Of Babybats Striving to Become Themselves

The Lady of the Manners gets political: The world has become a much scarier place for a lot of us, and we need to pull together.

After the previous Gothic Charm School post about Eldergoths, the Lady of the Manners decided she should give some attention to her younger readers, too.

Dear Lady of the Manners,

I recently discovered your site and I find it perfectly splendid, and extremely informative.
I’ve been interested in Gothic literature for ages, and the music for slightly less time, and want my fashion to reflect that. I plan to gradually build up to the look I want, as currently most of my wardrobe is pink (don’t ask). My parental units both disapprove of the Gothic subculture, although they only know it as ‘those depressed kids in black and too much eyeliner’. I know I should give them The Goth Talk, as the Lady of the Manners often suggests. Should I do it now, or wait until I’ve built up a more Gothic look/they ask start noticing a change?
Thank you for giving your time to yet another naive babybat,

Sincerely Yours,
Maeve

That is a tricky decision! On the one hand, the Lady of the Manners thinks that talking to your parents sooner rather than later could be a good plan, as you’d be able to present it to them as “This is something that I’ve been interested in for a while, and I want to talk to you before I start really delving into it more”. You would be able to make them feel involved in your life and your interests, and parents love that.

You could talk to them about the literature that is dear to your spooky heart. You could introduce them to your newfound musical loves. You could talk to them about family-friendly examples of pop-culture gothic, such as the Addams Family, The Munsters, Beetlejuice, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Monster High. (Yes, the Lady of the Manners considers the Monster High franchise to be a delightful, parent-and-kid-friendly introduction to people wanting to be different than the norm.) You could, of course, get your hands on a copy of the Gothic Charm School book and have them read the chapters about being the parent of a goth.

One thing you absolutely should do is find examples of the sort of inky-hued style that you want to work into your wardrobe, and have a kind of a wardrobe plan to show your parents as to how you’d interpret the style for your life. This is where the Lady of the Manners will (once again!) point at the Everyday Goth Fashion Pinterest she put together. (Hmmm, the Lady of the Manners needs to spend a few evenings adding more items to that, doesn’t she?) You also may want to wander over to Polyvore and put together some sample outfits to show them. Goth fashion imagery makes for wonderful photoshoots, but can be slightly overwhelming or alarming for parents to consider in connection with their children. Showing them some of the goth-friendly fashions that are available at mainstream stores they’re already familiar with may reassure them.

Sadly, you could possibly go to all of that effort and still have your parents be fearful, reactionary, and forbidding.

The Lady of the Manners hopes your parents wouldn’t react in that manner. She fervently hopes that they would be so impressed by your decision to talk openly with them about your interests that they’d be supportive, and that they’d be open to you changing your personal style to reflect those interests. But the Lady of the Manners isn’t going to fib to you: there’s the chance that no matter how many good examples you give, your parents may still be unconvinced.

Which is why, when it comes right down to it, she suspects that your best plan is to slowly change and evolve your style, and while you’re doing that, put together a presentation about What Goth Means to You and Here’s Why They Shouldn’t Worry, and fill it with all of the sorts of information the Lady of the Manners mentioned in the previous section. Let’s be clear: the Lady of the Manners isn’t really joking about making it a presentation. If you bring lots of clear examples and well-organized information to explain to your parents about why you’re drawn to the goth subculture, and the vast array of historical, cultural, literary, and artistic influences that the subculture draws on, they may not be as inclined to deny your interests.

If, after all of that, your parents are still of a mind to not allow you to express your interests, ask your own questions. Ask them why. Ask them what their concerns are, listen to what they have to say, and be prepared to explain to them (possibly over and over) that being a goth isn’t about being depressed or self-harm. If you aren’t able to change your parents’ minds, then you will need to decide how much rebellion you’re willing to do for your personal expression, and if you want to make your external devotion to goth something to fight for. There’s no shame in deciding that you want to save your stylistic changes until you don’t live with your parents; for some folks, keeping the family peace is more important than an inky-hued wardrobe and makeup, and after all, it’s not like goth fashion is going to vanish from existence.

Good luck!

Dear Lady of Manners,
I am extremely interested in the goth subculture. I take so much inspiration from you, toxic tears, and many other goths that I seen online. But, the thing is, I don’t know how to have a metamorphosis into that beautiful black butterfly. How do you suggest going about it for someone younger? Like 10-13. All the people and websites and places I’ve constantly stalked never say any thing about it. How do you “goth” when you’re so young. Can’t seem to puzzle that out.

A wanna-be baby bat,
Kittrana

Oh, you darling fledgling babybat! The Lady of the Manners is trying very hard not to just coo at you, because your question is a completely valid one. (The younger babybats cause the Lady of the Manners to flail and burble about “awww, they’re so DARLING!”*) But flailing and burbling does nothing to help you with your dilemma!

The first thing to realize is that there are whole sections of the goth subculture that aren’t going to be appropriate for you to explore yet, at least not without parental awareness and permission.

The Lady of the Manners, in her pre-teen days, certainly read books and watched movies that were not Kid Appropriate. However her parents were (mostly) aware of what media she was consuming. Does this mean she’s saying “If your parents say NO, don’t explore things”? Not really. But she is saying be very, VERY aware of what sort of risks with parental ire and repercussions you may be courting, and you don’t get to point at Gothic Charm School and say “But Auntie Jilli said it was okay!”, because the Lady of the Manners is very deliberately Not A Parent.

Anyway, there are large sections of goth art, literature, movies, music, and fashion that are not appropriate for younger folks. Things that are deliberately provocative, disturbing, and disruptive. There’s nothing wrong with that! The Lady of the Manners wholeheartedly supports all sorts of art being able to explore disturbing, disruptive, and provocative things, because depiction does not equal endorsement. However, the Lady of the Manners also supports the idea of “You must be of X age or have the permission of a guardian” limits for certain media, because there are some things that younger folks shouldn’t be dealing with until they’re ready.

So with those disclaimers out of the way, what are some good ways to “do goth” when you’re a pre-teen?

There is, as the Lady of the Manners listed in her answer to the previous letter, loads of family-friendly goth media: movies, tv shows, cartoons, and books! The Addams Family. The Munsters. Beetlejuice. The Nightmare Before Christmas. Coraline. The Graveyard Book. Monster High. Ruby Gloom. A Series of Unfortunate Events. The works of Edgar Allan Poe.

With regard to music, it’s hard to make a recommendation without knowing what sort of music appeals to you! The “Goth” label can be applied to so many different genres! Perhaps start with some of the “classics” (Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, Dead Can Dance), then see what other bands are recommended to you. (The Lady of the Manners is pretty sure that YouTube, Spotify, 8Tracks, and other similar services all have “If you like this, you might like this other artist!” sorts of algorithms.)

As for your metamorphosis into that beautiful black butterfly: remember that you don’t have to transform yourself into a full-fledged spooky aristocrat all at once! No one, and the Lady of the Manners means NO ONE, springs forth as a spookily flawless creature of darkness. Plus, as was mentioned in the previous section, a lot of goth fashion makes for wonderful photoshoots, but is not practical for everyday life or appropriate for younger goths.

A quick look at the Terms of Service for most social media sites shows the age restriction to be 13, which means you won’t be able to use Tumblr, Pinterest, Polyvore, or other sites that make it easier to pull together fashion inspiration. That doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to have a spooky wardrobe — it just means you’ll have to browse stores and store websites to figure out what IS available in your age range and size. Thanks to hanging out with her young goddaughters (ages 11 and 7), the Lady of the Manners knows there’s a wealth of goth-friendly clothes out there: you can find almost any garment with some sort of sparkly skull on it, or in washable stretch velvet (skirts, dresses, leggings, tops) in black or dark jewel tones, or in black and white (or black and pink!) stripes. All of those things will help you put together a wardrobe that shows your allegiance to the spooky side of life while still being age-appropriate.

*The Lady of the Manners feels compelled to admit here that she’s hit the point of flailing and cooing at any gothy type she spots who looks like they may be under the age of 25, and refuses to feel bad about it. YOU ARE ALL PRECIOUS AND ADORABLE, AND THE LADY OF THE MANNERS IS THRILLED TO BE YOUR WACKY AUNTIE.

And now, the Lady of the Manners is going to turn these questions over to the reading audience. Do any of you have helpful suggestions for Maeve or Kittrana? Or other causes that are doing good work? Please post a comment! (Which are, of course, moderated.)

9 Responses to “Of Babybats Striving to Become Themselves”

  1. Carisa Says:

    Another organization worth considering: Americans United for Separation of Church and State [http://www.au.org]

  2. bespectacledbibliophile Says:

    Suggestions!

    1) Black clothing is, for the most part, not going to immediately concern any parental beings. My parents accepted my choice to wear black basically all the time long before I purchased combat boots or petticoats.

    2) Wearing spooky home clothes like bat print pajamas is a good way to make a slow transition. If you start dressing in comfy but spooky clothes at home, it will make more sense to your parents when you start going outside the house in them.

    5) Start with things you can wear with “normal clothes.” Starting with jewelry or t-shirts can make the transition easier, and it allows you to build a blacker wardrobe while still utilizing what you have.

    4) Do research! Not only does it give you a chance to put together examples to show your parents, it also gives you a chance to do some fun window shopping.

    5) Media! I highly recommend taking a look at:
    – Over the Garden Wall
    – Bruce Coville’s short horror stories (especially “Don’t Look Under the Bed” and “The Language of Blood”, both of which can be found in ‘Odds are Good’)
    – Coraline (book and movie)

    I have to give special notice to Coville’s work, because his fondness for the monstrous and odd was a big formative influence on me. It was part of the foundation on which I built my love of horror films and fiction, and it helped me feel less alone in my love of the odd, spooky, and strange.

  3. Rachel Says:

    I love you, Wacky Auntie Jilli!!!!!! Glad to have you too!!!!!! <3

  4. Rhias Hall Says:

    Remember that goth isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition.

    You don’t have to wear shadows and cobwebs every day of your life. Enjoy being goth, but don’t be afraid to let yourself grow in other directions if it starts to feel limiting.

    People love for you for the person that you are, and that person is going to be the same whether they are wearing a black lace ballgown – or a pink jacket.

  5. Fal Says:

    Depending on your family, you might find that classical music might be a more family-friendly way to be “spooky.” Lots of Baroque music is quite gloomy and contemplative, and the Romantic composers are well known for being emotional and passionate. Having, say, a Rachmaninoff piano concerto going in the background might be much more comfortable for a worried parent than something with lyrics that might be unsettling.

  6. Crucifix Thorne Says:

    If youre Goth, you’re Goth. Just be you! Be the creepy cue person you want to be whether that mean age-friendly deathrock or Victorian, you do you. Parents can be a struggle but just know that they love you for you even say it does take some aadjustment. And to fyi im only 13 so I completely understan where you’re coming from.

    Thanks for respond to this Auntie Jillie!

  7. Crucifix Thorne Says:

    Omg I apologize for all the typos, I’m excited!

  8. bespectacledbibliophile Says:

    Sorry. “There’s Nothing Under the Bed” is the actual story title. I feel the need to clarify because it’s delightful, even shy of 2 decades after I first read it.

  9. M. Says:

    I’m 15, and I’ve had dark inklings just about as long as I can remember. Something I’ve found to make parents worry less is pairing black clothing with very bright clothing. Alternately, dress in black and pale colours (pastel goth is quite a popular look.)

    Gothic literature is a great way to embrace the dark side Reading classics will show your parents that you’re mature, and make goths seem more mature overall.

    As for music, many goths seem to enjoy 80’s music of all kinds. It doesn’t have to be explicitly gothic rock or industrial-modern bands like Blouse or Austra have plenty of sad, retro-inspired vibes. You may even connect with your parents through older music!

    I’ve never actually had “the goth talk” with my family, and you may not have to either. Just move slowly and see what happens!

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