Former emos reflect on phase of self-expression

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Ann Fitzmaurice

In fifth grade senior Mariah Dasczynski tried to dye her entire lunch black. She arrived at school with her gray sandwich and a disappointed mother back home. Dasczynski dodged questions from her friends about what was wrong with her food, trying to be cool about her dark meal. A year later, in the beginning of sixth grade, Dasczynski got a fringe haircut.
“I had like a side fringe,” Dasczynski said. “It looked awful because my hair is wavy and I didn’t know how to style it, but I let it grow into my eyes, and I loved it so much.”
Dasczynski wasn’t the only one to go through the infamous emo phase. The phase itself usually comes between the ages of 12 and 15, with a few outliers said the Daily Mail. It includes listening to dark themed music, wearing an excess of black and spending time in isolation. Freshman James Glaser had his run-in with the literal dark side in late seventh grade.
“[At my] 14th birthday party, my girlfriend at the time bought us matching chokers and Twenty One Pilots tees,” Glaser said. “My friend [also] bought me eyeliner, though I never intended to wear it.”
The qualities Glaser possessed around his 14th birthday would not have gone unnoticed by www.circleofmoms.com, an advice website for concerned parents of emo children. One mother details the “symptoms” of a child becoming emo, including wearing chokers and eyeliner like Glaser had. Many users on the site detail their concern of this phase, writing things such as “Should I let her express herself or ban her from emo?” Luckily for these parents, the emo phase usually lasts one to four years.
“In middle school I felt like I [would] have more friends if didn’t look [emo,]” Dasczynski said. “I just slowly started to wear regular colored jeans and less band shirts and decided to let my awful bangs grow out.”
Before her breakthrough back to normality, however, Dasczynski fit the classic emo stereotype of all black and “death” inspired clothing. She wore black skinny jeans, black shirts with skulls on them with her favorite spiked combat boots.
“I still won’t get rid of those boots though,” Dasczynski said. “They’re my babies.”
Glaser, a less involved emo, was more into the music than the clothing. He wore dark blue jeans, Converse sneakers and a usually black band tee. He concentrated most on the band My Chemical Romance’s (MCR) music, a staple throughout Dasczynski’s phase, as well.
“I definitely liked [MCR’s] music. Some of it was very lyrical and good sad music,” Glaser said. “Other music could really get you pumped up and jumping around.”
MCR as a band, however, strongly disagreed with the “emo” label before they broke up in 2013 saying there are very little similarities between their music and actual emo music. Nevertheless, MCR was a constant in many former emo’s music tastes, including Dasczynski’s.
“I still have a deep love for MCR,” Dasczynski said. “It’s kind of ridiculous; I still believe they could come back.”
On the other hand, many parents don’t understand the appeal of their children’s music taste. Glaser’s parents quietly sat by while listening to their son’’s bluetooth speaker blasting “angry music” they’ve never heard of. In extreme cases, they would google the lyrics to make sure Glaser wasn’t getting into anything detrimental to his health. Although Glaser’s phase came and went and his parents weren’t worried about it, other parents worry for their child.
“Parents in general see emo kids as trying to stand out from the crowd,” said Tammy Backman, parent of sophomore Hannah Backman. “If one of my children went through an emo phase I would want to make sure they weren’t having any issues with depression or anything truly harmful.”
Likewise, parent Sarah Hopper, a teacher at Rock Bridge Elementary, hasn’t experienced the struggle of a child going through such an intense phase though she is well-acquainted with the term itself because of her job.
“The kids are probably trying to make it seem as if they don’t care about anything, especially other’s opinions,” Hopper said. “They’re just trying to express themselves.”
Although Backman and Hopper haven’t had their kids become emo, they understand how a child trying to express themselves and a parent not knowing what to do can strain parent-child relationships. These complex kinships seem common in the emo lifestyle stereotype, as shown by the number of advice columns on emo children. The strain was prominent throughout Dasczynski’s relationship with her mom and especially strong during her phase.
“I was already upset most of the time, so her yelling at me to stop expressing myself in an emo style really wasn’t making anything easier for me,” Dasczynski said. “Looking back at it, I kind of see how she felt because I looked ridiculous most of the time wearing all black so she probably just didn’t know what to do.”
Although she wasn’t accepted by her mother, Dascynski believed people who dressed “emo” were cool and thought if she expressed herself in that way she would be happier.
“I was bullied, but it wasn’t really because I was emo,” Dascynski said. “I think that I became emo because I was bullied.”
Throughout elementary school Dascynski learned to ignore the harsh words coming from other students, but it really started to get to her in the fifth grade. She was a shy, chubby kid making her what she believed to be an easy target for her peers to pick on. She chose to express herself to get away from her tormentors and used her emo interests as an outlet.
Eventually, all the angry music and dark clothing came to an end for both Dascynski and Glaser when they were around the age of 14. Although neither of them really referred to themselves as emo, but their peers labeled them as such, causing them to accept their phases and eventually move on mostly.
“I still listen to some MCR and occasionally wear dark colors,” Glaser said. “I faded out of the phase itself, but still held onto the things I genuinely liked.”
Glaser doesn’t hold any regrets about his past and denied his phase until its end. Now when he looks back on the time, he remembers it with fondness and a little bit of embarrassment. Likewise, Dascynzki doesn’t try to hide her past and openly talks about what she did in her years of her emo phase.
“It was a cool time,” Dascynzki said. “I got to express myself in a crazy way and be different from everyone and especially different from my family. I wouldn’t take it back.”