  2. Liz
    December 2, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    Me too – glad to mind my own business and have everyone else do the same :)

  3. Liz
    December 2, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    The pink hair drew my attention and helped me recognize you on the subway, though!

  1. December 6, 2012 at 12:26 pm
  2. March 5, 2013 at 9:40 pm

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