The first time I got it was at some punk show in a crappy venue that allowed an under-18 crowd. I don’t remember the name of the band or the music they played, but the rush I felt changed my life and I’ve been addicted since.

It was late 90s Tucson. I was a new kid, awkward, fat, lonely – that combination of teenage traits that painfully isolates you from your peers while they are silently suffering through the exact same, not-so-unique experience. A cross-country transplant, I was diluting my hokey accent, marveling at the unrealistically good looks and good fortunes of my classmates, and desperate for friends.

Becky became a friend. She was new, too. And despite our opposite qualities – I was a good student; she didn’t care. She was outgoing; I longed to be – we got along great. She pulled out my likeable qualities for others to see. And I was a good girl, that clutch friend you bring home for dinner when you’re lobbying your parents for a later curfew.

So Becky asked me to drive us to this crappy punk rock show in this now-closed underage venue in dusty downtown.

We walked around the crowd of gutter punks and desert rats. I was trying to be cool and not doing a good job of it. So guarded. So cautious. Lurking about, afraid to speak up, so concerned with “not looking like a dork,” while looking like a dork.

Then the music started and I forgot about Becky, and the boys she was probably flirting with, and I. just. DANCED! I didn’t feel eyes on me and while no one was looking, I felt free. Such a release! I was skanking! Moshing! Sweating! Smiling!

When it was all over, I didn’t want it to be. I could have kept going. I had more in me!

It’s 15-plus years later now and I can’t wait for my next show. I don’t get faded, but I get to fade away into the crowd. (And if I want to get faded, that’s OK, too.) No one is looking. No one is judging. We’re cool and we’re dorks, and we are connected through whoever it is that we paid a lot of dollars to lead us for that evening.

And it will end. And we’ll all go home. But for 90 minutes to (hopefully) three hours, we’ll give that kid permission to come out and have a good time.

It’s the best.


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