It’s the summer of 1996. I’m listening to toni braxton, the beatles, blur and santana. I’m eleven, and a few months later, I would go and see the backstreet boys playing in oslo. It’s the year where I really start trying to figure out why I don’t fit in at school. The year I start wearing copious amounts of makeup. It’s when I start obsessively washing my hair, start dieting and stare into the mirror for hours at the time. As if that ever helped anyone.
I’m eleven, and because it’s in the middle of the holidays, the hard things in life are far away. I like music, reading and words that are long and difficult. I hate to write with pens that aren’t green, but have experienced that green inked pens never last.
This is the day I decided to become a comic-maker, and although i never became one, I can still remember it in vivid detail. It’s july, and it’s so hot that the air is shivering over the warm asphalt. I’m wearing shorts made from old jeans, and probably my favourite green tee-shirt, which by the way is identical to the one my second cousin has. I’m sitting on the stairs in front of the house with a horrible sketchbook made from the kind of recycled paper which mechanical pencils cuts straight through, a cup of tea and a Beetle Bailey magazine. I’m drawing miss Buxley over and over and over again. My green pen is digging into the cheap paper.
I know that the comic-strips that features miss Buxley are considered sexist. Most of them are also sexual. I didn’t see this when I was little, and the strips with miss buxley in them were what made me keep on reading Beetle Bailey for years on end. Not because they were sexist, but in a world where the literary characters were all smart and popular; a world of Nancy Drew; a world where the indie comics i read today, packed with the lives of alienated kids who read too much didn’t exist; – miss Buxley was the only character I knew of who was pretty, sexy, popular and still remarkably stupid. For a girl like me, who wasn’t doing too well in the social aspects of life, it felt wonderful. For me, miss Buxley doing something stupid and brainless became a symbol of how the popular kids in my class probably weren’t too smart either, in spite of their looks and their popularity.
But today I found the comic manuscripts from that summer day. I read it, and was embarrassed. The two miss Buxley’esqe characters, Zonia and Zubretta are as stupid as I remember them, but what I didn’t see then, is how quickly the theme of the comic changed from «let’s laugh at these popular, pretty girls cause they’re obviously stupid and shallow» to a sore description of all the things I longed for myself. Having loads of friends. Being wanted in a sexual way that I, being a child hadn’t yet articulated. Being wanted in spite of all ones flaws.
When reading through these little snippets of dialogue, it becomes clear that when making this comic, I was trying to convince myself of how the popular kids in my class really were shallow and stupid. I almost find it embarassing how easy it is to see the real message behind it all:
The one that goes: «Oh god. I want to be just like them.»