Is it too late to pick a different subculture to base my life on?

November 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

The fun part of being a teenager and picking a youth subculture whose rallying cry is “Live Fast, Die Young” is how, for the most part, we get old and then we have to figure out what the hell to do. Do we keep spiking our hair and drinking 40s? Do we get real jobs and health insurance and hide our tattoos under button-up shirts?

I just watched The Other F Word, a Morgan Spurlock-produced documentary about punks from bands like Pennywise and Blink 182 who have families now. You need to see it. How does an anti-authoritarian punk age gracefully and support a family and raise kids well? By selling the fuck out and not partying anymore, basically. The documentary shows dudes from several bands, but mostly follows the course of Pennywise’s old lead singer Jim Lindberg as we see all the time spent touring starting to wear on him and his family.

I had a ton of reactions to The Other F Word. Firstly, that I have quite a few years before drinking shitty beer and dancing to loud bands will get unseemly, I hope, but figuring out how to age gracefully and keep doing what I love weighs heavy on me: especially as a woman, which is the one thing I wish Other F Word addressed. None of the punk moms are interviewed, and they’re deserving of their own documentary. Being a punk rocker and possessing of a vagina can be really complicated, let alone bringing motherhood into the mix.

Secondly, the documentary confirms that cool people can be good parents, but they 100 percent will turn into lame old people anyway. At one point, Flea’s daughter says her dad scared teachers when he visited her school, and right then I remembered how godawful embarrassed I was in junior high when my dad pulled up on his Harley to pick me up. I recognized my mom and dad in a lot of the people in Other F Word, since my folks are bikers and have always taught me to question authority (except for theirs.) Like a lot of punks, my parents partied hard but eventually gave it up to settle down, only occasionally hauling out the leathers and firing up the bike for the Sturgis rally. When I started wearing black t-shirts and getting into punk rock as a kid, they were pretty cool with it. Just not with the tattoos and the partying, even though those things are huge parts of biker culture, because I am their little girl.

There’s so many inherent contradictions like that in being a punk and raising kids– in Other F Word, we see Tim McIlrath of Rise Against and Mark Hoppus from Blink 182 talking about how they’re trying to keep their kids from swearing, which is hilarious if you know any of those band’s songs. Something about parenting makes people so conservative suddenly. I’m guilty of it, too: I go out and do ridiculous things, and then I get so worried about my brother and sister. One Sunday I was at Fest, drinking and carousing with fellas in manners we needn’t describe here, the next Sunday I was making dinner for my siblings and fretting over the dudes my sister hangs out with.

We all have ironies like that, but parenthood highlights them like none other. Just look at the cover of Other F Word, with Lars Frederiksen’s leopard-print-dyed head next to that of his little boy’s. There’s a great moment when he says, “Wait, should I really have gotten this tattoo on my forehead?” He goes on to say that he doesn’t really regret it, though, and he wants his kid to learn not to judge people by what they look like. It’ll be interesting to see how that kid grows up.

It’s not a perfect documentary– it devotes more time than necessary telling glory days stories and bemoaning the current state of the music industry– but it’s still fascinating. One of the best scenes is Lindberg going through paperwork, talking about how he needs to have health insurance and take care of his family, while the camera zooms in on his coffee mug embossed with the anarchy symbol. “I Was a Teenage Anarchist” indeed. By the end, we see how Lindberg resolves his conflict. The viewer is left to figure out their own.

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