Thanks for Letting Me No: The art and joy of rebellion

The 90’s were good. I was in high school. I was into punk rock and rave culture and being a radical queer. All before bedtime.

By Scott King

Suggested bedtime, I should say. My curfew was to my taste ridiculously early. I almost never got home on time. But somehow I never got caught. One Sunday morning I literally got home 15 minutes before my parents got up to go to church. Then I went back out.

Those were the days.

I wasn’t all that happy, though. I was a queer teenager in East Tennessee. I went to the prom all four years, but I didn’t get laid until senior year. SENIOR year. Damn.

But deeper still. Forming my identity, my persona, as a manifestation of the polar opposite of what my insular culture was telling me a young man should be, the thrill of  shirking it all, wore off quickly.

But I’m thankful to the people who said no. They made it clear that this type of person was not acceptable to them and their world. They sculpted it out for me whether it be scripture or rules or dictums or pejoratives about my sexual orientation or lack of brute manliness.

It’s lonely at the top, they say. It’s also lonely on the skirts, no matter how proud you might be to be “outside of society.”

The upside, of course, is that I learned how to fight for what I believe in. The joy of being unique came later.

It’s hard to be unique when you’re 17. That’s why all us rebels read Catcher in the Rye. It expressed WHO we were. Lost. Good natured. Frustrated. And not quite articulate in our dissatisfaction with the status quo.

Albert Camus converts rebel into revolution into revolve, as in you always come round to the same damn thing. I disagree. A zigzag line can still move forward. It’s up to us.

It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I could successfully argue politics with my conservative relatives. They remained stagnant. I remained queer. I went to graduate school and got even smarter and learned a lot of new words and concepts and then grew in wisdom and came back with even more metaphorical ammo.

It wasn’t until my 30s that I learned to apply my wisdom to my own quotidian dilemmas.

I only follow rules if they:

1) make sense to me
2) not following them will lead to my arrest or demise
3) not following them would be AWKWARD, OR
4) I’m too bored or tired to resist.

I don’t mean just the hall monitor type of rules. I mean spiritual rules, existential rules and common sense.

Conformists look at me with envy. Alphas look at me with confusion as to why I am surrendering my hegemony. Straight men look at me in awe. Bro has fun, bro.

It’s not all Machiavellian, sadistic, anarchic glee though. The freedom puts a glint in my eye that others pick up on. I can share conspiratorial, furtive eye contact with a store clerk while fellating the ego of the manager. I’m versatile like that.

The binaries of yes and no and  black and white and gay and straight aren’t all there is to life, but they are a good place to start. Battle lines to be drawn.

Now that I’m older, I’m pretty much a pacifist, not needing to tear anyone or anything down. Happy to skip across the rainbow crosswalk that is life without making a scene about it.

The conflicts I had with my parents during the teen years have pretty much faded. I can see in their eyes that they’d like to give me unsolicited advice at every turn of conversation, but they don’t. I value their wisdom and experience; I just don’t necessarily wish that it were mine.

What fun would that be?

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