Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rough around the edges

I was letting my mind wander yesterday as I am want to do and a little question popped into my head: "Where have all the freaks gone?" Now, that was the question but I should explain the context. I have been thinking about youth and the roles we play while groping our way, sometimes literally, towards adulthood. How we find our little slot, our niche and stick to it ferociously as if the world is spinning so fast, if we aren't firmly attached to our identity, we might just fly off it.

I was a Goth. No really, I was. I gave my personality over to a very romantic darkness, one that had absolutely nothing to do with anything sinister. No, I would read Byron and Yeats and Shelley and wonder why I couldn't be a vampire with eternal life to roam the planet endlessly through the night. That sort of thing. And I dressed the part. Ripped stockings, black satin Victorian jackets. A lace veil that when I would wear over my face would frighten away even solid New Yorkers. Silver rings on each pale finger, many of them in the form of skulls. A bright red slash across my lips and kohl-lined eyes in homage to Louise Brooks. Only my hair, a brighter red than its current shade, remained untainted in accordance to a promise that I had made to my Mom. But I would shave it or push it up, pull it down over one eye, brush it into a Marie Antoinette and powder it white. What fun I would have. Dressing up in a vintage three-piece from Saville Row, with high heels, an elaborately carved cane bought in Cairo and a leather top hat placed just so. I turned some heads.

What was this imperious need within me to express...something like a scream of life? Something huger than human, more than "I exist!" because at that age, our skin crawls with the knowledge of being. True, I was most certainly an outsider and so not "normal" but wasn't it something we all felt each in our own way? The epic surge of an athlete, the proud swanning of the beauty across the cafeteria? There is something desperate about it, the extremes of youth. 

And so where have all the freaks gone? What happens afterwards? For me, the transition was fairly natural. As I began acting, I had a more solid outlet to express those large feelings and needed to be more flexible in my appearance professionally. It just sort of fell away, was already nearly gone in the photo below. But I wonder sometimes about someone like the wraith-like Todd Ballantyne, who was so admired and feared with his hair over-dyed and over-sprayed until it seemed like it would break off at the points. What did adulthood make of him? How did normality over-take him? Or did it? Is it just the weight of our existence, the everyday bumps and bruises that eventually makes us smaller? That smoothes down the edges.

There is nothing today that would give the slightest hint to my former appearance. Save perhaps a proclivity towards wearing black. 

*Now that I think of it, that question was not random at all. I have been listening to the song "Video Games" by Lana Del Rey for the past few days now. It is someone else's youth, certainly but also speaks to me of how we mythologize it, even while in the midst of it. 


  1. I think the answer is age... sad to say! xv

  2. Vicki is right. Age smoothes things out. But some of us still hang on to the "freak" stage, and revert to it, once in a while. I guess we like to feel different, still, after all these years. There is so much conformity - normality - everywhere. It's all so... politically correct. ;-) Here in my little corner of American suburbia, I am fortunate to have a group of great, fun-loving friends - I blogged about them a few weeks ago - we get together, we dress up, we act crazy; not too crazy-- we are getting older after all ;-) People smile (or frown) when we mention Harry Potter, Pirates or vampires. This is not how grown ups act, after all. Who cares? Your old Goth self would be right at home, here, in our little inclusive little group. Lovely picture of you, by the way. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  3. Probably the happiest period in life most frequently is in middle age, when the eager passions of youth are cooled, and the infirmities of age not yet begun; as we see that the shadows, which are at morning and evening so large, almost entirely disappear at midday.

    Eleanor Roosevelt

    Love the pictures of my beautiful sister, who is beautiful at EVERY age.

  4. Vicki, I agree and yet not entirely. Perhaps I wasn't clear in that I was writing not only about personal expression but also a largesse d'esprit. You for example, seem to only be more and more creative!

    Vero, that is what I love about the West Coast and especially your neck of the woods--it is perfectly ok to let your freak flag fly now and again!

    Robin, that quote is spine-tinglingly brilliant. And thank you for the compliment, right back at you!

  5. Goth? Really? I would have never in a million years guessed. I didn't go through any outward changes in appearance mine was all on the inside. Thinking I needed to prove myself and being tough but age has calmed those insecurities and brought out the softer/mush side of me. Actually I'm turning out to be very goofy with age, go figure.

    Loved this post!

  6. And I loved your response, Debra. It is the inside that interests me. And hooray for letting go of that hard stuff. Although having Goldens certainly helps in the goofy department, non? :)

  7. Great post as usual. I can't picture you goth...and yet I can. Love the curly hair!

  8. I always enjoy reading your blog. Thank you so much for sharing. Wondering where all the freaks are? I live in Southern California. They're all here and the "normal" folks shudder in embarrassment at our reputation around the rest of the U.S.

  9. Julie, normally my hair is more curly than not--I admit it! I did a "brushing" to try and look posh!

    Anonymous, yes, its true in So Cal there are wackos by the dozen (I have lived in both north and south Cali) but they inspire lots of us! I think about "Stan" in San Diego who had such popularity parading in his themed outfits with his ahem, revealing bikini that he was able to do a calendar to raise a lot of money for charity. Not bad when you think about it!

  10. Well I think Vicki is half right in her answer, and your sister is spot on.

    Yes, I agree it is age, but I wildly disagree that that is a sad thing. It's a great thing - the most wonderful excitement of life is that it keeps getting better and better, as we first discover who we really are, and then learn to get comfortable with that notion. Would you want to go back, if a time machine were possible, and relive this part of your life? Without the knowledge and wisdom (and beauty, I may add) you have now gained? I wouldn't want to go back to the insecurity of my own youth - eeks!

    On a side note, there do seem to be less "freaks" about amongst the young, though. But then I am quite in awe of this young generation. They seem to have their feet on the ground, while still having dreams in their eyes. What a wonderful combination. And something for us "oldies" to learn from!

    Lastly, that photo is hauntingly beautiful. What a pre-Raphaelite you were/are! Virginia xx

  11. Oh Virginia, my wise friend. But I am not sad, just thinking, thinking. My Sister actually asked me the same question when we talked on the phone yesterday. And no, I wouldn't want to relive it but I would be happy to visit. I do miss the odd glamour of fearlessness--in that way I actually was more secure in myself then than I am now. I have given so much thought to who I am, once stripped down of personality this year. Still getting comfortable with that, perhaps!

    And the photo was taken by Karen, a dear friend at the time. She shot me quite a bit in those days and went on to be a fashion photographer. Thank you for the kind compliment!

  12. What a stunning beauty.....your face is telling an interesting story.
    I feel that as we get older and our world expands, our battle-lines change and can multiple if we don't selectively choose to ignore some. I omitted the rebellious or freak phases during my period of metamorphosis into adulthood. In a way it is a shame because, as a result I never followed my passions and consequently felt like a square peg in a round hole for many years! Warm wishes.

  13. I hope you no longer feel that way Elizabeth--I have so enjoyed getting to know your wonderful personality and fantastic perspective! Well-said about the battle lines--I need to reflect upon that!!

  14. At the heart of most Goths is enormous feelings, sentiment and kindness, belied by the manner of dress. My daughter went through this phase, dressing in all black, and inside she was incredibly sweet, innocent, shy and kind. Kids left her alone, and ones who knew her understood it was a way to ward off bullying due to being 'the new kid.' I allowed her to do this, as I knew exactly what she was doing, and trusted she would find out that no matter what she wore, it was the love of a parent, trust in God, that would carry her through. Which, it did, and from this, I learned not to judge outward so quickly.

    Beautiful blog, Heather, and found you today via Christina's gorgeous, "Greige", a daily read for me.


  15. Thank you so much for the compliment, Margaret. I am so happy that Christina has sent such kind folks my way!

    I really agree with you on this. My Mom's belief in me actually gave me more in the long term than my self-expression did. She stood by me even when I was publicly ridiculed and that is something that I could never forget.

    Have a great weekend!


Your responses are what makes this blog so special to me. I love hearing from you. Thank you for visiting!

* Comments left on posts two days after publication or more will be published after moderation. So not to worry, they will arrive and again, I appreciate them all so very much...Merci! *

If you prefer, feel free to email me directly at robinsonheather (at)