On being Straight Edge

Evening folks,

I’m Straight Edge, and often I wonder why.

For those of you unfamiliar with 80s hardcore punk – shame on you – a quick explanation. Straight Edge is an idea that people don’t need things like meat, produce, drugs or even sex, and we would be better off living a more restrained, ‘clean’ lifestyle. It grew out of the 1970s, as rock become increasingly extravagant and ostentatious, and people wanted a more stripped-down alternative. In the early 80s, New York punk band Minor Threat rolled out the song ‘Straight Edge’, whose opening lines ‘I’m a person just like you, but I’ve got better things to do / Than sit around, fuck my head, hang out with the living dead’ quite succinctly sum up the idea. The song was catchy, the fans loved it, and soon frontman Ian MacKaye had accidentally invented a name for a movement.

It’s important to stress two things about being Straight Edge: it’s flexible, and it’s personal. When I was younger, I didn’t drink or take drugs, but still ate meat, and called myself Straight Edge; now I’m a vegan, still don’t drink, and am equally Straight Edge. There isn’t a list of Straight Edgy things to tick off that grants you access to some elitist club, it’s more of a mentality than a movement. Similarly, it’s super personal, as I’m Straight Edge for myself, and have zero interest in spreading it to other people; my friends drink, they eat meat, and they do the drugs, but they’re still the most important and wonderful people in my life.

Which often leads me to question why I’m Straight Edge, and why it’s so important to me, if it greatly differs from all of my other intellectual stances. I think video games are the most important form of art of the 21st century, and want to tell people this – I run a gaming magazine and my final-year dissertation will be a comparison of Old Norse mythology to Skyrim. Similarly, in my opinion Tom Brady is the greatest NFL quarterback of the century, and will happily tell you why Manning just isn’t quite as good for hours on end. I care less about football, and perhaps less about intellectualising games, as I do about being Straight Edge, so why the difference?

Perhaps being Straight Edge is so important to my idea of myself that it’s not up for debate in the way that other things are. My identity has been swinging all over the place for eighteen months now – I’m redefining my sexuality, gender, interests, friends and plans – but I’ve always loved Minor Threat and hated alcohol. It’s important, I now realise, to have a few anchor points of selfhood that let you wake up in the morning and complete the sentence ‘I am…’, and being Straight Edge has been a huge part of that. I don’t want to think about not drinking, it’s simply inconceivable that I would drink.

I’m also aware that it’s all a bit silly, in the end. Like my veganism, I know that other people aren’t gonna drop their burgers and WKDs because the great JP Casey wrote a blog post about it, so I’m not going to bother to try. I’m less interested in people’s opinions on things, and more interested in how they reach those conclusions; it doesn’t really matter if I’m vegan, or vegetarian, or pescatarian, or a conscious meat-eater, as long as I’m thinking about what I’m eating and why I’m doing it.

And while some of being Straight Edge could be considered preachy – ‘I don’t smoke / I don’t drink / I don’t fuck / At least I can fucking think’ – I don’t engage with any of that. I’m not Straight Edge to change the world, or shame you into eating lettuce. I’ll do my thing, you’l do yours, and that’s all there is to it.

But Minor Threat are still a great fucking band.

I wrote more about Straight Edge for Public Pressure, which you can check out here.

I improved a dish

Evening folks,

I make no secret of the fact that I’m terrible with food. Be it down to my inability to taste (I don’t have a sense of smell so I can’t really taste much of anything), or my apathy towards everything other than playing Madden and translating Old English, I’ve just never got into food. I’ve never really liked the eating of it, the making of it, or the discussion of it. Some of my friends, meanwhile, are both very good cooks and very interested in food, so my pathetic attempts to nourish myself often resemble a small puppy trying to excavate an archaeological site alongside a small armada of mechanical digging contraptions; I deserve a few pitiful pats on the head, but little more.

However, today was somewhat of a watershed moment. I’ve enjoyed a vegan garlic pasta recipe for a while now – this one, to be exact – but I’ve often found it somewhat stodgy, particularly when I’m into my fourth portion because I’ll literally cook enough to give me leftovers for a week, then eat it all in one go.

So today, I took the unheard of step of deviating from the recipe. And not just a deviation born out of lacking – I’ll usually skip over the bits in fancy vegan recipes when they ask for blended almond-and-avocado paste – but a deviation born out of desire. I wanted it to taste less stodgy, and more zingy. So I did a thing.

I added salt to the sauce,

Now, I understand that this isn’t a particularly revolutionary step, as salt itself is a fairly basic component of a kitchen. It wasn’t even hard to do, nor did it take a lot of planning beforehand and a venn diagram to illustrate the advantages and disadvantages associated with such a culinary misadventure. I thought it could do with more salt, so I added more salt.

What’s even more stunning, however, is that I actually tasted the change. It was slightly zingy, and sharp, and helped break up the goopy texture of the rest of the dish.

The world has moved on.

I have levelled up.

Casey