Recently, I’ve been taken by the repeated use of a common slang term. I heard it the other night to describe a friend whose recent facebook updates have indicated he’s been stressed: “He’s so emo…” someone told me, shaking their head at his behavior.
For those less hip than I am (I almost got through that with a straight face!) the term Emo originated in the 1980s and described a brand of gritty, confessional rock music. It later widened, and has settled into a somewhat derogatory term used to label anyone who says anything remotely emotional. The brunt of this term is often directed at teens, with a mixture of pity and disdain: Oh those teens- what are they so angry about?
I said something to my parents as a teen that I’ve never forgotten and that I’m not sure they even heard. But the readers digest version of the conversation went:
Me: “I think I have post traumatic stress syndrome.”
Dad: “Get a job and then you’ll know what stress is.”
I didn’t bother arguing that I was pretty sure the 2 years of abuse I’d just endured had some kind of lasting effect on me, or complaining that I hadn’t slept since the beginning of the school year. My reaction was more of a, “thanks for showing how seriously you take me.”
For the record, I’ve been working for 11 years and have never felt anything like the pain or stress of being a teenager. At least when you have stress as an adult no one tells you that it’s not real. Still, I feel like we’re trying to make that the new standard for teens and adults alike. In my own life, I feel like it’s taken me my entire youth to get over the idea that I’m going be labeled at with a term like “emo” if I let people know I’m a human being. And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it still makes me nervous to let people know that.
I would like to think that in our 20s we’d all start to understand one another. We know we’ve all been hurt in some way. We’ve had our days or weeks when life has all but beaten us down. But instead of supporting one another we pinpoint the ones perceived as weakest (i.e. emotional) and label them as emo- instead of giving them a voice to tell us what’s going on.
A few weeks ago I went out after a rehearsal with some new friends and a casual surface conversation became 6 hours of four acquaintances exchanging life stories. Okay, so life can’t be “the breakfast club” all the time- but John Hughes was on to something.
Unfortunately, we’re so afraid of connecting with each other these days that our disconnected facebook profiles have given way to a new evil: Formspring- Where young people can talk about their most intimate feelings without even being accountable for their identity. Really, people?
I’m not gonna lie- it’s kind of scary. But on the other hand, it’s almost as scary how invested the 20-somethings are in this online culture. It’s like we’ve spent the last 10 years growing out of our teen years where we couldn’t process our feelings and we’re trying to go back. No wonder we need to run away every time we experience emotion and label it as “emo.”
I feel like I’m regularly hit with the fact that my generation is in trouble. Granted. There’s probably an app for that….