(In Just Seven Years) Rocky Horror Made Me a Man

 

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Some of you will get the title reference. You are my people. Thank you for existing.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show turns 40 this year. I’m not sure if this is old or young, because it’s always been an old movie for me. Even though I’ve seen it hundreds (literally) of times, it’s always seemed like something from the past, brought into the present for lonely souls like me. It was a holy relic, and we were the cult that formed around it.

For better or worse, Rocky Horror made me who I am.

I was always different, quiet, weird. I suppose the term is “socially awkward.” I was more comfortable playing alone or reading than with hanging out with friends. I had some success with sports (particularly baseball), but it never won me any friends. I was bullied in school, and no matter how many times I fought back, it never stopped (Every time someone says that if you stand up to a bully, they’ll stop, I want to laugh at them. It doesn’t stop, it escalates). I hid behind my long, greasy hair and didn’t speak to anyone. Eventually I stopped going to school and just lived my life as far from people as possible.

The doctors diagnosed me with Bipolar Syndrome. I got loaded up with Lithium (the only drug available at the time) and sent to a special school. It was the best thing that ever happened to me, but that’s a different story.

I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but that school was the link to Rocky. Like I said, it was Rocky that transformed me from a shy, awkward kid to a semi-outgoing, but even more awkward, adult.

I was 16, and I went with a friend from the special school and some of his friends. Suddenly I was surrounded by people in half-naked costumes and makeup, yelling, joking, and…hugging! I don’t think I had ever been hugged by a stranger until that first night, definitely the first time I was ever hugged by a man in fishnets. People were actually friendly to me. I was confused, titillated, and entranced. When the movie started and people started yelling awful things in unison, it was all over for me. It became an addiction. I ended up going every Saturday night, getting home at 3 or 4 in the morning (because you have to take over the local diner afterwards, order one plate of disco fries between 10 people, and drink coffee until you vibrate).

I think it was the anonymity of it all. In the dark, no one could judge you. You shed your outer self–the mask you wear for acceptance–and just let go. The thing was, I never had a mask, so I never had acceptance. Suddenly I was in a place where everyone was like me. For two hours a week, we were all equals.

I memorized every line and every call back. I made friends with other socially awkward people, so we could be awkward together. Yelling terrible things at a movie screen brought us together (like how Cards Against Humanity is such a great party game). Rocky was a vehicle that allowed me to be social in a judgment-free area.

As I got older, I got bolder. In college, me and my friend (I had friends now) staged a bi-weekly Rocky in our dorm lounge. I played Riff Raff and sometimes Eddie (and I was freaking good at it). It empowered me. In a few short years I went from hiding in corners to dancing in a spotlight.

I really wish I had pics of me performing.

So what did going to hundreds of Rocky Horror performances teach me? It taught me to get over it. I was so busy worrying about what people thought of me that I couldn’t be myself. There will always be people that judge, and those that will never accept you. Fuck them. Be yourself, be weird, and the people you want to be around will find you.

I’m proud of my weirdness now. I used to be afraid to say that I love D&D and cartoons. Now I shout it out. I’ll sing and dance in public. I’ll wear facepaint at a football game. I’ll embarrass myself, and I don’t care what people think.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Rocky in the theater, yet it’s still latched firmly in my heart. It makes me sad that there are only a few places to see it live now. Every generation needs something like Rocky, a place where the weird can be weird without fear of judgment.

The one near me closed down a good 15 years ago. There’s one within an hour of me, but I can never get up the will to go. I have no idea why. Maybe I don’t need Rocky anymore. Maybe I used to go as social therapy, and now I’m confident enough that I don’t need it. No. It’s because I can’t stay up till 3 or 4 in the morning anymore.

I’m old, Rocky is immortal.

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95 thoughts on “(In Just Seven Years) Rocky Horror Made Me a Man

  1. Pingback: Candy Corn Is Halloween Incarnate | casandersdotnet

  2. I went to my first Rocky showing in college, having no idea what it was – and it was SO much fun!  My little brother was in high school at the time, a half a country away, and since I’d left for school had become progressively more socially withdrawn, even as he stopped calling me or returning my calls.  I don’t know why, but I bought him a plane ticket for a 3 day weekend and took him to the late Friday night show – a full and fully interactive house.  I watched him go from shock to the open, mischievous joy I’d so missed over the past months.  We talked about his thoughts and fears the rest of the weekend…and haven’t missed a weekend since.  Rocky is pure gold.

    • That’s a beautiful story. I wonder how many people have been able to open up because of the show. There’s something about it that let’s you shed your mask and reveal your real self.

  3. I think Rocky is for those of us that don’t fit in that square they try and stick us in. It lets us all know it’s ok to be who the hell we are, without judgement being passed. So glad to see this, and realize it has done the same for others!

  4. This is a great story you’ve told. Thank you for sharing it. It’s refreshing to read about folks are weird too. Sometimes I look around my office and feel very alone in my weirdness. Then I open up a blank word doc and fill it with friends and I am once again weird and happy that way 🙂 I wish Rocky had been a trans formative experience for me. I wanted it to be since the people I saw it with had such experiences. It was entertaining yes and I enjoyed it but it didn’t change my life and that’s okay. It was still great fun.

  5. Pingback: (In Just Seven Years) Rocky Horror Made Me a Man - Faisal Qureshi

  6. I CAN MAKE YOU A MAN! LOVE ROCKY went to my first live show at 16. I have the 35th anv bluray. I love it, it, it!!!.

    Let’s DO THE TIME WARP!

  7. John Muir once said, “The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.” Congratulations on making it through the wilderness and discovering the contentment of the universe that is you. 🙂

  8. Pingback: (In Just Seven Years) Rocky Horror Made Me a Man | edydiademoda

  9. I saw it in the movie FAME many years ago in a VHS.Last year 2014 ,I saw the hole movie and a live Show in Athens for the first time ever in Greece,were I’m living.You caught me from the title but I ‘m glad for your article.Thank you back for your way of thinking!Every generation needs a Rocky…

  10. Pingback: (In Just Seven Years) Rocky Horror Made Me a Man | M.T. Miles

  11. This story reminded me to ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’. It’s amazing that a story that connected to so many teenagers when it was first published was actually the reality for some people. It was beautiful to read how theatre had captured your heart the way it did. I absolutely love the Rocky Horror Picture Show and whenever I can I’ll watch it, unfortunately I’ve never seen it live because it’s not big enough in Australia but through your post I could just imagine the smells, the sounds, the people. Amazing.

  12. Oh my goodness- I so could’ve been the author of this. You brought back some excellent memories and reminded me of an earlier, much more fun time. Thank you! At 54 I can still remember ’78 & ’79 when I saw Rocky Horror for the first time(s). Ahh, the memories…

  13. Pingback: (In Just Seven Years) Rocky Horror Made Me a Man | Ifiweremeagain's Blog

  14. I Love the Rocky Horror Picture Show & this blog brought to mind many grand memories of youth & adulthood. I own the movie & watch it regularly. Thank you for the post & memories. Keep Living Weird Out Loud!

  15. It’s awesome how you can pinpoint one experience that really helped you come out of your shell and accept yourself. Great piece!

  16. Yeah..
    I agree to the fact that its always not enough to watch some movies again and again..
    I’m addicted to Disney’s Tarzan
    Animated one made in 1999
    I’ve watched it more than 500 times
    Watching it since I was 6 yrs old
    🙂

  17. Thx for sharing! I was excited to go to the West Hollywood Carnival this year as Rocky Horror was the theme. I only saw ONE Frank N Furter! I missed Tim Curry on the main stage. He’s in a wheelchair (had a stroke a few yrs ago). My bf had not even seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show movie so he didn’t know what was missing from the whole celebration. All the “girls” must have been too tired for the WeHo celebration too.

  18. I’m only 24, but I have loved this movie since I was young. It is liberating in every sense of the word, and taught me it’s okay to be bisexual and the music, well that’s just fantastic in and of itself!
    I saw a performance that came to my town a few months ago and could not contain my excitement. I dressed up, sang, laughed.
    Anyway, I’m glad you’ve found your happiness.

  19. Thankyou for this, I feel Exactly the same! I was lucky enough to watch it recently in Melbourne and to my utter astonishment Richard O Brien walked out on stage and started narrating OMG! What a legend. I hope you get to see it live again soon.

  20. I think one thing that makes this movie great (besides the amazing music, acting, and quirky story-line) is it’s universal appeal. I’m 25 and I’m a fan of it. My parents are in their sixties and they are fans of it (they went to the original midnight showings of it). Of course, it is a cult-like-movie and not everybody is going to like it. But there are millions of people who do from all-walks of life. This movie helps to bridge those differences and allows different people to enjoy it, to be part of a large group that enjoys it, and to feel like they belong.

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