I am a year older than Tom. I did not have any TV-style upbringing. My parents were divorced, and my mom beat me with an electrical cord several times a week, hard enough to break the skin. The neighbors heard it all, but they did what people did back in the 60's- they "minded their own business". I was hardly the only one. Some kids had a father who stopped at the bar on the way home and drank in front of the TV after dinner. Or just stayed at the bar, which to some kids was better than him being home. A classmate of mine wrote a book about the constant physical and psychological abuse she and her sisters received from her cruel father including her being raped starting at age 5, and how she overcame the damage as an adult. It was hard to read, especially knowing that she hid all the pain from us classmates so well. But that's what kids do, they hide it out of fear of humiliation. When her book came out, some other classmates starting relating their experiences, and what I was most stunned at was that some of them had what I thought was happy families. Some externally perfect families hid their realities of drunkenness, abuse of tranquilizers and diet pills, spousal abuse, child abuse and molestation.
There were plenty of good and happy families then, as there are now. And a substantial number of families in which the kids suffer, just as now.
The TV portrayal of American life back then, of the Cleavers and the Nelsons and the Bradys, was a portrayal of white suburban life, idealized at that, and had nothing to do with life as it was for millions of minorities and poor whites in this country. There are lots of photographs from those times which depict the reality of life for those millions. Yet so many of my contemporaries seem to forget those, and only remember the TV shows. I like the shows myself- I just don't see them as depicting the whole reality by any stretch.
The young people of today live in a reality we made. They're figuring out who they are, just as we all did. I took a lot of crap in the early 70's for my long hair- called names, refused service in stores, accused as young as 14 of being a "drug user", assaulted by scissors-wielding asses (who did not succeed in giving me a haircut). Several years later, long hair was commonplace and no one cared. I don't like piercings and don't care much for tattoos, (though some are spectacular). But it would be asinine of me to pass judgment on the people who have them, as it would mean I learned nothing from my experiences being judged.
It's easy to say (and I've said it) that the Emo kids don't really have anything to be morose about- that they have had it better than most people, and they don't know what real suffering is. I've heard it said (not that I have any idea) that most of them have had such ordinary lives that being Emo is a way for them to feel something intensely. Maybe they feel lost. I remember being young and feeling lost. They are hardly the first disaffected or disconnected youth. I see them as young people in a phase of their life from which they will emerge, and it is better to converse with them than to harrumph at them. They will respond to friendly, non-judgmental conversation, just like anyone. Kids today aren't so different from kids in the past--they're just young in a different time.