If Only I Had Known!: Post Punk Parenting
06/04/10 5:55PM By Annie Guyon
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(HOST) VPR commentators were asked to write on the theme of "If Only I Had Known" this spring for our annual brunch. Today, free-lance journalist Annie Guyon reflects on a youthful past that's been rediscovered.
(GUYON) When I was 18, I moved from the suburbs to San Francisco, where the punk music scene was in full swing. Within a couple of years, I had an entirely black wardrobe, six studs in my left ear and hair that had been through various stunning palette changes, from ice white to screaming fuchsia to parrot turquoise -- all standard accoutrements for any self-respecting urban art student, circa 1980.
Weekends often found me at concerts seeing bands like X, Elvis Costello, The Police and Iggy Pop. And, of course, my roommates and I had plenty of parties during which, inevitably, someone would produce a camera and start snapping away.
How was I to know that, nearly three decades later, I'd be relaxing at home one day in my rural Vermont village, looking through old photos with my pre-teen son and daughter and see their jaws drop upon discovering pictures of their Mom with gothic make-up, combat boots, scary clothes and spiky, Technicolor hair.
"Oh my god, MOM, is that YOU!?!," exploded Timmy, gaping at an image of me in a post-concert stupor, a shock of day-glo hair above defiant raccoon eyes and smirking, frosted purple lips, with crucifixes dangling from my ears and an anarchy button pinned to my strategically torn t-shirt.
"Uh, well, yes it is," I replied, as they rifled through the box looking for more mind-boggling confirmation that their mother had once been an angry youth.
"Mom, I didn't know you were a punk rocker!" exclaimed Ellie. "You had PINK hair and everything!"
I shrugged and said, "Yeah, it was kind of the fashion then."
"Mom, seriously, I have GOT to take these to school and show my friends, they will NOT believe it," said Timmy.
"Mmmm...no," I asserted, "You do not need to show these to your friends."
"PLEASE, Mom, they will not believe it if I just TELL them you were a punk, I need PROOF!"
Knowing it's enough of a challenge being a flatlander without having one's colorful past being dredged up for inspection as well, I put all the incriminating photos in an envelope and hid it, just in case the kids' euphoria at this new tidbit of background on me got the best of them.
Of course, having a slightly edgy past does give me a bit of parental coolness cache, and when I recently went to Carnegie Hall to see Iggy Pop throw a mike stand around in his ever-irreverent dotage, well, it did seem to induce some awe in my progeny, which can't be all that bad.
But when their friends' parents warily approach me in the market and say, "So is it true you used to be into punk rock music?", and when I see those same folks look askance at Town Meetings when I speak my mind about funding school art programs, it makes me wince a little.
If only I'd known that one day I'd have two curious, sponge-like adolescent kids fascinated by snapshots from their mom's subversive past, I might have toned down the rebel uniform or at the very least hidden the evidence until they became adults themselves.