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When I was 15, 16 and 17 I think I was clinically depressed and technically sociopathic. Or maybe that's just teenagehood in a nutshell?

I was the proud owner of a red 1968 Chevy Nova before I was even a licensed driver. That damn thing got me in more trouble...! Actually I got myself in trouble; the car was just a convenient medium for my kind of trouble.

My mom and I fought constantly at that time. When I first got the car, at age 15, I'd end an argument by grabbing the keys and running out the door. I barely even knew how to drive; I just about had a handle on the basics, but I had no qualms about risking everyone's life including my own so I could careen out of my anger, flying in a red rage up the highway or into the hills behind our house. I remember once I even realized after I'd been out there driving in the dark for about a half hour that I didn't even have my headlights on. So much for the basics.

One time I just wanted to run and run as far from home as I could, feeling like I was leaving my frustrations behind. The freedom of driving! The first beautiful strains of independence were so sweet. So I cranked up a tape, probably the Scorpions or Loverboy because, god help me, that's what I liked when I was 15... and I drove south down highway 101, up the Conejo Grade towards Los Angeles. I drove until I wasn't angry anymore and began to wonder where I was.

After a while I stopped at a Wendy's for a coke and asked the cashier, "What city is this?"

"Newbury Park," she answered.

How pathetic; in my desire for freedom I'd flown down the freeway in the direction of Los Angeles, the wild frontier, the Big City. And how far did I make it before I felt lost and a little far from home? One city. One city away from my tiny little conservative safe boring hometown of Camarillo, California, population approximately 50,000. A fifteen-minute drive.

Life as a teenager for me felt huge, suffocating, thrilling, overwhelming! Too, too much, and never ever enough.

I used to live for the phone ringing for me... for a hot guy looking at me... for someplace to go, something to do. Being in the mix, surrounded by other teenagers -- as beautiful, hungry, greedy, anarchistic and violent as myself -- was why weekends and nighttime existed. In that car, Lucian and I would ditch class and drive 125 mph down the 101 freeway, or park by the beach and sunbathe on the hood. I'd bum ten dollar bills off my grandmother for gas and drive to Hollywood to talk my way past flirtatious doormen at the 18+ clubs when I was 17. I'd meet cute guys and manipulate situations with my friends, curfew, and funds in order to see them again. I pushed the buttons and tested the limits of everyone around me.

It's unlikely any of them knew that amid the chaotic whirl of my existence, I struggled every day with hopelessness and hatred and feeling utterly useless. I'd stare at myself in the mirror wondering what good it was being on the planet at all, what I could possibly contribute to mankind. I very much wanted to just... disappear.

I got into car accidents; I got speeding tickets, I got my licence suspended. My communication skills were horrendous; I had no concept of appropriateness or sensitivity to others' feelings at all. I would flippantly criticize some random fashion decision of someone I barely knew in front of other people, I would flirt outrageously with adult friends of my parents.

Once my car broke down on the freeway offramp near my house on my way home from work, and I was in a panic over how to get it home. I had no money and I didn't know what was wrong with it. A nice man stopped to help me. At that time there was no limit to the endless stream of "nice men" who wanted to "help" me in some way. They usually wanted to sleep with me, and I sometimes did and never heard from them again. I sublimated that cycle as my role in life, somehow... the pretty, useless man-toy.

Anyway -- this guy helped me get my car back home, and after I thanked him profusely he asked if he could take me out sometime. I really didn't want to go out with him, but I believed it was my obligation to do so and I gave him my phone number. We arranged for a date and time for him to come to my house and pick me up.

A guy I was dating at the time called as I was getting ready for this date and asked me to go out with *him*. I told him I had this other date but he convinced me to blow that off and go out with him instead. I tried to call the other guy to cancel, but he was already on his way; so Darryl and I decided to just leave.

We opened the front door, and there was my date, about to knock on the door. He looked at me with Darryl with some puzzlement, and I said, "Oh, hi! This is my boyfriend Darryl. I'm actually going out with him tonight. I called you to cancel but you weren't there. Okay, 'bye!" And off we went. And that was the charming girl I was at 17. I guess I did feel a little bad, though.

When I was 17 I spent the summer after graduation with my dad and stepmom in Fresno. I had my own room there, and I managed to get superglue on the bedspread from giving myself a manicure. My stepmom asked me about it, saying she had searched long and hard, bargainhunting for that bedspread before finding just the right one at an affordable price. She said she had tried and failed to get the superglue out. I looked at her and smiled. "Oh, well," I said, shrugging. See? Sociopathic. Couldn't have cared less.

Teenagehood is synonymous with emotion, isn't it. I had a boyfriend who broke up with me and I punched a hole in my closet door. Another broke up with me over the phone, and in a sobbing fit, I ran all the way to his house that night, a ten-minute drive I'd never even walked before. And even though this "boyfriend" was a nefarious asshole who was using me for sex which I didn't enjoy, I grovelled at his feet not to break up with me. I guess I lived to feel wanted... I look back now at those years and wonder what happened to screw me up so badly for those few years, before I settled down again around 18 or 19 and fell in love with art, school, the world, and being who I was? Losing my father by way of divorce when I was 7 years old couldn't have helped, but could it have really affected my self-esteem *that* badly?

How did I get out of that funk? I got sick and tired of being depressed. Seriously, I just got bored with it and decided I didn't want to live that way anymore, nor did I want to die anymore. I was beginning to get a feel for who I was: creative and intelligent, not just a blonde head with body attached which male attention had made me believe.

I think it was to escape that image of myself which made me cut all my hair off in 1986 when I was 18, symbolically creating a challenging, inaccessible exterior where the conventional submissive one had been before. I became Susan the Marginal Alternative Artist and Intellectual, which I realize now was really just the antithetic personality from the previous one; but it was a necessary step in my survival and progress to who I am now.

And about a decade later I finally understood that I am not my appearance, and that all of who I was -- no matter how wretched -- is all wrapped up in the strata, layers of rock and sludge and ice and glass and velvet, underneath who I am today.

Beatifulgreedyviolent wrapped inside of lovingpassionateadventurous. It's all there; it's all me.

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