“You’re doing it wrong!”
Clearly, the 15 year-old in me wants to kick my ass. I stopped listening to her years ago, but every so often she rears her little Sun-Inned head to scoff at what I choose to indulge, or eschew, now.
This is, of course, the same “me” who was arrested in high school. I’d like to say it wasn’t my proudest moment, but let’s face it: a police escort at 15 gives a suburban chick an edge in certain circles.
I fancied my own edge like my denim jacket: frayed, undeniably cool and something of a badge of honor, and I wore both with equal pride. My jacket, which was covered in autographs from the rock stars I loved, I could pull off. The edge? Not so much.
For starters, I wasn’t so much arrested as I was detained. And it certainly wasn’t for anything as “cool” as smoking in the park after curfew (I tried – and had an asthma attack) or defacing school property (I tried – and broke the tip off my only pencil).
My grasp on anything cool was shaky at best, which made being a freshman only slightly better being a captive at a North Korean detention camp. And if you went to my high school, the distinction between the two is a fuzzy line.
Most of my early rebellion was culled by watching my friends, who probably didn’t know any better than I did, but lacked my reserve. They’d all learned to ditch class by their second week of school, and by the end of the first semester had detailed routes to make it to Garden Market, the local between/after class hangout for the cool, without being caught by the resident school narcs.
I envied their daring but hesitated to follow suit. Consequences were important to me even then, and I had to find the right motivation before I’d commit a teen crime.
That motivation came in the form of music, or, more specifically, musicians. I was very new to the music scene then, and hadn’t yet developed my knack for conning my way onto a tour bus under the guise of journalism. Instead, I relied on meet & greets to accost my favorite stars with teddy bears and teen adoration, and when I learned that a band I worshipped would be signing autographs at a local record store one afternoon, I had just the incentive I needed to launch my life of cool crime. I quickly made a plan to skip sixth and seventh periods and walk to the store.
Leaving the school grounds was easier than I thought, which made the upset stomach I’d been suffering from all day seem all the more embarrassing. My anxiety often took physical tolls on me, usually in the form of a hot blush or nervous cuticle picking. That day it spiked to all new highs, and I probably could have had the nurse send me home legitimately had I not been so determined to see my delinquency through.
I covertly dashed through a side door and through the back alley to Garden Market. Rather than take the obvious direct route to the record store, which would have had me walking down a main thoroughfare, exposed and likely emitting a neon glow that screamed “Truant!” I decided to cut through the park and take side streets.
The park, of course, was a haven for delinquents. They’d camp out on benches smoking and sneering at children on the playground, and would eventually head to darkened woods to make out. Needless to say, the park was routinely patrolled by local police.
None of this occurred to me as I giddily danced my way through the woods and onto the park’s sidewalk. I was confident I was in the clear, and instead fantasized that the lead singer of the band I was about to meet would ask me to coffee to talk about poetry. (Yes, there may have been a picture of a unicorn hanging in my locker, if that’s any indication of my naïveté at the time.)
“You there! I need to see your ID now!”
The loud voice jarred me out of my fantasy and sent me into instant panic mode. An actual police officer was standing behind me and he definitely didn’t resemble the last officer I could recall seeing in person, that being the “stranger danger” policeman who spoke to my kindergarten class.
My school ID was back in my locker, along with my senses and the bottle of Tums I desperately needed. I lied and told the officer that I had been legitimately excused for a doctor appointment. The feeble excuse carried no weight, and I was promptly deposited in the back of his police car while he radioed the school admin office.
The back “seat” of the car was hard molded plastic and murder on my bony freshman butt. Murder was the first thing on my mind then – it was what I assumed my parents would do when they learned of my arrest, and what I planned to do to my school-ditching friends who neglected to warn me about the truant sting set up in the park.
The officer started the car, and rather than taking me to a police station or home, drove me back to school. There, he released me from the car, grabbed my upper arm as though I was anyone other than a very lame girl in over her head in the cool pool, and escorted me through the school and to the admin office.
Classes were letting out right then, making my police escort a public display. Eyes widened as my classmates saw The Law dragging me through the hall, and rumors quickly spread about what I could possibly have done.
Vandalism was the biggest rumor, accompanied by vague whispers of drug sales and fights. Wisely, I kept my mouth shut about the truth and accepted my subsequent detention like a pro.
I’ve since ceased caring about cool while simultaneously growing more adept at ditching. Of course, it’s now called “blowing off work,” and it’s what I was doing the other night when 15 year-old me felt the need to chime in.
I was standing on the VIP deck at what was once called World Music Theatre and is now named after some random bank. More than 40,000 people stared back at me – the most I’ve seen at this outdoor theatre since the 80s. The only thing separating me from the main stage was a railing, and for all practical purposes, the night was perfect … despite the fact that I was at a country concert.
My former self whined in my ear, annoyed because my guy and I had, just a few weeks before, turned down the opportunity to hang out with the same band I had been “arrested” for skipping class to see. I had stopped caring about that band long ago when their music ceased being good, not that 15 year-old me cared. A country concert? Where is the cool in that?
Priorities change with age – as does the definition of cool. I’ve managed to figure them both out finally, and while the concert may not have been rock n’ roll enough for me at 15, it most definitely rocked for me now.
And now, a few summer pics: