Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Life in Pink - Part 5

I realize now I also haven’t mentioned to you how important my music was to me in those years. When I could have given in to loneliness and despair, I instead was teaching myself to play the bass guitar on which Karen had never managed to get good enough to get into a band. I spent many a happy hour playing along with my favorite CDs. It really got to be fun when I started getting a sense of how music worked, and was able to start embellishing the bass lines I’d at first had to be content to copy. I bought some CDs I wouldn’t ordinarily have been interested in — by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rush — just to study what their much-praised bass players were doing. I discovered I could sing high harmonies while playing.

I got to high school. So too, thank God, did Pilar and her gang, which several older girls seemed eager to join. It wasn’t Pilar and friends who kept me safe, though, but my membership in the emo band I’d joined in the summer, Naked to the Waste. Theirs might have been the most enthusiastic reaction to my androgyny ever; when I showed up at their rehearsal studio, Terry the guitar player delightedly exclaimed, “Dude!” at the mere sight of me. He and Daedalus (originally Danny), the singer, said not to bother to take my Precision out of its case, my look being so cool that it would hardly matter if I could play at all. As it happened, I was the best player in the band by far, and the band, though popular with neither hip hoppers nor metalheads (who now included both my brothers), was generally regarded as my town’s Great Musical Hope, and treated as celebrities at school.

A couple of kids were trying to form a gay students’ support group, and invited me to be in it. I told them I wasn’t actually gay, but they said they’d be grateful for my support anyway, since everybody assumed I was. I joined with my sister Karen in mind; maybe I could do something to make high school a little less excruciating for the next girl like her. I discovered there were actually quite a few straight kids in it. Demonstrating yourself non-homophobic had come to be seen as a cool, status-enhancing thing to do among a lot of those students who didn’t think gays and lesbians should be burned at the stake.

The Nakeds played a party during Christmas break my freshman year, and I got a lift home from Daedalus, who drove us to a secluded spot and tried to kiss me. When I rebuffed him, he was furious and embarrassed, and said if I told a soul, he knew some dudes who’d delete me, as he put it, for a couple of cases of beer. I’d have told him, sincerely, that I had no intention of telling anybody anyway, but the next thing I knew I was out of the band. The most hurtful part was his telling everybody that it had been I who’d come on to him. People were going to believe what they wanted anyway, so I didn’t bother to set anybody straight. I went through a pretty awful depression, and missed nine days of school.

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