Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Centre, 1984
I made quite the entrance. My parents heard my footsteps pelting down the driveway. I flung the door open in my fake dreadlocks and Boy George shirt and burst into tears. They tried to make sense of my sobs. Had the concert been cancelled? What on earth was wrong? I pushed through my pre-teen petulance long enough to wail “The Culture Club concert was wonderful! But it’s over.” I had officially peaked at 12, I told them solemnly. It was all downhill from there.
My diary entry for that day read: “I couldn’t stop it, the best day of my life, from passing. I feel so deserted. Why, why?!” That week’s entry also held a vow to “be more outspoken and learn the occult”. Childhood diaries are both illuminating and excruciating. For years, though, mine held the same name, over and over: Boy George.
I loved him from the first moment I saw him. The video for Do you really want to hurt me? was so exotic I almost hugged the TV set. Who was this, where was this? And how could I get there?
I plaited my hair with tiny ribbons and practised a British accent. I shrugged at the schoolyard taunts of “Is that a man or a woman?” and responded with the simple truth: I just love him. His poster was on my bedroom ceiling, just above me in the top bunk. Even in my dreams, I still knew he was there, watching over me.
Mine was an incongruous obsession. He was flamboyant and frank; I was shy and studious. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, I felt his call to revolution acutely. I was more than ready. At his concert in 1984, that spark was fanned to a flame.
The audience itself was responsible. Streams of excited goths, punks, and misfits came pouring in the door. I gaped at the mohawks, at men wearing wedding dresses and androgynous youths in fluorescent make-up that glowed in the dark. It was an utter revelation. I remember weeping with excitement in the concert hall.
I grabbed my chaperone and pointed to the sea of colour and costumes below us.
“Why didn’t anyone tell me?” I gasped. “I didn’t know we could DO that!” My friend’s mum shook her head. “You can’t,” she said sternly.
Challenge accepted, I whispered to myself, as the music began.
The blue hair dye was the first strike. Green followed, then ripped stockings, and more piercings than were really necessary in one body. I hung out at punk squats with pet rats and drum kits. The black lipstick wasn’t a success, but then, is it ever? I was breaking open the husk of childhood, guided by George and his lessons on confidence and courage; lessons I will always be grateful for.
My homes have always exhibited my passions, and my passions have always dug deep. The 1980s posters are now gone, replaced by snake skins and bat skeletons, deer skulls and tiny taxidermy I’ve done myself. My bookshelves hold feminist punk and Icelandic spells, the Black Death and the Berlin Wall. My obsessions are not transitory: I am not a fickle woman.
I still adore George. My joy surges every time I hear this song. In my nightstand, wearing plastic boots and tiny plaits, is my Boy George doll. They sell on eBay for $400, but I’ll never sell him. He’s the symbol of my awakening, of my challenge accepted. And even when I’m sleeping, I still know he’s there, watching over me.
Rijn Collins will be part of Stereo Stories In Concert on Saturday 14 September at Write Around The Murray, in Albury, New South Wales. Details here.