Flashback Friday: The First Time I Heard The Indigo Girls

I wasn’t fine. Just “closer to fine.”

INDIGO GIRLS photo via Instagram

I am sixteen years old and have recently hooked up with a girl for the first time. By “hookup” I mean said girl and I passionately made out for eight long hours whilst rolling around the mosquito-ridden grass at a summer theatre workshop in the Berkshires. Ever since my girl-on-girl hookup, I’m completely and totally girl crazy. I’m starting to think that the reason I never felt compelled to hang up Tiger Beat pictures of pretty teen boy idols all over my bedroom is because I’m a giant lesbian. I have recently started listening to Ani Difranco and Bitch and Animal and everything is starting to (sort of) make sense.

On this particular afternoon, I am in the car with my dad on our way to the mall because I’m a teenage mallrat who shops at Wet Seal. I’m really excited to purchase a pair of fishnets with my babysitting money that I will expertly rip to shreds and turn into an extremely slutty shirt. I’m dreaming about my new slutty shirt and how cool I’ll look rocking it at the basement house party I’m going to later that night (Justin’s parents are out of town). Rumor has it, there will be pounds of pot and heaps of Pabst Blue Ribbon on ice—which is, like, great news as I’m a budding party girl who recently discovered her love of getting lit like the Christmas lights that adorn our front door in December.

Bob Dylan is singing “Like A Rolling Stone” on the radio, and I’m babbling to my dad about how the song is about Edie Sedgwick, who used to hang out at Andy Warhol’s factory and allegedly had a steaming hot affair with Bob Dylan, and isn’t it so cool that I know all of this? My dad is tuning me out, which is fine because I’m not really talking to him, I’m talking at him and enjoying the gorgeous sound of my own voice.

Suddenly a husky woman’s voice begins to penetrate through the car speakers. The husky voice casually sings out the following verse:

I’m tryin’ to tell you somethin’ ’bout my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
And the best thing you’ve ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously
It’s only life, after all, yeah

I’m mesmerized and slightly... turned on. The voice sounds nothing like the nasal baby-doll Brittany Spears-ish voice that’s been all the rage since we all didn’t die when Y2K happened. It’s got the dangerous rasp of Bruce Springsteen but with the soul of a woman. I’ve never heard anything like it in my long sixteen years on planet earth. I frantically crank up the volume, panicking that the song will soon finish, and I won’t get to experience the amazing feeling it’s giving me ever AGAIN. (This is pre-Spotify, baby!)

I stopped by the bar at three A.M.
To seek solace in a bottle, or possibly a friend
And I woke up with a headache like my head against a board
Twice as cloudy as I’d been the night before
And I went in seeking clarity

Yes! I feel seen. Maybe I’m slugging back the Pabst Blue Ribbon not because I’m a party girl like my mother, but rather I’m seeking something deeper. Like “clarity.”

There’s more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine
The closer I am to fine
The closer I am to fine, yeah

Holy shit, I think to myself, my brain swirling and twirling like an intoxicated ballerina. There IS MORE THAN ONE ANSWER TO THESE QUESTIONS I’m constantly as a teenager being pressed with! I mean, everyone is always asking me what I want to do with my life—and I want to do a LOT of things, OK? And maybe I don’t need, like, a definitive answer and by letting go of the pressure of finding one maybe I’ll be closer to fine. Not totally fine, because that would make me boring and I’m NOT BORING, but closer to fine. I am having big life epiphanies while sitting in the passenger’s seat of my dad’s car. He has no idea.

Finally, the song ends. I close my eyes and ask “Who sings that song?” to my dad who seems to be rocking out alongside me.

“The Indigo Girls,” he says, switching lanes. My father has excellent taste in music. A few years later, I would take him to see Ani Difranco in concert, and he would take me to see Bob Dylan.

The Indigo Girls. I’ve heard of them. My hippy (lesbian) camp counselors all loved the Indigo Girls, and I had written them off as “annoying lesbian music” in my judgmental acne-ridden adolescent mind. I suddenly shiver. I’m a lesbian. No wonder I feel so fucking “seen” listening to them. No wonder I feel so seen while listening to Ani, too! She’s bisexual. These women, I suddenly realize, will be my only connection to the queer world while I’m still imprisoned in my straight suburban high school.

Finally, we pull into the mall. The parking lot is teeming with kids smoking cigarettes, and I’m craving one. I feel like a true complicated teenager now that I’ve heard the Indigo Girls and am pretty sure that I’m gay. We enter through the food court which smells like burning plastic and Arby’s. I gag.

“Wet Seal, right?” asks my dad—who has raised three teenage girls—leading the way.

“Nah,” I say. “Let’s go to the record store. I wanna buy an Indigo Girls album.”