Minneapolis punks jimmy and bryan answer Razorcake readers’ concerns in Dear ACABby, an advice column for the rest of us. In this edition, they wonder if you can stay punk forever and take on stonewalling and relationship trauma. If you’ve got a problem you’d like Dear ACABby to have a go at, you can email them at [email protected] and they’ll get back to you here at razorcake.org.
how do me and my malcontent friends avoid a dull future and stay punk forever? help i’m scared for the future.
—scared of tomorrow
Punk’s been around for half a century, and despite all declarations otherwise, it’s not dead. If anything, the longevity of punk creates new relations even as certain of its elements become anachronous or seem futile. Why publish a zine as audiences only dwindle and e-zines start to take the fore? Why play a show for ten people, anyways? Same reasons as always, as multiplicitous as the punks begetting them.
I (jimmy here) have always felt like rock and roll was the only thing, or one of very few things, in my life that didn’t need explaining. In a certain sense, it grounds me, it’s close to the center of who I am and the way I engage with the world, something I would imagine many punks share. I can’t imagine a future in which it is not central to me, whether that future is dull or not, though all evidence points to growing up, puttin’ on the khakis, and working some bullshit job I just hope I can make free copies at. I’m twenty years old. Will I still be moshing on the weekends, getting in spats with the cops, spending hours meticulously folding pieces of paper no one’s going to read anyways? I can only hope so. It’s the only way I can imagine keeping on. Or maybe I’ll do something else, but the real last hope, it seems, as corny as it sounds, is keeping punk alive however you can, for yourself, on your own terms.
It’s worth mentioning that punk is something I share with my dad, pushing fifty and still rocking hard (pandemic aside), three kids, dog, fence, and all. My first experiences of “mutual aid” were right in my neighborhood growing up, watching the way my dad, our neighbors, and punk family took care of each other during the 2008 financial crisis and beyond. PMA, TCB, and DIY the words to live by. A different punk future, I’m certain dull at times, but in all honesty (and this is where I really get cornball) I’m infinitely inspired by my dad’s commitment to punk, with and without a “scene,” kids in tow, even when it means bringing ’em along to the rock and roll show. After all, that’s how I got here, and I don’t know that he had a choice—I don’t know that I do, either. I don’t know if I’ll be punk forever, but I do know that sometimes it means being the only person left in town spinning the records… All of this to say is that punk is a lifestyle, but it’s bigger than any single inclination of what that means. Sure, we’ve got to draw the line somewhere, but really, you’ve got to draw that line for yourself.
Who knows. Maybe one day you’ll find punk is no longer for you. We’re inclined, however, to think that it’ll be there regardless: always a cheap guitar to pick up, always a dumpster overflowing with bread to find, and really, truly, there’s always rock’n’roll. Put on Raw Power, or whatever makes you feel good (Raw Power sure makes me feel good). Take a look back through zines you’ve collected over the years. You’ll be okay. All things considered, it seems likely you’ll do what you’ve always done. And if you don’t, maybe it’s for the best, or maybe you’ll come back into the fold. Gabba gabba we…
jimmy & bryan
Content warning in the following question and answer for family and relationship abuse and trauma.
I’m being stonewalled again. This is the first time in my life I’ve had the word “stonewalling” to describe what throughout my entire life has been one of the most consistent forms of mistreatment I’ve experienced from people I love. Digging deep into my childhood my mother would give me the silent treatment for days on end while I would alternate between begging her to say anything to me often sobbing while doing so and screaming wild threats or accusations just to get a verbal reaction. Neither of these responses would buy me the human interaction I desperately needed, she would react by continuing to ignore me while my stepfather would physically abuse me for disrespecting her. As an adult the mostly-avoidant or completely-non-responsive soon-to-be-ex-lover has been what every one of my romantic partners has become at some point. suddenly, without any explanation as to why things have shifted so dramatically. Despite gaining language to describe this pattern, I’m still the same terrified daughter who just wants to know what the fuck it was that I did that made me so low I’m not even worth words. The same child who digs the hole deeper by behaving so erratically that the person on the other end becomes terrified of me and all the witnesses called to the stand at my social trial can easily attest to how fucked up I was to their friend, my former lover. I’m so sick of it. How do I deal with the silent treatment? Is there any way to break down the stonewall without destroying what’s left of these relationships and becoming “fucked up” or “an abuser”? I think more importantly though, I’d like to know how to stop falling into this dynamic in the first place?
First, let me say fuck this society where abuse is so common for children. You have gone through some shit and are undoubtedly strong, multifaceted, and worthy of love and care. Secondly, and let me be blunt here, trauma sets us up to have toxic relationships, often in such a way that we contribute to the toxicity. In abusive relationships (within families and otherwise) we are often forced to learn unhealthy coping methods in order to get our needs met. At the time, these strategies are means of survival, become commonplace over time, and take a lot of time and energy to change, as wounds do to heal. It’s especially difficult when there is little exposure to healthy relationship dynamics, which is ultimately the case for many people in societies where toxic heteronormativity and the corresponding representation of relationships rules.
I think we can both see how the unforgiving nature of certain leftist circles, labeling someone fucked up and ousting them accordingly, results in some inconsistent and hypocritical attempts at justice (to be clear, we think this is often the only option when it comes to unrepentant abusers, not those who, like many, have engaged in unhealthy relationship dynamics). While this culture is ultimately harmful to a lot of people, it is also clear that we are responsible for how we treat others, and that responsibility is hard work.
I reached out to my therapist friend Abbie, who does a lot of work around trauma and healing with clients. She says “[c]hildhood neglect begins an abandonment cycle that adulthood completes, leaving trauma survivors no choice but to ‘act in’ in shame or ‘act out’ in relationship disruption.” And how the heck do we get out? Well, Abbie says we “[b]egin to nurture the child within who never heard or felt affirmations like ‘I will never leave you.’”
She went on to say that “often trauma survivors experience a ‘gap’ between the intensity of their internal response to an external stressor.” She explains how when we hear I’m busy the traumatized brain hears I’m too much, and that “[w]e can narrow this gap with friends and family who remind us of our inherent goodness, even if we have made mistakes.” If nobody comes to mind, we think another option is finding a therapist.
So our answer here is to allow yourself some self-compassion, and to look inward at what you’re bringing to your relationships, but also at whom you are attracted to and what you look for in a partner. Unlearning toxic relationships means being kind to yourself, acknowledging you are imperfect, but also goddamn deserving of care! There are all kinds of barriers to mental health support, but finding yourself a therapist will help in your journey.
We won’t tell you there’s one person or process that will solve all your problems, or even most of them: mental health is far too personal and polyvalent for that, and it’s no secret that the healthcare system at large is invested in the structures of capitalism. Regardless, this is not the kind of trauma that you should have to deal with on your own, and we encourage you to seek support from those around you and help on a bigger scale if that’s feasible. That said, reaching out is the first step, and surely daunting, especially after feeling shut out on such a grand scale for so long. Good work—seriously—on taking that step, and thank you for sharing it with us. We wish you all the best as you begin to work through this, and hope things start to look up soon.
Take good care,
jimmy & bryan
jimmy & bryan are two Minneapolis punks awaiting the verdict of the Chauvin trial and trying to thrive as the long winter turns into spring. You can send them your advice inquiries at [email protected] and they’ll get back to you as soon as possible.