Mistress of the Mix: Old School (revised)

To put it mildly, I was kind of a rebel back in the day. I was the kind of kid who liked to march to the beat of my own drum. I just thought I knew what was best for me, and nobody else was going to tell me what to do or how to do it. In fact, if someone attempted to get me to march to the beat of someone else’s drum, that was pretty much a guarantee that I was marching the other way. It made things difficult at home, made things difficult at school, and made things difficult at a couple of jobs.

By the way, welcome to a special “School’s Almost Out” edition of Mistress of the Mix. It’s a best of, sort of, because I wrote a lot of the words you are about to read below three years ago. But they are coming back to haunt me now as I prepare for a stint next weekend deejaying the all night graduation party for the high school my daughter graduated from a few years back. At first it was an honor when they asked me, now I’m kind of kicking myself. I’ll get to that later. But first, let’s talk about my stubborn independent spirit and then we’ll get to how it’s sort of come back to bite me in the back door. Twice.

I was suspended from junior high for a week after standing up in English class and flipping off the teacher, in a verbal manner. She’d given me a C on a creative writing paper. I still don’t think I deserved it. I lost my entire allowance countless times because my father would try to get me to behave by methodically docking money every time I didn’t shut up. It didn’t work. I left my first (and last) fast food job after six weeks, when the Taco Bell night manager instructed me to work the drive thru from register 1 (all the way across the building) instead of putting my drawer into register 6, right next to the window. I thought the way we did it during the day was far more efficient, and he wanted me to do it his way. So I let him do it all by himself.

When I got to high school, I already knew I’d never run with the ‘popular’ crowd. I never played any sports, never officially joined any clubs and never got involved with any of the drama or music productions. The closest I ever got to joining anything was signing up for journalism and landing the position of Editorial Editor of the high school newspaper. Because you know how I am. Never seem to have a problem telling anyone how I feel about anything. I was never a cheerleader, never ran for any kind of student office, because I wasn’t a dummy. I knew I never had a chance at any kind of major popularity contest. I ran with the punk crowd, was in a punk band and put on punk rock concerts, although truth be told, I was more of a new wave fan.

But I was most definitely a known entity.

Me in 1984. I’m either laughing hysterically or screaming in agony because my collar’s too tight.

I was loud, never shut up in class, and spent a lot of time in the vice principal’s office. I shopped almost exclusively at garage sales and army surplus or secondhand thrift stores. I had a closet full of 25-30 year old clothing that was probably just as ugly and garish when it was brand new. I wore a lot of little old lady dresses covered with gigantic flowers with a studded belts, rubber rain boots and brightly colored fishnet stockings. I was kind of a cross between Cyndi Lauper, Boy George and old school Madonna. I even had earrings made of barbie doll heads, weird hats that I wore over ultra-teased bangs, and the ugliest of ugly chartreuse shirts (which I think I wore for Senior Picture Day). Seriously. Compare these photos with the one above. Don’t you see it? Less makeup and no recording contract, but other than that….

I’ll tell you just how rebellious I was. Up until the year I graduated, our school had a senior graduation party that was very inclusive. All the students were invited, not just the Seniors. It cost $3.50, but covered the cost of roller skating from 10-midnight, dancing at a disco from then until 2, a movie from 3-5, swimming at the university pool after that, and breakfast at the vice principal’s house. If you had a sweetheart that went to another school, no problem….bring ’em along. $3.50. It was a blast. I had so much fun, that I looked forward to my senior all-night party for three years.

And then, just when I was getting ready to graduate, along came M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers), and the universal, transcontinental idea of tossing the seniors a party in one location so that there’s no driving around, and searching their bags when they come in the door so there’d be no opportunity for any hanky panky.

When the parents gathered all of the seniors together to tell us they were throwing us a party so we didn’t have to worry about it, they’d take care of all the details, we were all for it. Until they told us there would be no roller skating. No swimming. No underclassmen invited. No boyfriends from other schools or over a certain age. And the cost? It was somewhere between $25-$50. Doesn’t really matter which. We’ll pretend it was $25. It was still a buttload of money in 1984, almost ten times what it had been in years past. It was outrageous, and a lot of the students were pissed. The whole school was abuzz. Some started talking about throwing a giant kegger up in the mountains.

I wrote perhaps the best editorial of my young life, listing all the issues we students had with their M.A.D.D. party, and asking them to make some changes to accommodate the students. I showed it to Darin Kavinoky, another Senior, to get his opinion. He turned the paper over,  wrote a quick petition supporting my thesis, signed it, and then passed it around school, where it was signed by several hundred other students, and then printed in the school newspaper, the Rogue News. Later, Darin became a lawyer. I see him giving his expert opinion from time to time on cable TV news shows about the court case du jour. He’s even got his own show.

The editorial and petition got the attention of the moms. They wanted to have a meeting. So we met. Just me and them. I had a list of demands. They were unwilling to compromise. On any of them. Even the request to have a room with some pillows where partygoers could simply relax, maybe catch a little shut eye during the 8 hour party. Because what better way to celebrate the graduation into adulthood of 200 eighteen year olds than to search them, lock them in a room for eight hours, refuse to let them sleep, and then raffle off a used car at 6am?

We were at loggerheads.

So I told them I’d just hold my own party. The Ashland Senior High Alternative All Night Party.

I rented the disco for a 2 hour dance party, followed by a movie on a giant wall-sized screen, gave away tons of prizes donated by local businesses, and all of this was followed by breakfast, also donated by a local grocery store. I sold tickets for $3.50.

I’ll be honest with you. The M.A.D.D. moms probably thought they’d won the battle, because most of the Seniors went to their party. Even Darin Kavinoky went to their party. In fact he won the freaking car. But my party was also a success, because all of my friends were with me. All the underclassmen were with me. There were friends who went to other schools who were at my party. And we had a blast. Best. Party. Ever. And since all of my friends liked the same weird music that I did (and since I was providing the DJs with the music), it was a bonafide new wave post punk alternative dance riot.

Sometimes its hard to believe that more than 30 years have gone by since this all happened. Now I’m an old mom. Old enough to be a grandma, actually. Still loudmouthed, opinionated and on occasion I make some pretty strange fashion choices (just ask Linda Bott about the time I thought it might be a good idea to wear a table runner as a scarf on stage). I may be a responsible adult who’s pushing 50, but otherwise I’m pretty much that same wild rogue that threw her own alternative all night high school graduation party.

Thirty years after that graduation party, my daughter graduated from high school. And the associated parents of that school asked me if I’d be willing to chair her Senior All Night Party. These days they call it Sober Grad. I tried to tell them that I might not be the best choice. But they didn’t listen. We were already at loggerheads right from the beginning. But I did tell them I’d be the DJ.

They had no idea what they were in for.

That was three years ago, when I deejayed Sober Grad, and I’m happy to say everything actually went super smoothly. But I attribute that to the fact that at the time I had a high school senior living in my house. I was subjected to the hot teenage music trends of 2015 every day in my own home. But just to make sure I had my finger on the pulse of the entire student body, I asked my daughter to staple together a few pieces of notebook paper and pass it around to all the seniors, asking them to list their favorite songs current and past so I’d be sure to be as prepared as possible.

Well. Wouldn’t you know it, they’ve asked me to do it again for the Class of 2018. Only things aren’t working out so well this time. First, I asked my daughter if she’d come home from college that weekend to partner up with me. Three months ago when I committed to the gig, she committed as well. Now she’s backed out, because she’s got a film shoot that weekend. Priorities. Sigh. But she did reach out to a few current students on Facebook, asking for some of their favorite songs. I got a few. Not a lot. Then I reached out to another student at the school who I’ve known since she was a baby to ask if she could help me get a list going. She was gung ho, for about five minutes, and has now sent me her apologies for sort of flaking out, but did offer me a Spotify playlist given to her by a Senior girl called “Dance” that supposedly had songs that the Class of 2018 would really enjoy hearing at their party.

That list. Damn that list.

My daughter had already given me that same list. The exact same list from the exact same student. I won’t mention her name, but there is no way I can play 96% of the songs on that list. All but two would never be approved by Tipper Gore. And back in the day, I had a bone of contention with her about her parental advisory stickers, but now, at the age of more than fifty, as I get set to play loud music for a bunch of high school kids locked in a building overnight with their parents listening in with their judgey ears, I just can’t afford to be the rebel I used to be. I need that “Explicit Content” sticker so I know which songs to avoid at all costs.

Back to the “Dance” playlist. I thought that word referred to kids getting out on the dance floor and whooping it up. But no. If I’m to take this Senior at her word (or rather her choice of music), the dancing that’s popular with the kids these days consists of dancing on a pole and twerking.

I’d like to share the lyrics with you, really I would, but I just can’t even. Instead, let me just try to describe the first handful of songs that have been offered for my consideration. The first song, “Yiken” by Priceless Da Roc, is rapped by an African American male who is encouraging a woman to twerk her bottom down onto his appendage. Of course he doesn’t use the word African American to describe himself, nor the word woman, and not the word bottom or appendage. Thirty times he used those words.

Priceless Da Roq. That outfit is priceless.

I moved on to the next song, “Panoramic” by Dmac. Different African American man rapping about the same exact topic. About thirty seconds into the song he’d already used the N word three times, so…. next.

I just had to stop listening after the chorus of “Ayy Ladies” by Travis Porter, in which Mr. Porter discusses his intense desire for this…

…or perhaps to find a woman who will let him go in through the back door without putting up too much of a fight. What is that even about? (Just kidding. I know.)

So this whole exercise of being horrified over the list of songs these teenagers would like me to play (that I’m totally not going to play) has left me feeling like the biggest hypocrit and a fuddy duddy. I feel irrelevant. I feel like a puritan. I used to think I was pretty hip for a mom. Now I don’t feel old school. I just feel old.

I’m kind of feeling sorry for myself. But I’m not giving up. I’ve only got a week to pull this together though, so help me out, would ya?

Some of you have teenagers, right? Some of you know what’s what, and can help out a poor former punk and current classical music goddess tap into current music trends for high school seniors that don’t rely on the N word? If you’ve got a teenager in the house, sit down with them and have them list a few songs for me in the comments section below, would ya?

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about all the music I used to listen to back when I was in high school. The music I thought was cutting edge and alternative, and bordering on unacceptable, but compared to the audio assault my ears took on listening to just a few songs on that damned list, my 80’s alternative music seems more on par with Christopher Cross and Barry Manilow now.

Its so depressing.

Anyway, check out this playlist of my favorite songs from high school days. There’s only one little teeny tiny reference to masturbation, and one caca word, if memory serves (but it might not. I’m old). I hope you enjoy the A-Z New Wave playlist, and wish me luck. I’m gonna need it next week.

Valerie Ing

Valerie Ing has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for 14 years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She and her husband are parents to a couple of college students and a pair of West Highland Terriers, and Valerie can’t imagine life without them or music. The Mistress of the Mix wakes up every day with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.

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