It’s More Than Just A Phase, Mom

Reminiscing on the grunge culture made popular on Tumblr in 2014

by Jaylen Anderson / Garnet & Black

POV: It’s 2014. You’re getting dressed for school and reach for black tights, your new skater skirt from Kohl’s and a pair of black combat boots. You scroll through Tumblr while you wait for your parents to drive you. "Chocolate" by The 1975 is playing on your iPod. Life is good. 

Given the traumatic events of the past year, I’ve found myself reaching for nostalgia as comfort. Specifically, solace in the grunge phenomena that was 2013-2015 Tumblr culture. For me, these were the golden years of 8th-10th grade. These were the old days where from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. MTV would stream music videos for “underground” music that hadn’t hit the radio. It was the first time in my life that I realized that music that didn’t play on the radio even existed. I had been raised on oldies country, bubble gum pop and Christian contemporary.  I thought that was it. That’s all the music that mattered, so pick your poison. 

Thankfully, I tumbled into the rabbit hole that was angsty indie-pop. I have a clear memory of going to school and telling my friends about “this new band” called The 1975. 13-year-old me may not have known much, but she did know that "Chocolate" was an absolute banger and people needed to hear it. I was soon informed by the older, stoner band kids that the song was, in fact, not about chocolate. This revelation may have created a gate-keeping, music monster who read the genius lyrics description of every song on my iPod library. Was I annoying? Absolutely, but I felt cool nonetheless. 

However, my affinity for this genre wasn’t shared between my friends and me. Like I said, we only had country, pop and worship to work with. There wasn’t much room for drug-themed ballads with steel guitars. To find more like-minded people, my solution was to join Tumblr. Looking back, this qualifies as the moment of my villain origin story. It did work though because it turns out that there was a generation of kids like me who really took this aesthetic to heart.

Jaylen Anderson / Garnet & Black

These Tumblr teens really educated me. I soon discovered The Arctic Monkeys, and to this day, the line, “I crumble completely when you cry” still hurts me. Although problematic, Twenty One Pilots got me through a dark freshman year of high school. I poured my heart out to Car Radio before I even had a learner’s permit.  It was the age where MARINA still had her diamonds. “Electra Heart,” “Born to Die,” and “Badlands” quite literally defined what it means to be a woman. I say woman loosely - I was 14. A young age that hardly qualifies as mature, I was already planning how my early twenties would be filled with motorcycle road trips and drinking champagne.  Though nothing has stayed with me more than The Neighbourhood. I will never forget using lyrics from “Sweater Weather” as an Instagram caption. Now I am bisexual - the world came full circle.

While my music truly influenced the best of bad decisions back then, it went beyond that.  I was obsessed with the black and white aesthetic that took Tumblr by storm. There were always pictures of blurry teenagers jumping a wired fence, lots of half-smoked cigarettes and records on walls next to Rolling Stones posters. The era was defined by a single word: grunge. 

Looking back, I now know that this was just the indie kid trend of the time. These days, we do collared shirts under our sweatshirts or whatever Emma Chamberlain decides is cool that morning. Then, I just thought that was how my teenage years were guaranteed to look. It wasn’t a trend - it was a lifestyle. I started stealing my dad’s Winston Red’s. I begged for combat boots. I bought a “Save Rock and Roll” tapestry from a Fall Out Boy concert and put it on my ceiling. I was in it.  

I think that’s why I, and so many others I’ve talked to, have found comfort revisiting this period of our lives. This was before we knew it was just a fleeting trend. It was the beginning of self-expression through the clothes we wore, what music we listened to, and how we wanted to be perceived online. It was our first dance with being “different” - the first time we “weren’t like other girls.” 

Jaylen Anderson / Garnet & Black

It breaks my heart a little now that I’m old enough to climb wire fences at night without telling my mom where I am, Tumblr has moved on. I grew up to realize putting my vinyls on the walls will ruin them, Doc Martens are expensive and cigarettes just don’t taste good. Matty Healy has recovered from Heroin, Halsey is having a baby and Twenty One Pilots got canceled. The evolution of changing trends, culture and leaving high school has made me an entirely different person from who I was in 2014. I knew I grew up when I looked back and saw just how problematic I was at the time. It was probably best I wasn’t old enough to actually run away with a punk rock band and ruin my life. However, I’ll still break out my skateboard and listen to “Wiped Out!” every now and then just to put a smile on the face of my younger teenage self.