[February, 1995] Damn Those 3-4 Years
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.
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.