Friday, September 21, 2012

Progressive Confession: My Teenage Fling with Ronnie

This morning I had a sixth grader inform me that, "Obama is the worst president ever."  It's OK.  I forgive his ignorance.  He'll outgrow it.  I did.


I once had a poster of President Ronald Reagan on my bedroom wall.  Considering Jimmy Carter is my favorite president and I'm such a pinko commie I complain that President Obama is too conservative, most of my friends are surprised when they find out this little secret from my youth.

It wasn't up for long, and it was rightfully replaced by a poster of The Smiths, but still, it was up there.  I swear.

I can't remember if my mom or my dad brought it home, or even where they got it.  I found it on our kitchen table.  I snagged it and tacked it to my bedroom wall.  I was in eighth grade.  Still feeling like the new kid at school even though we had moved there a year before.  The year I discovered New Wave music, bleached blonde bangs, and black eyeliner.  

As my school picture shows, I began the school year looking like most of the other kids in my affluent suburban school, wearing a sporty mullet, short and slightly feathered on the sides.  I wore a pink striped polo shirt.  I'm smiling big, happy to have finally gotten my braces off.  

A few months later, looking like we'd gleaned our beauty tips from the pages of Star Hits magazine, my one friend left from my old school and I had our photos taken in one of those booths at the arcade.  I put a copy next to my school picture in my photo album to show the drastic transition of my outward identity that year.  In the arcade photo, my hair is longer and moussed and dyed black to match my black eyeliner.  Total Robert Smith Wannabe.  Actually, Siouxsie Sioux.  

It wasn't just my hair and clothes: I began practicing my signature for when I became a famous British pop star, Rebekah Sioux, an homage to my imaginary Aunt Siouxsie.  Never mind I was actually Rebecca Sue Burton, a fourteen-year-old Kansas girl.  Too shy to sing.  I'd recently discovered a way to get snotty preps at school off my back.  I stuck a photo of the band Siouxsie and the Banshees I'd clipped from Star Hits in the front of my 3-ring binder.  I carried it everywhere I went.  That way when they'd make fun of my look, I'd point to the picture and tell them my aunt is Siouxsie Sioux.  "That's why my middle name is Sioux.  My mom named me after her sister Siouxsie.  Would you like my autograph?"

Blank stare.  I could tell they knew I was a total liar, but they also didn't know what to say, and I wanted to be left alone more than I wanted them to like me.

I have no idea why I didn't have more friends in eighth grade.

But the Ronnie poster, I didn't even mean anything political by it.  I was trying out civics geek chic.  I also had a poster of the United States Constitution on my wall.  I was just starting to pay attention to the world outside my bedroom, trying on different political identities like I was changing my hair color monthly.  The reason it hung on my wall is as simple as this: I knew it was 1984, and I knew Ronald Reagan was our president.  Concuss me and I'd prove it to you.  

That was about it.  I knew nothing of Reaganomics and the Iran-Contra affair wasn't in the news yet.  It wasn't so much that I was on my way to becoming Alexis P. Keaton.  I just felt like I should try on some patriotism and so I did.

But my burgeoning love of Morrissey meant I'd eventually acquire more posters of The Smiths than I had available wall space.  Something had to go.  Ronnie went into the trash.  

In hindsight, I wish I had recycled him.  That would be better karmic retribution to the poster of such an anti-environmentalist president.  But by 1984, I had not yet convinced my parents that we needed to start recycling.  It was still a few years before I would wash off the eyeliner, ditch the mousse, and play peekaboo with my hairy legs beneath my long, handmade skirts as I'd walk to work at Greenpeace with The Indigo Girls playing on my Walkman.