My 13 year old son is an emo. The average emo is an awkward teenager with black shirt, skin-tight black jeans, vacant stare and a death wish. My friends and I refer to them as ‘emus’. An emu is a black, awkward-looking bird with gangly legs, that stares blankly into your headlights before launching itself headfirst into your roo-bar.
Now don't get me wrong. My boy doesn't cop any flak from me about being an emu. One day I heard myself saying to him "Oh my Gawd...what are you wearing?" and the voice was my mother's and a horrifying image of a teenage me in oversized Mickey Mouse shirt, ripped stonewash jeans and red Converse Allstars; complete with frizzy hair, huge plastic hoop earrings and fingerless lace gloves; flashed before my eyes. I never criticised his clothes again.
I suppose I should admire him for finding one clique and sticking with it. I flitted from one to the next when I was a teenager, usually according to which bloke I was interested in at the time. When I was in highschool, the choices were pretty limited - you were either a skeg (surfer), a skatehead (sk8er) or a bogan. I tried the skeg thing at one point, but as I'm not blonde, can't surf and hate getting beach sand in my undies, that didn't last long. And if my surfing was bad, my skateboarding was even worse, so I had to give the skateheads a miss as well.
Which is how I became a bogan. The only prerequisites for boganhood were black clothes, a decent collection of Aussie Rock cassettes and an exceedingly high tolerance for alcohol. (As a girl, I managed to sidestep the mullet requirement). We spent most of our days sitting in the back of utes, drinking copious amounts of warm beer and listening to Acca Dacca. My boyfriend, the leader of our illustrious gang, gave me gifts of stolen cheap-shit jewellery and beat up anyone who looked at him sideways. My foray into boganism ended when I started copping the same treatment.
When I left school, I decided to be a Goth. I shared their fascination with ancient architecture, horror stories and the supernatural, and thought the eye makeup, flowing dresses and boots they wore were dead sexy. However, I didn't know any other Goths, I wasn't really into the music and I have a mortal fear of sharp things, so I ended up just being an angry chick who wrote depressing poetry and dressed like Elvira.
Eventually it became apparent to me that I just didn't fit well into any box. If these groups were rebelling against conformity by conforming to their group norms, then I was just going to have to rebel against their non-conforming conformity. (Try saying that after your fifth beer). I started hanging out with other social misfits and wore whatever I damn well pleased.
Twenty years later, I’m still hanging out with misfits and my wardrobe consists of one pair of trusty jeans, a handful of singlets and an op shop jacket. My passions, tastes and hobbies are diverse enough to grant me ‘honourary membership’ to a number of different groups, but too diverse to allow me to truly belong to any of them. And that’s just the way I like it.
I’m sure my emu son will one day work out who he is and find his place in society. For now, I'm just happy I don't have to be seen in public with my child wearing a fringed jacket, big hair, flouro leg-warmers and a bandanna tied around his thigh …like my poor mother did.