Over the years I’ve been accused of looking pissed off, appearing grumpy, or projecting what some have called “fuck off vibes”, when I’m perfectly content with my situation. So how does one go from a happy kid to outwardly projecting an aggressive and angered mental state?
A month or so before my 15th birthday I was rushed to the school office in a substantial amount of pain. The nurse couldn’t really do anything other than call my Mum. About 15 minutes prior to that phone call I had been on the playing fields at rugby practice smashing one of my front teeth into tiny pieces. A trip to the dentist and one titanium pin screwed into my jaw later, I had a brand new porcelain tooth. The problem was that it wasn’t my tooth. My tooth was missing. I knew it was. My left incisor was now a prosthetic; an imposter. Subconsciously it wasn’t (and still isn’t) there, and as a result there were few occasions where I would flash my teeth in moments of joy or elation. It felt embarrassing to expose my loss. Someone might notice that it’s different, that something is not quite right. The insecurity that developed around what is now a completely false tooth was stifling at an age where the outward projection of character, identity and aesthetic qualities were paramount in social and romantic situations.
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The previous years had seen a darker and broodier lilt to my musical preferences, the loss of my grandparents had instilled a sense of the melancholic and I had sought out shared experience with songwriters and bands to validate my sense of self (DeNora, 1999). I suppose I wanted to know that I wasn’t alone, that others had been through the same things. Adapting to the front tooth debacle whilst going through the usual teenage hormonal imbalances and changes nudged my taste into heavier and more aggressive bands. It was a coping mechanism, providing a platform for emotional regulation (Miranda, 2013) that allowed me to vent some aggression (Schwartz & Fouts, 2003).
Luckily, the discovery of new music, good and bad, was an almost daily experience. It was an integral part of my morning interval at Marr. The bell would ring, we’d meet under the canopy of the new building, and we’d swap CDs and tapes. 15 minutes of new music before class. The energy and passion of then youthful bands Incubus, Idlewild and Feeder really sucked me in; I could relate to the violent guitars and the emotion. The melancholic grunge and driven beats of Kyuss felt like the heart beating in my chest. The power and clarity of Machine Head’s Davidian was the cold and calculated process of the mind. It was all fast. It was all heavy.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater also has a lot to answer for… prior to this particular game gracing my little 14″ TV screen, underground Californian punk and skate culture was literally a world away. Bands like Goldfinger, Primus, and Suicidal Tendencies were now on my radar. I was hooked. More on that here.
Despite the loss and the increasingly heavier musical preferences, I was still a happy kid. It just didn’t look like it!
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