5 Useful Tips for Keeping It Emo As an Adult

You moved to a bigger city, you pay all your bills on time, and you get real excited when Anthropologie has a sale. Having an identity crisis? You’re not alone.
Publish date:
October 19, 2015
growing up, subculture, Emo Kids

Did you spend the majority of your adolescent years on the hunt for an eyeliner darker than black before rushing home to memorize the liner notes to Brand New’s “Deja Entendu”? Have you ever seen your former 15-year-old self staring at you in horror while you clip into a bike at a too-trendy spin class, her lips pursed and shiny from Bonne Bell Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker? Do you ever feel a surge of guilt that you haven’t pierced anything inappropriate in years?

You might be an emo kid all grown up.

So you’ve closed your MySpace page, brushed your hair, and got rid of those snakebite studs. You threw away your Finch poster. You dumped the boyfriend who sung “Soco Amaretto Lime” with his acoustic guitar in the back of his tour van. You moved to a bigger city, you pay all your bills on time, and you get real excited when Anthropologie has a sale. Having an identity crisis? You’re not alone.

I recently had a mini crisis of identity when I stumbled across my old blogspot title, Chipped Nails and Partydresses (covers head, blushes violently). I would sit cross-legged on my bed, a red scarf over my lamp for ambiance, Bright Eyes playing softly in the background, while I wrote the most God-awful poetry that included so many references to torn stockings and smeared lipstick.

It hit me that, despite the fact that I keep heels under my desk for impromptu work meetings and have had very long discussions with girlfriends about our dishwashing habits, I still feel like my most honest self amongst the morbid. My predilection towards the pale and whiny sneaks in and pops up at random times when I least expect it. Write this down in your black Moleskine notebook, because here’s how to keep it appropriately emo as an adult.

Hold onto those band tees

Depending on your work environment, that morose style can hint at the sullen teen that lurks within while still being a straight-up boss. Layer a well-worn Alkaline Trio tee under a blazer, tuck into a maxi skirt and layer with necklaces, or throw on over a crisp white button-down. You may get a few eyerolls but you also might make friends.

I’ve literally gotten a high five from a stranger for wearing an As I Lay Dying shirt to Starbucks. I will always feel most like myself in well-worn black, no matter how many times my mom tells me it’s time to “invest in a nice suit.”

Seek out your own

Who knows if emo is still a thing now? I try really hard not to pay attention to teenagers because they are really, really annoying. Especially when you’re on the train trying to listen to a VERY IMPORTANT podcast. However, it was a legit movement and you will find hidden emos everywhere and you will instantly have this weirdly passionate connection based on clove smoke and wrist tattoos.

I went to an Emo Night at Brooklyn Bowl a while ago and it was like I had been transported back to when I was still confused about my boobs but now I could legally drink. Watching 30-year-olds thrash to AFI brought me to my youth – Weezer cover bands in dank VA basements, dyeing my best friend’s hair green in a bathroom at midnight, trying to look sad and pretty so the boy with guyliner would notice me.

There’s nothing like the passion behind kids screaming every word to such dramatic, over-the-top lyrics, many of which include metaphors involving wrist cutting or the moon.

Spotify playlists are the new mixtapes

The summer before college, I had a pretty intense fling with a boy that no would call anything but emo. He wore my ripped skinny jeans, had a lot of feelings, and months after we broke up, I would find a MySpace pic of an emo girl wearing MY belt that I had leant him.

However, he made the best mix CDs ever – one he labeled “This Summer Boy will Alwayz Love his Summer Girl.” Note the “z” in “Alwayz.”

Anywayz, he taught me the artistry behind a good mix, and that is what Spotify is essentially for. Connect with other emo-lovers, share songs you forgot and give playlists titles that would make your old self proud. I currently have at least three I’ve curated on rotation for when I’m glaring at people on the subway behind my sunglasses. Plus sometimes you just need to scream-sing Bright Eyes in the bathtub.

Do NOT date like you’re still a 16-year-old

Remember lyrics like “you could slit my throat, and with my one last gasping breath I’d apologize for bleeding on your shirt?” At 16, you’re like, “OMG, what a sweet, passionate soul. I want to kiss him softly while he cries.” I now listen to those lyrics with mild terror in my heart like “Holy shit, that is fucking insane.”

No matter how romantic it seems, you do not want an adult man who “kisses your eyelids in the morning when you start to raise your head,” “sings to you incessantly from the space between your bed and wall,” or “lies awake listening to your breath.” Ew. Wax nostalgic all you want, but do not date potentially sociopathic manboys who might collect strands of your hair.

Own it!

So maybe you love the smell of Club Monaco stores now, and you’ve spent time at the supermarket poking avocados for an inordinate amount of time. Maybe you have a kid, and find yourself singing the gentle lullabies of Something Corporate while your partner looks on in concern.

That’s okay, fellow emo kid, because “Konstantine" is really freaking long and that baby will be snoozing before you make the halfway mark. And when you’re home, and that musky incense scent is calling you from the black hole called Hot Topic, blaring Thursday at you? Get in there… you might find a nail color you can still pull off.