I was irrevocably taken with Avril Lavigne’s Sk8er Boi when I heard it for the first time in 2nd grade. My best friend Sophie and I had started to move out of our respective “girly-girl” phases and into “tomboys,” stars in our eyes at the possibility of shedding our tutus for skateboards and baggy jeans. If our childhood were a Disney Channel show, you would have seen us sharing a split frame, cross-legged on our respective beds, each with a red discman in hand and the lyric booklets of “Let Go” at easy reach for us to memorize and analyze like holy texts.

We marveled at Avril’s attitude, how she’d put her feet up on the table when she did interviews and swear and shop in the boy’s section for her clothes. We giggled at Avril’s lesser known song “Naked” and shamefully memorized all the words to “Nobody’s Fool” where she raps. Although we were still in a phase where we refused to admit that we found boys anything less than revolting, I know that we both applied Avril’s angsty heartbreak lyrics to our first crushes.

Aside from being incredibly catchy and often easy for my almost tone deaf voice to sing along to, I isolated lyrics from Avril’s lyrics that sounded like they just “got” me. Exhibit A: on “In my World” she sings “I never spend less than an hour/ watching my hair in the shower/ it always takes five hours to make it straight,” (I have and have always had a frizzy and unruly mane of hair). On “Nobody’s Fool,” “I’m not the milk and cheerios in your spoon” (hey, I’ve eaten those!).

The heart-wrenching stuff, although it hadn’t materialized practically in my life, was still down there somewhere I think. Avril gave big F-yous to guys who treated her like crap and sang of feeling out of place. I loved to rock out to hits “Complicated” and “My Happy Ending” although my deep love for Avril’s work was mildly pretentious. Sophie and I claimed a fierce loyalty beyond the hits — we held fast to the deep cuts.

Here, I want to thank my mom for being a cool mom. Not the “Mean Girls” type of cool mom; she was not about underage drinking or letting us call her Michele. She’s a cool mom because she let me skip school 12 years ago for us to see Avril perform live. It was November 1st and she wrote me a note excusing me from that day of fourth grade. We took a train up to Boston and I sat with my mother somewhere in the nosebleed seats of the FleetCenter and wore an overpriced Avril Lavigne shirt that fit me like a dress.

I felt the stadium vibrate beneath me and it was so loud that my mom gave me earplugs.  I remember clutching her arm, with some certain level of fanaticism, and saying “I can’t believe it’s really her.” I kept my eyes forward, and my mouth moving quietly to the lyrics, not wanting to miss a moment of sharing that celebrity space.

In “Happy Ending,” Avril sings, “All the things you hide from me/ all the shit that you do.” I anticipated this line painfully and when it came I blushed at the thought of listening to the same song I’d listened to hundreds of times on my own with my mom by my side. Although I worshipped at the feet of a punk princess, I was a rigid rule-follower. As much as I wanted to get loud and provocative, I was anxious at my mother knowing I even existed in the same world as the word “shit.” As I said, my mom is cool mom, so of course she did not comment about the lyric and later noted that Avril had a beautiful voice and sounded a little like Sinead O’Connor (I did not know who Sinead O’Connor was).

That night, I fell asleep in a dreamy haze and returned home where I continued to listen religiously for maybe a year or so. That said, Avril as we knew her was changing — she was adding pink to her hair and getting married and straying from the moody and darkly stubborn tones to catchier radio pop-punk that Sophie and I refused to listen to.

We chose to hold on to the Avril I saw live in 2004, the one we saw as our rebellious older sister who inspired us to buy skateboards we would barely learn how to ride. We’ve changed our red-discmans for Spotify premium. My spot in Avril’s stadium is now in a small venue somewhere filled with PBR and manbuns. That said, the magic is still in there somewhere in the form of nostalgic karaoke renditions and the room shaking as it did when I saw Avril live for the first time 12 years ago.

We’re twenty-one now, and if you need us, we’ll be in the corner defending the merits of “Under my Skin” and “Let Go,” lyrics committed to memory and a lifelong promise to never end up like that sad ballet girl in Sk8er Boi. 

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