The very first time I was called “vulgar” was when I was 5 years old and wouldn’t stop making crude drawings of butts pooping into toilets as well as piles of poop complete with flies and steam. Imagine a rounded uppercase W and fluffy round clouds coming from the butt falling into an oval hole with a throne. Being vulgar as a little girl wasn’t the kind of trait adults wanted to see. No matter how hard they tried, it never ended. What made it even worse (I think this made it better but worse in the adults’ eyes) was how my best friend, Alecia, from the first day of kindergarten, had the exact same sense of humor as I had. She, too, loved drawing butts, poop, fart clouds, and other funny bodily functions. She and I were inseparable even when she had to switch elementary schools.
Summer of 1999, I was over at her house watching tv in the living room — her family had cable tv and we didn’t. 12 year old us turned the channel to MTV (you know, back when they used to play music videos) like we usually did on the weekends and while I was looking away I heard that sparkling arpeggiated guitar of the now very identifiable song, “What’s My Age Again?” by Blink-182. I looked up just in time to see the camera zoom out showing these grown, tattooed men, running butt ass naked through L.A. Not just on the streets, they went through a TV station, talk shows, a basketball game where Mark steals the ball, a neighborhood, a cheesy GAP commercial, and that all-white studio with their instruments barely covering their man bits. As a 12.5-year-old girl, I finally identified with who I saw on TV and listened to. Read that again. It took until I was almost 13 years old to identify with anyone and who I identified with first was a trio of punk, skinny, tattooed dudes, living out my vulgar potty humor dreams. I got witnessed by Blink-182 and two and a half minutes later I was a believer.
On our next designated mall trip, either my mom or Alecia’s mom took us to the mall to purchase Enema Of The State and Lit’s A Place In The Sun. Luckily, none of our parents cared about the parental advisory stickers otherwise we would have been shit out of luck, stuck with the edited version from Wal-Mart. We knew better than to repeat curse words for fear of repercussions. Sans adults, we were a pair of sailors with mouths worthy of being washed out with soap. If I didn’t have to copious amounts of writing for school, I think it would be impossible for me to even write without cursing. Hanging with me shall require you to be prepared for hearing almost every use of the word “fuck” and a lot of “daaaaammmnn iiittt!!”. No jokes or curse words are off-limits. You’ve been officially warned.
Blink-182 started a weird kind of liberation, but it was the beginning of feeling liberated overall. The social constructs put forth for girls and women did nothing for me. I didn’t want to hear I was “cute” or “pretty”, I refused to wear pink, didn’t have a bunch of sad love songs by women about men who got away or did them wrong, I didn’t care what people thought of me, and I was unapologetic as I could be.
“Adam’s Song” was the first song I’d heard that I related to in a deeper sense than just poop and penises. From a very young age, I felt the weight of everything and knew it was too much to cope with. I had my escape methods but you can only spend so much time alone in your room blaring the most angsty music available to you. The lines, “I couldn’t wait till I got home, To pass the time in my room alone” struck me immediately. Mark was the main composer of Adam’s Song, writing that line to describe how lonely he felt on tour. I read an article where Mark was quoted saying he was concerned he would appear ungrateful for writing such a depressing song after a successful tour and album. When you’re a kid the world expects you to be worry-free, happy, and grateful for the life you’ve been given. Society doesn’t acknowledge that even children can be depressed, so a lot of what I was going through went unchecked. I knew I had a good life, and had what I needed. Being depressed made no sense to me or my adult counterparts.
“I never conquered, rarely came, Sixteen just held such better days, Days when I still felt alive”
I got yelled at constantly for “looking sad”, for the little things I did by accident, for listening to my parents argue, for being hard to deal with emotionally. Those feelings sank into the core of my being, clinging tightly to my heart, constricting it, learning to hold it all in, killing me slowly while keeping me on the brink of being dead inside. “Tomorrow holds such better days, Days when I can still feel alive, When I can’t wait to get outside” gave me hope. Even Mark fucking Hoppus saw there was a light at the end of the tunnel, holding out hope things will get better and it made me want to live. “Adam’s Song” taught me what I felt wasn’t as abnormal as I thought. I was less alone.
The video for “All The Small Things’’ was the first video making fun of boy bands I’d seen. Just in time for the timely death of my short-lived love for boy bands. I didn’t need some stupid love songs calling me “baby” asking to be forgiven for infidelity and reducing women to objects dying to get with a pretty boy who couldn’t sing his way out of a paper bag if he had to sing without the other boys. I identified with the dudes who make fun of those boys. While I’m against telling men they’re inferior for being like girls, I had no problem calling a dude a “pussy” waiting for the shock on his face hearing a girl call him a “pussy”. You have no idea how amazing it felt to finally have an insult for the boys who picked on me for being me. I’d exceeded the limit of fucks I gave about being your normal little girl interacting with boys and men. I even did my own paraody of “All The Small Things” for Halloween 2020. As seen below.
Logging on to AOL eventually meant entering the Blink-182 fan chat rooms hoping username TravIsBarker1 was actually Travis Barker, meeting other fans, and expanding my love for Blink. While they were recording Take Off Your Pants and Jacket there was a 24–7 live stream of their studio AND I ONLY SAW THEM TWICE THE WHOLE TIME. I ran a Blink-182 fan page on Geocities I built from scratch with HTML complete with lyrics and their meanings, photos, news, and whatever else I could think of. If I ever received a chain letter I replied and sent out my own chain letter of Blink lyrics. I loved doing nonsensical things just to laugh at myself. One more thing logging onto AOL meant: I found every possible thing about them I could, including their older albums. It was a mindset (belief?) that an artist’s previous albums weren’t as good as the new one you’re familiar with. Becoming one with their older albums Dude Ranch, Cheshire Cat, and Buddha introduced me to hearing the evolution of a band. “M+ M’s” was the first song that stuck out to me. Their sound I was familiar with was there, but it was as if I was present during the Big Bang. Mind = blown. It was so messy and so raw. Listening to it now brings this dizzying rush of my 8th-grade year, the year I grew up way too early. Yet, it encompasses all the good things about my 8th-grade year including all the time I spent with Alecia. Those were still the days of putting an album on and hanging out just to listen to it.
Take Off Your Pants and Jacket spoke to me simply through the name. I had to say it out loud a few times to get it. In my defense, I was used to hearing “jack off” not “jack it”. The hymnal of entering my freshman year in high school was that album. Every last song. If I tried to sit here and go into each song we’d be here forever. “Anthem Part Two”, the opening song, was the anthem of my life navigating through what I was and wasn’t allowed to do according to adults. It was a song that brought music, and the words I couldn’t ever find, when I was being told I was a fuck up.
“Corporate leaders, politicians
Kids can’t vote, adults elect them
Laws that rule the school and workplace
Signs that caution sixteen’s unsafe
We really need to see this through
We never wanted to be abused
We’ll never give up, it’s no use
If we’re fucked up, you’re to blame”
“The Rock Show”, “Shut up”, “Rollercoaster”, “First Date”, “Give Me One Good Reason” were the other songs embodying my youth. Okay, let me take that back! All of the songs from Take Off Your Pants and Jacket embodied my youth. With that album their sound had not just evolved, it matured, during the same time I was evolving and maturing. “Stay Together For The Kids” was their second “serious” song and the second song that I felt in my core. My parents argued loudly, sometimes for an entire day and resulted in my dad running off for days not telling anyone where he was, or my mom taking us away in the early morning before my dad woke up. “It’s hard to wake up, When the shades have been pulled shut, This house is haunted, It’s so pathetic, It makes no sense at all”. I wanted them to pretend to have their shit together and let loose when we weren’t around. Then sometimes I’d wish they would break up so all the fighting would stop. No matter how old you are you’ll remember the screaming, the holes punched in the drywall, doors ripped off their hinges, hysterical crying, and the words that cut like a knife.
Their self-titled album that came out in 2003 was yet another album that shaped me during my junior year of high school. At first, I didn’t appreciate the darkness of it, the departure of silly songs, and the true depth they had conjured within those songs. It was their first autumn release of an album and you could truly get that autumn sensation of change, darkness, longing, and the temperature dropping from summer into fall. Apparently, it came out in the fall because they took longer than usual to complete it due to constantly changing their sound and lyrics. I think it paid off. Right after I purchased their self-titled album I went on a bus trip to D.C. with my yearbook class and the newspaper class and I remember listening to the song “Go” and nearly breaking my neck. I was rocking out so hard. When I think back on that it gives me that cringe chill but whatever. I was unapologetic to the core and once again, I had no fucks to give. “Feeling This” was added to the list of anthem songs and now, 18 years later, it’s still an anthem. Little did I know that 16 years later, in 2019, the song “Always” would take on incredible meaning. Before a friend of mine took her own life, one of the last things she had posted was the music video for “Always”. I loved the kind of person she was. “I’ve been here before a few times, And I’m quite aware we’re dying, And your hands they shake with goodbyes” “And I’ll miss your laugh, your smile”. She had contagious laughter and a smile that would light up a dark room. But I knew, beneath her exterior, she was in physical and emotional pain. The signs were there. Yet, they were signs no one could do anything about. She deserved peace and a pain-free life, I just wish she could have found that in the physical world. How a simple song from your youth becomes so much more is humbling. I’m that much more grateful to the band that helped shape me, and brought meaning to my life many years later.
A welcome side-effect of loving Blink was diving into punk rock. My copy of The Urethra Chronicles was nearly worn out to the point of being unplayable. They were interviewed asking what their favorite/influential bands were. Travis’s answers lead me down the rabbit hole. From pop-punk to hardcore punk I was all in, no questions, this is who I am now, I’ll never wear color again, fuck authority, wallet chains with no wallet, and an attitude of “I dare you to fuck with me”. Hardcore punk, pre-pop punk, was always fast-paced music that sounded like a cacophony of organized chaos. You couldn’t put punks into a category because it was more than just about the music; punk was about the attitude. I was made fun of by skate punks for listening to Blink-182 and calling them punk, but it didn’t matter. Mark, Tom, and Travis were prime examples of punk being an attitude and mindset.
During times I felt alone and misunderstood, those guys were my best friends. They just didn’t know it. The posters in my room created a feeling of being surrounded by friends. If I needed a pick-me-up I went straight to all of my favorite Blink songs.
They gave me the ability and balls to be honest, outspoken, and vocal. By being themselves I saw how I could remain myself as long as I remained true.