How emo music brought me some of my closest friendships
We’ve all had an awkward adolescent phase. I personally had a few. I was a 10-year-old skater girl in 2003, an 11-year-old Goth, and after a brief grungier time where I strictly cried over Good Charlotte, I really found a place where I settled into my own. I, like many of us, really found my niche in the mid-2000s emo scene. I lived in England but picked up on American emo music quickly, bands like My Chemical Romance and Taking Back Sunday becoming the most frequently scrawled lyrics on my school books. I perfected my side bangs, bought a studded belt, loaded up on plastic bracelets, and went through approximately 1-2 eyeliner pencils a week.
But, ever the little misfit, I was the only one into emo at my school and it got a little lonely. My current friends chastised me for my music taste and for only ever having half of my face exposed, so I spent a lot of time alone. A friend from a neighboring village put me in touch with “another weirdo” she knew via MSN, and I struck up my first true Internet friendship outside of Avril Lavigne forums. The “weirdo” and I soon met up in the center of town and clicked instantly. We had so much in common – our music taste, fashion, and a love for boys in skin-tight jeans. At her school there was already a well-established group of fellow emos and I quickly befriended them, attending local shows and hanging out at the skatepark. I finally fit in somewhere.
Myspace hit me hard, and I spent all of my evenings online. Perfecting my theme with the ultimate super-sad song and accompanying black and pink background would take me hours and more beginner’s HTML knowledge than I even have now. I added friends just because they had a similar high-angle hyper-exposed mega contrast pic to mine. We chatted about, well, not much besides random jokes and how emo we felt about some floppy-haired lead singer.
As with everything, emo did eventually make its way to my school and I was soon surrounded by a group of really cool, sweet people who also happened to be great company at Fall Out Boy and Panic! At the Disco shows. All of my friends met one another and got along, and we spent our weekends in town at alternative clothes stores and McDonald’s. We took the typical MySpace high-angle hair-over-the-eye shots well before the word ‘selfie’ came into play. We spent our time apart on the Internet, pasting LyRiCs LiKe ThIs into our MSN names.
However, all things come to an end and emo inevitably fizzled out to give way to “scene” — a world far more colorful than the self-indulgent Bright Eyes crying sessions I was used to. I was out. Although we remained close, my friends and I were over trying to be alternative and a little embarrassed of our emo past — or so I thought.
When I first started going out and drinking, years later, I was uncomfortable at nightclubs and instead went to Mosh, one of our city’s only alternative venues. On student Tuesdays and Pop-Punk Fridays I found myself drinking and screaming along to “Sugar We’re Goin’ Down” and “Makedamnsure” along with my old emo friends and new friends I didn’t know I wanted to make. Those songs evoked something in me I hadn’t felt in years — absolute, complete belonging teamed with rose-tinted nostalgia. I started delving heavily back into emo (while avoiding the style… it wouldn’t go down quite as well in the year 2011). I brought my old t-shirts and bracelets out of the closet and had emo dress-up nights with new and old friends. Our emo days gave us a commonality and a source of nostalgia, and I found myself using “ex-emo” as a gold standard to which I held all new friends. When I did actually meet new people, it would always transpire that they were a little sad kid once, too. My current best friend turned out to be my ex-emo crush’s little sister. It just kept happening.
On my first visit to California, it became truly clear that I just couldn’t keep away from ex-emo kids. I went through my friend Kelly’s iPod in the car, finding it full to the brim with Taking Back Sunday, Daphne Loves Derby, Brand New. All of the slightly (but not really) more obscure American music that my British friends had struggled to latch onto. I might not have known it just to look at her ten years on, but Kelly had her own secret roots in emo. We excitedly delved deep into our mutual pasts, taking Myspace shots and reminiscing on simpler, if darker, days. This girl I had semi-known but not-really turned out to be another ex-member of my beloved scene, and we got on like a house on fire. We attended Emo Night LA, the biggest emo night basically anywhere, and screamed along to Brand New like we were 14-years-old again. We were surrounded by other adults just doing their thing and enjoying their shared, slightly embarrassing history.
It just kept happening, and when I started my new job, my colleague and I swapped stories of yore and discovered we were both at the same Panic! at the Disco show in Brixton in ’06. Our slightly-embarrassing-but-totally-awesome past gave us an instant connection, and we bonded. I attended her wedding to her pop-punk band member husband late last year, and found myself overcome with those Emo vibes all over again. They walked off to Fall Out Boy, had an acoustic rendition of Paramore, and the girl next to me remarked, “This wedding is like if Myspace grew up.”
Emo wasn’t for everyone, and my 14-year-old assurance that I was totally different from anyone else was more than a little annoying. Regardless, emo was everything to a lot of us. Like all subcultures, it served as a place a little below mainstream for the weirdos to hang out and bond, if over nothing else, then over being bullied and their penchant for high-angle shots and screamo shows. Being emo in 2005-7 happened at a perfect intersection with the Internet really taking off, and spilling your deepest darkest feelings via Myspace bulletins was all the rage. The friends I made when I was thirteen and just finding myself in the world through sad music I still have now, and they are among my most beloved friends, even beyond what began as a superficial mutual love of Hawthorne Heights.
The friends I find myself making throughout my life always end up having had at least a small stake in the scene, even if I don’t know it at the time. I don’t know what it is — whether the same thing that made us pine for Pete Wentz is the same thing that makes us get along, or if feeling misunderstood somehow made us more likely to be nice to one another, or whether a shared history is enough to foster friendship. Maybe there is some unknown factor pumping through all of us ex-emos. Regardless, in Brighton or LA, you can find me at an emo night once a month. Because despite all my pretence as a grown-ass lady by day, I find my catharsis crying to Brand New at night.