A Selection of Questions and Answers

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.

This is not 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!

Here is the previous Gothic Charm School post about Goths of Color

The Fuck Yeah Black Goths Tumblr.

Dining with Dana’s masterpost of POC in Goth, Punk, and Alternative Music

Goths of Color on Afropunk.

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:

National Alliance on Mental Illness

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.

9 Responses to “A Selection of Questions and Answers”

  1. Cody Says:

    That´s for the post Auntie Jilly. I´d like to add that there is also nothing wrong with having a mixmatch wardrobe because just can´t settle down and pick a style of goth to be.

  2. Charlotte Sometimes Says:

    “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.”

    Cultures combine many elements to create a unique way of living for different people. In the case of the Goth subculture the music, fashion, literature, aesthetic philosophy, and art ALL are the basis of the subculture. And, in terms of music, I’m of the opinion that the Goth subculture embraces many different bands across various genres that all have the same ambiance and aesthetic. Although it is imperative that you know the history of the subculture (including Goth’s literary roots) you certainly don’t have to like 80s Goth or Deathrock in order to be a Goth. The point of Goth is to create a lifestyle that expresses your unique way of seeing the world and appreciating that in others. We all have our own personal library of gothy tunes, artists, books, movies, and etcetera that fit our taste. Anyone in the scene who judges you for that isn’t worth your time.

    I love the internet. But one of the things I dislike about it would be that elitist bullies use it’s anonymity to harass others without punishment. In terms of the Goth scene, there have been plenty online giving an image of the subculture that certainly isn’t true in real life. I don’t know about everyone else’s experience, but in my scene there are people who:

    – have normal colored hair
    – don’t dress in victorian clothing
    – prefer bands such as Combichrist or Covenant to Bauhaus
    – dress in casual goth attire (i.e. black jeans, boots, and band tshirt)
    – don’t wear makeup
    – aren’t pale
    – are asian, mexican, and various races
    – like creepy cute things
    – have pastel colored hair

    And you know what? Most don’t have a problem with it! And, those who do have a problem with any of the listed things above are very very quiet about it. That’s because they know that they’d look like a HUGE jerk and face being ostracized if they did openly express such judgemental opinions.

  3. Felicia Says:

    As strange as it sounds, being part of the goth subculture has improved my confidence, as i have selective mutism and social anxiety has made me proud of my strange way of thinking and clothing choice.There are so may different Gothic fashions that it can be hard to pin down a look, I don’t think there is anything wrong with dressing differently from day to day.

  4. Nyx Shadowhawk Says:

    Charlotte, I just want to say that I’m just like you. I have blonde hair and I don’t plan on dying it, I listen to Nox Arcana instead of Siouxie and Bauhaus, and I don’t wear makeup either. It definitely doesn’t make me or you less of a Goth. Also, there are hundreds of Goth styles besides Victorian (though I love Victorian). You’re a pastel Goth. Good for you!
    Read The Lady of the Manners response to me if you want to feel better about the music thing: http://gothic-charm-school.com/charm/?p=1091

  5. G. Says:

    Dear Lady, I just wanted to say that it is so good to see you back. I have missed your blog posts. This blog was what first made me realise that I am a Goth, and that has made a very positive difference to my life. A thousand thanks to you for doing what you do!

  6. Max Says:

    It’s very helpful article.I like it so much.

  7. D. Says:

    Re: the question of Goth in the workplace…
    First and foremost I think it is GREAT that you covered “it’s not selling out” in your answer. I feel like the ubergoth community (more than the eldergoths, which have probably felt the pain of workplace regulations & have found their ways of coping) is looking down on the “weekend goths”.
    I work in an extremely conservative field – finance! banking! gasp! – so for me bright haircolors are currently out of the question. It is the same with visible piercings and tattoos, certain haircuts (no deathrock-hawk for me…) and subculture-approved clothing.
    However, this does not make me less of a goth. I view it the same way that doctors and nurses wear their scrubs or lab coats, or like any other profession that has a “uniform”: mine just happens to be dresses and blazers (or pantsuits, if I were so inclined).
    I dress for work with the same care I’d do in my free time, and I’ve found that I will feel most comfortable (and thus *confident*) if I stick with muted colors: lots of black, navy, the occasional deep red or gray. I pay attention to the fit of my work clothes, this is probably the best tip I can offer in terms of feeling less “costumed” and more focused. If I have to adjust a skirt or blazer multiple times per hour, it is distracting and a source of constant discomfort.
    I don’t wear any jewellery or goth-anything while at work, and while I have to say it is sad that I can’t be my spookiest self, I must admit I relish in the fact that I pass undetected & can advance my career at a steady pace.
    Regarding piercings I have found that certain things can help: piercings which are older will usually take a long time until fully closed up. I have a lip ring which I only put in on weekends, and there’s no problem with that. I’ve always worn a clear stud & bioplast staff in my tongue piercing: none of the older (conservative) colleagues have ever noticed. The younger don’t seem to mind, at least the few times someone actually noticed and asked about it. Bonus: this softer material is actually better for your tooth enamel 😉
    But I digress. There’s so many ways to be CorpGoth, and equally many ways to goth it up in your freetime. I’d always encourage anyone to go with what makes them personally feel the best.
    Thank you as always for your kind-hearted and resourceful answers!

  8. Midnite Blue Moon Says:

    Thank you for this! Much like the person above, I’m all too familiar with the “brain raccoons” of anxiety-depression. It often invades the fashion/makeup side of my gothiness; I’m terrified of “getting it wrong”, even though I know that there technically isn’t a right or wrong, but still – the ‘coons sit there, chewing on the old sandwich of discontent.

  9. Gene Wirchenko Says:

    I am a 56-year-old male. I am a Goth or a near-Goth. My Gothiness comes mostly from liking light horror in stories and games. Black clothing? I have some black shorts and I wear black socks. I wear pink polo Ts almost exclusively. Too bright and cheery? Too bad!

    I do not concern myself much about what others think.

    Worrying about what others think will usually cause you far more problems than other people can cause you since you are fighting yourself.

    If you firmly decide that Goth (or whatever you choose) is the way you are going to be, then other people can not do much. If you doubt yourself, you can bet that the jerks will find the weak spot and nail you.

    Jerks who tease are vulnerable to being teased back in the same area. Example: I am also a teetotaller. I have occasionally been teased when in a bar about how I am supposely not being a man because I do not drink alcohol. Such a person either lays off, or I go on the offensive. I suggest that he — always seems to be male — go up to the bar and order a man’s drink: milk. When he sputters, I question his manhood and suggest he is a coward. Usually, I then go order a milk. I get left alone after that.

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