Music Monday | Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana


In a darkened hall, the DJ on stage is pumping out tunes. Video clips play on a huge screen behind him. Coloured lights flash. Smoke hisses from the machine out across the dance floor and I bounce with my friends in a circle in the corner. You wouldn’t call what I’m doing dancing. I tug my ruffled denim skirt toward my knees. My purple shirt is knotted at my waist barely exposing my midriff but everyone is staring. She shouldn’t be wearing that.

Katie glides into the centre of the circle, arms swaying above her head, her gold sequined halter top creating our own mirror-ball. Years of dance training have given her rhythm and confidence both of which I lack. My feet remain glued in place to the floorboards and the only movement I can muster comes from bending my knees and bobbing jerkily. Sometimes I kick a foot up behind me. I have no idea what to do with my hands so they swing stiffly by my sides. Everyone else is doing the actions to Vogue. The Year 8 school dance is three hours of embarrassment. The only thing worse than looking awkward is not being seen there at all.

Dancing is of the devil, my church would say. As it would turn out, most fun things are “of the devil” but I’m less scared of going to hell and more scared of not fitting in. The DJ announces he’s about to play something new. The swarming, sweaty, teenage mass stops moving momentarily as he loads the next song. Then, there is a shift. No more melodic pop. Instead, a guitar-heavy grunge blares into the hall. The drum beat thumps through my chest cavity. I can’t understand what the hell they are singing but I know what they are feeling. Swinging my head and swaying in the dark to Nirvana is the closest I will come to rebellion at 13.

***

My dancing improved with practice, and the realisation that no-one is looking at me, judging me or criticising me more than myself.

A few weeks ago, a friend stripped back Smells Like Teen Spirit into a modern re-interpretation that gives us resignation instead of rebellion and defeat instead of defiance. My 13 year old self and my 39 year old self know each of these feelings equally.

***

Load up on guns, bring your friends
It’s fun to lose and to pretend
She’s over-bored and self-assured
Oh no, I know a dirty word

Hello, hello, hello, how low
Hello, hello, hello, how low
Hello, hello, hello

With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us

A mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido
Yeah, hey

I’m worse at what I do best
And for this gift I feel blessed
Our little group has always been
And always will until the end

Hello, hello, hello, how low
Hello, hello, hello, how low
Hello, hello, hello, how low
Hello, hello, hello

With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us

A mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido
Yeah, hey

And I forget just why I taste
Oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile
I found it hard, it’s hard to find
Oh well, whatever, never mind

Hello, hello, hello, how low
Hello, hello, hello, how low
Hello, hello, hello, how low
Hello, hello, hello

With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us

A mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido

A denial, a denial, a denial, a denial, a denial
A denial, a denial, a denial, a denial

2 thoughts on “Music Monday | Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

    • Oh thank you beautiful friend. Your dancer’s grace would have intimidated 13yo me! I appreciate that something in my post touched you. And I would LOVE Michelle Williams to play me in a film. Haha. She is my style queen. I adore her endlessly.

      Liked by 1 person

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