One More Rebellion

To understand where this post is coming from, it is important to know that I’ve been in a very pensive, reminiscing attitude lately. I’ve been working on a new book in which much of the young adult culture of the early 2000s plays a part. But also, I’m about to start the semester and that’s the point where I start thinking about how I got to where I am.

Part of the business of growing up is a little thing I’ll call “going corporate”. Masses of people leaving behind the neon hair, the black and red eyeliner, the studded belts and chucks for business suits, natural hair colors and 9-5s.

And I’m not having it.

So many people my age (and older) make comments like:

“I don’t know what I was thinking about that hair.”
“I can’t believe I wore that/dressed like that/went out like that.”
“I’m so glad I grew out of that.”
“I’m so glad that phase ended.”

And that’s fine… for them.

But I look back at the pictures, the memories, the status updates and I don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. And the thing is, I can’t remember ever thinking I’d made a mistake. In my closet you’ll find business clothes-interview attire, internship outfits. But you’ll also find band tees, studded belts, two pairs of chucks, and skinny jeans (yep, even my size). My makeup is all deep and vampy.

So imagine my surprise when the suggestion came across my screen that instead of just 2019, we should be celebrating 20NineScene (Scene being the neon cousin of the emo culture that I reference above.). And I could not be more excited.

Because you see, we are the cycles we have lived through. Yes, I believe in moving past periods of time that are too negative for you, that are toxic. After all, what kind of (future) social worker would I be if I supported toxic environments? But why should I (and may others) feel that there is something to be ashamed of by exploring who we are?

So this 2019, instead of walking longingly past Hot Topic and pining for the days when I didn’t feel like a kid in their parent’s business suit, I’m going to allow myself one final rebellion. I want to slide into 2020 (and the return of the Roaring 20s) in the throes of the crimson and black smudged eyes, the black-like-my-soul outfits, the spiky hair, the splashes of neon breaking up the monotony. I never stopped listening to the music I did in high school, and in fact I prefer it to the stuff now (I’m exactly that old). Grunge music like Nirvana and Three Days Grace. Emo punk like All American Rejects. Emo pop like Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy. Dashboard Confessional. My personal favorite, Boys Like Girls. My Chemical Romance. And so many of the glorious others.

In high school, I had so many dreams about who I would be when I approached my current age. And I’m honestly nowhere close. I thought I’d be done with school, traveling, maybe even semi-famous. And if I’m honest with myself, I still hold out for that. It’s why I took a chance on a manuscript that I sent out before winter break to agents. I believe in that manuscript like people praying in church. It’s raw and honest and hopeful-everything I am at my core. I believe that someone will look at it and see the potential, will give me a chance to prove that it’s worth it. I believe in myself.

And none of that would be the case without the high schooler who felt the world a bit too much. Who needed validation more than air. Who wasn’t afraid to rock the red eyeliner, the spiked hair, the black wardrobe. I believe in her as much as she believed in the future. And that’s why I’m completely in support of 20ninescene. Because why on earth would I ever choose to lose who I am just to “go corporate”?

The Realities of Post-Emo Culture

This post is both a personal story and a personal mission statement-which in all honesty should neither come as a shock or as a surprise.

When I was younger, and by younger I mean in high school, I reached a point so low in my life that for many, the thought occurred that I might not ever come up again. I have made my peace with that time in my life, choosing to try to live in a way that prevents a recurrence, or at the very least, provides a safety net for any time I may “go dark”.

I remember being in weight training class and wearing a hoodie. It was warm in the weight room, and without thinking I pulled up my sleeves. What ensued next is something I won’t forget. There were only four girls in that class, and being one of them I squeezed my way in to the group. There was one person I knew, one person who was very strong and one who, much like me wore black every day, converse and was what the world would consider emo. The girl I knew looked at me strangely then looked away. The girl who looked like me gave me a sad smile and motioned for me to pull my sleeves back down. The strong girl shouted at the top of her lungs (or it seemed like it anyway)  WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! She at least waited until we were back in the changing room before she interrogated me further.

I hurriedly tugged my sleeves down, before anyone else saw what they saw. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, a few weeks later I was turned into the office for the same issue, and that path has since led me here.

I think there’s a common misconception that the group of people a decade ago who listened to My Chemical Romance, Pierce the Veil, Black Veil Brides, Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco and others, those who wore black with multiple studded belts, those who did their eye makeup dark and heavy, those who were pale-almost like goth pale but with occasional neon colors, those who did wild things with their hair faded into the abyss after they reached their twenties.

I think that what people see now are the remains of those people, the “emo kids” who have tattoos, stretched lobes, band shirts or who listen to the same music and remain at the edges of society as a forgotten trend, being assimilated into current culture. There was the “scene” trend which followed after “emo”. There was the grunge-resurgence which is making it’s way now. And yet, there’s a very large issue with this way of thinking.

It’s a pretty accepted belief that some of the trends, some of the behaviors that belonged pretty stereotypically to the “emo” culture have died out with their fashion. By died out I also pretty synonymously mean “grew out of”, as most people think that the things you experience as a teenager and early adult really just don’t stick with you. Like drawing those little S things on your school books or listening to music REALLY loud. But there are plenty of things that stay with you, or could stay with you from your younger years. And I’m going to call on one behavior in particular.

Self-harm.

A 2008 (nearly a decade ago, when emo culture was still very prominent) publication by the US National Library of Medicine reported the following nonsuicidal self injury (NSSI) statistics: 2008 Website

  • 1/3 to 1/2 of US adolescents have engaged in some type of self injury.
  • Cutting and burning are the most common types of non-suicidal self-injury.
  • 70% of teens engaging in self-injury behavior have made at least one suicide attempt.
  • 55% had made multiple suicide attempts.

And here are the statistics from this year: 2016 Website

  • 3%-38% of US adolescents have engaged in some type of self-injury
  • 13%-24% of US high school students have engaged in some type of self-injury
  • Self-injury may occur as young as 7 years of age, but typical age of onset is 12-15 years.
  • Self injury at the college level is reported to be between 30%-40%

You see, the thing that no one talks about is the fact that the people who belonged to the
“emo” culture (and everyone of that same age) grew into the adults who are in college today. And no one says anything about the fact that instead of a generational age limit on self-injury, there is one decade or so of individuals who are still being viciously beset by self-harm.

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–If I could express how much I miss being that weight, with that hair and that impeccable ability to look pissed, I think this picture does it best. This is one of my favorite photos. Period.–

Anyway, what is my point of posting a pre-instagram photo with a blue filter? You see, I once belonged to the group of people who identified (or were identified by others) as emo. And I loved it. It was the only time I ever felt comfortable as a person.

But.

I remember coming across an article somewhere about the realities of self harm in younger adults and thinking:

Wow, no one really talks about this.

And I thought about all the things people really never talk about and knew I couldn’t stay silent. It’s a concern that shouldn’t be brushed off as a phase that people just get over. It’s a real danger and more people should talk about it.

Stacy’s Mom, Strong Coffee and Wintermageddon

Making it through the day is never more frustrating than when you wake up to two inches of snow and it’s raining ice. (I know, that was my first thought too.) The first several moments are the ones which set the tone for the rest of the day. And I thought that waking up this morning would be a little easier. I had known it would be snowing, I figured it would just continue to be powder and that it would be a relatively easy to get to work today. I mean, a little snow couldn’t keep me down (thanks Chumbawamba!). And that’s when I remembered that I’d been meaning to put a blog out. I wasn’t sure of the topic, but when I set up for the day and “Stacy’s Mom” by Fountains of Wayne came on, I knew what I wanted my blog to be about: the ever pressing issue of time.

Mostly I try to look forward, look ahead. I mean, the past has finished, and in the words of the great philosopher Rafiki (which means “friend” in Kiswahili if you wanted to know-I took 3 semesters of the language in college!):

 

(I own NO rights to Disney-I just needed the quote.)
I mean, those of you who know me in person probably also know that I will be graduating from law school in 2020, and being that I am very excited, will be walking to get my diploma in a flapper dress, and celebrating the entire day with Jazz music and the like. I literally love that the culture of the 20s will be able to be repeated in a modest sense (I hope there’s less racism and mobsters and not so much prohibition, but you know…) Anyway, so I’m very excited about the whole “Roaring (20)20’s. But I think for the moment, we need to look back with a purpose.

“90’s Kids”

If you were a 90’s kid-and I want to clarify this-if you were a child during the 90’s, NOT necessarily just having been born in the 90’s, there are some similarities we all cling to. But this isn’t just your “Things 90’s Kids Will Remember” list. This is an honest look into the 90s, as written by someone who spent almost the entire decade alive. Which means I was the young end of the 90’s, but I had access to a bunch of stuff from the 80’s as a child and therefore it counts. (I’ve proven my worth to many 80’s-born adults-it counts.)

If you look at the paragraph above, you’ll notice that I’ve typed “90’s Kids” pretty much every time I referred to the age group. However, if you look at the people who were aged 6-18 by 2000, you’ll be quick to realize that that age group is now 22-34 and we are hardly children anymore. But the moniker sticks. No one ever says “90’s generation”, “90’s born” or really anything you can think of except “90’s kids”. And why is that, you ask? That’s my point of discussion for today. But in order to discuss that, we need to get into the culture differences between back then and now, as well as some key points. That’s what I meant by “this won’t be a list necessarily, but it’s all basically relevant.” So, here goes nothing.

The 90’s were a time of revolution. There were changes to the pop culture scene, entertainment and social realms which trace their beginnings back to that specific decade. Other trends were merely a continuation of ones which had come before. But for better or for worse, the 90’s are a part of our history. For this analysis, I will need the help of:

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Nokia, Drew Barrymore, Christina Ricci, Ever After, The Addams Family, Cinderella (with Whitney Houston), The Dark Angel and The Baby Sitter’s Club. Honorable mentions include: slap bracelets, The Oregon Trail and Lisa Frank.

If you cannot finish the line: In West Philadelphia born and raised… I question the validity of your belonging to the decade. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a staple for the 90’s. But it was also something different. It was humor centered around a respectable family of color. They worked hard, acted just like many families in the 90’s and it was funny in such a way that it was not inherently racist. So why is it worth the mention it? Because in a time when #BlackLivesMatter and the apparent panic over Beyonce’s Super Bowl show, it reminds us of a time when it was entirely okay to be like everyone else and be entirely different-at the same time. Although some things are now a little dated, honestly, this one is worth the look-back for the humor, the realism and the wistful vision of how sometimes family is enough to make everything better. And you know what is even better? Comedy that is funny for the sake of funny, not because it s so abrasive that you laugh because you’re uncomfortable. Seriously, the language was pretty decent, I think that there is much to be said for humor that doesn’t have to be vulgar.

 I’ve posted about Buffy before on my “role model” blog, but I mention her again for good reason. In a time before Harry Potter Hermione Granger, you would be hard pressed to find a stronger TV woman than Buffy, and I don’t mean physically. She had reasonable flaws (like a lazy streak when it came out studying) but sh was also very protective of her family, her friends and on several occasions even her enemies. And yes, there is the issue of Buffy+Spike, but apart from that, Buffy was written in such a way that you related. You wanted to go after school and work on your slayer abilities (or become a Wicca!). It wasn’t only really relatable for viewers, Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy) cried so hard when Angel said goodbye officially, that if you listen closely enough, David (Angel) says “Sarah” instead of “Buffy”. She believed in her character. And that is so hard to find nowadays. So why is this worth the mention? Because not only is it representative of the 90’s culture, it’s a TV show about a FEMALE lead with realistic attributes (and body size!) but also with friends who are equally as complex. In a time when feminism still gets a bad rap, we should take heart that there is an entire generation of voting age, working adults who grew up with Buffy and learned how to treat themselves and others as equals. Buffy was also a high school girl-who actually looked like a high school girl. I mean, today they look like 29 year old super models. (Also, Joss has remained active in Hollywood-check him out!)****I will add The Dark Angel here, because it was a TV show about a female lead as well, but I think Jessica Alba’s character is really the beginning of hyper-sexualization in TV heroines. She gets an honorable mention for the fact that her show was really about a female main character who really was pretty capable of being on her own, but the thing is that she had a leather outfit kind of like Catwoman and it really just looked sexy-not functional.

The Baby Sitter’s Club brings up a really great set of memories of my own. I went through 2 younger siblings, being entrusted by my parents to babysit as deemed safe and appropriate from the time I was about 7. They didn’t leave me alone to do so until I was about 12, but I also went to babysitting class and learned CPR and that stuff. I remember when my sister was born, my parents were ultra protective, but by the time she was able to crawl, she was taking naps on this HUGE mattress. I was asked to watch her overnight (we shared a bedroom for YEARS) and let my parents know if she started crying.I was so concerned that she would wake up and I wouldn’t hear it that little 7 year old me stayed up ALL night. My sister slept all night, as a matter of fact. My mom laughed at my predicament and told me that I hadn’t needed to stay up all night and that my sister would have been okay (she was about a year at that point). My first job was babysitting at the age of 13, and I continued to do so until I got into college. So why mention the BSC? Because in this day and age, it is increasingly difficult to have a child of the age of 13 be emotionally and mentally mature enough to handle babysitting-even just one child (At 15 I was watching 3 boys under the age of 10). And what’s scarier is the number of people aged 14-17 who are parents. But that’s a topic for another day I suppose. Anyway, my main point is that the BSC made babysitting cool, and all the girls were young like I was.

  

I’m going to combine the next set of movies/TV shows into one umbrella category called “freedom of self”. Now of course, I know that Ever After and Cinderella are basically the same theme, but The Addams Family goes here too. Cinderella, the one with Whitney Houston (may her soul rest in peace), was a novel idea when it came out. Why? Because Cinderella, her godmother and the Queen were all women of color. The Prince was Filipino (if I’m not mistaken), the King and his servants were all white, as were the Stepmother and the stepsisters. Why mention race at all? Because Cinderella traditionally is an all white cast. The direction of this movie was done with the talents in mind, not their skin color. Ever After is my FAVORITE adaptation. I love Drew Barrymore (we’ll get to her) in general, but in this version, Cinderella saves herself. She escapes based on her own determination and will-power. And there’s factual historical moments included in it too. The Addams Family (with Christinaa Ricci) and more specifically Values, was a move that made it entirely okay to be different. Christina played Wednesday who stuck out of camp like a sore thumb, but made a friend out of the other “outcast”. And that’s the thing. Why should we pay attention to these? Because no matter your color, your IQ, your color palette preferences, how much you love to read, you can always find someone else who feels as alone as you. But if you just believe in yourself, that’s all that really matters. No woman needs to wait on a “knight in shining armor” when she can pick up a sword and battle her way to freedom.

Drew Barrymore and Christina Ricci should be on every list of awesome things about the 90’s for one reason: their strength. And again, I’m not talking about their physical strength, I’m talking about their emotional and mental strength. They both were involved in some pretty self-destructive behaviors-drugs, alcohol, self-harm, but they pulled out of it. Making steps to their own personal freedoms was not easy, but they did it and look more fabulous than ever. Why bother to mention them? Because they are real life heroines who show strength and a capacity for self-improvement. I’ll include them in my list of role models. Because I’ve always looked up to the people who can take their lives and turn them around to make something better for their future. Plus, these two ushered in the grunge scene. Which, if you wanted to know is making a comeback. Does that mean we will return to punk, goth, emo, scene and then the hipster movement? Well, what goes around comes around, so maybe.

   

 

The last thing I want to bring up is the technology revolution. I mentioned Nokia above, and I wanted to maybe explain why we are still called (and self-refer as) “90’s kids”.

 

  (This is a Motorola i530 from 2004. It was my mom’s first cellphone and thusly the first cellphone in our home.) The first “cell phone” was sold in 1982 for $4,000USD. The ones which are affordable and stuff were sold in the 90’s. I’ve taken some screen shots so we can remember how far we’ve come.

  
  
If you notice up above these pictures, under the “Bumblebee phone” I typed the caption that that was my mother’s first phone in 2004. I’m only guesstimating, but I think it was closer to 2005. But the point still works. I was over a decade old before cellphones were a commonplace thing in my childhood home. I didn’t get my first one until I was a freshman in high school-when I took the job babysitting three boys. But that means that developmentally, I lived in the 80’s most of my life. I had tin-foil wrapped TV antennae, I played in the water hose which came from our well, and rarely spent any of my time watching TV. We never owned a gaming system and I bought my first iPad last year. Now, what’s that got to do with my main point, you ask?

Everything.

As a child in the 80’s, technology was sparse. And it continued to be so until 2000, making that generation at minimum 20 before the technology boom. They lived their childhoods with the sparse st of entertainment (of the electronic kind) and their adulthood was marked by technology. 

As a child in the 2000’s, technology was abundant. New waves of technology crop up, children are raised with iPads and leap pads and child-computers so that they can be fully functional techno-savvy adults. Their whole lives will be marked by technological advances.

So what of the 90’s kids? If you, like me, were basically brought in with the new decade, the first half of your childhood was very comparable to the 80’s. There was TV, your parents told you to play outside and if you wanted to hang out with friends, t was in person. Usually your friends had siblings and you basically always had to either chauffeur and chaperone or were chauffered and chaperoned by those siblings. But then 1995 hit and technology became easily accessible to the general public. Telephones were no longer connected to a landline, emails and instant messaging took off. Essays now had to be typed instead of written in cursive and you suddenly had access to pop culture from other outlets besides TV. And so, you are both in both worlds and excluded from them. Your childhood was ripped in half by the great divide that is technology. Instead of fitting in with the older crowd, you are teaching them how to use the new updates to their fullest advantage. Instead of fitting in with the younger crowd, you feel your maturity and mannerisms are outdated and therefore make you too old to relate. So I will ask again, what of the 90’s kids? Well, that’s just it.

The 90’s kids are a subculture all their own, intent on reclaiming the half of their childhood that was lost. We see Disney movies repeatedly (singing along and pointing out the flaws), while settling in for a glass of wine (red-for the antioxidants). We reach for the Atari games when COD is on the Xbox (because Atari is like the Solitaire of consoles-it’s a classic). We are hopeless romantics, while being incredibly feminist (because we like having the option to be taken care of but know that we can rely on ourselves as independent individuals). We are passionate about others because we grew up in a time of superheroes and super heroines who sacrificed themselves for the greater good. We watch older shows and listen to older music because they remind us of a time when entertainment meant something and wasn’t just to make the producers money. We feel strongly about our beliefs, even if they differ from everyone else. And we remember the greatness of Saturday mornings, ensuring that we value the weekend forever. We enjoy working hard when it’s noticed. We take our futures seriously, even though it seems that no one takes us seriously. And above all, we’re just trying to figure out what it all means. We are the generation of idealists, of thinkers, of planners. We are the generation of confused, adult-children with no idea who we really are or how we are going to succeed. We are the generation that was stolen. And it’s time we reclaim our place.