Yes, I was emo in seventh grade. No, I’m not ashamed

'Decked out in Hot Topic, silicone wristbands stacked from his wrists to his elbows ... he was the total package'

It all started in seventh grade — first-period gym class, to be exact — when my best friend Ben befriended the boy of my dreams. 

Both eyes peaked between strands of his spiked hair. Decked out in Hot Topic, silicone wristbands stacked from his wrists to his elbows and special edition My Chemical Romance Converse — he was the total package.

He wore one of three pairs of skinny jeans every day: red acid wash with black rips, turquoise blue and, when he was feeling crazy, extra distressed black. His shirts always had an angsty phrase I didn’t quite understand. Oversized, tree branch-looking lettering screamed “ASKING ALEXANDRIA” and “PIERCE THE VEIL” at me at 7 a.m. Needless to say, this boy was 80 pounds of pure hunk.

That was when I first became intrigued by “emo” culture. The sad-girl-who-feels-too-much aesthetic was everything I wanted to be. What’s not to love? Going emo is a definite attention-getter, and good or bad, I wanted it. 

Soon enough, first day of school me — who wore Tillys merchandise from head-to-toe — was gone. After I perfected the band merch outfits and started repping Sleeping With Sirens on the daily, I finally convinced my mom to let me get my hair cut. 

Like anyone going through a life crisis, I box-dyed my hair. I went for a bold black (and missed entire sections of brown), and we drove to Great Clips to seal the deal with those swoopy, over-the-eyes bangs. The only point of reference I brought to show the stylist was a poorly printed image of an emo girl I found on Instagram. Most of her hair was cropped out of the photo, I just thought she looked pretty.

Great Clips lady did not understand. She didn’t get it, no one did, so I ended up “fixing” it after the appointment — although, my version of fixing just meant adding a can of hairspray to the mix.

It started with the hairdresser, but acting like nobody understood me and making sure everyone knew it wasn’t a phase became second nature. 

Hair straightened beyond belief, black lipstick on, a 13-year-old Sara Windom was in full emo. 

Soon enough I landed Mr. Dreamy Emo Gym Boy. We really fell in love after we saw The Maine in concert. Sure there were hundreds of people there, but it felt like it was just the two of us. (And my mom, who drove us.)

I was on top of the world. We were perfect together, I was just under a foot taller than him and at least 30 pounds heavier. We were the IT couple.

Then in one swift motion, he broke up with me over text, and I had the sudden realization that I was over the emo lifestyle I had dedicated myself to for so long (one year, to be exact). 

After those middle school years I spent trying to find myself, I blossomed into the real me. 

I brushed my poorly straightened, crunchy hair-sprayed bangs out and dyed it back to brown. I exchanged my staple thick black eyeliner for a less frightening, more natural look. 

The change wasn’t immediate. There were a lot of in-between stages. There was a normie phase where I got my braces off and wore all the trendy PacSun dresses “justgirlythings” posted about.  There was a flower crown-wearing indie girl, who later morphed into a girl who wore fake glasses and sweatshirts in the middle of the summer. But finally, after stumbling around for a while, I got it right.

I discovered a new genre of music called indie rock and started getting ready for school to The Strokes and the Arctic Monkeys. It sounds basic looking back on it, but it helped me discover so many more artists and realize I had an interest in making similar music. I started recording covers of their songs on YouTube and performing out for whatever local events I could. 

Discovering music lead to so many other changes. I dressed differently, I was interested in arts and writing classes at school, I found a love for independent films and most importantly, I felt more me than ever before. 

Nearly every friend I had in middle school stopped talking to me, or the other way around. While they ditched school, I signed up to join the poetry club. Naturally, we went our separate ways and I met an entirely new group of friends. 

As awkward and cringey as growing up can be, figuring out who you are is so essential to becoming an adult. Looking back on photos from my emo days can be difficult. Sometimes I’m embarrassed I ever looked like that. Other days it’s hilarious. 

While I do have mixed views of my middle school days, I don’t think I would be who I am today without them. Growing up shouldn’t be shameful, it is a time of self-discovery that I have learned to embrace.

Reach the reporter at and follow @SaraWindom on Twitter. 

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