In my family, it took a lot of ingenuity to be a black sheep. My parents could—under a certain light—be described as “post-hippies.” The photos of them in their twenties and thirties show a veritable cornucopia of flared jeans, fringe-vests, big sunglasses, and tie-dye. Even my father—who could compete with any fifties housewife for best Tupperware collection these days—took part in a couple of student revolutions back then. (Though he tended to stand by notable campus landmarks and hand out maps more than any of the more violent displays of displeasure.) My mother spent a good portion of the eighties selling “The New York Subway Sucks!” t-shirts on street corners as a protest for a fare hike and starting a business selling coasters decorated like sewer drains.
They weren’t any of the things a rebellious teenager wants from her parents, like “disapproving” or “strict.” When I declared (with appropriate flare) that I would be an actress, they signed me up for voice lessons and wheedled me into a theater-heavy high school. When I declared (also with flare) that I would be a cartoon artist, they got behind that too. When I moved to Japan, my mother suggested it might be more interesting to see the Western holidays from a new perspective than to bother coming all the way home for Christmas or Thanksgiving. When I took up faux-Wiccanism (as described by an ad hoc Geocities fan page in the early nineties) and drew pentagrams in sludge on all glass surfaces and doors to protect the house from evil spirits, my dad simply sighed and suggested the house was now adequately protected and wouldn’t it be a good time to clean off the sludge now?
By the time I got to college, I had realized that rebellion for rebellion’s sake was not going to happen. In fact, my post-hippie parents made it impossible for me to choose a life path for any other reason than deep introspection and honest dedication. That’s how I ended up following in their footsteps: in graduate school for English Language and Literature. I even managed to keep the Japanese involved because I specialize in the effects of the Meiji era on Victorian England.
My rebellions are smaller now, but my parents still take them in stride. When I told my dad all I wanted for my birthday was a ukulele, I got one delivered in the mail with a map to the nearest place to get lessons attached.
About the Author
Bessie McAdams, Ph.D. Student, English
Published in: Student Voices