Dear ask a punk,
I am a 12-year old girl living in probably one of America's most conservative areas ever, second to Utah. My question is, how can I get people around here to acept my style, most importantly my teachers and friends? All of my riends hate the music I listen to (lots of older punk like The Ramones, Nirvana, Generation X, etc) so way too often I catch myself getting pulled in to listen to the god-awful music on the pop stations with them. Also, a select few of my teachers treat me unfairly due to how I dress. I constantly find them scowling at whatever I decide to wear to school, whether it's combat boots or just some studded jewelry. One teacher flat out told me that she hated my nose ring. The fact that I'm a straight A student with no discipline records clearly does not make as much difference here as how I dress. Sorry to sound like a ranting little twerp, but I just really need to find some way to get on even ground with my teachers and friends, without changing my style - Loud&Proud
I'm sure a lot of my readers who are no longer 12 year old punks could identify with everything you're going through, including me (although, admittedly I was 16 when I heard my 1st Ramones song.) The bad news is: You're not going to single-handedly change the culture at your school, nor are you going to change the narrow opinion/worldview of some of your teachers.
But it isn't all bad news.
You did say a "select few" of your teachers were coming down on you for your clothing & accessory choices... so obviously some teachers must be more understanding. Focus on those teachers because they see past the nose ring etc, and are likely thrilled to have someone like you in their classes, as a change of pace if for no other reason. I know a lot of school teachers (and was raised by two of them.) After a decade or three of teaching, any teacher will tell you that 85% of the kids' faces blend together into one long, dull smear, but they always remember some standouts, those rare kids with some ideas and the intelligence to express them.
You have the intelligence if you're getting straight A's. -- and I'm glad you included that detail and mention of your clean disciplinary record because I otherwise I would have had to say my usual: "Don't give 'em any legitimate reasons to come down on you..." Clearly, you're way ahead of me on that score. Those Straight A's - and the ones you have to promise you'll continue to rack up all through high school - are the only real way you'll ever have to prove all of them wrong about you. If you keep making honor roll, you can tape a big Anarchy "A" to the top of your graduation hat and let 'em all have it when you give your high school valedictorian speech... then you can skip off to some college and leave all those narrow-minded teachers in your rearview mirror. Trust me: There are few feelings in the world any better than that.
We all know there is nothing worse than parents and other adults telling you that High School has to be "the best time of your life" ... sure, for some it is, but come on, if High School is your "peak" what does that say about the course the rest of your life is going to take? Sixty-plus years that won't be as interesting, enjoyable or life-changing as Algebra 2 or some half-assed Prom? ... wouldn't that be horrible? Of course it would! For most people, High School is something to be endured, and if you're lucky there are at least a couple of good memories and a few things that made it worthwhile or at least tolerable such as: a few, or even ONE teacher who "gets" you, some extracurricular something that you enjoy doing, just a couple of friends who, even if they're not quite on the same wave length are at least accepting and uplifting. ...and most importantly: A decent atmosphere at home. You didn't mention any family issues, so I'm guessing that, aside from the universal pre-teen hassles & issues that we all have/had with parents, you're not living a nightmare at home. I'm sure your folks would probably have preferred that you waited a little longer before getting the nose ring, but obviously they're at least OK with the combat boots. If your folks know that, deep down, you're a good, if slightly different, kid and are at least trying to be OK with it, then you're very lucky. Keep them on your side. I know that isn't always easy.
Really, my best advice is to keep doing what you're doing. Stay brave and true to yourself - but also: be honest about how "out there" you really want to be, and recognize the times when maybe you are just doing (or wearing) something to get a reaction from people. Know the difference, otherwise it can become a "pose." And here is something that even Joey Ramone would agree with: Always remember that being "punk" doesn't have to mean being miserable and antagonistic. It can be fun. Punks are allowed to smile - and laugh. It is easy to forget that when we're in the process of constructing this "me against the world" persona, but it is truth. Joy IS allowed. ...and the bonus is: It reeeeally confuses adults when some kid in full-on punk regalia actually says something thoughtful, intelligent and/or polite.
Keep looking outward. Keep looking forward... and I apologize if this long-winded answer didn't have enough "Give 'em the Boot!" and too much rah-rah parental-sounding peptalk, but hey, I'm probably older than your parents. I'm definitely not telling you to silently tolerate mis-treatment or to let anyone bad mouth you. What I'm really saying is, even though it is very hard to do, try to look at things in a more 'big picture' kind of way. If your math teacher gives you and your combat boots the stink-eye every day, guess what? In a few months you'll be finished with his class (a class he'll have to give you an "A" in because you crushed every test) and with any luck, you'll never have to speak to him again. You'll move on with your life and next year he'll have to find some other girl to disapprove of. Pretty sad, huh? So sad that it is tough to be angry with such a sad person. That's what I'm saying: You're not going to change him, all you can do is: a) ignore him and his opinions and b) prove everything he thinks he knows about "your type" wrong by acing his whole class.
And finally, I'm begging you: Stay smart too, please. The world needs more smart, no-guff-taking grrrls! Nothing is sadder than seeing an outspoken, brave, smart girl turn into something completely different right around 13 or 14 and then never getting back that spirit.
,,,and when all else fails, blast some Ramones. In seconds you'll forget every stink-eye and every scowl. They'll never know what they're missing. Good luck.
Gabba Gabba Hey!
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