live through this
After Kurt died, Courtney’s name was on everyone’s lips. Some people felt sorry for Courtney, but most people hated her for it. They blamed her. People conspiracy-theorized that she’d killed him, or had him killed. Others blamed her in a more indirect way, blamed her for not getting him off drugs or for not getting him enough help with his depression (not understanding that you can’t always save someone from their own pain, no matter how much you love them), or claimed she had driven him so crazy that he’d killed himself. It was easy to hate Courtney, to make her into the scape-girl, because she was loud and angry, because she did drugs, because she had ratty bleached hair and wore ripped-up dresses and smeared red lipstick. She was easy to hate because she played balls-out heavy rock’n’roll, because she did whatever the fuck she wanted. Because she wasn’t some silent sweet thing. Because god forbid we blame a man for his own actions - if he screws up his life, or ends it, it’s because a woman drove him to it, some Yoko Nancy Courtney succubus who was hungry for money, for drugs, for fame, for love. And then Live Through This came out, a week after Kurt’s death, and that made the people who already hated her more furious: as though it were all a gruesome publicity stunt, as though she’d somehow planned the whole thing, planned to have her album drop right after the love of her life fucking killed himself.
I didn’t know much about Courtney, other than what the media and my peers said about her. I’d only heard a couple Hole songs. I did know that I found her intriguing. The things about her that other people hated, like her wild, punk rock Alice in Wonderland style and her brash attitude, I liked those. I thought they were glorious. In some unnamed part of me, I thought she was the sort of person I’d like to be. And then, about a month after Live Through This was released, this alterna-goth-punk grrrl befriended me. My school was a middle school and high school, combined. I was nearing the end of my 6th grade year, and this girl, she was finishing up 9th grade. I never could figure out why she was nice to me - she seemed light-years ahead of me in terms of coolness and experience. Maybe she felt sorry for me, since most of the kids in my grade made fun of the way I looked, the way I walked, the way I existed. Maybe she saw in me a younger version of herself. Whatever the reason, she was so nice to me. When she saw me in the hallway between classes or during lunch or free period, she complimented me on my clothes, or the book I was reading, or she asked me what I was writing in my hateful notebook. She told me it was rad that I kept a journal and wrote poetry. “You should write a zine,” she told me. “Yeah, I’ve been thinking about it,” I said. One day, we got to talking about music. I mentioned some of my favorites: Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, The Cure, Green Day, Operation Ivy. Later that week, she gave me a mix tape of some of her favorites, bands she thought I’d like based on the ones I’d mentioned. I shook with excitement when she handed me the cassette - no one had ever made me a tape before - and I put it in my boombox as soon as I got home. The whole tape was great: Sonic Youth, Soundgarden, 7 Year Bitch, Babes In Toyland, Mudhoney, Nine Inch Nails, Tori Amos, Pixies, Jawbreaker, Hole… I grew to love most of those bands in the coming months and years, but the songs that hit me upon first listen were the Hole songs she’d chosen: “Violet” and “Miss World.” And the sky was made of amethyst / I am the girl you know can’t look you in the eye. The next day, I told her how much I loved the Hole songs, and by the end of the week, she’d dubbed me a copy of Live Through This.
That album was a revelation. It was a horrific fairytale, images of purple skies and roses white and red butting up against kill-me-pills and pieces of a girl in a box by the bed. It was a huge, dark sound, a tale of disillusionment and sorrow and fear, and also desire (desire for sex, for love, for everything). It was my desire and darkness, like someone had yanked it up out of my guts and made it into this music that sounded like dried flower petals wrapped in broken glass. I ripped a couple of my old dresses to shreds, and I tried them on in front of my mirror. I smeared red lipstick on my lips and let my hair tangle. Shreds and smears and tatters, I stood in front of my mirror, and screamed along with Courtney. I want to be the girl with the most cake. (And someday, you will ache like I ache.)
-Jessie Lynn McMains, from Reckless Chants #22 (2015)