Reclaiming Vulgarity, Or: My Last BandCamp Drop of 2021

Steeped in classic poetry, teenage me automatically wrote about everyday things in high-flung terms. It was the language that felt most available and came most naturally. It never occurred to me NOT to display naked longing, but my indulgences were confined to my imagination or written in controlled forms, which felt safe and dignified. I was never in real danger, and once my passions were pinned to paper, I could analyze them at a remove. 

I used violent language a lot, in ways completely unwarranted and unearned – but having been a sensitive kid, I experienced communication breakdown and rejection as assaults on my system, and these exaggerated metaphors were how I dealt with the visceral experience of that. I’d speak of cutting, stabbing, whipping – but I never meant any of it literally. 

It’s an age-old notion, even if fallacious, that women more-so than men use their personal experience to fuel their art, and my writing was clearly filled with my own longing for / lamenting the loss of an Other. (Of course, being a young teen, whom I thought of as the Other would frequently change.) I also tended toward facile, sensational archetypes, like the plain, stalwart wife versus the painted, frivolous mistress. While I was somewhat aware of playing into tropes I loathed, the convenience of employing culturally loaded symbols can be irresistible, and let’s be real: drama is just fun sometimes. Whether my adolescent theatricality, in its self-seriousness, could be called “camp,” is debatable (perhaps it was of the “pure” or “naive” variety). But performing what are essentially characters now, at the age of nearly 40, removed from the teen angst that inspired them, was undeniably a blast. Not to mention that, at times, it felt like the artifice circled back to a sort of genuine poignancy, especially as certain sentiments hit different in 2021 than they did in 1998.

My fraught relationship with things widely perceived as feminine is what I am referencing in my choice of title: Primula Vulgaris. The common primrose. It’s arguably a basic bitch among flowers; but, at the same time, it is impossible for my modern ear to hear “vulgaris” and just think “common.” Rather, especially for a person who grew up in a somewhat conservative household, it kicks off a chain of association extending from the concept of “vulgarity,” which gives the name a punk potential.

Tied in with all of this is my remembrance of how certain male classmates ascribed to me a stereotypical notion of purity, due to my reputation for being cerebral rather than carnal. Sort of a riff on the “not like other girls” phenomenon. In their young and misguided view, they intended it as a compliment. But by doing this, of course, they placed me on a binary, denying my complexity. The EP’s title, with its dueling connotations, is my way of re-unifying the dichotomy.

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