by LAUREN QUINN
The 90s were a brutal time to be a pubescent girl. It seemed like every time you got a good celebrity crush going, the object of your obsession up and died on you. The 90s may have been the last era of when non-conformist, non-commercial weirdos could still enjoy mainstream success, but there seemed to be a price for that: the 90s was also a time when being young, talented, famous and male proved an often-fatal cocktail.
What was a twelve-year-old girl to do? Build a shrine and crush out anyway. Because nothing says budding heterosexual co-dependency like a crush on a dead celebrity.
This crush began young. As the most mainstream and well-known tragic 90s celebrity, the pervasiveness of Kurt’s music and persona provided plenty of fodder for your tween obsession. You pretty much tore down your NKOTB shrine to replace it with a Kurt one, in which you displayed a flair for DIY by crafting devotional objects, such as the drugstore votive candles where Kurt’s face was pasted over Jesus’s.
By age 12 you were wearing white plastic sunglasses and puke-green grandpa sweaters (just like the one on Unplugged!). Precocious, you even tried to read Naked Lunch; you gave up after ten pages but kept the book around cause it made you look cool, a fact none of the other middle schoolers seemed to grasp.
As an early bloomer, you were doing drugs and falling in love with strung-out street musicians by 15. Nothing enraptured you like a moody genius with dirty hair and “potential.” You wrote tomes of confessional poetry for these boys, which you self-published in a zine and sold at your local anarchist bookstore.
After a string of unsuccessful relationships that involved a disproportionate level of erectile dysfunction, you’re now either single or married to a dude in recovery. You’re a writer, painter or sous chef. You regularly read The Rumpus and have written a memoir of your debauched youth that you are too scared to show anyone.
You grew up in California or Florida. Your parents were hippie artists and were in fact the first ones to show you My Own Private Idaho. River’s button nose, wickedly intelligent eyes and lustrous coif overshadowed the fact that he played a gay junkie, and you were smitten. You forced your girlfriends to watch the movie at sleepovers and though none you understood much, you all agreed River was cute. You were greatly relieved to discover he was not in fact gay. (The dead thing was still a bummer.) You became a vegetarian because River had been one. You made your parents buy you leather-free shoes and enroll you in drama classes. In high school you fell in with a crowd of slumming-it trust-funders. You dated at least one ecstasy dealer and were probably sent on Outward Bound.
You’re a crunchy granola type now. You have a weakness for yogis and pretty boys, and are loathe to admit you actually fell for the let-me-give-you-a-Chakra-massage line once. You have probably lived in Ecuador. You don’t care much for Joaquin.
You were a goth. You wore knee-length TOOL shirts and dog collars, and your neck was permanently stained purple from Punky Color hair dye.
Though Brandon wasn’t a junkie, the sheer spookiness of his death made him crush- worthy. You were attracted to the supernatural element of The Crow, which spurned your tendency to indulge in fantastical departures from reality. You learned to skateboard and liked to pretend you were Sara; you’d mutter her lines to yourself while cruising around your strip-mall suburb, the film’s soundtrack blaring in your Walkman. (“Eric?”) You liked to think that if you’d been born a few years earlier, you’d have been cast in her role.
You developed an affinity for doomed, epic love affairs; you dated boys who lived far away, had burgeoning mental illnesses or were not-so-secretly gay. From them you received tortured love letters, vows shouted at your bedroom window in the middle of the night and at least one case of scabies. More than one of them painted his face like Crow- style (NOT on Halloween) and took you on a date that consisted of drinking vodka at the local cemetery.
You are currently in an open relationship. You still own a pair of black raver pants.
Just kidding. There is no way you had a crush – like, an actual crush – on Elliot Smith and survived your adolescence.
Since the only Sublime song you knew when Bradley died was “The Date Rape Song,” this crush didn’t really flourish until 40oz. to Freedom hit the airwaves when you 16 or 17. As such, it had a slightly less demented edge to it. There were no shrines, vegetarianism or role-playing, but there was a lot of singing along to the album as you drove around in your boyfriend’s hotboxed truck delivering bags of weed to local stoners. You were attracted to the way Bradley’s good-time vibe was twinged with addict despair (cause it sure as hell wasn’t the bucket hat that did it). More into partying than fashion, you were a no-frills girl who wore the same hooded sweatshirts as your skater/surfer/ bro boyfriend. Your relationship involved lots of keggers and hacky sac, and one pair of lawn-seat tickets to a Sublime summer concert sans Bradley (total disappointment but you made the most of it).
You now work at a microbrewery and play in an Ultimate Frisbee League. You are still together with the same boyfriend; you are often heard saying, “We don’t have kids; we have a dog.” You have a blown-out tribal sun tattoo on your lower back.
You grew up in Indiana or Ohio. You had long hair and hand-sewn patches on your jeans. You spent a lot of time in the woods. You. Ate. A. Lot. Of. Mushrooms.
As the Weird Kid, you were attracted to Shannon’s peculiar inflections and out-to- lunch gaze. Having always felt you were born in the wrong era, you listened mostly to the Grateful Dead and Led Zepplin, so Blind Melon afforded you a slightly more contemporary connection with your peers. You enjoyed a few months of marginal coolness after he died. But then you dressed as The Bee Girl for Halloween and performed a twenty-minute tap routine in the lunchroom and were swiftly relegated back to Untouchable status.
As such, you didn’t date much as a teenager. You went to a small liberal arts college, where you met a kindred spirit in a Kafka course. Your honeymoon involved an Ayahuasca ceremony.
You are now a preschool teacher. You get really stoked every year when you get to play “Three Is The Magic Number.”
"Open the Door" - Magnapop (mp3)
"Waterfalls" - TLC (mp3)