I grew up in the golden age of emo. It was an era of Converse sneakers and angsty AIM away messages. The general aesthetics of the time were as black as a night with no moon, and equally as poetic. Indecipherable pop punk lyrics were all the rage, as were run-on sentence song titles (*I’m looking at you Lying Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off*). Raccoons were made green with envy from the omnipresent, heavy handed eyeliner, and every conversation was intermittently interrupted by the occasional angsty bang flip. This was all captured within the digital MySpace domain, where custom backdrops provided a window into the wounded teenage soul, and friend-rankings set the stage for a subsequent decade of internet-induced bullying and self-loathing. It was all documented for posterity within the biting lyrics of Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance, forever set to the dulcet vocals of Patrick Stump and Gerard Way, and the sick baselines of Pete Wentz. It was a time of skateboards and Motorola Razr’s, and an age of zip-up hoodies, band t-shirts, and black rubber bracelets. Truly, a simpler time.
Unfortunately, I partook in almost none of it.
As we’ve established in prior posts, self-confidence did not come easily to me as a kid. I was far less focused with *who I wanted to be* under the fear that doing so would prevent me from being *who I was expected to be*. Which ultimately meant that the emo subculture that I so affectionately admired from afar became nothing more than a teenage fancy that I would never actually pursue. And man, what a shame. Because I loved it. What I would have given to trade my *unnecessarily high-motored* effort in gym class for a chance to smoke a cigarette in a black hoodie on the bleachers. Blonde girls with tasteful makeup and preppy clothing? I would have thrown them under a bus in a heartbeat if it meant getting a chance with an emotionally damaged, black-clad skater girl with a snake bite and bangs. Every second I spent playing tennis, writing for the school newspaper, and being unpopular I desperately wished to be spending going to concerts, staring angstily into the distance, and being unpopular (But with *style*). Truly, I did not feel as though I had deserved a spot among those cool and emotionally volatile derelicts. Theirs was a world of late-night teenage coming-of-age stories, song lyrics that made just a little too much sense, and long afternoons spent bumming around at the skatepark. Mine was a world of straight A’s, sporting events, and socially reclusive video games. We were of two separate worlds, our paths never destined to cross, with regret the only outcome of our star-crossed fates (“O, I am Fortune’s fool!”)
But looking back as an adult, it really does strike me as a missed opportunity. I so clearly checked all the boxes: Moody? Sure, I’ve been known to brood and self-isolate. A love of the color black? Literally everything I own is either Black (“True Black”), Gray (“Faded Black”), or Dark Navy Blue (“Fancy Black”). Intense melodramatic behavior? Let’s just say I’ve been known to hold a grudge for decades and take every stray comment extremely personally. The music? To this day, my musical tastes remain squarely set in the year 2005, and no car ride, walk, or jaunt around the grocery store is complete without the lyrical genius of Brendon Urie.
So, now as an adult I’m left to pick up the pieces. Clearly my inability to channel my inner-emo as a teenager has proliferated an unhealthy lifestyle in which I bottle up emotions, fail to express myself, and occasionally pretend to like country music. Only now by harkening back to the bygone days of angsty yore can I rectify yesterday’s mistakes, and grow into the gym-skipping, skinny jean wearing pseudo-criminal that I’ve always so desperately wanted to be. As such, there are three key things that I have begun doing that I’m hoping can set me on the straight and narrow to a happier tomorrow (well like, a really *moody* happy):
Corporate Emo Attire: The pandemic gave us a lot of negative things. But it also gave us some silver linings. One of these happens to be the more relaxed standards for workplace attire that seem to be permeating corporate America. As such, what better time to begin adopting a whole new look? Slacks and a tasteful brown belt are great for the board room and happy hour alike, but just don’t scream *I’m having trouble processing my emotions* in the same way that jet-black skinny jeans and a studded belt do. A professional button-down shirt and the occasional tie are excellent ways to demonstrate (*lie*) to your boss that you’re thrilled to be a member of the team, and eager to take on the day’s challenges. But a My Chemical Romance zip-up hoodie and a tight black t-shirt are far more apt to give off the impression of youthful indiscretion and adolescent melancholy that any reasonable 28-year-old should be attempting to cultivate. And a carefully coiffed bird’s nest of curly locks, while admittedly good for trapping small sticks and your own fingers if you’re not careful, simply does not give off the air of casual indifference and existential dread that a delightfully swept set of straightened bangs do.
A Re-emergence of Pop Punk: I’m a firm believer that the early to mid-2000’s will only die if we, it’s humble acolytes, allow it to. And I for one refuse to let it go the way of Old Yeller into that gentle night. And there are very few methods more powerful for fondly recollecting the past than music. Emo pop punk was at the very core of the emo renaissance, and such knightly stalwarts as Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, New Found Glory, and Panic! At the Disco led the charge in redefining a musical era. An era that will continue to this day if I can help it. “Hand me the aux and buckle up, children – this shit’s about to get real sad.” In a world now defined by mumble rap, hedonistic pop music, and (*shudders slightly*) Luke Bryan, it is our sacred duty to reintroduce society to the comforting embrace of teenage heartbreak and hard-hitting lyrical cynicism. Yes, driving into the parking lot at work every morning blaring “My Friend’s Over You” might not be professional, but dammit it’s right for the world.
Eye Liner: Perhaps the most controversial of the three, I truly believe it’s time to allow my eyes to *pop* with a little extra flare. As I am already generally similar in size, body, and temperament to a racoon, this should be a fairly easy transition for me. It’ll go great with the massive bags under my eyes that have become permanent fixtures on my face, and set up a fairly nice foundation for when I may want to add some red eye shadow to the ensemble a bit further down the line. Truly nothing says “The world doesn’t understand me” like a heavy-handed layer of black eye makeup, and I for one am ready to take that plunge. So, if you see me and are taken aback by how *cool and awesome and angsty* I look, just remember – this could be you as well, if you had but the courage…
In the end, I do not know where my newfound emo-ness will take me. All I do know is that this is *not a phase” (rawr :P). For in the end, Emo will never die. It’s as much a part of us as our DNA or the deep-seated guilt instilled in us by our parents. So, grab a pair of Converse, your favorite graphic tee, and a hair straightener.
And rock on young soldiers.