I just finished Hairstyles of the Damned by Joe Meno, a coming of age tale about high school students set in 1990-91. Meno does a fantastic job of portraying all of the angst of high school: the conflict between trying to fit in and be unique at the same time, hormones run wild, parents and a loss of innocence about marriage and family continuity, and inevitability of adulthood. As reflected in the title, the characters’ hairstyles are one way that the teenagers define themselves. More interesting than their hair, though, is how music plays such an important role in their search for identity and belonging, but more so in what I would argue to be music’s role in moderating one’s emotions. Just think about how — be it metal, punk, hip-hop or dance — teenagers have always gravitated to loud music, muffling all of those conflicting voices that distract their already distracted minds.
Most of all, Hairstyles of the Damned simply reminded me of high school. Ironically, though, while so many of the characters resembled people I grew up with (I graduated one year before those in the book), my personal high school experience was completely different. For some reason, I never fell into any of those traps, for I was completely indifferent to being cool, fitting in, or listening to “cool” music. I spent my time playing soccer and listening to Reggae by myself. I was in my own world.
What I didn’t like about the book was that it made me feel old. Being a contemporary of characters set in a historic context, as mentioned in number 9 of 25, made me feel irreversibly fleeting, like the past.