Yonic Youth

Vodka Yonic features a rotating cast of female writers from around the world sharing stories that are alternately humorous, sobering, intellectual, erotic, religious or painfully personal. You never know what you’ll find here each week, but we hope this potent mix of stories encourages conversation.

There’s a scene at the beginning of the movie Labyrinth that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. It begins with a slow pan across the protagonist’s bedroom, and if you’ve watched the movie many times — like I did as a little girl, drawn to the determined Sarah in her billowy ren faire blouse — you know items in her room foreshadow events in the film: a copy of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, a music box with a dancing lady in a ballgown, an M.C. Escher poster. The things Sarah keeps in her bedroom seem to be the inspiration for the entire fantasy that unfolds in the film. 

These aren’t particularly subtle Easter eggs, but they were fascinating to an 8-year-old. That scene has stuck with me ever since — especially after recently taking my baby daughter to my hometown and the house I grew up in. There she slept next to me in my childhood bedroom, my version of the Labyrinth movie set. Something about being a mom feels a little like time travel anyway — the cliché of seeing the world through a child’s eyes is fucking heavy when it happens to you — and that feeling was magnified when I watched my daughter’s eyes scan the bedroom that used to have everything 15-year-old me had ever cared about in the world. My cheap incense, my CD player with detachable speakers, my composition-book journals, my books about weird shit like Transylvanian history next to how-to guides about makeup. 

I had a poster that I’d bought at a CD shop in Kentucky. It’s gone now, and I wish I knew what I did with it. It was one of those oversized record store posters, and it featured the cover of Sonic Youth’s 1990 album Goo. I guess the shop was ready to get rid of it — I remember buying it for $5. Even though I’ve long considered Goo my favorite Sonic Youth album, I’m pretty sure that’s not because of the songs, but because I had this poster hanging in my bedroom, the beating heart of my teenage years. I used to draw the couple on the poster in spiral-bound drawing pads, copying the jagged lines of their shiny hair and lingering over the impossibly small cigarette — I now realize it’s probably filterless, possibly hand-rolled, something I was unfamiliar with at the time. 

Yonic Youth

Having that poster on my wall didn’t feel significant back then. It was more decoration than any sort of grand pronouncement of identity. But years later, when I was studying art in New York, I went to a lecture by Raymond Pettibon, the artist who’d drawn the shiny-haired couple on the cover of Goo. I felt an immediate intimacy with him and his work. After all, I’d likely been the closest thing to a Pettibon collector of any ’90s teenager in East Tennessee. I began to buy books about his work and studied them intensively. (Side note: Similar things happened with Gerhard Richter, whose candle on Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation album cover was something I adored so deeply that I actually remember dreams I had about it, and Mike Kelley’s stuffed animal on the cover of Dirty is still the first thing I think of whenever I consider the artist.) 

Things that felt relatively inconsequential for teenage me are, in retrospect, portentous in ways I could have never realized. It’s foreshadowing to a movie I hadn’t seen the end of yet. Before I ever realized I would end up writing about contemporary art, I had Raymond Pettibon on my wall. I had a somber Roy Lichtenstein print over my bed, and a dog-eared Sister Wendy tome on my nightstand. In my memory, these things are like clues for a future I hadn’t yet stepped into, like Sarah’s bedroom in Labyrinth, with its vertigo-inducing stairs poster and its wooden maze toy. 

There’s another character in that film I’ve begun to identify with — an old lady carrying piles of junk around on her back, who brings Sarah to an illusory version of her bedroom. She starts picking up things for Sarah to hold onto — a teddy bear, a crystal. That’s how I felt rummaging through memories to create a life story to share with my daughter: a linear narrative filled with a love of offbeat art and bookshelves proudly stuffed to capacity, themes that only become clear with time. 

One day, my daughter will probably hang a poster on her bedroom wall that will be more important than she’ll realize at the time. I can’t wait to see what it will be.

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