I’m reading Morrissey’s autobiography. One quote in particular resonates with me:
But spare a thought for those who rock the boat. They challenge your attention, and even in your rage you find you quite like them for poking at you as if you were a dead mule. Perhaps you are?
Perhaps it is my lifelong love for The Smiths, cemented in with repeated listening of “Strangeways, Here We Come,” “Louder Than Bombs,” and “The Queen is Dead” at age 14 (1989), that allows me to take everything Morrissey says as gospel on stone tablets from the mountain. But he has a point.
In his admiration of everything outsider, from Oscar Wilde to The New York Dolls, in his certainty that he had no use for a mortal life not among the stars, in his avoidance of mainstream socializing and fitting in, instead seeking out meaning and connection amongst his fellow strange, I feel a great kinship (in fact reading this book has me all riled up like a teenager, to start a band, so I too can give my yearning, petulant, passionate, unheard demands for justice and beauty a chance to cry out in a way people might hear and understand them).
In AA last night I read a passage referring to how most alcoholics, from a young age, felt they did not fit in at all. Once we found booze, we found belonging, we found kinship, once drunk we could accept ourselves and our fellows. Now sober again, we find ourselves outsiders once again, now more than ever, since all of society is geared towards drink. Now I must embrace my outsider ways or die trying.
When I drank, I was off the hook for saying shocking and abnormal things. I was more confident, I had no reservations, and I had an excuse “oh that was the booze talking, I’m sure I didn’t mean it.” I comfortably rested in my own mind as a cool, popular person. For the first 5 years I was sober, I tried to keep my mouth shut, I withdrew into myself and hated most IRL interactions. I knew my thoughts weren’t welcome, my strong opinions and judgement weren’t acceptable, and so I festered inside, daring to tell the no one what I was really thinking, a skill I had never embraced nor polished. Thanks to the twelve steps, I am starting to say these things out loud, with mixed results. I am starting to give voice to my thoughts of how people who demand I fit in need to go away and shut up. I may not say it out loud yet, but online or in comics I can say that I find popular opinion oppressive, that I find media and society to be prejudiced and aggressively heteronormative. Is that better or worse than being an agreeable drunk? I thought it might be worse, and the self hate and chastisement followed. Who am I to judge? But after finding such similar sentiments in Morrissey’s words, I see my flaw as not being brave enough to suffer the brand of being an outsider, for the sake of giving humanity one more unpopular outsider. We need more of them, not less. It’s not a character flaw that I get really upset seeing violence, fictionalized or not. It doesn’t mean I’m not fun, that when I see a rape, fictionalized or real, on TV, my whole night is ruined. It’s not a character flaw that I am sensitive and feel dizzy with the brutality I am surrounded by and take part in by not moving into a cabin the woods. Who is Morrissey to judge? He’s fucking Morrissey, that’s who. I am so, so glad he shared his outsider opinion.
If I’m going to belong, I want to earn it through thought, action, and empathy. I’m not going to pretend I am not upset by the nastiness I am surrounded by in society, from football to patriarchy to war to guns to rape to homelessness, no one embracing the status quo wants to rock the boat. Fuck the status quo. I want to find other people who don’t belong, and create belonging amongst ourselves. I don’t want to cheat by getting blackout drunk and telling myself everyone loves me and thinks I am great, and not feel a thing so I can’t get super fucking upset that shit is pretty fucked up. I don’t want to pretend I like or approve of the endless horrors of modern society so no one else has to feel upset. Smile and nod? Over my dead body.
You don’t hone your voice by keeping your head down and not rocking the boat. You hone your voice by living through and learning to accept your suffering, by speaking out about the truth you see, even if it makes you unpopular. If I hadn’t been such a drunk, I might be famous by now.