When I Grow Up

Julianna Hatfield. 2009

Cristy Scoggins

In the early 1990s, I dug Juliana Hatfield—the kick-ass guitarist who notoriously proclaimed her virginity at 23. The inspiring rocker—first as a Blake Baby, then on her own—who ruled MTV’s Alternative Nation alongside Hole and Sleater-Kinney. Then I moved on. But as I read her memoir, When I Grow Up, I felt a little guilty for deserting her. After all, she stood by me in adolescence with her crunchy pop proclamations about being "ugly with a capital U" and how "a heart that hurts is a heart that works."

I read When I Grow Up to make amends to Juliana. Approaching it gingerly like one who’s ready to apologize to a long-lost friend, I took in a few pages at a time to get to know her again. While every other chapter documents her 2005 U.S. tour with her band, Some Girls, the rest of the book describes how she’s dealt with making a living as a musician. Although music is her passion—her true calling—it’s a terrifying profession. She discusses the pressure of having a career that depends on producing hit singles. She describes how she socked her earnings away while she was on top, because she knew that success—and the money that came with it—could be taken away in a flash. She talks about the frustrations of her oft-described "girly" voice, and how it hindered her from being taken seriously by critics. (She even started smoking in the mid-1990s to lower her voice’s register, to no avail.)

The rambling prose reads like I was breaking into her diary, or listening to my best friend bitch about life. Like all best friends, she can get really annoying. She’s unbearably hard on herself for everything: Not being a good enough guitar player. Not being a good enough singer. Not having a stable relationship. She complains a lot, too: She’s hungry. She’s too cold. She’s tired. Then she feels guilty for complaining. Sometimes I felt like strangling her—a few times I had to put the book down, thinking, "Quit whining! I’ll talk to you later." But as exasperating as she was, I adored her raw, grouchy honesty.

I faced adolescence with Juliana Hatfield. In my 20s, my Juliana CDs grew dusty. But now that we’ve made amends, I’m excited for her to help me through my 30s.

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