I’VE GOT THE STRAIGHT EDGE
(and some humor to go with it)
(and some humor to go with it)
I grew up in a mostly German area of central Pennsylvania peopled by the later descendents of Amish, and other Germanic religious derivatives. My father used say, and I found this to be something of a regional cliché based on the Godly-motivated work ethic of our forefathers, that “If you have time to think, you aren’t working hard enough.” While working for my family business, this was roughly translated into a more simplified form of, “If you cannot talk and work at the same time, stop with the talking.” Leave it to a maverick descendent of an Amish farmer to instill me with that awesome credo since I was prone, both, to talking a lot and thinking even more. I was a jabbering thought machine. I was not, unfortunately for him, the ideal of stoicism that my father wanted swinging a hammer on his watch.
Please forgive me for having no idea what my future would have looked like had I stopped talking, stopped thinking, and just worked super hard in order to stop the voices in my head from actually making logical sense.
What I knew was this; the world looks great to those who are competing “IN” it for its host of spoils. For those who took issue to racism, sexism, wars on foreign soil (and the consequent government cover up of said war), corporate take over, robotification of the workplace, and the decreasing standard of living in and around my home town, well, there was always the toxic trinity of Xanex, Zoloft, or Prozac, the prospect of cheap alcohol, cheap spirits, and the pursuit of getting laid. Don’t ask me why, but not one of these made sense to me in high school.
In many ways I was Straight Edge before I even knew that Straight Edge was a “THING,” and so I was very happy to eventually find out that it was a thing so that I had something with which to associate for a very long period in my life.
It is still quite clear to me when I made the connection to this fad, movement, lifestyle, or whatever it was back then. Unlike the Straight Edge we know now, Straight Edge kids didn’t look ANY DIFFERENT than the Punks because Straight Edge was a Punk Rock thing. In the outside world there really wasn’t an equivalent. The only thing that I can think might be equitable is somebody who is in AA and trying to break free from alcoholism and narcotics, but there certainly was never really an active popular culture movement toward living the sober life, and that had its own music to keep you plodding through being treated like a loser in high school for not wanting to drink shitty beer and Mad Dog 20/20 (and the colorful puke that followed).
Dating wasn’t something that came easy to me in high school. Not that I was a loser, or was questioning my sexuality, or anything like that, but I just didn’t have the confidence to ask a girl out. As a burgeoning Punk Rocker, and having no other Punk Rocker girls in my school, most normal girls weren’t taking a chance on me. Plus, I was more-or-less just a mall-Punk, and so I didn’t really have a whole lot of cred built up so that I could pull some “Pretty In Pink” thing and steal the cheerleader away from the abusive, cheating, douchebag of a quarterback. So, I chose to just go to shows where I could find them, and just marry that lifestyle for a while. Secretly, I did want to get laid though (duh.)…
As I ventured out of my little blue-collar town, and would find myself in the neighboring city (a very small city, but a city nonetheless), I started meeting New Wave girls who thought that skateboarding Punk Rocker boys were kind of the shit, and, well, I started dating them. They sure were cute, and thanks to them I got into the Smiths and New Order. However, they never really seemed all that interested in the Circle Jerks and the Dead Kennedys. Oh well. Their loss..!
I will not name names, but I started dating this super cute red-headed (thus the start of my fascination with the red-headed ladies of my life) that I met at a club called Big City. This girl came across as really being into the Madonna of her “Like A Virgin” years, replete with a big oversized cowneck sweather, lacey gloves, a bob/perm, sparkly makeup, and deep/dark eyeliner. She was so hot that it was mind boggling, and she was moving closer to me on the dance floor. While dancing to some gothy classic, she found her way onto my radar screen and a few hours later we were making out on the balcony. It was the beginning of the end that somehow lasted for almost a year in some bastard form or another. She would become my Straight Edge Yoda.
Who knows why, but for some reason the Dead Kennedys seemed to be the first Punk Rock band that found me, and I found them a joyous departure from anything else I was hearing around that time. This is, um, 1982 maybe..? If you peered deeply into my record collection at the time, there you’d find DK’s “In God We Trust, INC,” “FEAR the record,” and maybe Black Flag’s Jealous Again (being my first Punk Rock record purchase). Missing from this mix was many of the classics of the time, most conspicuously the self-titled Minor Threat album, where I may have stumbled on to Straight Edge way before I was forced to understand it the hard way.
BUT BACK TO THE STORY
So for about three-months I dated this lovely New Waver girl and life was blissful. She was hot, I was hot for her, and this kept us focused on each and every encounter with one another. However, there was this other thing happening. Besides my people there was this other little crew of young Punk Rockers from a neighboring town, and one of these kids seemed to be hot on my tail, stylistically speaking.
If I cut my hair, this kid would cut his hair the same way. If I died my hair, a week later his hair would be died the same way. If I bought a Zorlac skateboard, a week later he’d have the same skateboard. It was fucking weird. I didn’t know this kid but he seemed to be reading my mind, and I didn’t like that at all. And, in an even stranger turn of events my girlfriend started taking notice to the copy-cat, and telling me her observations. I started to get the feeling GF was taking a shine to copy-cat. I didn’t like this one little bit.
It could have been a week later or it could have been a month later, but while on a weekend skateboard outing with some friends, upon returning home I got the anonymous phone call/tip that GF hooked up with copy-cat in public, and many of my friends, her friends, and random strangers saw it go down. I was furious.
Not only was I furious that she had cheated on me, but was furious that she cheated on me in public, on my home turf, and with a dude who was trying to be me. More than furious, I deemed my GF a pathetic fucking scumbag, but, um, sadly, I mourned the shit out of that relationship.
Again, the details are pretty blurry, but she did contact me after I broke up with her to tell me that she was drunk, had blacked out, and had no idea that copy-cat wasn’t me, but I didn’t believe a word of it.
As I tried to write something truly shitty, meaner than I’d ever penned any words to any person, I was introduced to Minor Threat and the lyrics to Straight Edge. It was strange that there was this song that joyously proclaimed the wonders of a drug free, alcohol free, and sex free (I never did get that one) lifestyle, and at the time I was penning my heavy FUCK YOU GF letter, I think that I used half the lyrics to that song to detail why she was a drunk, lying, fucked up piece of shit, while I touted myself as being a virtuous, high minded, ass kicking Straight Edge warrior.
What I penned rivaled the complete works of the great poets of lore, and put me on par with the emotional meanderings of Morrisey, but somehow fully missed the mark. For some reason I thought that I had just somehow missed out on this concept of Straight Edge, and by finding it I figured that if I used those two words in tandem that every person alive would be like, “Holy Shit, Stewart is Straight Edge. He means business.” The unfortunate facts are this:
- I most certainly was a 16-year-old Straight Edge boy.
- The lyrics to this epic song resonated deeply me (except for that “don’t fuck” thing)
- Outside the growing Punk Rock scene, NOBODY knew what Straight Edge was.
- My emotional outpouring to GF probably read to her as a foreign language.
- I completely didn’t wreck her party with my Straight Edge attack.
- I now look back and laugh about it because it is funny.
What is very funny is that I not only embraced the Straight Edge lifestyle, but I rode it like a rodeo champion for 31 years of my life. After the Madonna break-up debacle I am pretty sure that I never used Punk Rock song lyrics in any break up letter, love letter, or college essay ever again. And while this is just another “funny” thing that happens to people who do not really live in the crazy normal world, one of the most amazing things about being a Punk Rocker is that had my Madonna GF been one, she would have understood where I was coming from. Sadly, however, she was a new waver.
To attack an ex lover on the basis that her moral fiber is weak because she was drinking shitty vodka and giving copy-cat a “covert” handjob in a dark corner of a public place, um, it is acceptable based on the fact that it is kind of shitty. However, to then turn around and offer Minor Threat as my own personal savior, and the lyrics to this obscure song as my reasons for being morally superior, I may have missed an opportunity to make a dent in her moral fiber. As it was, I doubt she stopped laughing long enough to give remorse a kind consideration.