It was a simpler time. A time when unnamed tweens waited anxiously for their parents to leave so they could watch MTV's game show, 'Remote Control'. A time when a small town, eleven year old girl living in Pennsylvania could have a unrequited love affair with a rock star. (He was the thirty-something rocker who didn't even know she was alive but taught her everything she needed to know about being cool.)
Before sixth grade I didn't know authority could even be questioned. My parents and teachers knew everything and I had no idea wearing stripes, polka dots and animal prints together was never okay. It was around that time I fell in with the 'wrong' crowd.
They were the ones who scoffed at 'Teen Beat' Magazine and had no interest in Alvin and the Chipmunks or Punky Brewster. Instead of singing songs about 'Doing the Locomotion', they introduced me to Joe Elliott, who, instead of crooning with a silky smooth voice, hollered at adoring fans to 'pour some sugar on him'. A few of those from the idolizing masses were the cool kids from my junior high. For reasons unknown to this baffled 30+ year-old, I became their project. They started by instructing me about what to wear and suddenly I went from donning Care Bear sweatshirts to more, shall we say, edgy, attire.
I will never forget the day they dressed me in my punkest outfit during lunch recess.
Black jeans previously rolled up to my knees, pegged at the ankle.
An extra pair of neon colored socks.
Bangs ratted with a comb and a bottle of Aqua Net.
A hardcore Henley with the word 'Utah' scrawled across the front (this was Chambersburg, Pennsylvania after all)
And for the piece de resistance,
my nails, bitten to the quick, were colored in with a black Sharpie marker stolen from our teacher's desk.
Walking out of the bathroom that day, I felt like one of those video vixens rocking out on the top of the hood of some dude's car.
That day, I arrived.
As the days passed however, I knew I needed to up the ante if my new image were to stick.
I pushed the envelope as much as I possibly could.
This meant picking a fight, waiting until just after the late bell rang to enter class and agreeing to 'go out' with a boy (which meant we would, forever more, sit beside each other in the hallway before school started). I was crushed when he sat by Jennifer a few days later.
The breakup was messy.
I even got in trouble (on purpose) just so I could get a demerit on my previously pristine behavioral record. To make my transformation complete, I had to convince the most rebellious boy in the class. Def Leppard was equivalent to Rick Astley in his mind and the boys of Arosmith were amateurs. He was a hard core, heavy metal enthusiast whose favorite band was 'Anthrax'.
I had never even heard of them and just by the looks of his spike necklace, I'm pretty sure they were scary. But I was determined to be his heavy metal girlfriend so I could sit beside him and his drumsticks before school.
Arriving home one day, a bit concerned by the fact that my music collection consisted of Tiffany's 'Hold An Old Friend's Hand' and Debbie Gibson's 'Electric Youth'. I promptly raided my older brother's audio cassette tapes. Unfortunately, Anthrax's album wasn't among Weird Al's 'Beat It' and Billy Joel's 'We Didn't Start The Fire'.
I was devastated. How was I going to convince the boy of my rock-n-roll dreams of my devotion to a band I could barely even pronounce?
As I sat at the kitchen table that day, listening to the radio, hoping their latest would pop up on my Top 40 station, my eyes fell upon our craft corner. It was at that moment I realized I was staring at the gateway to my future sixth grade romance.
Grabbing poster board, glue, glitter and a bright, fluorescent pink marker, I set to work on something that would knock that boy's skull and crossbones sock off. I worked tirelessly, blow drying the glue and glitter because I was too anxious to wait.
As I went to bed that night, I gingerly tucked the poster away by my backpack. It had so much glitter and glue on it that it curled unnaturally but I gazed contentedly at it, convinced that it was indeed my masterpiece. For right there, with bright pink magic marker, outlined in glitter, was the word:
I was sure this would be it. I was officially the punk rock chick on the hood of that fancy car.
The next morning, I played it cool, as I protectively hid my project as best as I could while sitting on the bus. I waited at the end of the line so I could make a grand entrance into my home room. When I did, I walked up to the boy and, cool as a cucumber, well, as cool as a Trishelle Cumcumber, said, “I made you something last night while listening to my 'Anthrax' tape.” And before I waited for a response, I unveiled my work of art.
For a moment, one, sublime moment, that sixth grade boy's eyes lit up just like he was little again, finding his first set of Matchbox cars under the Christmas tree. But that moment was ever so short as he inspected it and with a look of consternation said....
“Uh...you spelled it wrong. There's no 'E' in the middle.” Then, without saying a word, he rolled it up and shoved it into the garbage can at the front of the class.
My dreams were dashed. I was humiliated. And to make matters worse, every time I looked in the direction of the trash can, that dang poster taunted me with its bright pink letter 'E' that was outlined in enough glitter to be seen from outer space. It was a very bad day and I realized I was destined to be an old maid for the rest of my life, too short to ever hop up on the hood of anyone's car, let alone Joe Elliott's.
We moved only a few short months later which was a bit of a relief considering my last attempt to redefine myself went so badly. But in a cruel twist of irony that almost derailed my new found confidence, as we drove down a seemingly endless road to a distant military installation created for the testing of chemical weapons, my father began to tell us a story.
It was about the very valley we were driving through; about how several decades prior, a deadly nerve agent was accidentally released into the environment and wiped out an entire herd of local sheep. It was terrible to the locals and a bunch of people were pretty ticked off at the military base's commanding officers.
We listened to the story, enthralled and little freaked out. We were heading straight for the epicenter. I held my breath as I cautiously looked out over the vast fields of gold and brown, looking for any sign of mutated or zombie livestock.
Dad, noticing my concern, said something along the lines of, “But don't worry, guys. We'll be safe there. I'm not even sure they use that nerve agent anymore anyway. I'm pretty sure we'll never have an outbreak of Anthrax and we'll be perfectly safe.”
My stomach lurched and my head began spinning, “That is what Anthrax is?” I asked my father.
“Well, yes it is.” he replied.
All of the sudden, I felt smug, triumphant even. Because in that moment I realized I was WAAAAAAY smarter than that dumb boy who listened with his headphones to that dumb rock band who named themselves after a sheep killing biochemical weapon. It made me laugh to consider that the stupid rocker boy probably had no idea he was listening to something representative of death, destruction and quite possibly large amounts of drool. (clearly the logic was lost on my 12 year old self)
I felt vindicated and laughed at how close I came to being lame.
What a relief it was to have already moved on from such lameness. Yes, I was looking into the horizon where Dugway Proving Ground and my future awaited. Confidently entering a new chapter with new appreciation for talented musicians who crusaded against such ridiculousness...whose lyrical genius would be heralded for years to come and, who like me, were New Kids On the Block.