It was also the summer I discovered Lou Reed’s Take a Walk on the Wild Side. I heard this song on the radio this past weekend and a memory came flooding back to me. It’s a seemingly simple snapshot in time, but a profound and important one for me. I remembered a summer evening, sitting on my parents white, wrap-around veranda - a veranda that hugged our blue gingerbread house, a house that everyone in town knew. It had just rained, and the heat and humidity from the day had been lifted ever so slightly. My parents had an abundance of lilacs around their property and the air was fragrant with them. I was sitting there waiting for my boyfriend to come by and visit, a preppie, clean cut guy, and so memorable I can’t even remember his name now. Everything and everyone was walking distance in my town, and I was looking for him to come over the bridge. I had my walkman on – a clunker of a thing (I always received my brothers’ hand-me downs, he must have upgraded and passed this early model on to me). I had a mixed tape in there, and I was listening to Take a Walk on the Wild Side over and over again (rewind, rewind, rewind). Of course I had heard this song this song before, but I had never really listened to it. Oh the details! I was wearing cropped black esprit pants (I hadn’t started shaving my legs yet and was shy about the blonde hair on them), black oxford shoes, a white T-shirt with an image of a pouting, cigarette smoking James Dean on it. My head was constantly cocked to the side at this point as I had just had my hair cut into a Belinda Carlisle-esque style where one side was cropped shorter than the other, forcing me to hold my head at a constant angle (if you are from the 80’s you know what I’m talking about). My hair was also streaked with blond due to frequent squirts from a Sun-In bottle and my arms were brown with summer, the hair on them bleached white.
I remember in that particular moment feeling really, really pretty. I wish I could say that this was at the very least a rare occurrence for me, but it wasn’t even that. I never felt pretty. I think I popped out of my mother's womb feeling inferior in that department, and in subsequent years, was constantly trying to keep up with and emulate the prettier, popular girls at school, but never succeeding and constantly feeling down on myself. But in that moment, listening to Lou Reed over and over again, taking chances with a new hair cut and what I thought at the time was a cutting edge t-shirt, I remember being excited that I felt pretty, and even a little bit confident. Listening to the lyrics of the song with all of its references to people who are different, wanting to escape, escaping, I felt that song talking to me. It was a moment of fuck it for me, fuck status quo, fuck constantly trying to get with the popular crowd, fuck trying to climb the social ladder, fuck it all. It was the summer between Grade 8 and Grade 9, and I saw my chance to reinvent myself at high school, align myself with new people and new interests. I broke up with my bland boyfriend shortly after that night, and started the journey of reinvention.
Now I’m the first one to admit that I didn’t necessarily make the smartest choices in this transition (a smoking addiction for example, and skewed ideas of what was cool), but that one song, that summer’s eve, changed everything for me and started me on the road of making me who I am today. Oh, and I like myself today, so that is a good thing.