Hello Snarklings! Please accept the Lady of the Manners’ heartfelt apologies for the lack of posts the past few months; while she’s been relatively active over on Tumblr and Instagram, the ongoing chaos of daily life has meant there’s been precious little time for sitting down and answering letters. But! Gothic Charm School has returned, and will (one hopes) settle back into a routine of regular posts. However, enough with the explanations and apologies, it’s time for letters!
Hello Lady of the Manners ! I’ve had your book for awhile and I love everything about it, but I’ve been puzzled lately on whether or not I have “the right” to call myself Goth (I know, I know, you went over this in Charm School and I shouldn’t worry about it, but my annoying anxiety tells me otherwise! ). I’m into a lot of the spooky things you’ve mentioned before and I’m obsessed with Halloween, but I’m not super crazy about the Goth music (Bauhaus, Siouxsie, Joy, etc.). I feel like this makes me wayyyyy less of a Goth. I’m also not too fond of wearing those cute little top hats or Victorian-style anything. The icing on the cake is, well, I don’t have a nice pale complexion—I look like your average “Pale Heart”.
Should I still consider myself Goth?
Thanks in advance from one of your fans!
Darling, darling creature, of course you have “the right” to call yourself Goth! As the Lady of the Manners has said before, there is no Goth Points Checklist. There is no Eldergoth Cabal checking people’s credentials, and you do not have to collect stamps on a Goth Card.
You do have to have some interest in things that are spooky, or darker than a large part of mainstream culture. But the list of things that fall under the shadow of the Goth umbrella is huge and varied. Some Goths only like the music, and care not one whit for the literature, movies, art, or fashion. Other Goths clutch their collections of classic gothic literature to their chests, but would be hard-pressed to name more than three or four bands. And other Goths are devoted to the aesthetic, but are mostly ambivalent about the music or other pop-culture manifestations. Yes, some Goths are wildly enthusiastic about all of those things, but even they pick and choose amongst them. For example, as the Lady of the Manners has said before, she’d really rather not listen to Joy Division. And while she’s a fan of gothic tropes in literature, she’s in no rush to read anything by the Brontes again.
The important thing is that you have at least a passing awareness of the roots of the modern Goth subculture. Be aware that Goth (as we know it today) sprang forth from the punk and post-punk movements, and recognize the huge part that the bands of that era played in forming our community.
As for not being fond of tiny top hats or Victorian fashions: those aren’t the be-all and end-all of Goth fashion! Even the Lady of the Manners, who is very fond of tiny top hats and Victorian -styled looks, doesn’t expect everyone else to wear those things. Goth styles cover a dizzying array of looks, from plain black t-shirts and leggings, to retro gothabilly/pin-up, to flowing sleeves and skirts, to layers and layers of the Dark Mori look, to the elaborately teased hair and shredded fishnets of deathrock. And those are only the styles that first sprang to mind. Wear what you want to wear, wear what makes you feel most like yourself, and don’t fret about if it’s Goth or not.
Finally, about not having a pale complexion: GOTH IS NOT ABOUT SKIN COLOR. Anyone who tries to tell you that you have to be pale to be a Goth is very, very wrong. Here, have some clicky-links!
The Fuck Yeah Black Goths Tumblr.
Hello, dearest Fairy Gothmother! I have a question for you that’s been
weighing heavily on my mind for quite some time now, but I’ve never had
the nerve to ask.
Some background: I’ve been dabbling in the goth/metalhead scenes for
many, many years now. I’m not quite an Elder Goth, but I’m not a Baby
Bat, either. It was always something I proudly displayed in high
school, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen more and more of the people
around me turn to more “respectable” fashions – in other words, it seems
like everyone is growing out of it, and I start to feel like maybe I
should, too. This is particularly apparent in the professional world,
where I often feel out of place with my multiple piercings and spooky
clothes. These are things that I, personally, think are pretty cool,
but I’m constantly afraid that they’ll somehow lower my credibility.
It’s getting to the point where I experience extreme anxiety surrounding
this thought, especially when I work outside the home, because I just
have that terrible feeling that people will look at me as a child and
not take me seriously. I’m just generally… embarrassed of myself,
based entirely on what other people may or may not really think about
me. I’m always told that I just shouldn’t care about what anyone thinks
anyway – and maybe that’s true – but I suffer from both anxiety and
depression, so sometimes my brain goes a little out of control with the
possible scenarios and the self-loathing. It’s not always easy to
simply stop worrying.
So, my question is, how does one overcome their self-consciousness and
re-embrace their gothness? How can I go back to holding my head up high
and being happy with my “otherness”?
This is such a tricky question for the Lady of the Manners to address, because to be completely honest, she’s never had any self-consciousness about her gothy appearance. (There are other things that will trip her up or give her pause, but spooky style has never been one of them, thank the blessed bats above.)
The simplest answer to your question is another question: does publicly displaying your otherness through your wardrobe make you happy? Make you feel most like yourself? If it does, despite your particular brain raccoons of anxiety and depression chittering at you, then stick with it. Start thinking of your style as your armor, your way of shielding and warding yourself against a world that seems, at times, to be determined to drain away every bit of wonder and weirdness. Deliberately dressing yourself to show who you are and how you view the world can be a powerful act.
Of course it’s not easy to simply stop worrying about what people may or may not think of you, and anyone who blithely gives that advice has probably never had anxiety sink its claws into their brains, the lucky things. And the Lady of the Manners isn’t going to tell you that people won’t notice you, because they probably will. The trick, however, is teaching yourself that the opinions of random passers-by really don’t matter that much. They don’t! You’ll go on your own way, and they’ll go on theirs, and it doesn’t matter if they think you’re odd.
Now as to worrying that your style may have an impact on people’s perception of you in the workplace? That’s a trickier question. Is there someone you work with that you trust enough to ask about how you’re viewed? If there is, take them out for coffee and pick their brains. It may turn out that in your professional world, no one even bats an eye at your piercings and spooky clothes, and you will be able to tell your anxiety to go sit quietly in a corner.
If, however, you get feedback that maybe yes, you should tone things down a bit and it wouldn’t make you feel like you’re abandoning part of yourself to do so, then there’s no harm in opting for a more “corporate” version of CorpGoth. (Someone recently asked over on Tumblr about dressing like a “goth lawyer”.) While the Lady of the Manners has never had a problem (that she’s aware of) with her elaborate style at a job, she is also very aware that she works in the tech industry in a relatively liberal city on the West Coast, and her experience isn’t going to be everyone else’s. Sometimes you have to adopt a form of camouflage in order to earn a living, and save dressing as your true self when you’re not at work. There is NOTHING wrong with that, and anyone who views it as “selling out” probably hasn’t had to worry overmuch about paying the bills.
So! Think of your fashion as your shield! But be willing to be flexible about it if you have to. Which, at first glance, seems a bit contradictory, but really isn’t. It’s all about doing what you need to in order to feel secure and happy with yourself.
Also, if you aren’t talking to a counselor or therapist about your anxiety and depression, it’s something you should consider doing. Using your style as a shield may not be a lot of help if there are other issues going on in your life. Taking care of yourself is important, and that includes taking care of your emotional and mental well-being. Some links you might find useful:
With that, Snarklings, the Lady of the Manners is going to go brew another cup of tea, and then get back to excavating her inbox. The comments are OPEN on this post, but, as usual, will be moderated.