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Straight Edge Interview Project- Mel Buttigieg- 38, Melbourne Australia

Tell us about you? What do you do for a living? Do you have any pets, hobbies, pet projects?

I’m a former journalist, now communications manager for a start-up. I make zines and run the Zine Gang Distro with my boyfriend – a collective of about 30 zine-makers.

Favorite straight edge (or non-straight edge) bands?

Parkway Drive and New Found Glory have some straight edge members. Alkaline Trio is my fave band (not straight edge)

What is your definition of straight edge?

Good vibes only! Cutting out the negatives in life: not just rejecting drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, but also ditching people and experiences that drag you down. PMA all the way!

Where do you see the straight edge scene today?

I feel like a lot more people are embracing healthier lifestyles and clean living just because they realize it feels better. There’s more of an acceptance to stay sober in mainstream society than there was even 10 years ago. So a lot of people will be living the straight edge lifestyle but not really aware that there is a whole scene and culture around it. I’ve been edge for 13 years and feel like there’s less of a stigma around clean living now than there was back then – but maybe it’s just because I’m not hanging out with 25-year-olds anymore!

There’s an ongoing debate on whether one can be straight edge without being a part of the music scene, what’s your thoughts on this?

I was out for a walk in my neighborhood on the weekend and a random middle-aged man noticed my straight edge shirt and asked what that was. I told him it was a lifestyle movement rejecting drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. He said ‘that’s something I could get around!’ and I thought that was pretty neat. It doesn’t matter that I probably would never see that dude at a hardcore gig, I’ve given him something to think about as he goes about living his best life, free from booze and drugs. You do you! But if you want to chuck a mosh while you’re doing it, then let’s party!

What are some funny/common misconceptions people have about you being straight edge?

Most people assume there was one single epic moment that defined why I stopped drinking and want to know what it was. But for me, it was a downward spiral that I needed to change before I hit breaking point. Another odd one is that I’ve heard people say they don’t trust anyone that doesn’t drink.

What are some challenges you have faced when interacting with other people who are also edge? If you haven’t had any challenges, tell us some challenges you’ve faced when interacting with people who are not edge?

A dude I went on a date with shamed me for eating fish (I’m a pescatarian). Aside from that, I can only think of positives. I lived in northern Queensland for a few years – the epicenter of red meat-eating, beer-drinking Aussie blokes. When I said I didn’t drink, they thought I meant just not during the week. Wild! Dating has been a challenge too. I’ve had dudes un-match me on dating apps as soon as I tell them I don’t drink. I don’t care if the person I date drinks socially, but there’s a lot of judgey people out there! It can be a bit awkward getting gifts of booze or offers to get bought drinks at bars from good-meaning people. I feel like I’m offending them by knocking back a shout, but they usually just assume I’m a designated driver. It’s often easier not to correct them. If I’m at a bar or a party I usually just get a glass of Coke so I have something to do with my hands.

Is your diet influenced or informed by your choice to be straight edge i.e. organic, antibiotic infused meat, genetically modified foods, vegan, vegetarian?

I’ve been vegetarian since childhood (but introduced fish into my diet in my 20s because I wasn’t eating a proper balanced diet and was feeling too hungry all the time). So nothing really changed as I became straight edge. I first cut back on alcohol as part of weight loss, but then I realized I liked being sober better so it stuck and I never looked back. The more I learned about the straight edge ethos of taking control of my life and staying true to my convictions, the more I realized it was something I needed in my life.

What’s your straight edge story? Was there a key moment that made you realize straight edge is the way you want to live your life? How old were you? How did you find out about straight edge, was there someone in the community that introduced you, or were you introduced to it through people/bands, etc? What drew you to it?

I was really unhappy with lots in my life. I hung out with some toxic party friends and was seeing a guy who was totally wrong for me. I worked long hours for a boss who was a real bitch so I used alcohol as a release but I burned the candle at both ends and fall apart. I kept making bad decisions when I was drunk or high and didn’t like the person I had become. Something had to change, so I set on a path to rid my life of anything toxic – job, boy, friends, booze, weed – and take control of my life. I started exercising and eating better, then everything just started getting better for me. I met some cool edge people along the way, so that’s been inspiring. But most of my friends and my partner drink socially and I’m fine with that. Everyone I’m around now is positive and goal-driven, and that’s what I love about my life.

Do you consider yourself an activist? What is/are your cause(s), and how have you been working to advance them?

Not really. But I’ll call out anyone if they’re being an asshole or making homophobic comments.

What, if anything, keeps you committed to the straight edge lifestyle?

I’m a control freak and I enjoy taking control of my life back.

What is something you didn’t think you would struggle with by claiming edge?

Rejection from insecure people who see my sobriety as a negative reflection of them. Go figure!

What do you do for stress relief instead of drinking/drugs, tips for peer pressure?

Hiking, crossfit, travel, dancing like nobody’s watching, playing board games with friends, watching bands, eating ice cream. On peer pressure: if you hold a drink (non alcoholic) people will just assume there’s booze in it! But I 100% own it and if I’m at a house party I’ll just go to the kitchen and make myself a cup of tea!

How was it being straight edge in this pandemic?

I’m so relieved to be edge right now! Otherwise I would have just got drunk or high and not been able to function! Melbourne has been in lock-down for 6 months and I lost my job in the process (but started a new job and returned to study), so it’s been a really depressing and stressful time.

Have you ever considered breaking edge? What were the circumstances, and what changed your mind?

In my first year of claiming edge, I was talking to a random guy in a bar about it. He may have been talking shit but he said his mate was edge until his dad died and he got drunk and smashed his car and ended up in a wheelchair. It sounds too intense to be a true story but it scared the crap out of me! I know I’d be a lightweight if I drank now, so I never wanted to risk it.

Have you ever stopped being edge for a period of time, and if so why? Did you regret doing so? What brought you back? If you have come back, how do you view your commitment (i.e. for life, for now)?

Before I was edge, I started just cutting back my drinking to once a month (from 3-5 times a week). But my body wasn’t used to it anymore and I ended up throwing up or getting blackout drunk on not as much alcohol. I would go out a lot on my own to meet friends and I became worried for my safety if I was off my face with nobody to watch out for me. I knew I had to be all-in or nothing at all. It’s been about 13 years and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made in my life!

If you are in a relationship is your partner straight edge, or have you had a previous relationship with someone who was not straight edge? What, if any, challenges have you faced relating to your lifestyle/choices?

I’ve never dated anyone straight edge. The alcohol wasn’t a big issue because it was never with a problem drinker. But I found dating dudes who were into drugs just weren’t compatible with me. Our lifestyles were just too different and it wasn’t going to work. One guy I went on a couple of dates with broke it off because he had too much fun doing acid and said he couldn’t see it working between us. Fair call!

Has your family and social life been negatively or positively impacted? Have you faced or are you facing any specific challenges because of your lifestyle choices? If your family/friends are unsupportive, how do you deal?

I have a big European family where alcohol is a big part of hospitality. So it’s more awkward than anything when they say ‘one drink won’t hurt’. I played roller derby for 5 years every Saturday morning, so there’s no way I could have done that hungover! Same for Saturday morning crossfit workouts!

If you are single, have you found it difficult to date?

I’m not single now, but when I was I used to just order mocktails or non-alcoholic drinks if I went to a bar, or meet for coffee. It wasn’t too difficult except in a few times when I got unmatched on dating apps when I said I didn’t drink.

Some straight edge women/girls I have talked to have told me that they feel isolated and that they find it difficult to relate to people outside of the straight edge scene. Is this something you can relate to?

Not really. I met a lot of empowered women through roller derby who was into fitness and healthy lifestyles, so that wasn’t too dissimilar to straight edge. Instead of going out to bars on Saturday night we would meet for brunch after practice or do yoga or a weightlifting session on Sundays. That still happens now that I don’t play anymore.

How do you explain your lifestyle to others outside of the scene? Do you find it difficult? What’s your elevator pitch?

I usually just say I don’t drink. Most don’t ask why, but if they do I just say ‘Drunk Mel’ made too many bad decisions, so this is much better.

Over the past decade or so individuals in recovery have stumbled upon the straight edge lifestyle and it has really spoken to them. Do you feel that the straight edge community has been welcoming to those in recovery? Do you have mixed feelings? Strong Feelings?

I came clean before I really understood what straight edge was, so the crossover with recovery makes total sense to me.

How do you feel your straight edge commitment plays into the bigger social justice movement for gender equity?

It’s all about empowerment, so that’s something girls and women often lack in themselves and in their peers. Straight edge can only be a positive influence for empowerment.

Straight edge and the associated music scene have long been male-dominated. What do you see as a woman/girls role in the scene? How has this role changed since you have been involved and what changes would you like to see?

There aren’t too many vocal straight edge icons in the scene. But there’s usually a fair representation at gigs so that’s good to see.

Do you feel the straight edge community has done enough to advance gender/race/social issues?

There’s more social awareness and inclusivity as a whole these days

Is the scene as inclusive as it likes to think it is? Do you think there’s work to be done? If so, what would you like to see change?

There is always more work to be done! Elitism needs to change in the punk scene in general (not just limited to straight edge)

Mother, wife, small business owner.

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