Hello Snarklings! Goodness, the Lady of the Manners has a whole bundle of letters to answer from readers. Yes, the Lady of the Manners had intended to sit down and write up replies to them in a slightly more timely fashion, but was distracted by such things as squee-ing over a new sewing machine and needing to bake gingerbread bats. Not to mention that whole day job thing. But! The Lady of the Manners has resolved to resist the siren calls of new fabric (pink skull brocade!) and a recipe for absinthe-flavored marshmallows, and instead focus on answering Snarklings’ questions. (Because she does like doing that just as much as sewing or baking; it’s just that sewing and baking require a smidge less concentration.)
The first letter is from a young lady named Courtney:
question: I am 17 years old, and disabled. Due to the fact that I am disabled, there is no opportunity for me being on my own. My mother is understanding of my disability, and of all aspects of my life, with my “Gothiness” being an exception. I have not attended school for several years, being on the Home Bound program as an alternative. I will receive SSI Disability immediately upon turning 18. It has already been awarded to me.
Anyhow, my makeup is excessively flamboyant. It makes me comfortable! It is how I most prefer to express myself. My mother does not understand, and thinks I am being SELFISH (and this is the main point of my discussion), but it is immensely symbolic to me. She says “You are being selfish. I have tolerated enough from you throughout the years.” She states that she is ashamed to go anywhere with me, and that I embarrass her. I have cried over it. I love my mother, but I am an adult, or will be very soon, and I need to consider what is best for myself. She states she would much rather have a “blonde-haired normal daughter that she could take out to lunch and laugh with.”
I most likely will be unable to drive myself anywhere, because of my disability, but I want to go out in public as I like. Why is mother doing this? Why is she so ashamed? I have attempted to reason with her, to no avail. Anything I say is countered with, “That’s not the point! You’re selfish! What if people I know see you? What you see in the mirror is warped. Other people don’t see that when they look at you. How on Earth could you perceive that as flattering? I think it’s horrible! Are you doing this on purpose? My life is ruined forever! I shouldn’t have to be embarrassed. Don’t you consider what you’re doing to other people?” Please help.
Oh Courtney, the Lady of the Manners winced when she read your email. As the Lady of the Manners suspects you are probably already well aware, part of your mother’s reaction sounds very much like it has nothing to do with the makeup? That it almost certainly is rooted in her (probably unacknowledged) concerns and issues about your disability. The phrase from your letter that leapt out at the Lady of the Manners and made her think this is ”She states she would much rather have a “blonde-haired normal daughter …”
You see, your mother probably worries that your disability will make people treat you differently than other people; a worry that is not unreasonable. Since she can’t “fix” you and make it so you can have a “normal” life (for values of “normal” meaning with just the average sort of ups and downs), she wants to try and ensure that you won’t deal with even more unwanted (and possibly unwelcome) attention. Which the Lady of the Manners can understand; you’re her child, and of course she wants to shield you from unwanted and potentially negative attention. But … there’s no other way to put this; your mother is the one being selfish here. She is ignoring what you want, and is trying to make you feel guilty for what you prefer by stating that you’re ”ruining her life”. You say that you’ve attempted to reason with her, so the Lady of the Manners suggests that you start being completely honest and blunt with her. Point out to her that you don’t appreciate her trying to make you feel guilty for what you like. Tell her that no one’s life has been “ruined” by someone else’s cosmetic choices. Tell her that when she complains about wanting a ”blonde-haired normal daughter”, it feels like she’s complaining not just about your makeup, but also about your disability. And finally, gently (or not-so-gently, depending on your mood) explain to her that you are expressing yourself through your flamboyant cosmetics because it makes you happy, that you are old enough to make your own choices about such things, and that she is being the selfish one in this situation.
Will all of this magically make your mother understand your side of the argument? The Lady of the Manners is sad to say, probably not. But these sorts of things must be said to your mother, because she needs to accept that you are your own person, with choices and tastes that don’t always align with her wishes. The Lady of the Manners hopes that this discussion with your mother goes as well as it possibly can. Please write back and tell her how it went.
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The next letter is a request for fashion advice from a young lady named Jinxella:
Dear Lady Manners,
I wear black all the time, but I would like to learn how to dress in a more feminine manner, instead of my black tee’s, jeans, and comfortable, but slobby footwear. I do own skirts, but I am not sure how to wear them with my lovely combat boots, and not look over done.
How to wear skirts with your combat boots? Dear Jinxella, you just wear them! Many Goths (including the Lady of the Manners) consider combat boots to be a basic style of footwear that can be worn with just about anything. (The Lady of the Manners has a personal preference for Victorian-esque boots in her own wardrobe, but that’s because she’s a devotee of pointier toes than are found on combat boots.)
As for dressing in a more feminine manner than your usual wardrobe … firstly, are your t-shirts more boxy-shaped than fitted? Altering your shirts to fit your figure will add a more feminine touch to them. If you’re handy with a needle and thread, you can transform the neckline of a regular tee into a more scoop-necked one, drawing the new neckline on the inside of the tee with tailor’s chalk before you take the scissors to it, of course! (The Lady of the Manners usually makes the lowest part of the “scoop” at the front about 3” below the top of the original neckband.) If you want to get really fancy, you can add narrow lace trim to the new neckline and on the sleeves.
Other feminine touches you could try is adding tops that are t-shirt like to your wardrobe: the same sort of cut and stretchy-ness as a fitted t-shirt, but in stretch velvet or a silky knit. Wear a dressy blazer or jacket with your t-shirts, jeans, and skirts, add a handful of sparkly brooches to the lapel, or tuck a lacy handkerchief into the breast pocket). Start accumulating more “feminine” jewelry, such as strands of vintage faux pearls or ornate bracelets, and accessorize your current wardrobe with them. Of course, an extremely simple way to make your jeans and tees look more feminine is to wear simple, but striking, makeup, such as eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick.
The important thing to keep in mind is to make sure you’re comfortable in what you’re wearing. While the Lady of the Manners is a big fan of frills and flounces, she is well-aware that they aren’t for everyone, and if you’re wearing something that makes you feel awkward and uncomfortable, the outfit just won’t look right on you, no matter how much effort you’ve put into it.
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The final letter in this episode of the Gothic Charm School mailbox is from Elizabeth, asking how to deal with someone trying to imitate you and doing it poorly:
Dear Lady of the Manners,
since I found your charm school a couple of years ago, I have always found your posts very interesting, amusing and educating. But now, for the first time, I have found something which you don’t have posted on yet, or at least I haven’t been able to find it.
The problem I am seeing at the moment, is that my sister-in-law used to be the “most gothy person” of the family, and now, she is not anymore. Which doesn’t say that I’m trying to be, but that is the way she sees it. The only difference between us is that she likes to look goth to scare people off, whilst I prefer it just because I like the style and feel free in it.
The point in this is, that whenever I have seen her on a party whilst I’m wearing some clothing I really like, the next time I see her she will be wearing an almost exact copy of it, but than a cheap and “scary” version of it.
In the beginning I could laugh about it, but it starts to get very annoying, especially because I can’t show my parents-in-law any pictures of something I’m planning on buying anymore, because chances are that she will find out and buy it too (and appearing on a party in the same clothing is less than nice).
I have been thinking a lot about it, but I can’t think of anything that might change the way things are now, which is something I would really like, seeing as having a bad copy of you walking around is agitating.
My question is now, do you have some nice ideas to inspire me?
The Lady of the Manners wishes she had a simple answer for you, Elizabeth. But honestly, there isn’t much you can do in a situation like this. There is probably nothing you can say to your sister-in-law to make her understand that you don’t view being a Goth as something to compete over. To the Lady of the Manners, it seems like your sister-in-law is drawn to Goth as a way to get a reaction from people, to get attention. Which means that if you do try to talk to her about her copying your outfits, you’ll be giving her the attention she wants. So, the Lady of the Manners suggests not talking to her about it, at all. Don’t comment on it, and try to act as if you don’t even notice what she’s doing. If someone (even your sister-in-law) mentions the similarity in your styles to you, then smile and say something like “Oh yes, I’d noticed. I think it’s sweet that she likes my clothing so much”. Don’t even hint at feeling agitated. Because by appearing to be unconcerned by her attempts at being the Scariest, Spookiest Goth In The Family, you will show that you are merely being true to yourself and your interests, and not trying to get everyone’s attention.
If you feel very forgiving, you could take the tactic of “killing her with kindness”, and give your sister-in-law well-chosen and lovely gothy items as holiday and birthday gifts, or offer to go on a shopping trip with her and help her pick out things. That way you could show that not only are you not in any sort of competition with her over who is the Most Goth, but that you support her being who she wants to be.
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That, Snarklings, is that for this installment of Gothic Charm School. The Lady of the Manners is going to go look at her snowy back yard, make a cup of cocoa with rose marshmallows, stare longingly some more at photos of a particular mini tricorn hat that is adorned with a tiny pirate ship, and then read some more letters from the Gothic Charm School mailbox. In addition to reminding you to feel free to write to Gothic Charm School, the Lady of the Manners also wants to remind all of you of the Gothic Charm School Café Press store!