when I was a teenage rebel…

The teenage years.

The years of rebellion.

The years of terrorizing parents, stepping out on your own, making a footprint, finding yourself, showing the world who you want to be and stretching the limits of your small world.

Oh and then there’s the sex drugs and rock & roll… lets not forget about that.

Picture a tiny teen girl. Just a bit over 5 feet tall. 90 pounds soaking wet. Shoulder length dirty blond hair, fair skin and faded denim blue eyes. A quiet smile comes over her face as she sits quietly but furiously scribbling something in one of those old fashioned black and white memo books…

Now take a step back and notice that is is after 10 on a school night, and though she is quietly writing in her notebook she is sitting on her roof just outside her 2nd story bedroom window. After a few moments of writing she stops and reaches into her pocket pulling out a rubber band to tie back her hair which has been blowing in her face, she pulls it into a messy ponytail and luxuriates in the feel of the warm breeze on the bottom half of her head which has been shaved clean.

Step back a little further and notice that she is wearing all black. Black t-shirt, black skirt, striped tights and BIG. BLACK. BOOTS. Next to her sits a well used, well worn and well loved black backpack. Just down the quiet suburban street some headlights are visible and after straining her eyes to be sure, she tosses her backpack off the roof… it lands with a quiet thud and she follows it nimbly, but stupidly, landing on her feet with a little roll on the soft grass below.

She looks from one side of the street to the other to make sure she hasn’t been seen and then crosses the street to hop into the old white car waiting for her. Off they go….

But where to?

A drug den? To pull some teenage heist? Graffiti on the high school? Some seedy bar that serves stiff drinks to soft kids?

Or maybe Denny’s. To eat a salad. To drink a soda. To smoke too many cigarettes that dirty her soft pink lungs while she sits with her friend, who is JUST a friend, as they laugh and write and read each others poetry while the waitress comes by refills their drinks and occasionally sits to laugh with them and draw a stunning sketch in the blond girl’s notebook…

So soon 3 hours have passed and the girl knows she must head home to at least feign a few hours of sleep before waking up to decide whether or not she wants to go to school, the place where only a few are really her friends, the place where she is frowned upon, laughed at or lusted after, a place where the councilors think she is crazy and the educators, for the most part, seem to think she’s not that bright… except the teachers that know better but have just given up trying to get her to do anymore than show up…

Between classes she stops at her locker to fiddle, smiles at a few people who look in her direction and reapplies her black lipstick, hoping someone will just be sooo shocked, or maybe that it will make her invisible enough that everyone will look away.

At lunch she strolls off campus with a friend or two and while most kids make a bee line for the taco bell or jack-in-the-box she heads for the post office to mail a thick letter to the man she loves who’s far far away… in that time all she can do is think about when she gets home, when she can check her mailbox to get a letter from him… She’s grounded from the phone you see, unjustly, just for running up nearly $200 in long distance charges.


No really. She sighs just with the weight of it.

Back at school she ghosts through a few more classes hearing next to nothing unless it’s something that she could learn from one of the volumes of history texts at home, or it has some inherent poetic value…

The day ends and she can’t decide between catching a ride home with the sweet preppy boy who is always restoring mustang after mustang and who always heads that way or catching the bus, but in the long run she decides on finding a ride with her preppy mustang friend, who will at least turn the music up and laugh at the people who stare mockingly at the motley crew assembled in his car, a powder blue convertible this month.

At home she gets her letter and reads it slowly over a snack and then she naps, because she can, because she has to, because she needs her energy to sneak down the stairs and out the garage door and over the gate that night because her knees are still a little sore from her roof top hop of the night before… and on it goes.

Not like that every night. Not like that everyday. There are weekends after all, fights with the parents, fights, monumental fights with the brother across the hall whose fucking cat tore up the dress she wore to her first formal, the one she wore with that big group of friends when she had a thing for that boy with the big orange mohawk…

But that was the worst of it. No drugs, not a lot of sex until she found the guy she thought was the “right guy” and rock & roll was really only played at a reasonable volume or on headphones… and she always always asked before she went to a concert, though she never asked if it was alright to go to the goth dance clubs she loved so much because the only reasonable answer to that plea would be “NO”.

Those were my teenage years.

Those were my years of rebellion.

It was rebellion, most certainly but it was rebellion that caused no lasting harm. I never painted anything that wasn’t mine, I never stole anything that wasn’t from my parents liquor cabinet and I never ever wanted to hurt anyone.

I just wanted, needed, so desperately to be me and more than anything to find out who “me” was.

Did I rebel. Yes, yes I did.

I rebelled and then at the tender age of 17 and 3/4’s I tested out of school early and with the help of my parents I moved to Portland to be with my then sweetheart in a tiny apartment in a cozy little hip corner of the city I would quickly call home.

I rebelled, but it could have been so much worse.

I could have gone with the flow, been who everyone expected me to be and I never would have found out who I was. And who I am. And who I’ll get to be when my daughter hits her rebel years.

Rebel rebel. That’s me.

And those big black boots, I’ve had a few pairs since then and I still take them with me everywhere.


This post was written in response to David McMahon’s Weekend Wandering over on Authorblog, though it was inspired by Jo’s post on the topic.


9:22 am Saturday edited to add: Photo of Cami in boots by Stephen Jones Photography 10/27/01

19 thoughts on “when I was a teenage rebel…

  1. david mcmahon says:

    The real power of this post is not in its superb narration, not even in its compelling, magnetic pull onwards through each sentence and paragraph … no, the real power of this post is that everyone can relate to it.This is up there in the top five of the best posts I’ve read this week and I can only thank you for sharing it.Like Jo, you’ve shown us that there is a (VERY) fine line between rebellion and finding out who we really are – and sometimes our elders did not quite know the difference.We, I pray, will be more enlightened when it is time to help our children find their souls.

  2. sybil law says:

    See; I went to the seedy bar, but it happened to be the best jazz abd blues bar in the city. I was getting culture, too!HahaYou look lovely. I haven’t seen those pics in a long time! I love them!Probably because I love you. Even though you wore black lipstick. :)

  3. Oswegan says:

    So this is weird. I go from Lake Oswego, to South Africa where it’s spring time, to Melbourne, Australia where it’s also spring and back to Portland where it’s pissing rain.Nice rebel post.I think you should show more of your black and white photography, it’s quite good.~Oswegan

  4. CamiKaos says:

    oswegan: after two more days when can expect just enough of a rain break to get through the week, but I am sure the sky will dump again my halloween :) Thank you. And while 99 % of the photos I use on this site are mine (even when I am in them) I forgot to make a note that this particular photo was shot at our wedding by the wedding photographers. I added that info to the post. Jo, Dan, Corey: Thank you all. Sybil: you love me because you are well cultured.Mr K: Thanks baby.Flutter: I’m blushing, you always make me do thatDavid: Thank you, what an incredible compliment. Mie: thank you.

  5. Anonymous says:

    We loved you black lipstick, bad knees and all. You grew up in a crappy northern CA. town. We understood as well as we could. We helped you leave because we wanted to keep you. I tried to remember what it was liking growing up in podunk centeral CA. and how unhappy I was at home. Believe it or not we were more tolerant, we tried to do better then our parents. We love you still. Mom

  6. SquidgesMum says:

    Ok now your mom is making me cry! I love your writing, your parents sound pretty cool and moving away at 17 sounds scary.

  7. DaddyKaos says:

    Hope always springs eternal and you hoped for happiness and we hoped for the same. That is why we let you fly. We both knew you would come back.Great post baby girl.

  8. The Holmes says:

    Great post, yo. The whole individuation/rebellion thing is so hugely important, I just hope I can remember it when my kids reach that stage.

  9. Bubblewench says:

    That post totally rocks. You are just so awesome it blows my mind. Love that picture. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that day either. :)

  10. Lori- Fairytales & Margaritas says:

    I love this post. I was a similar type of rebel. My parents actually thought I was bad until my brothers rebelled. That was a completely different story!

  11. CamiKaos says:

    Lori: My brother is a few years older than I am and I think his “rebellion” helped my parents to see that what I was doing could be worse.BW: I’ll be putting up more pics of that day later in the week.Holmes: My parent’s were incredibly supportive… I’m hoping I will be as strong and brave as they were.Dad: I feel like I am one of the few people I know whose parents really truly did just want them to be happy. That was quite a gift, thank you.Lindy: Yeah, my parents are pretty amazing.Mom: I love you too.

  12. thordora says:

    Man, I wish my adolescence would have been that simple. It sounds like such halycon days…or maybe it’s just that my husband has been listening to far too much Black Tape for a Blue Girl and it’s going to my head.I still have my big black boots, but hardly the patience to do them up anymore.

  13. angel says:

    wow… now i am even more in awe of you than i was when i first started reading your blog…i have a total girl crush on you cami!

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