Lorde Give (Teenage) Me Strength
by Maria Ilona Moore
As a teenager, I experienced a lot of things in the vacuum of my bedroom. I regularly escaped into a world of music and fiction, usually choosing to enjoy these things on my own – though being a shy a girl living in a small town didn’t really give me much of an alternative. So now when I experience the things I loved as a loner youth with other people, I am struck by how much teen me would have enjoyed this moment.
I wonder how happy she would be if she knew that one day she’d be jumping around to indie favourites with friends in a club, not just alone in her bedroom. How cool she’d find watching her favourite films in a cinema off Leicester Square surrounded by people who know all the words just like her. How exciting to see music she’d had on repeat performed live to an audience of thousands.
Young me imagined all kinds of things about growing older (a lot of which involved drinking cocktails by the pool which, sadly, has yet to materialise) but what she could never have imagined was the strength she’d find in likeminded people and the community she’d build – a community of friends that feel like family, but also of people she wouldn’t actually ever meet, the musicians, artists, writers and actors whose work would keep her going.
“I think of all the girls who are, like I was, awkward, lonely, weird, wonderful – and I think how incredible it is to be watching this awkward, weird, wonderful girl on stage”
When I saw Lorde perform live at Alexandra Palace in London, it fulfilled a teenage dream that didn’t exist until that moment. Watching her on stage, I felt my heart shatter and then I danced it back together again. I felt the kind of exhilarating togetherness that comes from ten thousand people being heard as they sing the same lyrics, and at the same time I felt like I could be the only person watching her sing. Tears pricked my eyes when she introduced ‘Liability’ and rolled down my cheeks at ‘Ribs’. My heart soared at the reveal of her third and final outfit change, the ideal outfit I didn’t know I needed (ruby-red bustier and red sequin trousers, if you’re wondering). I sang at a volume reserved solely for concerts, when there is no chance that anyone can pick my voice out from the crowd, and I danced like I didn’t have work in the morning.
And through all the feelings and all of the dancing, I thought about how teen me would have loved Lorde.
Part of the reason I’m so obsessed with my teenage self is that I am continuously astounded at how far I’ve come from being that fragile, tender girl trying to find her place in the world. Don’t get me wrong, I am still fragile, still tender, still trying to find my place in the world – the difference is that I’m starting (slowly) to accept that this is who I am. It breaks my heart to look back at that younger version of me and think how different things might have been, had I had the people in my life and the people to look up to that I have now. But that, of course, is what you get by growing up.
So with all of this in mind, there I am, watching Lorde, and I’m thinking how lucky all the teen girls, and the used-to-be teen girls, and really everyone who has ever felt a little bit different are to have her. I think of all the girls who are, like I was, awkward, lonely, weird, wonderful – and I think how incredible it is to be watching this awkward, weird, wonderful girl on stage singing songs about feeling lonely and getting older and kissing on light-up floors.
I remember teenage me shrinking herself, trying (and failing) to hide the tangle of emotions inside her. And I think about what it would have meant for her to have had Lorde to look up to. To see someone on stage who isn’t ashamed of being all feelings all the time, who knows that hearts worn on sleeves are easily bruised. Someone who owns her weirdness and her sadness, whose songs feel like spells and perfectly capture that feeling of being alone in a crowded room.
Now that I’m firmly in my late twenties, I still feel things deeply and I want so much of everything. I still feel awkward and alone, no matter how much has changed since I was 16. It’s a hard, long road but I’m starting to embrace these things about myself, day by day, little by little, and a lot of that is due to women like Lorde. Women who feel things in public and make art that truly, deeply reflects the inside of their brains. Women who show flaws and imperfections and weirdness for what they are – things that everyone experiences. It would seem that seeing a small piece of yourself reflected in someone else is powerful whatever age you are.
When I was younger, I found inspiring role models were few and far between, and I could barely have named one well-known woman to invite to my dream dinner party. Now, they’d all be women and they’d all be people whose work has inspired me over the years, reminding me, and anyone else who needs it, that it’s all right to feel different and that it’s all right to not know where you’re going and it’s all right to let your emotions out when they come. It’s all right, because once you find your people, whether they’re friends, celebrities or fictional characters, things will start to fall into place.
Seeing Lorde live was intoxicating; a dark disco of emotion that I hope I’ll still remember in a decade or more, when I’m living out the daydreams of my twenty-something self, maybe even while sipping on a cocktail by the pool.