This summer, I went to see Sonic Youth in Prospect Park. My friends and I sat on the grass drinking box wine out of paper cups and blissing out on the music. We were joined by a friend-of-a-friend, who seemed to want to mansplain Sonic Youth to us. After I had to use Wikipedia to prove he was wrong about Kim Gordon’s age, I sat back in rock’n’roll-induced euphoria to talk about Kim Gordon as an influence in my teenage years.
See, Sonic Youth was a little too weird for me to actually sit down and listen to very often when I was young. But Kim Gordon? I wanted to BE Kim Gordon. Hell, the fact that her music sort of scared me was a plus. I wanted to make myself scary.
And at the same time as Kim’s music was this unwieldy, beautiful-monstrous thing, she had a style that was both easy and difficult to aspire to.
Imitating Courtney Love was easy: buy ever-present babydoll dress, rip, repeat. Kim was a different model of punk-rock femininity, an icon who actually designed clothes in her spare time. I would take the commuter rail to the Red Line into Boston and search the shops in Harvard Square for X-Girl things I could afford.
I only ever bought one T-shirt but it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen, age fifteen. I wore it with a short black skirt or dress and tights and Doc Martens and imagined having the guts to be a punk rock star. I knew who I wanted to be like.
Kim was older, she’d been through the rock’n’roll life for a while and she wasn’t falling apart in public. She was a model for a rock star who could still be functional, someone who could dabble in other careers without selling out, who had a clothing line well before it became a cliche, who found a way to be both femme and badass.
And her very career longevity has become another thing to aspire to. 2010, 16 years after I discovered her, I got to see her play and she rocked as hard as she ever could’ve in her twenties. That argument about her age? She’s 57. She’s still designing clothes, making art, making music, and still an icon.