Originally published April 30, 2020.
I’m the unnamed girl from Avril Lavigne’s 2002 hit, “Sk8er Boi” and I’m here to set the record straight after 18 years of silence. I’m finally ready to reclaim the wildly judgmental narrative surrounding my adolescent relationship with a self-proclaimed “sk8er boi,” who I will henceforth refer to only as “Kyle,” a pseudonym I’ve chosen for him out of respect for his privacy. Until now, my story has been told from the point of view of Kyle’s girlfriend, a musically inclined young woman who, in her youth, had yet to embrace the feminist imperative of women supporting other women. I wish to rectify her unfair depiction of my character by going through the song line by line.
“He was a boy, she was a girl, can I make it anymore obvious?”
At the time, I was exploring my own gender fluidity and was on the cusp of realizing that I identify as pansexual. I would not say that this was at all “obvious.”
“He was a punk, she did ballet, what more can I say?”
Reducing the entirety of someone’s identity to one hobby is incredibly juvenile. I’ve always been a complex, multi-faceted person with many interests. Sure, I did ballet, but I was also an expert in Irish step dancing and Appalachian clogging. There was, in fact, more to say.
“He wanted her, she’d never tell, secretly she wanted him as well.”
Why must men insist that women secretly want them?
“But all of her friends stuck up their nose, they had a problem with his baggy clothes.”
I like a man in tight pants, sue me.
“He was a skater boy, she said, ‘see you later, boy,’ he wasn’t good enough for her.”
I didn’t reciprocate Kyle’s romantic interest, but that was in no way a judgment of his worth as a person. I simply felt that we didn’t have enough in common. He enjoyed chugging carbonated energy drinks, practicing his kickflips in public parking lots, and shoplifting from the local PacSun in the name of anarchy. I was busy preparing for the National Clogging Championships with hopes of being inducted into America’s Clogging Hall of Fame. It just wasn’t a good fit.
“She had a pretty face, but her head was up in space, she needed to come back down to earth.”
This is just rude. It’s also a petty reference to my then-burgeoning interest in astrophysics.
“Five years from now, she sits at home, feeding the baby, she’s all alone.”
I’m a proud single mother, and I find it wildly offensive that someone would dare to presume that I’m somehow dissatisfied with my choice to have a child outside the confines of a romantic partnership. I’ve chosen to raise my daughter with the help of a supportive community of friends and family. We are not “all alone.”
“She turns on the TV, guess who she sees? Skater boy rockin’ up MTV.”
I’m not sure I’d call a guest appearance on Jackass “rockin’ up MTV.” But I guess he did swallow a bunch of rocks on a dare at one point during the episode.
“She calls up her friends, they already know, and they’ve all got tickets to see his show. She tags along, stands in the crowd, looks up at the man that she turned down.”
We already had tickets to the show before we realized Kyle’s short-lived band, “Garbage Barge,” was one of the openers. I only stayed long enough to hear one of their synth-based screamo songs and, as I watched him swing his mic so violently he nearly concussed himself and several audience members, I felt no regret.
“Now he’s a superstar, slammin’ on his guitar, does your pretty face see what he’s worth?”
I cannot say this enough: self-worth should not be determined by external validation from others.
“Sorry, girl, but you missed out. Well, tough luck that boy’s mine now, we are more than just good friends, this is how the story ends.”
My story ended with a Ph.D. in astrophysics and the support of a loving non-nuclear family. Not that anyone ever asked.
“Too bad that you couldn’t see, see the man that boy could be, there is more than meets the eye, I see the soul that is inside.”
I saw the man that boy could be, and I didn’t want that man either.
“He’s just a boy, and I’m just a girl, can I make it any more obvious? We are in love, haven’t you heard how we rock each other’s world?”
Again with the heteronormative assumptions. But yes, I did hear about how you “rock each other’s world,” and I have to say I find it somewhat performative. Your desire for me to recognize the legitimacy of your relationship would suggest that perhaps Kyle hasn’t fully moved on emotionally, and I think that’s something to consider discussing in therapy.
“I’m with the skater boy, I said, ‘see you later, boy,’ I’ll be backstage after the show, I’ll be at the studio, singing the song we wrote, about a girl you used to know.”
I’m so happy that the two of you found each other and that your song about me has remained so incredibly relevant. In comparison, all I have is my job at NASA, my satisfying friendships, my involvement in my community, and the love of my child. Pathetic, I know.
So, on that note, I have only one thing left to say: See you later, boi.
Read an interview with Madeleine Trebenski about the process of writing this piece here.