That's me right around my sixteenth birthday. I'm almost at my pinnacle of punk rockdom. Soon the hair will be bleached all blond and cut short. My hair will never be that curly again because I will kill it first with bleach and then with black dye. I will never see that natural color again. I will wear makeup more regularly: black eyeliner and red lipstick. I will swap the Sid Vicious shirt for one with a more obscure band on it, preferably one fronted by a woman like The Gits or 7 Year Bitch. I will continue to wear that studded collar even though my ex boyfriend will tell me it makes me look like a dog.
I apologize in advance for being a bad role model (but I was no one's role model at the time and I didnt have very many good role models for myself), but I can tell by my eyes that I'm probably stoned in this picture. At the very least, my hair smells like cigarette smoke, but I will tell my parents it smells that way because my friends smoke, which is true but not the whole truth, and they will pretend to believe me.
The shirt I'm wearing is an extra-large even though I weigh around a hundred pounds, maybe less. Because I hate myself and I hid in my clothes. I've just gotten out of a controlling, emotionally abusive relationship and I'm dealing with it by starving myself and cutting. My t-shirt hides all of this.
If you look at the wall behind me you can sort of tell that my parents are remodeling the kitchen. They will announce they are separating in a little over a year.
I'm smiling even though there is all of this misery inside of me because my best friend is taking the picture and I want her to have a smiling picture of me because she is being sent to boarding school in Iowa. She'd told her parents that she wanted to get away, she did not say it was because their home life was so awful, but that was unspoken. This boarding school is the best they could come up with and she decided she didn't want to go but they decided she was going anyway. She will be brought back six weeks later after I visit and report back to her mom that everyone there is smoking crystal meth and I am afraid my friend will get sucked into it. (It's the truth.)
That is the girl I was and I wanted to see that there were other girls like me, maybe even worse off than me, in books. I wanted to see them survive so I could be assured that I would survive. The only books I could find that were for teens that I related to were by Francesca Lia Block. Other than that I read Sylvia Plath poetry and related to the deep depression behind her words, I read Hamlet and related to Ophelia, I read the Scarlet Letter and related to Hester Prynne feeling like an outcast, I read Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh because even though his characters were older and living in Scotland, they reminded me of some of my friends. I read lots and lots of nonfiction. And I wrote.
Ballads of Suburbia, which comes out in exactly three weeks, is the book I'd been searching for back then. Something that would shatter the silence about issues like cutting and addiction and maybe give me the courage to talk about them with friends, perhaps even parents or teachers. It's the book I've been trying to write since I was sixteen.
But I'm not sixteen anymore, so I guess it's not entirely selfish because now I wrote this book for today's teenagers. And I will always continue to write for teenagers--whether my books are shelved in YA or Adult or wherever else--because I write to give teenagers (and grown ups) who are unsure where they fit (or did fit) someone to relate to.
PS. Sorry if this blog was a little depressing, but I wrote it be as honest and real as possible. Another reason I write for teens is because I know they are searching for what is honest and real and I love that.
On a happier note, what are/were some of the characters you really related to as a teen?