My name is Mae Hunt, and I’m here to talk about 2010.
No, this isn’t about when “Good Luck Charlie” just debuted on Disney Channel and your younger siblings were still at the appropriate age to watch it, so you totally had an excuse. This isn’t an article reminiscing on how “TiK ToK” was on the radio and you were too young to understand what Kesha meant when she said she “woke up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy” (but you felt it, yes, you felt it hard). I’m not here to remind you of the skirts-over-jeans trend that was happening in tween fashion at the time for some odd reason that you still don’t understand. Neither am I here to reflect on when we were halfway through Obama’s first term, all of us doe-eyed and full of hope that a bright future was ahead. This isn’t about politics. Okay, maybe it’s a little about politics, but god, isn’t everything these days? For the most part, this isn’t about politics. This isn’t even about Kesha.
No, this is about something bigger. Something more significant. Something I cannot believe I am actually writing and going to publish on the internet, oh my god.
Picture this: you’re a sad, angsty pre-teen, and nobody understands you. One Direction isn’t a thing yet. Tumblr is still in its baby days. You watch Jenna Marbles on YouTube, but you still feel empty inside. You need something to fill the void.
Enter: late 2000s post-hardcore/metalcore/pop punk/alternative rock/everyone-just-called-them-emo-but-that’s-not-what-they-were-there’s-a-DIFFERENCE bands.
It all begins with a cute, lanky lead singer with a few too many tattoos. You show your Mom the picture of him where he’s wearing a jacket or something, so she doesn’t begin to think you’re into deviants. He’s nothing like the boys in your 6th grade homeroom—he’s different. He doesn’t wear cargo shorts, or smell like lunch meat, or make fun of Glee. And he understands. Somehow, he manages to capture every bit of pain you can fit in your 90-pound body and put it in the perfect words. He sings those words in a high-pitched, drawn-out tone that reaches the deepest pits of your vulnerable tweenaged soul. As you watch interviews with him and his bandmates, you begin to realize that the fluttering in your stomach has a name: love. You loved him. More than you have ever loved anything or anyone else in your whole twelve years of living.
For all intents and purposes, you were a woman now. Sure, you were still too scared to ask your Mom for a training bra, but womanhood wasn’t physical, it was a feeling. And you felt it with him, even during the screamo songs. You didn’t like the screamo songs, but you pretended. You pretended for him. That’s what love is.
(My Mom wouldn’t let me go any further than this in the edgy department).
I’m not exaggerating when I say there was very little genre consistency among these bands, despite them all attracting the same group of fans. Sleeping with Sirens was fast paced and angry until they released that one acoustic album that made your heart melt. Asking Alexandria and Suicide Silence screamed so much you had to look up the lyrics to understand what they were saying. Mayday Parade was really, really sad, and all the songs would start out slow and then send chills down your body once the drummer remembered he was supposed to be in the song, too. All Time Low was catchy and pop punk and perfect. Nevershoutnever!, which you will never spell without the exclamation point, was just pre-Ed Sheeran Ed Sheeran with goofier lyrics and a lead singer whose name you traced in the margins of your notebook.
But the genre didn’t matter. In all honesty, it was never about the music. It was about the culture. And the culture was this indescribable adolescent sadness, felt by a large enough percentage of the pre-teen population to structure an entire community around it. We didn’t have friends at school (I think that part of the requirement for even liking 2010 post-hardcore is having no friends in school), so we wrote poetry. The mild stuff was scribbled on the outsides of our converse while the grittiest, darkest material was saved for now-dead or defunct online forums. The poetry was never really good, but it didn’t have to be. What mattered was that our feelings were coming out at all, however awkward and clichéd.
“I see your face in every story / About a hero with a god complex / And a girl who just doesn’t know what she wants,” I wrote in 2010, in a poem that was, yes this is real, titled “Romeo and Rosaline.” No, I didn’t know what a god complex was at the time. Yes, I just googled Fall Out Boy lyrics and picked what sounded cool. And yes, I have every other horrible thing I’ve ever written in the same ancient Word document, and no, none of you will ever get to see any of it.
Often, I wish that I could erase the parts of my past that are described here. Maybe it’s because I’m just now learning how to laugh at them. For a while, I would joke about how I took myself far too seriously as an adolescent, with my combat boots and grown-up books and sub-par music I thought was the pinnacle of #deep. But the jokes never really sat right. The truth of the matter is that all of those cringey elements arose because of a very genuine sadness. I took myself seriously because I was having some very serious problems, problems that were too often dismissed by the adults in my life as “pre-teen angst” or “typical melodrama.” I really was a lonely, misunderstood child who just wanted someone to understand how I was feeling. For me, that someone took the form of skinny, whiny-voiced men with neck tattoos. For another girl, it might have been Justin Bieber or One Direction or some anime thing I’ll never really get. We didn’t cling to our idols with such fierce dedication simply because we had bad taste. We found them because we needed something. We were desperate.
It’s strange how fleeting first love can be. For kicks, I looked up the most recent Warped Tour lineup and realized that none of the old faces are there anymore (okay, Nevershoutnever! is still there, but Christofer Drew is a cryptid who never really left 2011, and I love him). As soon as it began, post-hardcore faded from the alternative youth consciousness. Arctic Monkeys released A.M., Lana Del Rey became a thing, and everything got dipped in acid and tagged #grunge. We didn’t even notice we had moved on from post-hardcore until we didn’t need it anymore. While our lives weren’t perfectly stable (youth never is), we had managed to find some validation that didn’t come from a morose frontman with too many lip piercings to be A-list.
My 2010 post-hardcore phase was very formative for me. I still listen to the music sometimes, because a banger like Bulletproof Love doesn’t just stop being a banger once you grow up a little. I will always appreciate a heavy eyeliner look, and I still worship at the altar of Hayley Williams like the god-fearing woman I am. And I write poetry, although part of me is always afraid that I’ll look back on it one day and laugh, like 2018 Mae did with the poetry of 2010 Mae. Although maybe that could be a good thing. Maybe it’ll show how far I’ve come.
Image Credits: Mae Hunt’s personal Photobooth on her MacBook