Of “Rules”, and Questions from Different Ends of the Age Spectrum

The Lady of the Manners didn’t mean to hide and take a nap for a large portion of the spring, really she didn’t. But sometimes these things happen. However, a few bits of Goth Upkeep information that the Lady of the Manners feels you should know:

  • Crypts and haunted mansions, while lovely and gloomy, still won’t protect you from pollen-induced allergies.
  • MAC Liquidlast liner will stay on through allergy attacks, naps, showers, and possibly anything else.
  • Milani Cosmetics Infinite Liquid Eyeliner is a perfect duplicate of Liquidlast, and is available in drugstores.
  • If you use either of those liquid liners, you will need to use an oil-based remover to get them off your face. (The Lady of the Manners uses jojoba oil and baby wipes.)

And before the Lady of the Manners gets on to answering some questions, she has one other thing to tell you about! She and Rhias Hall are the hosts of a new podcast about horror novels from the 70s, 80s, and 90s: The Night Library! This podcast is inspired by the delightful book Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix. Your two hosts realized they had both read a vast number of the books in that tome, and the podcast is an excuse to reread and discuss them.

(The Lady of the Manners is also an occasional guest on Don’t Read the Latin and Fanboy News Network.)

From Eva, a Snarkling in India:

Respected Lady of the Manners,
I am Eva. I have always felt a strange fascination towards the colour black since childhood. Also I would always dress myself in black and listen genre metal. It was only when I came across your videos and website that I realized that this is where I really belong to.
Ma’am would you be kind enough to explain me the rules I need to follow to become a part of the Gothic community?
Also, I live in India. So would distance be a hindrance in my path of following this community ?
Yours ever,
Aspiring snarkling,
Eva

The Lady of the Manners is going to answer these in reverse, as your second question has a much shorter answer than the first! Would distance be a hindrance to your being a part of the goth community? It shouldn’t be! Mind you, the Lady of the Manners doesn’t know if there’s an active community where you live, but even if there isn’t, being physically far away from other goths isn’t the difficulty it used to be. While there’s a dark joy in being able to meet up with others who share your interests, primarily interacting with the subculture online means a wider range of darkly-inclined people to talk to at all hours!

Your first question also has a shorter answer than you think! There aren’t any rules! Well, not really. There are a few things that are strongly held guidelines:

  • Be able to find and appreciate beauty and wonder in darkness. This doesn’t mean being depressed, but instead knowing that melancholy and decay can create beautiful things, and that there are delights to be discovered through art that makes you unsettled.
  • Be aware of the musical roots of the subculture. While many of the bands that form the backbone of “traditional goth” music have at one point or another actively shunned the label of goth (even Siouxsie Sioux!), they helped release all of us bats from the belltower. You don’t have to listen to all of the classic bands, but try to have a passing familiarity with them.

However, a short list of Other Things To Keep In Mind:

  • There are approximately a squillion different subgenres of “goth” music. What you like to listen to may make another goth lunge to mute the speakers. But never stop exploring! The Lady of the Manners is particularly fond of Music-Map to find new music. Just type the name of an artist into the search box, and you’ll get a helpful map of similar artists.
  • There are also approximately a squillion different subgenres of “goth” fashion. The recent (ish) Gothic Charm School post “Of Finding Goth Fashion” has a by-NO-means-comprehensive list of of different styles that fall under the inky parasol of goth.
  • You don’t have to be any particular body type, ethnicity, skin color, gender, or age to be a goth. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong, and feel free to tell them that the Lady of the Manners says so.
  • For that matter, anyone who says the dreaded phrase If you’re a Real Goth … is being a gatekeeping jerk. (The A Short Post on Dealing with Elitist, Gother-Than-Thou Types post contains more of the Lady of the Manners’ ranting about gatekeepers.)
  • Be. Kind.

The next question is from Shawn, about age and labels:

At the tender age of 48 I realized I might be goth and never known it. […] So, being a certain age, and now fascinated with exploring the culture for the first time, I don’t think the term “eldergoth” applies, as I haven’t paid my dues on the scene. I have lived life, though, and now that I feel comfortable exploring more who I am, what do I call myself (if it’s even important)? I am at a loss of what to do should i attend an event.

Thank you,
Shawn

Congratulations on feeling more comfortable in your skin and exploring who you are! The Lady of the Manners means that sincerely; some people never get to that level of emotional security, and (wrongly) think that if they didn’t do that sort of exploration when they were young, they can’t do it when they’re older.

In the Lady of the Manners’ opinion, no, “eldergoth” doesn’t really apply to you. She feels that while eldergoth does describe someone above a Certain Age (possibly starting around mid-to-late 40s), the more important part of the eldergoth designation is that the Goth of a Certain Age has been a part of the subculture for 20 years or more. The reverse is that if someone isn’t an adult and old enough to attend night clubs, they’re a babybat, even if they were raised in the subculture by spooky parents.

What to call yourself? A goth. For that matter, you don’t have to apply any label to yourself! Labels can be useful as a shorthand way of describing the interests you have (Victorian, vampire, witchy, industrial, cybergoth, etc.), but you don’t have to embrace or stick to any labels! You certainly don’t have to label yourself or provide a description to attend an event, and anyone who would demand that you do such a thing is, again, being a gatekeeping jerk.

Turning to the other end of the age spectrum:

Dear Lady Of The Manners,
I am 16 years old and have been goth for about 3 years now and I love the way I dress and the music I listen to. However, I have a bit of a problem. I liked someone very much, but they didn’t like me back mostly because of my goth appearance. They also said the reason I struggle to find someone to date is because I’m goth and a lot of guys don’t like that. I come from a large town yet I appear to be the only goth here and I have very little to no friends already, but I feel quite lonely in the sense that all the other 16 year olds my age are dating someone and no one seems to like me in such a way. I would never change myself but I’m incredibly shy already so that doesn’t help either. What would you suggest I do to meet other people who are open minded of the way I dress even as friends not necessarily to date and how can I not let this bother me?

Kind regards

A confuzzled babybat

Oh, you precious bat. The Lady of the Manners feels compelled to get her first reaction to your letter out of her system, and please be very aware that this is written with no condescension and the utmost affection:

YOU’RE SIXTEEN, YOU DON’T NEED TO BE DATING ANYONE, IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOUR FRIENDS ARE DATING PEOPLE.

(Yes, this is an example of the Lady of the Manners being protective (some might say overprotective) of her younger readers.)

:: The Lady of the Manners dabs her forehead with a black lace handkerchief ::

The Lady of the Manners is also irked by the person you liked telling you that “a lot of guys don’t like goth”. One, that statement is dripping with the expectation that you should change yourself to find a date, and two, saying that to someone who was open enough to express their romantic interest is incredibly unkind. The Lady of the Manners is very relieved to see you say that you’d never change yourself for someone; please always remember that.

How to find people who are open-minded enough to accept you? Go online. The Lady of the Manners realizes that this is the answer she always gives, but the Internet is a good way to find people who share your interests. Just please remember that the Internet is not real life, but that you’re talking to real people. Be kind, but if someone or something makes you uncomfortable or upset, feel free to block them or turn off anonymous comments.

You say you’re in a large town, but appear to be the only goth there; the Lady of the Manners bets you’re not, but the others may be harder to find. Do you know people who go to different schools? If so, ask them if there are any spooky types at their school, and if they can introduce you.

Some places that were traditional hangouts for younger goths included coffee shops, used bookstores, and comic shops, but the Lady of the Manners has no idea if that is still true. Perhaps additional suggestions about where you can find other spooky folks will turn up in the comments!

Which leads the Lady of the Manners to the now-traditional ending of a post here at Gothic Charm School: the comments are open! They’re moderated as ever, forever and ever, world without end, but please DO comment!

4 Responses to “Of “Rules”, and Questions from Different Ends of the Age Spectrum”

  1. Nic Says:

    One of my suggestions to the young goth is to find artsy people. I may be biased but the art world tends to attract the avant-garde, bohemian types who are more open minded. If art is not their thing then my other suggestion is to find a fandom that attracts the spooky crowd. Obviously pick something that you personally like so you know you’ll have something in common with them.

    Hope this helps,

    Nic

  2. G. Robertson Says:

    Huzzah! A new post at Gothic Charm School!
    I have a message for the ‘confuzzled babybat’ about dating. I too am thrilled (and relieved) to hear that the babybat would never change theirself for anyone, and second the Lady of the Manners’ plea to always remember that.
    Confuzzled babybat, I’m just a random stranger on the Internet who doesn’t really know anything about you, but I have been quizzed about romance and dating since I was thirteen. (Don’t even get me started on how utterly inappropriate that is!) It sucked then and it sucks now, decades later, when it occasionally still happens. People are great at telling others what they should and shouldn’t do: “You shouldn’t wear that”; “You shouldn’t do this because it’s too (insert adjective here)”; “You should smile more: you’d be more attractive if you smiled”; “Boys/girls like X attribute, so you shouldn’t do Y”; “Aren’t you dating anyone yet? Why not?” … etc. etc. etc. It’s rude, tedious, and infuriating. And I too have lived through times (sometimes lasting for several years) when it felt like my peers were all doing something that I wasn’t doing, and it made me feel somewhat left out or like I was ‘behind’ everyone else.
    But don’t let it get you down. People love to tell us their expectations for our lives, but they’re not the ones who have to live with the consequences. Just because other people – even adults – are pressuring you to do something with your life or your body, that doesn’t mean you should. Rushing into something – a relationship, a career, anything – because you feel that you ‘should’ do it, rather than because you really want to do it, often leads to regrets and misery. I’ve seen that happen to my peers. And just because it seems like everyone else is doing it, that doesn’t mean you have to. Everyone has their own path: one needs to live one’s own life rather than trying to follow the pattern of others’ lives. Focussing on what you love, on what you want for yourself, and on your dreams and ideals, instead of comparing yourself to what others are doing, will help you not be bothered by those feelings of falling behind or being left out. In the long run, you will be so much happier and your life will be amazing.
    Frankly, in my opinion, sixteen is very young to be dating; and if you wait, you may see that many of your friends’ relationships don’t last long, or aren’t very healthy.
    Date when, and only when, you find someone that you actually want to date and who wants to date you. You don’t *need* to date anyone. Not ever, if you don’t want to, and certainly not before you’re ready and willing to do so.
    O. K., rant over. 🙂
    I’d also like to second the Lady of the Manner’s suggestion of using the Internet (with caution and prudence) to find others like yourself. I grew up a lonely freak, and through the Internet I have discovered so, so many people whose freakishness matches my own. It’s a great feeling. Also, finding other people who are single and happy is a great help if you’re feeling insecure about not dating anyone.
    I wish you all the best, confuzzled babybat, in whatever you do.

  3. Wolf Says:

    Hello Lady of Manners and fellow cryptic comrades!
    I’d like to type on the matter of finding Goths online. The best site, besides this one of course, is Google +. The best gothic community, in my opinion, is labeled as “goth (subculture)”. Although there isn’t a lot of eldergoth to baby at forum, there are a lot of clear categories, music and fashion suggestions, activity, and real people. Another amazing place to locate some Goths is Reddit, again not a lot of eldergoths to be found there, but still a lot of community and an amazing lack of elitist. I hope you find this useful and stay safe online,
    Le Wolf

  4. Dama de Cuervos Says:

    I chuckle to think that at 32 I could *almost* qualify as eldergoth. After all, it has been nearly twenty years since I found the term “goth” to describe my always-out-of-place self. Then again, I’ve been told that I’ve always been “old,” even when I was quite young.

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