It comes through the speakers on my way into town: teenage surfer pop punk, my top secret musical guilty pleasure. No one knows I listen to this kind of music because it’s embarrassing. Its what played in my brain in adolescence and young adulthood. Its playing now, as my music is on shuffle and immediately I am singing out loud and have goosebumps and am feeling betrayed by the fact that I am driving a minivan. With my windows up, I look like a middle-aged soccer mom and suddenly I’m so mad about it. Maybe its longing for the innocence of that time, for the experience of falling in love for the first time and having my heart broken. But I suspect it’s because I am still that girl and no one gets to see her anymore.
I recently saw a post by Mariah Carey (odd because I do not have mainstream social media and because I haven’t seen Mariah Carey since her Christmas album back in the 90’s) and in it she had a birthday cake with a “12” on top to commemorate her mental/emotional age. Now, I don’t think of her as a guru, but she is on to something. There is a form of therapy called Internal Family Systems which suggests that we are many different people in one body. I can be both a secretive, rebellious, 17-year-old smoking Camels and someone very different when I hold my children and pay the utility bills. Slowly, I’ve begun to realize that we are all like that. We do whatever we can to hide the immature, wild bits we feel inside and keep up a “put together” front in a lot of different ways: dressing up like grown-ups, trying to sound intelligent, not picking our noses until there’s no traffic on either side, and so on.
I’ve decided to out myself as a retro soft punk fan because I theorize that much of our collective suffering relates to feeling alone in our secret vulnerabilities and weirdness. By noticing and exposing those things, we have an opportunity to reduce shame and become more integrated. Also, it’s true that we all have demons and are gross and trying to hide all of that is a lot of work. I see articles everyday about people doing off color things and it seems celebrated to collectively judge them. But I think the focus on the wrongs of others can be an unconscious attempt to not look at ourselves. There’s also a sense of relief coming from NOT being the one in the spotlight. Obviously, my affinity for slightly out of character music is not a big deal. It’s a benign example of those parts of ourselves we’d rather keep inside for fear of the judgement we see bandied about all around us every day and fear of how it will affect how others view us. I’m a fan of exposing even the smallest things (big things may be best left to trusted friends or therapists) so that any shame can be discarded. Life is hard enough. I have realized that we all have things we’d rather other people not know. But fuck it! Because if anyone is judging, it’s because they have something to hide.