Of Gifts and Relationship Talks

Snarklings, the Lady of the Manners didn’t intend to lapse into silence again, really she didn’t! But there was work, and travel, and then more work, and even more travel. And, well. Time scampered on by, as it does. Yes, the Lady of the Manners was posting fairly regularly over on Tumblr and Instagram (where, if you go back in the archives to the beginning of May, you’ll find photos from Bats Day and the Vampire Masquerade Ball, which were part of the aforementioned travel), but that’s not the same as writing posts for Gothic Charm School!

So! The Lady of the Manners is slowly excavating the Gothic Charm School inbox, and getting back into the swing of answering reader questions!

A gentleman by the name of Ryan asked for help in finding gifts for his ladylove:

So I am not of the goth scene, but my SO of many years is, she probably has more bat lace than I can shake a stick at. My question is what do you get the goth who has everything? Please help a desperate supportive man running out of things to get.

If it makes you feel any better, sir, the Lady of the Manners’ own dear husband has run into this problem, too. (The Lady of the Manners has pointed out that books are always good gifts, but her husband has made the very accurate point that every flat surface at Gothic Charm School headquarters is covered with books, and where would we put more?)

But! What should you get your lovely goth who has everything? Firstly, do the obvious thing and ask her if she has a wishlist on places like Amazon or Etsy. Perhaps even remind her that she can add things from other sites to an Amazon wishlist. Is this a terribly inventive solution? Well, no, but it will give you more ideas for the sort of things she’s pining over.

Secondly, start looking at things that are similar to what she already owns, but better. Once a goth hits a certain point in their collection of things, transitioning to a smaller, but extremely high-quality collection is very enticing.
For example, say she likes bat jewelry (as many goths do), then you could save up and get her the Night Creature Art Nouveau Bat necklace from Bloodmilk, or the Megachiroptera necklace from Arcana Obscura. Does she like coffin jewelry? Then look at the coffin gems from Mordauntes’ Coffin Gems.

Are there independent clothing designers she’s long admired (such as Kambriel, Azrael’s Accomplice, or Hilary’s Vanity, to name a few)? A gift certificate to a favorite designer is always a thoughtful gift.

On the topic of books: does she have a favorite book? Find an edition she doesn’t have, or look to see if a special, super-fancy version of it has been released. Places like eBay, The Folio Society, and Easton Press are good places to start looking.

What about a gift certificate to someplace for pampering? Yes, it’s a bit of a cliche suggestion, but being given the chance to indulge in a manicure/pedicure/spa day is always a welcome gift.

If you don’t have the budget for such things, never fear! There are still plenty of options for you. There’s the whole realm of DIY “gift certificates”! Give her a hand-lettered certificate good for a day (or more!) of loafing, where she can spend the day relaxing however she wants, and you’ll take care of any daily tasks and meals. A comfort movie night gift certificate, where she has complete control of whatever media the two of you watch for the evening, and you make the popcorn, nibbly food, and drinks. Essentially, anything you can do in order to give her some time to relax and not have to take care of things, even basic day-to-day things, will show how much you care for her.

And finally, there’s a classic goth present: a mix tape! Well, a mix … something. CD, USB drive, whatever. Spend some time crafting a playlist of songs that remind you of her, or that express what you feel about your relationship. Go for the full effect and write up liner notes.

The best gifts are the ones that show you’ve paid attention, that you’ve put time and thought into. Don’t worry about “Is it fancy enough?”, and instead, think about how to show what you feel.

Z. wrote with a question about returning to their goth ways and their relationship:

Dear Lady Of the Manners,

Let me preface this by saying that I’ve always been a darkly inclined person. When I was a college freshman I used to stomp about in platform boots and elaborate outfits like nobody’s business. Later on, though, I ended up toning things down considerably as being in a rigorous science program left me with little time to keep up my usual “look” and get involved with the local Goth community. Now, as someone with a Master’s degree, fixed work hours and more time on my hands, I find myself gradually getting back to my “normal”, so to speak. Which isn’t normal at all to most people.

The problem is that my boyfriend of nearly four years is completely taken aback by all this. I’ve always dressed “dark” around him and it’s not as if I suddenly emerged in some over-the-top Victorian outfit one day – I’ve been taking this very slowly. But he never fails to remind me how silly I look or how embarrassed he is if I’m wearing anything that might attract a few glances, i.e. anything less mainstream that black dress pants/shirts or simple dresses. Apparently, at twenty-four years old, I Should Not Dress That Way. (Let me reassure you that I’m not dressing in ways that would be inappropriate for the situation, no PVC corsets in the streets on Sunday afternoons and no Lolita frills to go to a casual house party for example.) He’s also expressed disapproval at my wanting to reacquaint myself with the local scene. This is all coming from someone I have to bribe to not wear jeans at a formal event. I’ve sometimes been embarrassed by HIS manner of dress, but I haven’t said a thing about it; I didn’t think it was worth whining about since his good qualities outweigh lack of fashion sense.

If this were coming from any other person, I wouldn’t care, because I haven’t been able to truly express myself in years and haven’t felt so self-confident in ages. But it’s saddening that I’m hearing all this from the one person whose opinion I do care about. He’s supportive of me in every other way you could possibly think of and has also never shown signs of controlling behaviour before, our relationship has been years of pure happiness. I feel stuck in an awkward situation what with having to choose between being true to my roots and not embarrassing my boyfriend, and would appreciate advice on how to deal with this gracefully. Unfortunately I don’t think he’s the type who would simply get used to it over time.

Sincerely,

Z.

The Lady of the Manners has to admit she has been reading and rereading this letter, trying to grapple with this thorny problem, and has finally come to the fact that she’s going to have to give advice she really didn’t want to.

You have to decide what means more to you: your boyfriend’s approval, or returning to your roots and expressing yourself in a way that feels the most true to yourself. Which is a horrible, tearing decision to be forced to make! But unfortunately, the Lady of the Manners sees no way around that crossroads.

You say that he’s supportive of you in every other way, and that he’s never shown any signs of controlling behavior, and the Lady of the Manners doesn’t doubt you. But … he’s disapproving of things that you feel are core to your being, that make you feel confident. A partner who is truly supportive would want you to embrace the things that make you feel most like yourself, that make you supremely confident. A partner who is truly supportive wouldn’t make you worry that he’s embarrassed by you.

So, there’s a difficult conversation in your future. You need to sit down with him and have A Serious Talk. Explain to him that this is not a phase or idle passing fancy; this is who you’ve been in the past, and now that you are not being crushed by the demands of your rigorous science program, you have the time to return to these things. If you have photos of yourself from your previous gothy incarnations, show them to him. Then ask him why does he object to you being more visibly goth, why does he object to you getting more involved in the local scene?

Does he fear you won’t love him because he’s not a goth? If so, reassure him that there’s no rule that goths have to be involved with other people from the same subculture.

Does he think that there’s some sort of age limit for goth? Gently disabuse him of that notion, and perhaps point him at some of the Gothic Charm School posts on the subject, or perhaps the article on eldergoths over at Broadly.

Really press him on his answers. This is not the time for accepting a vague “I dunno, that’s just how I feel” sort of answer. You really need to find out the roots of his disapproval and embarrassment. Make it clear to him that returning to your goth roots makes you feel strong and confident, and more like yourself.

And now, it’s time for the advice the Lady of the Manners really didn’t want to give: if after The Serious Talk (or talks, it may take a few to really address things), he still is uncomfortable, disapproving, and in general embarrassed by your return to all things goth, then you need to decide if it’s worth staying in the relationship.

The Lady of the Manners is NOT saying this lightly. But she honestly feels that if your boyfriend is disapproving and embarrassed by you, then it’s best for both of you to go your separate ways. Neither of you will feel entirely comfortable or supported by the other. If you stay together despite this, you will always have a lingering worry that he’ll be constantly disapproving, and he’ll probably have a low level of resentment that you’re not giving up something that he sees as worthless.

The Lady of the Manners fervently hopes that you and your boyfriend will be able to resolve your differences and be happy together. But you can’t be happy together unless you’re happy with yourselves, separately.

If any of you have any helpful comments or support, the comments are open! Moderated, of course, but open!

Even though the Lady of the Manners will be digging through the Gothic Charm School mailbox for eons yet, you still should send in your questions! The Correspondence page will help you do just that!
And now, the Lady of the Manners is going to pour herself a glass of absinthe, have some chocolate, and indulge in a vintage gothic romance, where the only relationship obstacles the heroine has to overcome are disquieting relatives and a possibly-haunted house.

8 Responses to “Of Gifts and Relationship Talks”

  1. Jola Says:

    i would also try the tactic of showing him a picture of a goth girl w/ a “regular” guy and asking him to describe the pair, then elaborate on what the guy must be like. That will go further into why he is embarrassed, and how he fears being viewed by others.

  2. Utopia Says:

    Z. – the Lady of Manner’s advice is spot on. It sucks and it’s scary to have a conversation like this, but it’s worth it. Maybe you can make this a little easier for yourself by sitting down beforehand and working out what you want from this conversation? I’d totally suggest making a list where you write down the things you want to address. It might feel a little silly, but adrenaline can make our brains real holey real fast, to the point where we lose sight of what we wanted to achieve in any given situation. Maybe even jot down scripts you can return to to express your points and your feelings. “When you do X, it makes me feel Y”, “I like Z because of A”, “I need you to do B when C occurs”, “I love you and I really want this relationship to continue being a thing because it’s awesome, but when you do D, E and F it really puts a strain on me” – things like these. And hey, I’m crossing my fingers that you find a solution that works for you.

  3. Libby Bulloff Says:

    What do you get the goth who has everything?
    How about an experience? Stuff is stuff, but an adventure will likely be long remembered. Some of my favorite gifts have been things like train tickets to the next city for a weekend, a ride on a Ferris wheel, a dress-up picnic with friends, or a nice meal I didn’t have to make. <3

  4. Says:

    Z: while i’m definitely not as calm or neutral as The Lady of the Manners was (i’ll definitely admit to basically screaming DUMP HIM at my screen by the end of the letter, haha) i have to say this – if a man is embarrassed by you acting in a way that makes you happy, he is not worth sticking around for. period. cutting off parts of your personality for a man (or anyone) is one of the worst non-lethal mistakes you can make in your life.
    someone who actually likes you for yourself, and not the things you do/labor or status you provide will either not be embarrassed by what makes you happy, or will love you enough to not present it as a problem for YOU (vs. them) to fix. also, the fact that he doesn’t seem willing to return the favor- his reluctance to dress formally for even a single event is.. dubious, especially since he expects you to change to suit his tastes full time- does not bode well for your long term future.
    i agree with the Lady that you should think long and hard whether your relationship or your self is more important to you, and definitely have a talk with him about how the two of you see things working out going forward.

  5. Rhias Says:

    No one should ever make you feel ashamed or embarrassed about harmless things that make you happy. If someone really loves you, then they are going to love you whether you are stark naked – or dressed like a parade float.

  6. Maggie Says:

    Part of me feels like his discomfort stems from the feeling of suddenly being noticed by everyone. I have a boy without a serious fashion sense, or a desire for one, and he does not dress to impress -ever-. It took him a while to get used to other people staring at us when I am wearing one of my more novel outfits. It can be a little bit like being under a microscope, and if you aren’t used to the attention it can feel a bit overwhelming. Fear of change can make otherwise rational people behave foolishly. If that’s the cause, then this may be a worthwhile ongoing discussion. It’s not like you’re trying to force him to dress like you all the time, this is absolutely something a reasonable can get comfortable with.
    Otherwise, yeah, take care of yourself and your own emotional needs.

  7. Sarah Says:

    Hi, I’ve been in a similar situation where I dated a normal, the was fine with me dressing as my goth self when it suited him. One of the biggest issues was actually how little in common we had. We had been best friends in secondary school and always got on since were both into history and had intellectually stimulating. Also, normal I would completely disregard him I recently had broken up from a five-year relationship.

    Anyway, he like when I wore my sexy goth outfits that at times he wanted to wear garish colours that were gross like yellow, orange and brown I told him where to go on that topic. At the same time his taste in clothes was vile he didn’t have any sense of coordination. I’m not so much about how someone looks bothered. What was worse was he not taste in literature music, apart from modern trash, movies it became difficult for me to play my music after six months he broke with me and I am so glad we did.

    Anyway, my current partner couldn’t give a toss which refreshing the black jeans, t-shirts and sneaker I am not bothered as it suits his demeanour. Also he a metal head with goth tendencies so we have a lot in common without music and litutre, and some movies. We enjoying going to the same clubs and places. Going to local goth night where
    possible.

    I apologise if I talking too much about myself. It was just a comparison.

    My suggestion is if he disapproving and your not quite ready to end the relationship. You could look at giving the point system of communicating and discussing your feelings on the issue wait may a couple to see if things improve and if it hasn’t improved seriously consider whether you are actually are suited for each other and consider maybe you guys have won the course. From my experience, it better to be alone and true to yourself then wasting time being with someone you’re not fully happy with as you may later meet someone else who far more suited to with.

    Any good luck with the decision. It’s a tough sometimes once you’ve made it can be the most liberating feeling in the world.

  8. Infiltrat0r_N7 Says:

    “Apparently, at twenty-four years old, I Should Not Dress That Way.”

    ^^^ Yeah that’s just nonsense. There are many, many goths who are in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who dress in various goth fashions, enjoy the music, go to clubs, etc. Being a goth is not a phase you ‘grow out of’. People who say that are being incredibly patronising.

    Don’t stop being you. If you lose touch with the things that matter to you, whether this be goth, gaming, literature, comics or something else, you’ll grow miserable over time and become in danger of tipping into depression.

    Don’t allow someone else to change you. If your partner cannot accept you for who you are, and/or is embarrassed to be seen in public with you than sadly such a relationship may have no future. This goes both ways, if your partner is part of the alternative scene, and mocks you for ‘dressing down’ when at home or for enjoying something non-goth like Disney films or sports then this is a problem too. How can someone say they love you if they ask you to give up something which makes you happy?

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