Rebel Girl

For the month of November I want to explore what being rebellious as a woman REALLY looks like. Dive into being loud, taking up space, supporting each other, owning your past, carving your path. Even celebrate laying down your clubs and axes and just learning how to relax without guilt.

How I Found My Voice

It’s 8pm on a Thursday night, I’ve got my minivan loaded with friends, and we’re heading downtown. I took the three carseats and countless toys, diaper bags, and strollers out to make room for everyone, and before I know it, we’re piling out of the van like clowns into the parking lot of the dirtiest dive bar I’d ever seen where screaming vocals and screeching guitars drowned out every conversation for what felt like a mile around. While my passengers are covered from spiked hair to combat-booted toe in studs, chains, tattoos and torn jeans, I’m feeling a lot like the carpool mom with my floral blouse and cowgirl boots, but that’s how it always was. I always felt like an outsider. Like I didn’t belong. Imposter syndrome to the max, turned to 11 and filled with insecurity-boosting reassurances from my past. But I went in the bar anyway, like I had been nearly every week since my first visit a few months before.

It would take me a long time… years even… to realize I was exactly where I needed to be. That I belonged in a sea of punks and rebels, because everything I was doing during those days WAS rebellious for me. At 24 years old I had already lived through more trials than most get in a lifetime. A nightmare childhood, teen pregnancy, the loss of the child, college and the launch of a career, buying my first home, a rushed marriage followed by a surprise divorce only after becoming a mother for a second AND third time, helping to put my own father in prison… Life had been rough, and it wasn’t about to get any easier.

I was still in the heat of the divorce battle, fighting over the house I bought on my own and the kids I was raising alone while trying my hardest to keep up with the career I was quickly climbing the ladder in, so what was I doing staying out all night, hanging in dive bars and carpooling to house shows and parties? I was supposed to be keeping a tight grip on “normalcy”. I was supposed to be playing the part of domestic goddess and homemaker extraordinaire while keeping my nose clean and my behavior perfectly mild while my ex’s attorneys picked apart my every move and my boss watched me like a hawk for the telltale signs of a mental breakdown.

But I mustered every bit of bravery I could that first night, sat my hallmark-country-girl-looking ass at that bar, and ordered a Jack & Coke. I made myself stay even though I was scared, and I kept going back. I put myself in an uncomfortable, uncontrollable situation, and instead of feeling trapped like I usually did, I was free. I was finding out who I was, what environments I was comfortable with, and how I could avoid the life of fear and submission I had been living so far. That is how I became what I would later consider a Rebel Girl.

I didn’t know anything about the Riot Grrrl movement back then… It would actually be years before I even knew who Kathleen Hanna was or had any kind of appreciation for Bikini Kill or the women’s feminist punk movement they spearheaded. What I did know was that I was supposed to be pleasing. I was supposed to take up no space, cause no scenes, be accommodating and apologetic. It’s what I had been taught by the backhand of an abusive father, and by the soul-diminishing treatment of a narcissistic husband. It’s what I learned from television and movies and songs. Say less. Do less. Be less. It made me miserable, and something in me finally snapped that night, sitting at that bar, sipping that Jack & Coke. Somehow in that chaos, I found my voice… and it was LOUD and unapologetic and sassy and challenging and absolutely welcomed.

Through that act of defiant bravery almost 20 years ago… of staying when everything I had been taught told me to go… I found my strength. I found the strength and support and friends and relationships that would get me through the challenges I was facing then, and still carry me through all the hard times while helping me celebrate all the good times today. I found strong female role models who showed me how to use my voice. Eventually either I grew out of the punk bar scene or the punk bars I loved just started closing down and I wasn’t interested in starting all over again somewhere new. I still love to go when the opportunity strikes, but it’s more for nostalgia… and to look back to the modern version of my former scared self and give her a wink and a nod.. tell her she’s doing okay. That she’ll be okay.

I’m 42 now, living on a half acre in the middle of nowhere without a punk bar anywhere in sight. Rebellion these days looks like freelance blogging and rainwater catchment systems. Like raising chickens and teaching people how to cook with cannabis so they can avoid opiates for pain management. It’s making silly tik tok videos about construction and booze and empty nesting. Who knows… maybe I’ll rejoin the corporate world some day, and inserting my hard-earned free spirit into the cubicle farm might be just another way of telling the world to swallow their standards and shove their assumptions where the sun doesn’t shine.

Rebellion takes many forms, and often you don’t consciously realize that you’re in the middle of a rebellion until the dust settles and you realize you’ve won. Sometimes you realize it when you see yourself through the eyes of someone who knew you before and doesn’t recognize you after. Sometimes it’s when your children ask you about how you were at their age and the difference is immeasurable. I believe it’s the work of our 20’s to rebel against everything we were taught as children that doesn’t serve the adult life we want for ourselves, and I am forever grateful that I found a way to do that. I couldn’t imagine where I would be if I had given into fear and refused to rise up and rebel against it so long ago.

Watching: “Redefining Feminism in Punk: Los Angeles‘ (Part of the Dr. Martens Presents music & film series featured in Variety here).

Drinking: Peach Pie cocktails using 2oz Kyodie Peach Whiskey, 1 oz Jack Daniels Fire, and 2oz Apple Cider, shaken with ice and garnished with brown sugar. (All spirits are available at CWSpirits.com – use discount code WHISKEYCHICK5 to save, AND to support my writing).

Listening to: “Water Me Down” by Taylor Austin Dye

The Challenge: Let someone else take photos of you so you can see how you look to the outside world. Whether it’s a professional photographer, a friend, one of your children, a stranger, or a lover. Dress up, dress down, it doesn’t matter… just step away from nitpicking yourself apart and see yourself through the eyes of the people around you. You might be surprised at what they find.

Spread the Word!
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