I was 17 or so by the time I stopped going to raves. It wasn’t an every-weekend sort of thing -- partially because of accessibility; remember, I grew up in small town Indiana -- but my pals and I often managed to find the “call this number the day of for directions” flyers and show up at a few dj-ready skating rinks or empty strip malls. Cops would check us for weapons at the door -- seriously, it isn’t subversive if the fuzz is in on it -- and we’d dance. For hours.
I spent one New Year’s Eve shimmying around in front of a giant speaker with my two best friends (who are two of the three high school friends I still have to this day) and still count it among the best midnight countdowns of my life. Pink lights were cascading on our faces when suddenly the DJ remembered what was happening and yelled, “Oh HEY! Five! Four! Three!” And then we all just kept dancing, because it was just another few seconds of our very long lives.
We thought we would live forever. It was a fantastic time.
Few photos of this era exist, which is fortunate since we all look insane.
But also? We look AMAZING. We are totally having the time of our lives!
Wearing a bunch of homemade bead bracelets didn’t necessarily have a lot to do with our fun. (And for the record, while I’m not here to hate, neither did drugs. No rolling on E for this straightedge chick.) Being out in the world, dressed up in ridiculous costumes, and dancing like we didn’t have a care in the world felt like total liberation from our dull, predictable suburban lives.
Once a month -- more if we were lucky -- we could walk into a packed room full of strangers and dance our asses off. Before compulsory photography and the ubiquity of Facebook tagging everyone you know, it seemed possible that we could do anything and be anyone, that no one would recognize us if we passed on the street the next day.
It’s easy for me to romanticize my brief halcyon days in thrifted tees, happy hardcore mix tapes, shaking glow sticks in my friend’s face, and driving to Denny’s at 4 a.m. for a Grand Slam because we needed to refuel for the drive home.
I look back and think that even mired in our teen angst, we had this one awesome, concrete thing figured out. Which was, essentially, never forget to party. Also, try not to care what other people think.
In that spirit, I stacked the few kandi raver bracelets I still had left and went out to run some errands. I could only find two of my old bracelets, which seemed a bit understated. I planned to just make a David Guetta-popularized heart with my hands if anyone hated on my style.
First, I texted my lifelong friend and former rave buddy Dan.
“PLUR motherfucker!” I wrote with a photo of my arm kandi attached. His lackluster response confirmed that I was way more excited about this than anyone else. (Except maybe my cat, who really liked chomping on the beads.)
Then I threw on a few more appropriately goofy accessories and met my friend Kim for lunch. Kim’s got about 15 years on me. There was a good chance she wouldn’t know what to make of my kandi-adorned wrist.
I wish I had something amazing to report, that Kim grabbed my arm over pad Thai and shrieked, “What are THESE?!” But she didn’t. We spent two hours talking about our respective work (we’re both freelance writers) and how we’re sorta prudes in a city known for its loose morals and open relationship culture. Never once did she notice my childish bracelets.
Maybe that’s the point. I wore them for me, not because I need for some EDM-loving, massives-attending PLUR kid to run up and ask me where to score some E. Not that I wouldn’t LOVE that, because I would. But it’s 2012, and I’m pretty sure I’m not gonna encounter that archetype while lunching in the Financial District or Nob Hill. Time moves on, so do I, and all that.*
I yanked on my favorite black cowl zip hoodie as I walked home, my sparkly secret hidden beneath the layer of warmth. Maybe my rave accessories are another woman’s lacy underthings. Maybe it’s that fun thing you do for yourself, because it makes you happy, even if there’s no one else around to appreciate or even care. That’s a good enough reason for me.
Edit: Time does not always move on. See this recently launched LA Weekly column, which I swear made its debut several days after I wrote this. Zeitgeist!!