It took me back to the first day I decided I had a crush on Dave, who would become my boyfriend in the fall of my senior year of high school. He was in my Spanish class & one day wore a shirt to school that read, in big block letters, "EMO IS AWESOME" - but no one else knew was emo was yet, so Señora Olivera asked him to explain it to the class. When words failed, he brought a Jimmy Eat World album with him the next day for our whole class to listen to.
I don't even remember what kind of music I listened to before I met Dave. Matchbox Twenty, maybe? No, really, I have no idea, because all the music that I fell in love with happened when I fell in love with Dave. He introduced me to Jimmy Eat World & Sunny Day Real Estate & Further Seems Forever & Gloria Record & Juliana Theory & Brandtson & Anberlin & The Get Up Kids; he showed me more classic stuff like Morrissey & The Cure. I never played hardball, never got into Brand New or New Found Glory or anything where anyone screamed. For me, for us, it was all about the real emotional stuff stuff, the stuff with a guitar in the background, the stuff that made you feel.
Much to my dismay, I never quite nailed that accompanying emo look that seemed to come so effortlessly to Dave. I had always been a pretty preppy kid, though not by choice; it's just that I just never knew what else to do. Preppy never came easily to me, either, though, never looked quite right on someone like me, who's always a little bit messy & bedraggled, so emo held a certain appealed. Emo didn't need me to look pristine. Emo was offbeat, & I could be, too.
Still, I couldn't quite pin down a look that felt emo enough. I browsed Myspace jealously, taking in other girls' candy-colored hair & dimple piercings & plastic jewelry in the shape of tiny foods, but in the days slightly pre-Internet, I didn't know where to find that kind of stuff. I didn't have artsy friends or access to Hot Topic back in those days. I just had Dave, & we had a thrift store, so I mostly wore boys' T-shirts I bought for $1 apiece & jewelry I bought from the 10-for-$5 bin at the freestanding Claire's in the suburbs. I faked it, though probably not well. My mom hated my entire wardrobe.
There aren't many of those photos anymore, not online & not on my old MacBook, which is officially dead forever. All that's left are a few college-era pics, in the years immediately after I dated Dave, around when he died. It was 2005, & I was still clinging to emo, still clinging to him. If I could be the perfect emo girl, I thought, it would be a posthumous tribute to him. Eventually, I realized that wearing plastic pearl necklaces was not a fitting tribute to anyone & that everything I owned deserved to be trashed. As embarrassing as the photos are, though, they still make me feel painfully, beautifully, overwhelmingly nostalgic. It's strange to think: Remember when I was her?
|I actually still kind of love this photo.|
|Before it was called Duck Face, it was called Blue Steel.|
|Band shirt, guitar pick necklace, plastic earrings. CHECK.|
|I USED TO HAVE HAIR LIKE THIS.|
|Not my cat. Definitely my then-sense of "style."|
|I remember feeling so pretty & emo this particular night. (Not my cigar. For show.)|
|Yeah, emo is awesome.|
Some days, I look at myself in the mirror & wonder how I became who I am now. I don't recognize myself sometimes - but then I look at these pictures, & I certainly don't recognize that version of myself, either. I am better now, not just in terms of fashion but in terms of everything, most notably mental health. I am happier, healthier, a thousand times more adult, all the result of time & age & maturity & common sense. My hair is normal colors, & my jewelry isn't strung upon elastic.
But I still listen to all that same music. There's an emo kid still in here somewhere.