Eldergoths vs. Apathy

It’s time, Snarklings, for the Lady of the Manners to write (again) about a subject that is very dear to her. A particularly heartfelt letter from a fellow Eldergoth landed in the Gothic Charm School mailbox, which sent the Lady of the Manners down into the depths of some murky nostalgia.

First, let’s get some terminology defined! Which is something the Lady of the Manners has been meaning to do for ages, but was finally prompted to do over on the Gothic Charm School Tumblr:

  • Babybat = goths under whatever the legal drinking/club-going age is. For example, 21 in the US.
  • Fledgling = people new to the goth subculture, regardless of age. In the Lady of the Manners’ opinion, this term applies for a couple of years.
  • Eldergoth = people who have been an active participant in the goth subculture for at least 20 years, and are probably at least in their very late 30s/.

Are these terms and definitions universally accepted by goths around the globe? Probably not. But there are a lot of goths out there who do agree with them. And now you won’t be confused when those terms are offhandedly used here at Gothic Charm School!

Eldergoths. A topic that has come up a few times:

Too Old to be Goth, Revisited
Returning to One’s Gothy Roots
Of Goths and Aging Gracefully
More Advice for Aging Goths
Returning to the Spooky Life (Back to the Crypt)

So what prompted the Lady of the Manners to return to this topic? Two things, one of which was this poignant letter:

It freaks me out when all traces of goth get wiped off the world, from Gothic Beauty no longer printing on paper (nor replying re: paid subscriptions), to all the old ‘goth nights’ not happening seemingly, to all the old wensites and events just not there anymore. I don’t live near anyone who wants to come over and dance around to the old stuff–nor do I even want to do that now on my own–and the social isolation and loss of the shreds of the scene is really hard on me, as in Badbadbad. I know perky advice about staying social, seeing a therapist, whatever, and illness prevents me from a lot of stuff, and I know that you have had other really brave-seeming (mostly young) folks with more severe health impairments than I have writing to you, and yet–I simply got old and have some serious-ish health stuff, and it freaks me out to have outlived the scene. Yes, I looked through the list of your active sites, and eh–there’s not enough there to be a lifestyle anymore in my view, just some folks selling things to those who used to be in the lifestyle maybe.

I guess there isn’t much to say really, and I’d rather you don’t print this with any identifying name or anything, but honestly, what the hell do you do when it’s yet another thing gone from life? The obvious thing is ‘replace it with something as good or better’, but here in the Orange-Mulch Apocalypse of what is left of society, there is nothing good or real or fun to me. I know others suffer too, so maybe there are good ideas somewhere.

Ideas please–

Thanks and best wishes

The Lady of the Manners isn’t going to lie to you: sometimes it’s hard to find things that are “good or real or fun” and keep them close. The world is full of chaos and entropy, and finding things that resonate to the same chords as your soul sometimes feels impossible. Not merely impossible, but also history-negating: did you ever feel that zing of dark magic and enthrallment about anything, ever? Are you just deluding yourself?

Here, from the bottom of my enormous black purse, I offer you this: hope. Because you haven’t outlived the scene, and there are still good things out there; but you have to do a bit of searching.

Start small, start simply: pick whatever image-heavy social media site you can cope with (Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest), and search on one thing that used to make your heart beat a little faster with joy — A favorite band, a beloved movie, an admired artist, a favored fashion style. See what images and links turn up from that search, and see if they still have the power to bring you stirrings of what you once felt. From there, start link hopping. See what posts are related to your original search, and see what other ideas and images turn up.

The Lady of the Manners will be honest: this is why she sticks with Tumblr. Yes, the site has its problems, and there are unkind and rude people there, just like everywhere. But Tumblr has also led her to discover so many different artists, writers, and musicians that she never would have known about! Plus, if you curate your Tumblr (or Instagram, or Pinterest) experience carefully, you can create a steady feed of things that inspire you and make you happy.

Another reason setting up some sort of presence on one of the image-heavy social media sites is a good idea: you find more of your tribe, and have a way of interacting with them that doesn’t rely on feeling well enough to go out somewhere. The Lady of the Manners absolutely sympathizes with your health issues; there are days when it feels like a major victory to be upright(ish) and in front of the computer. And on those days, living vicariously through other other folks online — enjoying their makeup, outfits, or playlists — is a vital lifeline.

(An aside: yes, there’s Twitter and FB. But for whatever reason, the Lady of the Manners just hasn’t found as much of a community on either of those social networks as she has on others. She suspects it’s a signal to noise issue, which is why she prefers the social networks where she can curate her feed and experience.)

However, the second thing that prompted the Lady of the Manners to write this post is tangentially related to FB. You see, there’s an Eldergoth group that’s recently started up, as a “support group” for the new Eldergoth Central blog. The blog promises to be an entertaining read (full disclosure: the woman behind it is a long-time friend of the Lady of the Manners), and the FB group is already turning out to be an interesting place for “goths of a certain age” to collect and talk about things.

Also on FB is Mick Mercer’s radio show! Mick is someone who was around at the beginning of modern goth music, and is the author of such classic goth reference tomes such as Gothic Rock: Black Book, Hex Files: The Goth Bible, and 21st Century Goth. He knows his music, and posts a weekly show of 3 hours of music covering goth, glam, punk, and industrial. The FB page also hosts discussions for each show, making it easier to find other Eldergoths who share your tastes. If you’d rather not bother with FB, he also uploads the show to his Mixcloud page.

But to get back to the first reason the Lady of the Manners came back to this topic, the heartfelt letter: Sometimes all one can really do for a night (week? Month? Season? Pick your timeframe) is wallow in nostalgia. Play all the music that drew you to the subculture. Dress up in your finery and take some photos of yourself. Indulge in favorite movies, reread beloved books, and slowly page through your collection of goth magazines. (The Lady of the Manners may be projecting just a tiny bit with that last suggestion.) Because sometimes, all that will get you through the abyss of apathy is reminding yourself of what was important to you in the past. Who knows, it may strike a tiny spark that you can nurture into a glorious bonfire.

This is where the Lady of the Manners turns to the Gothic Charm School readers: do you have any kind words or helpful suggestions for this poor creature who is lost in the cheerless dark? Leave a comment.

14 Responses to “Eldergoths vs. Apathy”

  1. Georgia Says:

    I’m really new to goth and I really respect how much you’ve lived of the scene. I personally see quite a lot of events pop up and find a good way of finding them is through following bloggers and YouTubers. I’m 15 so I can’t attend any of this stuff and I feel a bit down about it too sometimes because I don’t know any other goths near me. It can get a bit lonely but I find doing DIY, pinning on pinterest and following bloggers and vloggers can cheer me right up!

    I hope you feel a bit better soon! X

  2. Rebecca Wright Says:

    Wonderful post. Such perfect timing. I’ve already subscribed to your recommendations:)

  3. Blue Secretia Says:

    Not only am I possibly eligible for an Eldergoth card (I was 40 in April). My husband and I moved out to rural England from London in the last year and that hit us ~really~ hard socially. Add to that a four-year-old daughter and no familial network for childcare and, yes, I understand that social isolation. So even if anyone ~did~ tour near to me I couldn’t go.. Or I could, but without my spouse. No funs.

    I have nothing new to add; I keep in contact with London friends via FB, follow inspirational (to me) blogs on Tumblr and listen to podcasts (my favourite of which is the Fadeout: http://fadeout.podomatic.com/).

    But…do you want to chat? Make new friends? I love making the world smaller and I’m happy to chat with you.

    Blue xx

  4. Mary Says:

    I wonder if an eldergoth/goth penpal exchange might be nice – being a fan of Evil Supply Co. I have a rather large collection of stationary, and paper correspondence is always delightful. (I also understand the divides between chronic illness and social life!) If anyone would like to correspond, just send your mailing address to “jadegirl@winterdream.org”.

  5. Logan Says:

    I’m a fledgling myself, so I don’t have great advice to give. It’s my belief, however, that although the subculture has changed throughout the decades (and, I’m sure, faded a bit from all that it once was) elder goths should always be respected and cherished. We wouldn’t exist without you. Hopefully you can meet some of us and feel at home.

  6. Grimly Fiendish Says:

    It really just depends on where you live. If you’re an American Goth you’re likely to feel waves of “the scene is dead!” in persistent measures. Quite frankly, the Goth scene diminished quite greatly in the USA sometime in the early 2000s. Goth, in itself, isn’t dead globally though. Take a look at Europe and you’ll find several big Gothic festivals that are teeming with art, music, and community. That does nothing for us here in the States without money or access to travel to our European counterparts.

    I would suggest starting a Youtube account. Jwlhyfer de Winter is an Elder Goth (she’s 51 years old) on Youtube. She makes lots of videos talking about her experiences in the early days of the Goth subculture. She also shares her interests, discusses her hobbies, posts photos, and talks about her artistic inspirations. This is not only helpful to the Baby Bats and Fledglings but it’s helpful to other Elders Goths who may be feeling as if they are relics in modern times.

    The internet desperately needs more Elder Goths telling their stories of what the early days was like and what made it so magical to them. It’s one thing to read about where Goth came from. It’s another thing entirely to have it shared with you from someone who was there. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for an Elder Goth doing that for me. 🙂

  7. Laurence von Bottorff Says:

    Goethe once criticized Rembrandt by saying he did a fine picture, but then he poured the “brown sauce” over it. By that, he meant Rembrandt’s style had a dark, dusky melancholy to it. But I see the “brown sauce” used liberally these days. Does your story, movie etc. lack gravity? Pour on the brown sauce. I’m saying what’s behind Goth, namely, the Dark Muse, hasn’t died — and will never die. Sure, this latest incarnation, the *Goth* movement, might be waning, but some other form of Dark will take its place. Also, Dark is often enough a solitary pursuit. When you’re into the Dark Muse, you’re into a deeper reality, which, typically, makes it a lonely path.

  8. Denise Says:

    Hi,
    I’m nineteen and completely new to the gothic subculture and lifestyle. I live in a tiny town where nearly everyone wears Abercrombie, listens to country music, and worships football. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have had events and places and /people/ to share your interests with. I’m sorry you’ve lost it.
    I read blogs – my very first were The Everyday Goth by Mary Rose, and Goth it Yourself by Bane. I still haven’t worked up the nerve to comment yet, let alone start one myself.
    I decorate, or, rather, I am decorating. I’m in the process of making my room look like a mix of the Slytherin common room and Orgodaz (I spelled that horribly, I’m sorry) from Underworld.
    I have several Pinterest boards and an overflowing bookshelf.
    Usually, that’s enough.
    But sometimes, when I really need it, I go into my room, and I shut the door. I put on one of my favorite outfits, not the watered down sort I usually wear. I do my makeup and hair, like in the online tutorials, like I could never wear down the street here. I put on my favorite music, and I read – whether it’s a book or a blog. And I don’t feel so alone anymore. I don’t feel like the only one.
    I know this isn’t a replacement for clubs and events. I know it won’t replace being with people and talking and dancing. But, having never had them, it’s more than enough for me. I hope maybe it might help you find what’s enough you.
    Best of wishes to you,
    Denise

  9. Alexandria Says:

    I’m still a babybat, but I know how you feel. I’m the only goth in my family, the only goth at school, and the only goth in my entire town. Its difficult for me to find people who are also goth, and as I am 16 and still under my parents roof, I can’t always express myself the way I’d like to. I have naturally red hair, and I wanna dye it but my parents won’t let me. I have so many outfits that I can’t wear because my mother thinks the clothes are “too goth” and she has tried time after time to get me to wear pastels (Yes, I know about pastel goth, but that’s not me. If I could dress like Morticia Addams all the time, I would.) and every time I said no, she would make me change anyway. No one fully understands me, and its a very lonely existence.

  10. Natasha Foxx Says:

    I recommend the Boulet Brothers new Web series on YouTube. It’s amazing! Goth is very much alive in the USA 😉 .

  11. Tracy Says:

    I truly wish I had some great advice for a person who sounds quite kind.I refound my goth last year at 49 ! My husband has no desire to participate in it, nor do my friends. I refuse to go back to that people pleasing low self esteem person.But the lonliness sucks. Am thankful for Instagram – brennasoul. If he or anty

  12. Tracy Says:

    Sorry, couldn’t get the cursor to the part I wanted erased. As I was saying: you can follow me on Instagram. Open arms. Just wish I could find eldergoths here in Victoria B.C. Canada. Take care xo

  13. Midnite Blue Moon Says:

    I’m somewhere between “fledgling” and “Eldergoth”, but I’m also an introvert who lives at least two hours away from anything even remotely like a Goth club. My gothitude is more just a regular day-to-day thing, as I’m in my late 30s and don’t have any “goth” specific friends.

    I know it can get lonely, especially if you have a medical condition and/or other reasons that may keep you from going out on the town. Perhaps going out to dinner one night with some old friends would help? Or just out for a coffee/tea/drink? Sometimes just getting dressed up to go to the movies or even just the park can help, too!

    I’ve considered dressing up as Goth as I can and taking an old-fashioned boom box with me to the local park and putting on some spooky music. Laying in the grass listening to music maybe can be helpful..?

  14. Tanda Says:

    I truly feel for isolated goths everywhere. Being an elder goth can be a challenge, particularly when you can’t get out to scene events (I live in Calgary where there are somewhat regular events). As a mum to a small child and having some chronic illness issues that make late nights hard, the best way to stay in touch with the broader culture does indeed seem to be via social media sites. I LOVE the idea of an elder goth letter exchange… Pen pals were such an eighties/nineties thing to engage in, it seems very fitting for goths who came of age in the scene during this time to continue on with the art form… Im sorry that I don’t have helpful advice, I too am trying to figure out how to stay connected/re-connect after a self imposed exile from the scene during the early years of my son’s life….

    Thank you for allowing us to imput our ideas and to connect!

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