Confession: I was a teenage metal-head.
In high school I worshipped Joan Jett
with her tight black leather, tiny body, and defiant songs.
I loved all those boys with scraggly hair and screams
for voices like the ones in Def Leppard, AC/DC,
and Metallica – before they got all
serious and political. During lunch period
I would hang out with
stoners, punks, artists, and fags –
not because I was one of them,
but because I wanted to be.
In my Texas high school, being Jewish was
freakish enough. I certainly
didn’t have any heroes, but
I thought Marian Zimmerman was the shit.
At 16, she wore a femme-y leather jacket
and smoked cigarettes with one arm dangling
out the car window and one knee
propped up to rest her smoking hand on.
Most of the girls in my youth group
weren’t having sex, but I found the ones
who were, in the back cabin – the last one
before the woods
that no one was staying in.
Today, working with a group of adolescents
who have already been diagnosed,
I see myself, who could have been diagnosed.
The monthly religious conversions were a “warning sign,”
though of what I’m not sure.
The way I came home from youth group one weekend
and decided I was a vegetarian,
or the odd obsession with Charles Manson
and splicing tapes backwards that
occupied most of the seventh grade – those
were warning signs as well, I’m sure.
I certainly don’t long for adolescence, or the days
of sneaking out of Anna’s second story bedroom window
because of her father’s fury.
We hadn’t done anything but talk
those late nights, and neither of us would come out
for another couple years. I used to listen to Janis Joplin
croon and wish I could have known her
like my father did, or better yet
that she had survived her own high school scars
long enough to have known me. This was
years before swooning over Ani Difranco,
or going to punk shows like 7 Year Bitch.
Back then, there was only Joan Jett.
She loves rock ‘n’ roll, yeah, but
it was her other tracks that seduced me quickly. Her angry
growl when she was “frustrated,” and the
sweet cover of “Crimson and Clover.”
When she sang: “I don’t hardly know her
but I think I could love her” – I knew
there were options.
Even if it would be years till I tried them,
years till I named them.
Back then, I was completely
unsure of who I was
but knew enough to know
I didn’t care.