When Hayley Williams started the pop-punk group Paramore at 15, all she wanted was to be in a band with her best guy friends. And for a while, that’s what she did. But as she grew into an icon for emo kids, touring worldwide and releasing platinum albums with her band, Paramore was disintegrating. The narrative circulated by former bandmate Josh Farro, and favored by music trades, was that Williams was a domineering leader. “Bands have been honest about how much they hate each other, and you never think, Oh, Thom Yorke must be the fucking Hitler of Radiohead,” Williams, now 31, said. “I wonder if it’s simply because I’m a woman? I could have had a dick and the story wouldn’t have gotten any traction.”
Farro and his brother Zac left the band in 2010, and over the years Paramore went through multiple member changes. (Zac returned in 2017.) After a tour in 2018, Williams decided that she, too, needed a break. She was going through a divorce (she’d married her longtime partner Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory in 2016), and her depression had become unmanageable. She admitted herself to an intense therapy clinic. And in 2019, she began writing the thing she swore she never would: a solo album. Petals for Armor, an album released in three parts, out in full May 8, is a meditative odyssey through Williams’s past and her search for creative solitude.
Over Skype, Williams is beneath a weighted blanket, and her dog, Alf, is goading her into giving him attention. “Hi!” she says, smiling. “Welcome to my bed. It usually takes more than a couple meetings before I get someone in here.”
Who was the last person you hung out with before quarantine?
It was Joey [Howard, Paramore’s touring bassist and Petals for Armor co-writer] and Mike Kluge, who does visuals for Paramore. I went to Mike’s to talk about what the live show was gonna look like. We were getting ready to rehearse. It was the longest hang. Pizza in the living room with a huge screen to show all of the ideas. It feels like ten years ago.
Are there things you think you took for granted, now that you’re quarantined?
I took everything for granted. I’ve thought about taking my car to the drive-through car wash — I think those aren’t closed right now — just to listen to music and sit somewhere where a machine is doing something for me.
You recently postponed your tour until 2021. Does it make sense to put a record out without touring it?
The way I felt about it was everything happens when it’s meant to happen. There are moments where I feel ridiculous putting out music and I don’t feel equipped to handle what comes with that. You’re putting it out there to get something back, whether that’s a response or someone to buy a ticket to come and see you. Lately, I need to feel like this is coming out of me. I’ve been pregnant with it for so long. If I were to push this back, I would probably feel really depressed right now.
You’ve done a lot of work in therapy for your depression. In 2018, you wrote in an op-ed in Paper that at one point you’d hoped to die. What made you write that?
I felt scared to talk about depression for a long time. When I wrote that, I hadn’t been diagnosed. I’m a smart enough person. I can think through what I’m going through even when I’m really down on myself. A lot of people with anxiety or depression are intellectual and can understand, but it’s bigger than that. It’s a chemical problem. I was realizing how out of my control it was. It mattered to talk about it. Getting that down in front of me was a turning point.
Who responded to it?
People who were close to me who had not understood everything. Everything leading up to the summer of 2018 — one of the most beautiful moments in our band’s life — was a warm-up. We were learning how to speak to each other on an adult level. That was a good primer for me. By the time I did the Paper essay, I’d been articulating these feelings to my family. Now, when my friend Bethany [Cosentino] from Best Coast calls and we’re both going through something, we can talk about options: things we do have, ways that we can get around it. Even if we just need to vent.
What’s powerful about the venting?
Being a woman in the music industry is not often a conversation I love to have. It’s just my existence. It would be like someone being to anyone: “What’s it like to have nipples?” I don’t know. I’ve always had them. But after going through some of the stuff I’ve gone through, I’ve realized how lonely I felt for a long time because I wasn’t able to share my weaknesses with people. You cherry-pick the ones you want to put in a song. Anger was my medium for a long time. When it comes to what’s underneath that anger, that shit is so scary. Putting some of it out there has made me more empathetic and connected to my fellow female artists. [Nashville-based singer-songwriter] Julien Baker and I have had great conversations that make me understand something in my brain from a different vantage point. I could have always had access to this community of people who need each other.
Julien’s life is so different from mine. She grew up in Tennessee and has anxieties I’ve never had to deal with. A lot of things are innate to a woman’s experience in the world and also in the music scene. The shared empathy we have for one another is access to a cult I didn’t know I had an in for. I had to find the door and whisper some secret word. I needed to be vulnerable in a new way.
Bethany Cosentino has used anger as a medium in the past, too. Was there a lightbulb moment between you and her about mental-health issues?
There’s a lot of lightbulb moments with Bethany. We toured together in the midst of breakups from long-term relationships. We struggled with so many of the same manifestations of anxiety. Hormonal stuff, skin. We have a text thread that’s basically “Acne Anonymous.” We had a couple nights before she got sober. We were playing a casino. We’d eaten at the hotel, had a bottle of wine, ate loads of pasta, and talked about the shit we were going through — how we’d not been alone in a long time but we’d been lonely for so long, what [being on] tour felt like. Best Coast was opening for Paramore, but her hotel room was so much nicer than mine. I was like, “Holy shit! I’m staying here tonight!” We hung out in her room and did face masks. We watched Shark Tank. I had a massive hangover the next day.
We’re both lucky. We have amazing guys in our bands. I’m at the point now where if someone can’t call themselves a feminist, male or female, I’m like, “What are you then?” I wish it didn’t have to be a word — feminism. It’s just common decency.
Was there a point when you didn’t like the word feminism?
Yes. I just talked to Alicia [Bognanno] from [the Nashville-based punk band] Bully about this. For a long time, people would ask us about being women. I would get an opportunity and think either I don’t deserve it, or It’s only because I’m a woman, or I want to belittle it because I don’t want to stand apart from the guys. I don’t want to be treated specially. I also don’t want to be treated like shit. She started touring [when she was] a little bit older than I [was when I started]. The shit she had to put up with as a woman in her 20s is obscene. People saying [to her], “Who are you fucking?” when you walk into a venue. I was 16. People thought I was a merch girl. I looked like I was 12. I wasn’t fucking anyone, you know what I mean?
Paramore is almost two decades old. Watching old “webisodes” the band made, you were always the only female in male spaces. It’s not a glamorous world. Were there ever times when you were told you were high maintenance?
No. I made sure I would never be high maintenance. I got shit for not wearing lip balm in a photo shoot. ChapStick. The photographer wanted me to try it, and I was like, “The guys aren’t doing anything, I’m not doing shit!” The first time we got offered Warped Tour [in 2005], I’d been waiting. Never attended, was too young, wasn’t allowed. The guys and I didn’t listen to pop punk before writing “Pressure.” We listened to heavier stuff like Deftones. We wanted to be darker. Suddenly, we wrote “Pressure,” and that was it — we were gonna write emo bops! Sick! I’m psyched that happened. But suddenly the type of attention we were getting was different. I did not know how toxic that world could be.
The Warped world?
The pop-punk and emo scene in the early 2000s. It was brutally misogynistic. A lot of internalized sexism, and even when you were lucky enough to meet other bands who were kind and respectful, there was other shit that wasn’t. And I was really feisty. We got offered Warped tour, and there was a caveat: “It’s a stage called the Shiragirl Stage. It’s all female.” I was pissed! I wanted to qualify for a real stage. When I’ve been offered female opportunities, it feels like a backhanded compliment. But people sometimes think that’s anti-feminist, that I don’t wanna be grouped in with the girls. As a 16-year-old who had dreams of playing with the big boys, it felt like we were being slighted. That summer we went out, and I’ll never forget [it]. We played in Florida, and the stage was a truck that had a flatbed on it. It was so flimsy it would shake and fall apart. There might have been one other female in a band [on tour], and people were gawking. I don’t think in a pervy way. They were confused, like, What’s in this for me? What’s she singing about? I’m a guy — how do I relate?
You think it was that overt?
I purposely wrote without pronouns for years because of it. Then I was like, Fuck it, I don’t care. Some things won’t have pronouns, but when it’s my experience it will. We had to prove ourselves very hard. I would spit farther, yell louder, and thrash my neck wilder than anyone. The next summer, we moved up to a slightly bigger stage. That was the year of the fucking condoms.
The year of the condoms?
Dude, yeah. Summer of condoms, 2006. I got condoms thrown at me. In 2005, I wore T-shirts every day. In 2006, I was a little more comfortable. I’d wear a tank top. But my chest was exposed. We were in San Diego or San Francisco, and a condom flew at me, and it stuck to my chest while I performed. I was so embarrassed. I started talking shit because I was so young and arrogant. I don’t think I was wrong. It’s just I have more anxiety now than I did at 16. I had way more confidence then. Ignorant confidence. Another time, we toured with a band and we were on their bus and one of their friends said something about my pussy. In front of me. And—
One of whose friends?
They were embarrassed. I don’t wanna give them away. It wasn’t a huge band — one of the openers.
What did they say?
I can’t remember what this guy said because I saw red so fast, but he referred to my pussy. I was literally 16, about to turn 17. Everyone was laughing. No one paid fucking attention. I was like, “Why do you think it’s cool to refer to my pussy?”
How old were they?
In their late 20s. The guy and the girl that were in the band … Fuck it. The band was Straylight Run — one of the guys from Taking Back Sunday and his sister. She was my saving grace. It was the first time I’d ever toured with a woman. She was much older than me. But John [Nolan from Taking Back Sunday] was so pissed. Once I spoke how I felt into existence, it was like I created a vacuum: Oh, yeah, that’s not okay. I was so much bolder when the opportunity arose for me to speak up for myself, because the internet wasn’t what it is today. Only two years later, I became pretty silenced.
Silenced how? You stopped fighting about your experiences of sexism?
I was loud about the things I thought I could win: overt injustices against my femininity or the band. There was stuff in the press that was wrong. I hate to feel misrepresented. When people started to talk about something I said to Zac in the van on the way to a show, and there was a journalist there, and they got me wrong because they don’t have context for our friendship … I was a little quieter the more confused I became about who I was. I’m not sure if the confusion came from the mirror image all over the press about me or if it was personal decisions I was making that were taking me off course. Or if it was a perfect storm of both.
Paramore has been a band for 16 years amid drama and lineup changes. Josh Farro’s comments to the public when he and his brother Zac quit in 2010 set up a narrative that you were a tyrannical leader nobody could work with. We could interpret that now as sexist.
Thank you for saying that. I find it interesting that bands we’ve loved who have been through lineup changes — even bands who haven’t — have been honest about how much they hate each other, and you never question their loyalty. You never think, Oh, Thom Yorke must be the fucking Hitler of Radiohead. He can be an asshole. I wonder if it’s simply because I’m a woman? I could have had a dick and the story wouldn’t have gotten any traction. For a long time I was mad. Now I look back and I think we needed that to happen. There needed to be infections cut out. We needed to shed blood.
So Josh leaving was necessary?
Yeah, he made those incisions himself. That was so painful. But the toxicity between the five of us? We weren’t really friends at that point. Now, when I run into Josh, I barely feel anything. No part of me is triggered.
Do you feel any love toward him now?
You know what I feel? If I can remember right, this is what [guitarist] Taylor [York] and I said to Josh when we ran into him in a coffee shop. We said, “We did something that was so crazy and unbelievable. One day we were at school together. The next minute we were at Wembley!” Wembley was a shitty show. Backstage? Terrible.
[Pause.] [Josh] asked me what monetarily I thought he was worth.
How did you react?
I looked at him and said, “I’m not good with numbers. Are you kidding me? Don’t ask me that.” He [Josh] knew they [Josh and his brother Zac] were gonna leave, that this was some of their last shows. He was trying to figure out if he was going to take legal action against us to own the name or … I don’t remember everything he was going to fight for, but he ended up not. It’s not easy to fight your friend. What I like to believe is there was a moment when he realized it wasn’t worth it. It all got dropped. It sucked. You didn’t think you would come out of it. And [Paramore has] made two albums since then that are the best we’ve ever made.
You were originally signed to Atlantic in 2003 as a solo star, but you fought with the label to let you pursue your goal of being in a band. Did you understand the ramifications of being the only name on the contract?
No. I thought I was smarter than everyone. I’m 15 at the time. I wonder what words I used because I didn’t have the perspective I do at 31. We had all these songs the label liked more than the songs I’d written by myself, but the label wanted me to put them out as Hayley. I didn’t want to do that. I told [the then-president of Atlantic] Julie Greenwald I didn’t want to put out a song or do interviews under my name. There was a heated conversation with a team of people in which I said I would be just as happy to play these songs in Taylor’s basement for the rest of my life. It was a very empowered moment. My voice was shaking. I was crying.
A boardroom meeting?
Yeah, attorneys and shit. There was a bidding thing going on. It was the early 2000s. Avril Lavigne was fucking massive. Kelly Clarkson was on her heels trying to do guitar pop. Ashlee Simpson had signed with Geffen and is pop punk. Suddenly I was this prospect for a label. My dad and my mom wanted me to be smart. They didn’t want me to pass this up. I’d have that talk with them, then go to the guys and be like, “I don’t know!” I didn’t want to do this as Hayley. I was like, “You’re the only label that’s entertained the thought of the band, so let’s figure out how to make this work.” During that time, we found our manager, Mark [Mercado].
I really thought a contract didn’t matter. In a lot of ways it doesn’t. I was so ashamed of myself for being the only name on the contract. Later, Mark was like, “Here are all the bands where only one person is signed.” I’m not gonna list them. I’m not gonna be a rat. But it’s not that big a deal. My thing was, “Mark, just make sure everyone’s safe.” I don’t want to know about contracts. It never mattered to me. I was so ashamed of myself for being the only name on the contract. I’ve never talked about this. I still don’t know how to articulate it. I feel like the part of me that speaks on it is still 15.
The impostor syndrome stuck with you.
What bothered me the most is people pitted us against each other as friends, as if I was masterminding some crazy plan. I tried to mastermind like, “I’m gonna fuck over Atlantic Records! This is gonna be a band after all!” What happened was great. Fueled by Ramen was working with Atlantic, and we wanted to be on a label like that. I didn’t wanna put out an album of songs I wrote with my bandmates and recorded alone. Ironic because that’s what I’m doing now! That’s what the song “Conspiracy” is about. I felt like I’d lost all my power. Everyone was against me. All I had was my bandmates, and even they’re looking at me like, “Why aren’t we in this together?” And I was like, “We are in this together.” It’s just the nature of it. You get enough people whispering in your ear and everyone starts to think some shit’s going down. That was amplified in the press. Specifically when we came to the U.K. for the first time.
The U.K. music press does have a knack for tearing the bands they love apart.
Oh my God, yes. Let’s be real. If we didn’t have all that stupid fucking drama for all those years, would people even fucking know who we are anymore? Did that or did that not help us during some of the slower years? I don’t know. I’m not trying to go back and fix it. After Laughter was such a sweet time. Especially for me and how depressed I was. We enjoyed each other, we talked about this stuff. Zac [Farro] was able to talk to us about where he was when he quit. I didn’t talk to him for six years.
At all. The first time I talked to him was when we were playing a headline show in Auckland during self-titled . Zac was living in New Zealand. We were in his territory. I was trying to take inventory of how that felt in my body. I wasn’t mad anymore. As I’m sitting in my hotel room thinking about it, a commercial for a festival comes on and Zac’s band HalfNoise is on. I was surprised I felt so proud. Out of nowhere. Six years had gone by, but I was like, “Fuck, yeah, that’s my boy Zac.” I remembered him making GarageBand demos in the van, and now he was playing a festival in New Zealand on his own. I looked up his email address, and I wrote him: “You just came on my TV. All I wanna say is that I’m so proud of you.” That’s when the ice was broken.
How did he respond?
He was so sweet, like, “I can’t come to your show, but I’m so proud of you and I miss you.” We didn’t end up hanging out for a while. It wasn’t until we got into the studio for After Laughter. I was nervous to hang with him again. It was so life-affirming. Me, Taylor, and Zac sitting in a room again. They were the guys I hung out with when we were younger. When I was 13 or 14 and I had a crush on Josh, he didn’t like me back. He would go hang out with his girlfriend, who I wrote “Misery Business” about because I was a dick. I would hang out with Taylor and Zac. We’d sit on Instant Messenger and be idiots. It’s so surreal to me to still play music with them, let alone enjoy knowing them.
With those relationships fixed, you went out on the After Laughter tour, but you had just begun the process of your divorce. What were you faced with when the tour stopped and you came home?
I never took care of what was going to happen with my dog. I left it because it was too painful to sort in the midst of a deafening sense of failure. My parents’ divorce was the pivotal moment of my life. I keep discovering ways in which it asks me how to work on myself.
I came home in August or September  from After Laughter. There’s a post I made on Instagram on the way home from Japan, like, “I’m ready to go back and heal for real.” I don’t think I knew what I was saying. Had I known what healing looked like, I never would have looked forward to it. I would have wanted to book another tour. I come home and there’s a week of flying high — I finished this album cycle with my guys and shit’s great! Then I realized I didn’t wanna trade my dog back and forth anymore.
I assume you had to see your ex regularly to do that?
Yeah. And there’s no growing from that. Look, maybe some couples can do that. Not this one. I had to get therapy. I was having a lot of bad dreams. I still do. Now I think the dreams I have are my body processing things so my consciousness doesn’t have to do it in the day, like it’s working out the kinks.
What are the dreams?
They’re pretty fucked. There’s often water in my dreams. I’ve always written about relationships using water metaphors. My most memorable recurring dreams from childhood are all water related. I started to have a lot of those again. It resulted in me having panic attacks, and I ended up in a hospital. I’d faint.
When was this?
Late 2018. It’s been a slow lesson for me — how much power our emotions have on our physical health. It started to happen because I was in denial. I found a facility where I could go and be in a safe group or by myself and talk. That’s where I was diagnosed with depression and PTSD. Talk therapy has been more important for me than medicine. Now I don’t deny stuff that I felt or was exposed to through my mom and other women in the family. Their experiences were carried down and not corrected or taken care of.
Did the work help you understand why you were getting a divorce or why you had gone through with the marriage in the first place?
Well, that’s easy. I went through with the marriage because I had a lot of shame about mistakes I’d made. I got into that relationship prematurely. He was not divorced [from his previous wife] yet. I was very lonely. It was the beginning of the guys and I not having a great time in the band. I started making bad decisions: running, looking for the right door. Ten years trying to redeem one terrible mistake will send you to a lot of wrong doors, including directly down the aisle.
What was the mistake? Getting together with him when he was with someone else?
Yeah. I felt powerless and ashamed. It felt like the only way out was to stay in it. [When] I tried to start dating [again], I was sabotaging potential [relationships]. I met with my mom and was like, “What is wrong with me? Why do I do this? Don’t tell me it’s your divorce.” She had a lot of answers about what my first months were like out of the womb, what life looked like during the divorce. I had a 4- or 5-year-old brain. I couldn’t remember. I had a memory of the door slamming and suddenly I was only with one parent, and I can’t remember which parent I was with and which was on the other side. I’d been trying to fix where mom and dad went wrong in my relationships. With my ex I felt like, “Finally, someone picked me.” My mom felt like that in her relationship. But at the first sign of danger I said, “I’m gonna redeem this.” It doesn’t matter if someone’s not faithful, it doesn’t matter if I feel crazy all the time, I’m strong enough, I’m gonna fix this. That’s my mom. My dad is a wonderfully sweet man. But they were kids when they got together. Some of the worst parts of their relationship I’ve been reenacting.
Your latest single, “Dead Horse,” recounts when you were the other woman and how subsequently it was you who was betrayed.
Singing that was like being in a plastic bag for years and finally poking a hole in it. I had a lot of shame about being the other woman, about being betrayed, about staying. The song is meant for myself. It’s not like I was sitting there looking at someone, being like, “Hurt me, it’ll feel great.” But I stayed a lot. I stayed so many times. I think I like myself more than that, you know? I don’t know what it’s gonna take to rid myself of the shame, but maybe it turns into something that helps me have compassion and not be in denial.
There are parallels with what you’ve expressed about infidelity and the way Fiona Apple talked about her new record Fetch the Bolt Cutters.
Is this what she wrote the song “Newspaper” about? I listened to that song and was like, “I’m this person, I’m in this.” “Under the Table” really fucking got to me. I’ve heard her voice singing those lyrics in my head every time I’ve read some ignorant sexist-ass comment from undoubtedly a certain age of white man.
In Vulture’s interview, Apple talks about being the other woman, too. She says: “I felt a boost in my ego at first. But I’ve never stopped being disgusted by the memories, and I wonder if that’s because I never apologized to the women.”
Wow. Okay, well, I don’t know how personal to get, but I’ve been able to make amends — after my divorce, and due to the kindness of the other person. I don’t want to put her out there, because it’s unfair. I don’t know when this took place in Fiona Apple’s life. I can imagine that if she’s carried it a long time and she’s not able to say “I’m sorry,” it must be awful. I know that feeling. It took me far longer than I’d have liked, but we understand each other on a level. The person I offended when I was the other woman, at that point in my life, was the only person in the entire world who could have understood my specific pain. Because I was betrayed and felt alone and stupid. Considering that at one point we were at odds with each other, that’s interesting.
Reconciling with the woman he originally betrayed healed you of your subsequent betrayal?
Yeah. The thing that’s hard for people who feel betrayed is understanding that it has nothing to do with them. It’s about the offending party. For me, making amends meant being able to flush out all the poison that was floating around in me. It helped me finally let go, because so much of why I stayed was to prove I wasn’t a bad person.
Your voice has always been synonymous with emo rage. On “Simmer,” the debut single from Petals for Armor, it sounds more muted. It reminded me a bit of Radiohead.
After Laughter was very dance-y. Happy songs, a bit bombastic. This stuff felt subdued, like it was literally simmering. It felt angry. It’s like we had to whisper because we don’t know what shit is about to burst through the walls. The sounds I’m choosing don’t all have to sound angry to express that. The way that [Thom Yorke] pushes to find new tools is inspiring and helped me to step into a new courage. Björk’s Debut was impactful. I was listening to Sade and Erykah Badu.
Did making this project make you feel more free to use your voice differently?
Whoa. Yeah. There was no pressure to sound like I’ve always sounded or to be recognized. Every song was a different process. “Cinnamon” started with me on drums. “Simmer” started with me scatting into a mic. There wasn’t a map, so my voice matches whatever compass we were using. I feel most in my power when I can say “yes” or “no” calmly, even if there’s a lot under that. I’ve spent a lot of my career and my life trying to yell at a wall, trying to get a point across to people who often didn’t care what the point was. Now I realize my power doesn’t exist there. There’s no movement there. But when I can stand in it and it’s just for me, it’s not about proving anything. I have more conviction. Then the point gets across.
What about writing these songs made you realize you needed them more for you than for Paramore?
Well, Paramore had agreed to take time away. When we finished self-titled , we were wrecked. We won a Grammy, and we were so unhappy. Taylor’s the only one that’s never quit. Between records, he’s the only one that never stops working. I said to Taylor, “Never again, bud. We’re not doing this again. We don’t need it.” We were on the phone watching the MTV VMAs from our respective couches, and I go, “This shit sucks, bro. From now on, what does it matter what people will promise us if we don’t want it in the first place?” We made an agreement that we were gonna do things differently. Then I tried to quit the band because I was going through personal turmoil. Then we wrote After Laughter and I was not okay.
We were wrapping up the record, and I said to Taylor, “Promise me that you’re gonna tell me when you’re not okay.” At the “Rose Colored Boy” video shoot, his family went through a crazy loss. He told Zac and I we had to stop as soon as we had done the tours we agreed to. I took it seriously. When I realized I was writing this record, I thought, “I should make a Spotify page and throw them up.” As if it’s that easy. Then two other songs came and Taylor was like, “At what point are you going to tell our manager you’re making a record?” I said, “I’m not making a record!” And he was like, “You’re making a record.”
Were you scared to tell the label?
Of course. Once I tell the label, it’s real. I get on the train. We’re pulling away.
Were you afraid to be a solo artist?
Yes. I’m still scared to be a solo artist. I don’t want to be a solo artist. I will never be a solo artist. I’m in denial. Taylor and Zac are doing their own things. They’re happy we can individuate. It’s a great exercise for us. But I’m very afraid of it. I don’t prefer it. It’s more of a need. Some days, I wake up and wish I didn’t start it. Hopefully, it’s a good year.
Is the lyric “Nothing cuts like a mother” on “Simmer” about you?
Yes and no. I’m obviously not a mother.
You kind of are.
To Paramore? I’m working on this in therapy presently. On the fact that divorced kids feel orphaned. Doesn’t matter how hard a parent tries or how well a parent loves, we feel orphaned. When I was young, I related to stories about Peter Pan. What I’m learning in therapy is that I have tried to Wendy Moira Angela Darling my way through shit all the time. I found my family in my bandmates. From then on, we put ourselves in a position where we’d go out on the road, live like Lost Boys, and I’m constantly trying to figure out how to take care of them. I feel an immense responsibility to our crew. Who is taking care of me? I would love to be a mom someday. More than anything, I’m still learning how to mother myself. That young version of me that felt orphaned or lost and didn’t deserve the shit she saw is hard to accept. It sounds like I resent my parents. My parents are wonderful and kind to each other. They grew up. At the same time I felt orphaned. It was both.
If you look back at 16-year-old Hayley, how would you mother her?
I don’t know if it’s possible for a 16-year-old to not worry about what people are saying about them, but I would want to impart some type of shield. My parents couldn’t have known what we were getting into. Everyone wanted to talk about how young we were, but people treated us like we were old enough to handle stuff. We weren’t in a natural position. I think about what I would tell my child. I would say: “Here’s your supplements, take magnesium every night. It fucking works, man. You’re a 16-year-old teenager, and emotions are not going away.” But it was near impossible to learn practical solutions for a life that felt so impractical. It’s so hard for me to be light. I do interviews, and it’s heavy. I always think, God, they must think I don’t have any fun. But it’s the nature of the season of life that I’m in, and it’s thick with it. It’s like we’re in the fucking topsoil, turning it over right now.
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.
*A version of this article appears in the May 11, 2020, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!