There are some moments in life that stick with you, and at the time they really didn’t seem consequential at all.
One such encounter that I often come back to happened when I was 18. I was having drinks with some friends (for lack of a better word) from work and there was one guy who came along who, to be honest, I’d kind of been avoiding. Of course it turned out that he chose to sit by me. As I was trying to find an escape route he asked “What scene do you belong to?”.
HUH?! I had no idea what he was talking about. I tried to dismiss it by saying I didn’t belong to one (surely I would know it if I did!). “No, but what scene?” Hold up, did this guy just completely miss the part where I said I belonged to NO SCENE? He elaborated that he was super into electro-pop or something equally outside of my limited knowledge. I had no idea what to say: how was I supposed to boil down my entire being (as limited and frankly bloody naive as it was) to one sub-genre of music? And did that mean I had to fore-go other parts of my identity that seemed at odds with that one label I was about to permanently and haphazardly slap onto myself like an ID badge inked to my forehead? “Ummm… indie folk-rock I guess?”
Wrong answer. Yea, surprise! the completely subjective taste in music you’re supposed to identify your entire existence with can be a wrong answer. The guy immediately turned up his nose with an “Oh, you’re one of those people“. Apparently our “scenes” had looked compatible by the way I dressed (did i forget to mention the fact that you must must MUST dress within your scene… and looking like something you’re not, aka being uncategorisable, is a really bad and stressful thing for everyone involved?), but to him, my answer made us completely unsuitable for one another.
Even now, being older and a little more aware of my ever-changing identity, I would have no idea how to answer. To quote Streetlight Manifesto: “I don’t need a music scene to tell me who I am” but I often think that maybe I should find some sort of “genre” to identify with. Then I’ll find people just like me right? And we’ll all love the same things and dress the same way and go to the same shows and talk with the same slang. Yes I’ll have nothing in common with my old friends but who cares! I’ll have a scene!
There is so much to human identity and existence, I can’t comprehend how anyone can condense their whole being down to one scene. And what happens if you love multiple genres of music/art/literature etc…? Are we supposed to have separate lives for each part of our existence? I enjoy jumping around at punk shows, but that doesn’t define who I am. Likewise I would hate to be known purely for the lilting indie music I play in my room on a stormy night. I love reading Jane Austin and watching 80s horrors, but that has no influence on the kind of friends I make.
It seems exactly like judging people solely on their star sign or the colour of their hair. Taking one piece of information and making an entire judgment call on who that person truly is. Surely there’s no easier way to put people into a tidy little box where you don’t need to bother about finding out anything else about them.
So next time I’m moshing to pop-punk, skanking to a little ska or gently swaying to a folk ballad, I’ll remember to stop being so selfish and just pick one. Because, really, how will anyone get to know the true me without a scene?