She's a punk punk, a punk rocker
Punk punk, a punk rocker
Punk punk, a punk rocker. - Ramones
The Ramones tape I found on the ground? I must have played that until it suffered the fate of most tapes - eaten by the tape deck. My mother didn’t mind the Ramones, but she freaked out over my dual interest in hip-hop, and by that, I mean The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. She would go on and on about how it was a gateway album to the NWA. I hadn’t heard of NWA until she ranted about them, so naturally, I had to check them out. A friend at school had a tape that they let me listen to at lunchtime. I loved the irreverence of the music as it felt like a different kind of punk rock. Like the Ramones, there was a tension you could feel in the music, and it was beyond the lyrics, it was built into the energy of each song. If you accept the invitation, songs can tell you things even if you erase the lyrics.
I started the 6th grade and discovered that not only did I love skateboards, but I loved skater boys. There were two in 6th grade that I would stand near at lunchtime so that I could gaze at them. Gabe and Will. They both wore these impossibly baggy pants and shirts that had logos on them that I didn’t understand. Luckily, on a trip to Gallup, I found a copy of Thrasher magazine and learned all about the brands they seemed to like and the skaters they looked up to. I skated to school until Tamar wanted her board back, so I started begging my mom for a skateboard.
6th-grade life was a rough transition. Going from class to class and managing a schedule was challenging, but the nice part about it was that I had a chance to see a cute boy at every hourly change. I had become boy crazy. When I wasn’t paying attention in class, sometimes I’d see one of the boys I loved walking by the door, and I remember feeling this rush of happiness.
My clothing style, I would later discover, was called “preppy.” I wore whatever my mother bought for me, and because we went shopping once a year, there wasn’t much I could do about my wardrobe. My pal Tamar gave me some alternative clothes I could put on once I got to school. Mainly, some baggy pants. I would change back into clothes my mother would recognize before I went home.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with these boys if I could manage to get their attention, but I knew holding their hands would be nice. Unfortunately, it seemed that I was invisible to all of them. The skaters only cared about each other and skating and really didn’t pay attention to any girls. The other guys I liked stared at their feet. So, I did what all middle-school girls do in this scenario; I took up writing notes so I could profess my love to them. I started leaving notes in their lockers, but they’d be anonymous. I’d wait around the corner for them to open their lockers and find the notes and watch the looks on their faces. The thrill of a confession and remaining anonymous was so much fun.
One of the boys I really liked, Robert, was in Speech and Debate with me. I chose a seat near him so I could soak up every moment near him. Gabe was in my math class and band, along with Will, and there’s Cornell who is off in high school. He was my after school crush.
My crush on Robert was short-lived, as one day in class he looked at me and said, “Nice north star you have there.” and he pointed at my forehead where there was a zit. Along with all of these crushes and hormones, there were zits. I had them long before anyone else did, so I was an early hormonal achiever. I arranged to move far away from him and avoided him after that, and I also became super self-aware of my face and developing acne.
My mother was overly concerned about my pimples. When I was in kindergarten, I had chickenpox, and she was so worried about future scarring that she hog-tied me and placed me on the couch with a bell I could reach with my mouth or put behind my back near my hands. I’d ring it if I needed help. She’d go to work during the day, so I would use the restroom, eat breakfast, and then I’d be tied up in front of the tv near a glass of water with a straw. If I needed to pee, I was told just to go. She put all sorts of lotions all over me and was determined for me not to have any scars because that would hurt my future prospects for marriage. Another strange Mom thing that I didn’t realize wasn’t normal until I got older and started sharing stories with friends.
My mom, not able to hog-tie me for all of my teenage years, took me to a doctor in Gallup. They gave me some things that looked like Brillo pads to exfoliate with and some topical creams. They also suggested I steam my face every week. All of these things made everything worse. The Brillo pad took my skin off, the creams caused all sorts of dry and cracked skin and the steam, well, I have no idea what it did, but I think it just made everything angrier.
So, I took to wearing makeup, which also didn’t help, but at least hid some of it. Every day I would put on my mask and head to school. The mask gave me more confidence to hold my head up higher, but the boys never seemed to notice.
Finally, on a school band trip, I chose a seat next to Gabe on the bus. I worked up the courage to ask him to kiss me. Gabe had braces that I thought were super cute, and he had hair that swooped over like skater boys in the 80s had. He looked thrilled when I asked him, and we tried it out, but we both didn’t know what to do. I felt his braces on my face, and I tried several attempts at something and finally sat back and said, “thank you,” which he took as a message that we should stop.
Gabe was now off my list, which only left Will and Cornell. Gabe and I moved on from the first kiss to actively avoiding one another and exchanging awkward knowing glances.
At Christmas, under the tree, there was a present that was skateboard shaped. I couldn’t believe it. My mother was odd about a lot of things, but she came through at Christmas time with the one gift that we hoped for all year long. I ripped the paper off of it, and when I saw what it was, I put it down and feigned excitement, but my mother could tell I wasn’t pleased with the gift. My mother, not knowing anything about skateboards, bought me a NASH with big squishy wheels. It was a skateboard for kids who didn’t know anything about skateboarding. I tried hard not to be a brat about it, and I encouraged my mom to return it so she could get her money back. My mom asked her high school students what it was I was looking for, and a month after Christmas, she took me to a Flagstaff skateboarding store at the mall many hours away and told me to pick out what I wanted. My dream skateboard was on the wall—a Vision Gator. I added hot pink grip tape, neon yellow rails, Powell Peralta T-Bone wheels, and Independent trucks. It was a thing of beauty. She even let me pick out a pair of pants that were mega baggy and covered with Scorpions printed on them and a Vision Street Wear shirt with their classic plain but specific logo. I didn’t push it on the skate shoes, but I desperately wanted some Vans or Vision Hypnos.
I loved skateboarding, but I was excited that this was my ticket to breaking into the cute skater boy world. I went out skating with Will and Gabe a few times, but it didn’t seem to make a dent in their interest. They were in love with one thing and one thing only and that was skating. I was a distraction. So, I started skating around my neighborhood, making my usual pitstop to see if Cornell was hanging out in his yard.
Over time I became a reasonably good 80s street skater. Those boards were huge and there’s not a ton you can do with them if you aren’t on a ramp. So I mostly skated around and tried to ollie up on things. I picked up more Thrashers and tried to learn more about people Like Tony Hawk. I hung up posters of him in my locker, as he became my hero. The boys might not notice, but I pretended he noticed and I smiled at him every time I went in and out to get some books. He wasn’t a crush, but more of a mentor and someone I looked up to. He was behind everything cool in skateboarding. The funny thing is, he still is.
Sometime during the school year, a new student arrived. Beverly Barnett. When I saw her in the hallway, she took my breath away. Before her, there was only one girl in the school who compared to her, and that was Misty Chapman. Misty was half Navajo and French. She was stunningly beautiful in a model like way that you only see in magazines, and she knew it. Beverly was like a Barbie doll. She had blond, beautiful long hair, blue eyes, and perfect skin. Interestingly the two most beautiful girls in school became friends and stuck together.
It was the first time I remember feeling a particular kind of jealousy. I knew I’d never look like Beverly ever. She was magazine cover girl pretty. That alone would have been ok, but she was also ridiculously cool. She was like Tank Girl. A real-life beautifully stunning Tank Girl. She skated, and she skated better than I did, she had a cool room full of military stuff hanging on her walls. Dead grenades, guns, etc. She wore military clothes but they were styled so perfectly. Everything about her was perfect. I didn’t realize until much later in life I also had a crush on her, because I didn’t understand yet that was possible.
Misty was stunningly beautiful, but her interests never intersected with mine. She liked to dance and listen to MC Hammer, but Beverly? It wasn’t enough to be pretty; she was also super interesting. I didn’t understand how she could be both things. I wished she would pick one.
Naturally, she lived right behind Cornell with her grandparents. So, when I made my usual circle around the neighborhood, I would find her hanging out with him in front of his trailer. I’d wave to them and tell them both hi, and then skate or bike off. I told myself I’d never be that interesting, and I most certainly didn’t stand a chance at being that beautiful.
I pondered this a lot and tried to make sense of all of it. At the end of the year, I decided that I just had to be me and the best me I could be, and I had to manage and ignore the feelings I had. They felt gross and unhelpful, so I tried my hardest to become friends with Beverly. She was surprisingly receptive, and I didn’t expect her to be. We went out skating together, and she taught me a few things. We also snuck out at night with liquor from my mom’s liquor cabinet and drank on hilltops. She told me all about why she had to live with her grandparents. Apparently she ran into some trouble in Tennessee where she was from and was sent to live with them as a form of correction. She told me all about Memphis and what the world was like far away from us, and she introduced me to new music.
When I went to school, you could bring friends from out of town with you to school if they were visiting. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t allow that today. Well, one day Beverly brought guess what? A twin sister. Not only was there one beautiful and perfect Beverly, but there were two of them. I didn’t think that was possible. I didn’t know twins were even possible. They both came to school together with their hair done in spiral curls. They were absolutely beautiful. I found myself mesmerized with them, and I walked up and told them both how beautiful they were. They looked down and mumbled “thanks.” They didn’t seem pleased.
That’s when I realized that they didn’t like being valued for their appearances. Both Beverly and her sister wanted to be “seen.” We place a lot of importance on the things we can see, but we forget what we can’t see. I decided after that not to compliment Beverly ever again and instead tell her how cool she was. She’d light up and smile when I talked to her about anything else. What’s even cooler is she saw me too. We were more alike than anyone else I’d meet for a long time. Unfortunately, she only stayed with us for a short time, and she moved back to be with her sister.
Guess who did notice her though? Those skater boys. She paid no romantic attention to them and only skated around if invited. They lost their cool when she was around, and it was fascinating to watch. It was a form of power that she wanted to no part of. Misty, on the other hand seemed to understand that power and used it. She was also a lovely person, both in and out, but she wasn’t the same as Beverly.
After this, I started looking at women and girls that appeared in magazines and started realizing that the way they appear is rare, and that’s why we are drawn to them. Rarity. I was also rare but in an entirely different way. While I’d never grace the cover of a magazine, I’d shine bright like a diamond in other ways.