How I Became A Teenage Devil Worshipper Without Really Trying

Back when I was starting high school, in the fall of 1987, it was pretty much a disaster.  The high school I was headed for was known in New York City as a “zoned” school, Bryant High School, which is a school for kids in the neighborhood that can’t get into any of the better schools (in NYC, you can apply to good high schools like college). Zoned schools had to take you. 
Pictured: An 80s fashion plate.
So, I was thrust into a zoo of a school that was very dangerous in the midst of the 80s in NYC. I was fourteen and coming from a relatively safe school where kids didn't carry knives or follow you home from school to kick your ass. In order to survive, I transformed myself.  I became a “metal head”, black hair, black eye liner, the works.  I hung with the metal crowd, got into metal music and built my defenses.  I also learned the art of truancy and ditched the year.  The. Whole Year. I shit you not. 
So, after my failed freshman year in Bryant and a summer of trouble, my Grandma and Mother decided to enroll me into an all-girls Catholic school, St. Michael’s High School, in the hopes I would straighten out my act. I agreed...what the hell? At least I wouldn't get stabbed in the bathroom.

In September 1988, I transferred, made friends and did well.  I actually attend due to the fact that my Grandma was paying for this school and I didn't want  to waste her money. My grades were good and although I was smoking in the girls room (hit it Vince Neil!) and drinking beer on weekends, I wasn’t doing much more than any other kids my age.  (Except being guilty of shitty fashion sense.)  Sadly, in October of 1988, my Uncle died at the age of 33 after a life long struggle with drug addiction. My Grandma and Mother had to bury him less than a year after my Grandpa’s death.

Less than a month after his death, my Mother got a call from the principal’s office at school.  I was doing well at school and not causing any trouble, so I was really at a loss to why she was called in.  My Grandma went with her because she was paying for school, and I was called to the office when they arrived.  The nuns sat down my Mother and Grandma, who had just buried my Uncle, their brother and son (and the faculty was well aware of that fact) and kindly accused me of being a Devil Worshipper.
Yes, you read that right.   Devil Worshipper.

Da fuq?

It was the 80s and Heavy Metal music was under fire (thank you, Tipper Gore). There was widespread panic among parents concerning Metal music. It was on the news, in the papers, on the radio, everywhere, there were warnings to parents.  I already stood out among the other girls with my huge Nikki Sixx hair, black eyeliner and Metal Edge pinups in my locker of various metal bands. A teacher had also caught sight of a long cut on my thigh, reported to the principal that I was self-mutilating and a Devil Worshipper was born.

Hail Satan....? More like Hail Aqua Net.

Heavy Metal's Hero?

Also, and I remember this clearly, Geraldo Rivera had just aired a special called   "Geraldo Rivera's Devil Worship - Exposing Satan's Underground" (dun dun dun!) just days before, and it was sensationalistic journalism at it's mustachioed finest, complete with the monotone speaking daughter of the founder of Church of Satan, Zeena LeVay, sounding like she'd taken too much Xanax that day (she's now a Buddhist),  metal rocker King Diamond in full, KISS wanna-be make-up, and  a babbling, bleached blonde Ozzy Osbourne trying to defend himself
Someone must have been watching in the Rectory, took the ball and ran with it.  This was at a time when parents accused heavy metal bands of subliminal messages, sued them when their kids committed suicide and rallied for warning labels on albums. Heavy Metal was Public Enemy Number One and would make your kids slaves of Satan! (In hindsight, I'd like to sue Heavy Metal bands for influencing me to have really, really shitty hairstyles.)  So, it started a panic in the school among the staff.  Literally.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Year: NEVER
The nuns sat there and straight faced accused me of having a witch's altar in my locker and of sacrificing animals, and accused me of everything, verbatim that was discussed on the Geraldo special (I wish I were making this up).  They went down a checklist of supposed behavior I was exhibiting that was discussed, point for point, on the special. (I did listen to King Diamond's  theatrical "Satanist" music, but only to piss my mother off. In hindsight,  he was actually a terrible, terrible musician.

I invited them to go check my locker for this altar and was livid at the implication that I would harm any animal.  (By the way, the cut on my thigh was due to my inexperienced 15 year old hands attempting to shave my thighs for the first time.)
My Mother sat there, pretty much mute. And my Grandma cried because they were threatening to kick me out.  This was just weeks after my Uncle died and they were both emotionally beaten up.  I, on the other hand, spoke out and argued back with them, demanding that they check my locker, accusing them of inappropriate spying on me (that cut on my leg was very high up).  At the end of the day, they allowed me to stay if I signed a paper saying that I would remove all magazine pinups from my locker and never wear a heavy metal shirt to school on dress down day.  Oh, and they would be "watching me".  My Mother numbly agreed and I was from that day forward branded a witch and devil worshipper in school.


Saved me from a few asskickings.
It worked to my advantage though, in a small way, since it was the 80's and race relations in NYC weren't the best. The school was predominately Black and it wasn't uncommon for White girls to get jumped after school for some minor altercation that happened in school.  But word spread of my new label and everyone that might want to kick my ass steered clear of me because they were afraid that I actually was some sort of witch. *sigh*

But, I went on.  I still did well in school despite the suspicious glares from the nuns. I lasted another year and a half there until I eventually dropped out of the school, not due to bad grades, pregnancy, drugs or anything else, but simply because I was tired of the faculty’s bullshit.  Everything I did, every paper I wrote, was analyzed for “suspicious” elements.  I eventually just couldn't function in a literal “Witch Hunt” environment, and left.  So much for the Catholic church and embracing love and charity and all that crap.


Looking back, had my Mother been in her right frame of mind (as she mentioned later on in life) she rightly could have sued the school.  They were victimizing a 15 year old who had lost a family member, had a best friend in the hospital (my best friend and classmate was diagnosed with Cancer that year as well) and accusing me of friggin' witchcraft.  Had my Mother sued, I might be writing this from a house in Malba on a brand new Macbook pro that I paid for with my structured settlement from the Archdiocese of New York City rather than a basement apartment in Astoria on a six year old Dell with a missing "e" key.

Such are the wonder years of a Devil Worshipping Witch.

Me on a weekend.


E said...

I take it you managed to dodge being a Dungeons & Dragons player and thus a double whammy of 80s "spiritual" outrage?

I've always been fascinated by this phenomenon. Jazz, rock 'n roll, comic books, metal, D&D, R-rated movies, rap, and--today--video games (and that's only covering the 20th century and the first 12 years of the 21st alone); every decade there's at least one new hilariously misunderstood scapegoat youth-oriented niche interest supposedly behind all of the terrible ills of Western society.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, the logic behind multi sided die games eluded me. I even had a Star Trek RPG when I was young that say uselessly. I did enjoy reading the books, though, lol.

Funny about how every decade does indeed have a new, terrible threat to the youth. When my Grandfather, who was about as upstanding a man as you can find, was a teenager, his parents thought he'd be a hooligan because he stood around on the corner, in a suit no less, and sang with his friends. It;s always something.

Personally I think the downfall of today's youth will be skinny jeans. o.0