Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How to build a girl Part 2: "I am roughly 7% less virgin now!"

Sorry I'm a little late to the readalong party. I headed home for the weekend for a friend's hens night and what a shock, I was in no position to sit in front of a computer on Sunday. Or Monday.

Some quick housekeeping. Thanks again to the wonderful Emily for hosting, Harper Collins for providing the books and Caitlin Moran for writing it. Also, congrats to Alley on getting hitched over the weekend! You looked beautiful! And now that the apologies and housekeeping is out of the way...

How is everyone? And most importantly, how is everyone enjoying the book?

When we left Johanna last week she had very dramatically decided she had to die. Instead of physically depriving herself of life, she is going to give birth to a new Johanna, a Johanna who is so little like the Johanna of the Scooby Doo incident (who cries on a sanitary napkin to demonstrate the "sheer volumes of sorrow" she feels) that she isn't even called Johanna any more.
"A self-made man" - not of woman born but alchemized, through sheer force of will, by the man himself. This is what I want to be. I want to be a self-made woman. I want to conjure myself out of every sparkling, fast moving thing I can see. I want to be the creator of myself. I'm going to begat myself"
 And with a new identity comes a new name, Dolly Wilde, named after Oscar Wilde's lesbian/alcoholic/dead scandalous niece. Which I actually really like the sound of, although that might have just been because the other options were Laurel Canyon, Kitten Lithium and Belle Jar.

And with the new name comes a new image. Dolly wears heavy eyeliner and lipstick, dresses head to toe in black and holds her hair on top of her head with biros. She tries to join the tiny goth population in town but fails the interview process. Unfairly if you ask me because quirks about being"goth-curious" and trying to confuse people with jazz are winning strategies in my book.

It's okay Johanna/Dolly. You're too good to hang out at man on 'is 'oss

And with a new name and image comes a new identity. Johanna does what perhaps all teen girls do at one point or another, they plaster their wall with pictures of things they love and things they want to be. Sometimes these pictures have the double incentive of hiding the hole that appeared during the secret party you hosted at 16, but mostly they're there because just saying you love something never seems enough. Johanna is a little different in that she doesn't really know any of the people she's sticking on her wall, but she knows that lead away from Johanna and towards Dolly and a career in music. This is perhaps especially evident as she moons over a picture of Lenin.
"I don't know exactly what he went on to do, but I do know that he looks hot here, all brown eyes, natty scarf, and floppy hair. No one this handsome could be that bad, surely"
But of course the transition doesn't happen immediately. She gets shade thrown at her by her mum who is a real asshole, calling her a big black cow and snarking about sausage rolls. She isn't automatically accepted by the goths or the record shop folk. And her brothers just don't seem to grasp how momentous this whole thing is. But she strives forward, with her trade-mark enthusiasm and sass...even if it usually is mostly internalised sass and enthusiasm.

Case in point one - After feeling like she doesn't belong in the record shop she exclaims (in her mind) that she doesn't care:
 "I have regular, fulfilling sex with a hairbrush, and am the bastard son of a bastard son of Bredan Behan. They will all rue the day. Eventually."
 Case in point two - when he mother tells her she's changed while bleaching her moustache she beautifully replies:
"Yes. I've decided the Indie Hitler look wasn't going to work for me, after all."
Now kids, I'm not advocating you sass your parents. But if you do, aim high at Johanna's level of sass. It beats the hell out of "you don't even know me!" and slammed doors.

Perhaps the most important part of the reinvention though is the music. It might have started out as something to latch onto, anything to latch on to, but music is already having a pretty profound effect on Johanna/Dolly ( I really need to decide what to call her). The first time she listens to John Peel she is so terrified of the speed metal that she hide the radio under a pile of clothes after being convinced it's summoning demons outside her window. As the girlfriend of someone who listens to metal on the regular, I can say with some authority that that is still my reaction. *shudders*

But once she experiments with every band and style she can hire from the library she starts to really experience the music. All of Moran's quotes about music are so freakin' on point. I mean, they completely describe these moments in my adolescence when I heard a band and just experienced these crazy wooooshes of emotion and catharsis and jolts of understanding. 90s grunge/alternative/indie rock is my genre of music, so reading about Johanna's reaction to Hole and My Bloody Valentine, The Manic Street Preachers, Riot Grrrl... That is my past, present and future. I understand Johanna as she describes some of the music as being like a train driving straight through you and doing "mad, fast, cold circuits around your veins". I went through that same moment of clarity when I realised that girls could be as bad-ass in bands as boys.
"hearing women singing about themselves - rather than men singing about women - makes everything seem wonderfully clear, and possible"
   I know exactly how it feels to put yourself together through the music you listen to.

It wasn't a particularly turbulent section, other than a few fights and awkward interactions here and there, so I think we can probably expect some things to go wrong for Johanna soon. I'm guessing her mum isn't going to let go of her leaving school quite so easily, and the stuff with her dad's band is guaranteed to get murky. And maybe, since she's officially off to gigs and interviewing bands, Johanna is going to barrel straight into having sex with someone, get what she's always dreamed of and realise...it's actually not what she actually wanted after all.


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