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The girl inside

Posted in Life & Love, and Women's issues

Leaves Eddie

My stepchildren, when they were much younger, used to tell me I was weird and yes, I did not fit the mold of the suburban mothers they were surrounded by: I did not drive a minivan, I cursed every school sale that filled our house with more gift wrapping paper we could possibly need, and my healthy after practice juices and snacks were gloriously vilified. Under that perceived weirdness, I came to realize they were rather proud of having an eccentric “mother” who made mac and cheese from scratch, who insisted on working outside the house and whose wardrobe was pretty cool.

I never fit any mold much – I wasn’t exactly nerdy and always had a lot of friends but my clothes tended to look different, there were activities I would do own and my idea of a vacation was spending weeks in London going to rock shows. Anyone in my generation can claim music influenced them when they were young: we grew up with rock and roll, progressive rock, punk, new wave or whatever else captured our imagination and our sense of rebellion. Music was (and maybe still is) an outlet for every teenager’s imagination and dreams, for angst and rebellion.

Then we grow up and it all fades away. We start to conform. Mostly. In my case, my love for music led to a career in the business of music that, for better or worse, shaped me into the adult I am today, besides making me a pretty cool stepmother (even if still wicked at times).

I bought Patti Smith’s “Horses” 40 years ago, when it was released, probably because I had read a review in my favorite fanzine. At 13, my English was still far from perfect, and I probably didn’t have a clue what Patti Smith was singing about, but I immediately responded to her energy, her hypnotic delivery, her rawness, and it didn’t matter if I wasn’t quite sure what her words meant: her energy mirrored mine, her raw feelings were my raw feelings. I became a fan for life, an admiration that deepened even more when I read “Just Kids”, her coming of age autobiography and an account of her lifelong relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Patti Smith is the rare artist whose talent reaches across different media: poetry, music and now non-fiction writing.

Patti_Smith_Horsessofagirl and I had the gigantic privilege of being invited to Patti Smith’s concert marking the 40th anniversary of the release of “Horses”, at the Beacon Theatre in New York. Neither of us gets excited around music anymore and we avoid concerts like the plague, probably because we were spoiled for the longest time by either donning all access passes or being given free tickets as part of our jobs. But we were both happily dancing in our knickers at the thought of seeing Patti Smith live. We even ventured outside in the rain, on foot, to get to the theatre (how did we ever live in London? or did we develop an aversion to the rain precisely because we lived in London?). We couldn’t think of ending our vacation on a more perfect note.

Patti Smith is 68 years old. Not that you could ever tell: her body is as androgynous and petite as it was 40 years ago; her sense of style hasn’t changed, and, though probably mediated by experience and life lived, her mission, her rage and her spirit are wholly undiminished. We both stood transfixed and in awe: this woman, whose voice is still powerful and who can dance for two hours with no sign of tiredness (let alone arthritis), embodied the spirit of an audience who set out with her same spirit of rebellion, the same desire to change the world and then….grew up and conformed. Only, she didn’t conform. And if she has become an icon of sorts it is probably because she always stood apart.

At the end of what sofagirl described as a cathartic experience, I felt shame in my having embraced some of the conformity I resisted for so long. And I am not referring to the twin-set and pearl society I always knew I would never belong to: canasta afternoons, cruises and sensible shoes were never in my cards – but my passion, my commitment towards change, even my core beliefs that, if they haven’t actually changed, I am sometime too lazy or too preoccupied to properly fight for. Sometimes, conforming is easier.

“Horses was written 40 years ago, in New York City, by a young girl who still lives in my heart” said Patti Smith at the end of the concert.
My young girl, the one that was sometimes difficult to live with and who would refuse to conform with the world she knew, is too frequently forgotten now. Yet, she still resides in me and I would do well to listen to her voice more often than not.

Autumn leaves photo courtesy of Eddie Clarke

 

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15 Comments

  1. silvia
    silvia

    That girl baby is always there and pushes you to jump over the next obstacle every day. She’s so intrinsically linked to your SELF that you simply forget about her. I talk to her very often.

    November 20, 2015
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      You bring her out.

      November 21, 2015
      |Reply
  2. In 1961, I saw a picture in Vogue magazine of a couple of models with light blue and light pink hair. So … I had my very dark brown hair bleached out and dyed pink, whereupon I made my grand entrance at my senior prom wearing a black cocktail dress. All the other girls were in yellow, white and other various pastel shades of flowing, fluffy gowns. It wasn’t until I was in my 60s that I realized that back then, I was definitely “out there”. Ninety percent of the comments in my yearbook referred to my hair at the prom. I ask, “Where has that girl gone?” Just yesterday, I mentioned that when I was 68 or 69, I would never been seen in the sensible sandals I was wearing for walking. But now that I’m in my 70s, I guess I gave up on that bit of pride. 🙂

    November 16, 2015
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I imagine my 70s to be the time to be who the damn I choose to be! Keep the sandals.

      November 17, 2015
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  3. When I moved to this town in which I now live, which might as well have been Mars to me, I was discriminated against, as well as my children, because I didn’t go to church, refused an invitation to join Junior Welfare, wore flip flops and cooked healthy food. I didn’t conform ever, to anything or for anyone, even if my own family thought I was “different” at times. Probably most people still think Im odd – i’ve been told I’m going to hell because Im not a presbyterian – was over the 26 years I think some people finally figured out that being a good person, a friend with integrity, being an involved parent, was maybe more important than what we did on sunday morning, and my hatred of socks.

    November 13, 2015
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Good for you. I never gave much of a hoot what anyone else thought, even if I have to admit that the two years spent in the ‘burbs of San Diego were painful: I was such a fish out of water. I could have been a white elephant I stood out so much. But I do feel that, at times, I play too much by the rules, simply because it’s easier, I suppose. Hard core God-fearing people always amaze me for their righteousness, as if one can possess a moral compass only within the framework of organized religion. I admire you for sticking to your guns. I might have relocated.

      November 13, 2015
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      True. I made the promise not to forget.

      November 13, 2015
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  4. I didn’t hear Patti Smith until I was a drama student and our dance lecturer would choreograph to her music. I remember “Horses” so well – what wonderful music to unleash yourself and dance to with wild abandon! The New Zealand movie “In My Father’s Den” brought the music of this album back to me in 2005, and I bought the double CD that was released for the 30th anniversary, which includes the original, and her 2005 concert in London. Fantastic stuff!

    November 12, 2015
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      It brought back a lot of memories when I heard the music again!

      November 13, 2015
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  5. You know I could easily see that young girl in the woman I met last week. Just saying. She’s not too hidden away.

    November 12, 2015
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      That is so sweet of you to say. It was really wonderful to meet you and see that you are exactly how I imagined you.

      November 13, 2015
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      • Likewise! Come back any time and next time no vegan! Hope the rest of your stay was wonderful and you are reenergized for going back.

        November 13, 2015
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  6. I have her autobiography sitting on my bookshelf. Now I want to read it even more! I love facilitating a book club, but I have less time to read what I truly desire. Too many books, too little time. Oh, must run, just got another Amazon delivery!

    November 12, 2015
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      And she has a new book out I am going to download – apparently it is also excellent.

      November 13, 2015
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