“Not a Goth,” Revisited

Hello Faithful Readers, and welcome to another fun-filled lesson at Gothic Charm School. The Lady of the Manners has been getting quite the flurry of correspondence lately, what with Gothic.net inviting everyone inside the shop (as it were) and the Lady of the Manners’ archive site being selected as a Yahoo! Pick of the Week; the Lady of the Manners is quite spoiled for choice in terms of subjects to Hold Forth about, bless your spooky little hearts.

Remember, just a few months ago, when the Lady of the Manners addressed the concerns of a young lady who insisted she wasn’t a Goth (anymore), but kept being referred to as one? This month, the Lady of the Manners looks at two different sides of the Not A Goth dilemma: So You Want to be a Goth but Aren’t One, and My Friends are Goths, but I’m Not.

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Subject The First, as presented by a Faithful Reader:

Most people I have met will only consider you goth if you listen to gothic music, I have been getting a lot of comments about how I am a poseur lately and I would like to hear your opinions on the matter. I like the Bauhaus (Who doesn’t like ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead) but I mostly listen to heavy metal. Marilyn Manson, NIN, Cradle of Filth etc. Besides my musical tastes I have many other traits that I believe make me goth. I love the gothic fashion sense, I am interested in the supernatural, and I have a great love for art and film and the theatre. The thing that got me riled up enough to send you this email is that I took one of those ‘Goth Quizzes’ a few days ago. I said I liked Marilyn Manson and it said I wasn’t goth at all, I was a Mansonite. I went back and changed every answer except for my musical tastes and it said I was a Mansonite again. I tried changing all my answers around three times and each time it called me a Mansonite. So I was wondering, do you think its possible to be a goth and like heavy metal? And if so, what should I do when my friends start making fun of me?

The Lady of the Manners wants to make sure she’s perfectly clear on this – you’re upset because some online quizzes told you that you weren’t really a Goth. Oh dear. You do realize that online quizzes are not the most … reliable indicators of Gothy-ness, yes? They’re amusing and silly and an entertaining way to waste time, but they are NOT accurate arbitrators of The Gothic Life.

With that out of the way … hmm. There is indeed more to Goth than the music, and from your mail it sounds like you’re interested in the other parts of the subculture too. So why are you worried about friends making fun of you? Are you worried they won’t think you’re Goth enough? Dearie, the Gothic subculture has gotten so relaxed about its cultural borders that teens wearing baggy black trousers and Care Bear t-shirts proclaim themselves Goth without a second thought. You, at least, seem to have a sense of what the core ideas behind the Goth scene are.

However, Marilyn Manson is NOT Goth. Not even a little bit. That doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy their music or attend their concerts, but it DOES mean that you must never, ever try and defend your appreciation of them by claiming they’re Goth. Can you be a Goth and listen to heavy metal? Of course you can. The next time one of your friends tries to tell you you’re not a Real Goth because of your musical choices, put them on the spot and ask them for suggestions of music that they think is Goth that you would like or that you should listen to (the Lady of the Manners isn’t going to attempt to do so herself, as she realizes that not only is she slightly out of touch with today’s music scene, but that her musical tastes fall more into the SwirlyGoth, as opposed to StompyGoth, category). If your friends are going to sniff dismissively at you for your taste in music, the least they can do is offer you alternative choices.

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Subject The Second, also as presented by a Faithful Reader:

I’m not a goth at all, I just was reading this because it was on Yahoo Picks. I’m more of a neo-Beatnik, you might say, with a bit of “the world sucks” and “I was in the wrong generation” frame of mind. Ok, well you see, I have some Goth friends and I’ve been finding myself, subconciously (sp? crap, get me a dictionary) thinking that the way they dress and act is odd (even though they think the same about me, and tell that to me constantly). I haven’t told them I feel it’s odd, and I’d rather not tell them as that would begoing against my form of dress (which Beatniks went for the tight black, most of them were vets from the Korean War wanting a way to vent their anger). I need peace of mind to get myself away from these thoughts, and accept that everyone is different. I mean, I’m in high school, they get made fun of as much as I do. I don’t want to add to that, which I know I will if I keep thinking the way I do about them (an extremely similar way I feel about normal people, but we all know they sort of deserve it, even though revenge is undesireable). They’re my friends, how am I going to get over the cat ears to school (which are adoreable, by the way) and the spiked jewelry (something I need to get over and accept, mostly because I find it a bit untasteful). To sum upmy incessant and slightly off-topic ramblings, I need to find a way to be tolerant of Goths. Beatniks and Goths are both unconventional and I need to face the fact that they dress that way in the same way (and for the same reason) I dress my way. Help

Right off the bat, the Lady of the Manners wants to address your statement of “an extremely similar way I feel about normal people, but we all know they sort of deserve it”. No, ‘normal people’ don’t DESERVE to be thought of like that. Just because they’re not like you (or the Lady of the Manners) doesn’t mean they deserve to be thought of with scorn, derision, or contempt. Not as a group. You can dislike (or think are “odd”) as many individuals that you meet as strikes your fancy, but thinking of whole groups of people as “odd” or not-likeable is a form of bigotry, and that shouldn’t be tolerated.

Now, as to your Gothy little friends and your worries that you’ll start picking on them because you think they look funny … oh gracious, you kids today with your sharply-defined cliques. In the Lady of the Manners’ day, all the “freaks” stuck together, even if we were an odd mish-mash of Goths, metalheads, gamers, and drama geeks. We may not have agreed with or approved of what each other did, but we banded together as outsiders and didn’t pick on each other (just imagine the Lady of the Manners waving her skull-topped walking stick around in indignation, thank you).

A-hem. Yes. What the Lady of the Manners was trying to impart there before she had her ElderGoth temper-tantrum, is that there is nothing wrong with thinking your friends dress oddly. There is nothing wrong with gently teasing them (in a very friendly manner, and you stop the moment it seems like they aren’t taking it as teasing) about their cat ears and spiky jewelry. (Cat ears. Oh dear oh dear. Cat ears ARE NOT Goth. They are cute, and can be a fun accessory to add a note of whimsy to an outfit. However they are not, and have never been, Goth. Ever.) So what if your friends don’t look like you? So what if you don’t understand why they dress the way they do, are interested in the things they are? They’re still your friends, right? Then you shouldn’t have a problem being tolerant of them. There is no rule carved in stone that says friends must share the exact same likes, dislikes, and opinions on everything; that would become rather boring after a while. So try not to worry so much about how you think your Goth friends are odd; talk to them about what different ideas you hold and why. If you end up realizing that you don’t want to be friends with them, at least you’ll have made your decision based on more than “I think you look funny”.

With that, the Lady of the Manners thinks she’s covered all sides of the Not A Goth question (though she’s sure one of you will let her know if there’s yet another aspect she needs to focus on). Pop by next month, when hopefully the Lady of the Manners won’t go off on one of her “Back in the day” rants.

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