I recently hit my 6-month anniversary of starting hormone replacement therapy. I felt like this warranted something personal; a post that not mean a whole lot to a lot of people but means a whole hell of a lot to me. I’ve been struggling to find an idea to center this post on. Once I found it, though, the words just flowed out.
Lately, I’ve been revisiting the music of my youth. I’m not entirely sure if there’s a reason for it. Maybe I’ve been feeling nostalgic lately. Perhaps I was searching for a new connection with the artists I held dear as a teen.
As most teens were around 1993, I was obsessed with the Smashing Pumpkins. A fond memory of mine was my father taking my brother and I to a “laser rock” show at the local planetarium. I had heard of Nirvana (who hadn’t at the time, right?) but I hadn’t yet been exposed to the rest of their fellow “grunge” contemporaries like Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and the like. The song that reached me the most, the one that hit me like a freight train, was the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Cherub Rock”, the opening track to the seminal “Siamese Dream”.
I think I made my dad buy it for me the next day.
I also recall the dysphoria that so many transgender people talk about feeling through their lives pretty prevalent, at that time for me. Being a teenager is hard enough. Having all of these conflicting impulses running through your mind, and the constantly unsettled feeling that you’re out-and-out wired wrong made my youth emotional (to put it mildly). Of course, a lot of the themes of self-loathing associated with grunge were a perfect fit, and yet “Siamese Dream” had a sort of fractured grace to its lyrics. I took to it like a duck to water.
About a week ago, I revisited this album of my youth to see if it held up. The album’s aged surprisingly well, even if I find myself not wanting to bang my head as much to it. That stays in 1993. (Sidenote: I feel goddamn old right now.) What struck me now is how one specific song, once a “song I thought was kinda ok, sorta”, is now hitting me with the emotional punch of the aforementioned freight train. That song is “Mayonaise”.
A wall of guitars and precision drumming serve as, essentially, a 4-and-a-half-minute buildup to the last verse. The crescendo that precedes it give the last few lines of the song a hopefulness that I had never picked up on before:
No more promise, no more sorrow
No longer will I follow
Can anybody hear me
I just want to be me
When I can, I will
Try to understand
That when I can, I will
As the song comes to a quiet close, I’m left reflective.
As I look back at the journey I’ve been on for the past year (and my whole life, if I’m to be honest), I’ve always had the idea that I carried this sense of melancholy with me, keeping me walled off to the world. Could I…can I…ever be the person I’m meant to be? Will I be abandoned by everyone I know if I do? Listening to this song dug those feelings right back up, and they’ve never felt more vivid. As the song reaches its climax, though, I can almost feel the 13 year old me smile from ear to ear. The longing, melancholy and wonderings of “what if…” are now replaced with a sense of peace & hope. I can feel myself reaching back into my memories and telling me at 13, “Hey, listen. Everything’s gonna be ok. Stay strong and be patient. Your time will come, and it’ll be more amazing than you ever dreamed of.”