Not too long ago, I found an old iPod of mine that I hadn’t used since about 2007. After charging it up, I started scrolling through the tunes on it to get a picture of what 20 year old me was like.
It was not as cool as I had liked to imagine.
I immediately texted my best friend. “Was I emo??”
She said, “Well, yeah. Kinda.”
Me: “Why didn’t anyone tell me?!”
Her: “I mean, we all were. I assumed you knew.”
Me: “Well I DIDN’T.”
Her: “You had a LiveJournal.”
Me: [long, meaningful look at my WordPress] “Am I still emo?”
Her: “I don’t think emo is a thing anymore, we’ve evolved into hipsters now.”
Now, people have called me a “hipster” for years, though I never thought it held much truth. But when your bestie says you are a thing, even if you don’t think you are that thing, it gives you pause.
Sure, I could spend paragraphs ruminating on what an annoyingly broad and dismissive word it is (see also, “quirky,”) but I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’ve reflected on the early warning signs that, in retrospect, definitely signalled my hipsterdom from a young age.
Early childhood: already likes cooler music than you
My parents had a pretty impressive record collection. We were educated from an early age on the superiority of vinyl – the circlejerk topic of choice for hipsters of my generation. Later, as a teenager, and when vinyl was seeing a resurgence, newly minted mid-2000s hipsters would try to tell me all about it, and I’d respond with an eyeroll and general sense of smugness. “Yeah, I’ve known that since I was like, a baby,” I’d think to myself, while patting myself on the back for being so smart and hip.
Basically, I was into cool stuff before it was cool, before it was cool to be into cool stuff before it was cool.
Anyone still following me? Okay, let’s move on.
Adolescence: [need to assert individuality intensifies]
Right around this time, I idolized Gwen Stefani, I had a major crush on David Usher (the lead singer of Canadian post-grunge band Moist, for the uninitiated,) and my favourite article of clothing was a plaid pleated skirt with attached suspenders, which I would wear with tall black combat boots.
Oh yeah, she was alternative.
Eventually I cut my hair short and dyed it purple. My side bangs were on point. I discovered eyeliner. I felt misunderstood by my friends. All the pieces were there.
By high school I was wearing thick-rimmed glasses, ironic lapel buttons, and red lipstick. I loaded up my iPod with things like Fallout Boy and Paramore, among other, more embarrassing things. I once got into an actual argument with a friend over which one of us liked a particular band first. (Turns out I did but that’s neither here nor there.)
I figured I was way too sophisticated for anything “mainstream,” so I was constantly abandoning things I’d previously liked in search of something more obscure and therefore better. People started calling me “emo” around this point, but I was like “Nah, I’m not emo, they just don’t get me.”
What a tool.
Early adulthood: denial to acceptance
For a lot of people I think this was a phase that they grew out of after high school, but as you’ve seen, I was committed to this lifestyle from birth. And what is the next logical step of a birthright hipster?
Working as a barista, of course.
“Uh we don’t have ‘large,’ do you mean ‘venti’?” Oh yeah, the sense of superiority was real in that place.
Hipsters are supposed to be ironic, right? Imagine congratulating yourself on how cool you are at your barista job while you make a zillion vanilla bean fraps for an endless parade of 12 year olds. For minimum wage.
That ironic enough for you?
Still, I maintained my cool detachment throughout my early twenties, which is lucky, because I think otherwise 10 years of customer service could crush a girl’s spirit. The whole time I kept assuring myself, “I’m not a hipster, this is just my totally unique, one-of-a-kind, snowflake personality!”
“I’m not a hipster,” I said, as I amassed a huge collection of concert tshirts.
“I’m not a hipster,” I said, as I got an anchor tattooed on my forearm.
“I’m not a hipster,” I said, as my glasses got gradually bigger and bigger.
But I’m pretty sure I was. And I’m pretty sure I still am.
iPods don’t lie, after all.
Jessica wrote this piece for Flux, a forum for those of us encountering adulthood. She is a Millennial Maritimer from Moncton, NB, Canada who works as a receptionist and enjoys creative pursuits, internet culture, silliness, sharing stories, and attempting to escape the cold reality of her impending 30s. To read more, check out her blog here.