Emo Kid? Maybe. Emo Adult? Not so much.

So I recently finished reading Everybody Hurts: An Essential Guide to Emo Culture by Leslie Simon and Trevor Kelley and I’m still not convinced that I even know how “emo” is defined.

Nevertheless, it was an interesting read but I don’t think I appreciated it as much as say, someone in junior high or high school would because: a) I am now in my thirties and not in the target audience for this book; and b) Although the book was supposed to be “in-the-know” and snarky, I didn’t find it to be particularly funny or satirical.

It did, however, show me that by many standards, I was pretty emo as a teen/twentysomething. But what is emo anyway? According to the authors: “Emo is still a kind of music, sure, but more than anything it’s a state of mind.” The book’s description comments: “Once a confessional form of punk rock that was emotional as it was loud, emo is now an undeniable cultural phenomenon with its own accompanying language, style, and ideology.”

Wikipedia describes emo in similar ways: 1) as slang, to describe someone who fits an emo stereotype or is overly emotional; 2) as music, coming in three waves yet devolving into a somewhat vague term rather than a specific genre; and 3)as a fashion, style or attitude linked to post-hardcore.

But back to Simon and Kelley’s book. They talk about the offshoots of emo personalities: the goth emo, the indie emo, the alt-country emo and even the frat emo. They characterize the ideology, fashion, eating and media (Internet, Film, Literature, Music, and Television) habits of this breed.

And although I wouldn’t say I dressed emo, I definitely exhibited traits of the ideology as a youth: spending an inordinate amount of time brooding, listening to sad bastard music, writing bad poetry, and making mix tapes. Damn, that sounds pretty hardcore emo! I also shopped at emo record stores like Vintage Vinyl in Fords, NJ and subsequently Reckless Records in Chicago, IL. I read Alternative Press magazine and when my family finally got cable TV, I set the VCR to record MTV’s 120 Minutes.

Also, the movies they list as emo are some of my favorites (although the majority came out after graduated from college): Garden State, High Fidelity, Old School, Rushmore, Say Anything, and Trainspotting.

So maybe I was a bit of an emo youth after all. But how much of that was this supposed “emo-ness” and how much of it was simply just being a teen and going through that awkward phase of overanalyzing things and wanting to associate yourself with a particular style of dress/music/scene?

Thankfully, as adults we hopefully evolve to become much more than the sum of associating ourselves with a particular clique. Hopefully we take on more diverse perspectives, opinions, and tastes. Maybe like the Breakfast Club pointed out, we become equal parts “jock, basketcase, brain” etc.

I don’t know that I buy emo as a label since it can apply to so many things and has been co-opted by so many that it has lost any meaning originally ascribed to it. But hey, what do I know?


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