Utne Reader visionary [Originally published as Lisa Carver in the January-February 1995 issue of Utne Reader]
“Generation L versus Generation X isn’t even gonna be a fair fight,” insists 26-year-old Lisa Carver, who named Generation L after herself. “How can we not win against people who do nothing but brag about their indecisiveness?”
Although she I arguably the best-known noncelebrity her age (try spitting into a poetry slam without hitting someone who hasn’t read her or been punched out by her), Carver is admired precisely because she always does exactly the opposite of what slackers are expected to do.
Slackers are supposed to be suburban rebels-with-a-trust-fund, but Carver, the child of a pot-smuggling McDonald’s employee, grew up in the wilds of poor-white rural New Hampshire. One day she spontaneously took over the stage during a slow moment in a punk show: she slapped audience members and “sang.” Four years and three record albums later, Carver had made a name for herself as Lisa Suckdog, impresario of performance troupe famous for shocking and disgusting even the most jaded hipsters, who begged her to smack them out of their middle-class stupors. While seemingly everyone else her age was complaining about how few jobs were waiting for them after college, Carver and company peed, shat, humped, fought, and caterwauled their way across the United States and Europe. This was more than punk; this was Dionysian revolution.
Today Carver neither apologizes for nor boasts about her years with Suckdog. “I wanted to test the limits of chaos, and I did,” she says. “I’m still Lisa Suckdog, only now I don’t need to smear shit on myself.” But Carver wasn’t done pushing the envelope of acceptability. In 1990, after a brief experiment with prostitution (something else she never apologizes for), she moved back to New Hampshire, got a job at Friendly’s, and started a “personal-zine” called Rollerderby, which quickly developed into a forum where young women could freely explore taboo subjects such as rape fantasies and suppressed pony fetishes. Rollerderby (with a paid circulation of 5,000) features the work of teenage hookers, transsexuals and queens, the homeless, the very old, and the very young—everyone, in other words, who is usually robbed of a voice.
Recently Carver stepped forward as the spokesperson for everyone her age who is not an unkempt, directionless loser. (“I’m cuter than Kurt Cobain,” she explains.) Generation L-ers don’t mumble, they comb their hair, and they’re polite to their elders. Carver’s current near-obsessive “normalness” (she wants guys to have big muscles and fix things, and girls to wear tight sweaters) is a form of camp that simultaneously embraces and mocks societal stereotypes.
In October, Carver broke the biggest Generation X no-no of all: She had a baby. Just as she once pushed the envelope of chaos, Carver will now undoubtedly explore the furthest corners of what it means to be a responsible parent and adult. Only this time it will be little Wolfgang smearing the shit.