Manners are important. The Lady of the Manners knows that is a somewhat old-fashioned notion, but she firmly believes that life nowadays would be much more pleasant if everyone minded their “P’s and Q’s”. No, she doesn’t mean the fiddly little details of knowing what fork to use next at a formal dinner party (though that sort of ‘esoteric’ knowledge adds a nice polish to one’s character), but how to deal gracefully with the myriad little trials life puts us through. Besides, the majority of people out there expect goths to be over-the-top, drug-crazed satanic barbarians with no concept of etiquette. Since the Lady of the Manners is particularly fond of the moral high ground when dealing with that sort of person, she has made it her goal to behave properly, which tends to unnerve them even more.
How often have you been out and about, doing whatever it is that needs doing, when someone decides to comment on your appearance? Or stares at you in slack-jawed, bug-eyed amazement? And while all of us have our store of witty comebacks for these moments (“Whose funeral are you going to?” “Yours,” etc., etc.), wouldn’t it be much more entertaining to astonish them with charm and politeness? When the Lady of the Manners is confronted with someone staring at her, obviously taken aback by her fashion sense, she likes to smile in a friendly manner and wave at them. This serves the double purpose of (1) dispelling the myth that all goths are unmannered cretins, and (2) if the person she’s waving at is That Sort Of Person, unnerving them even more.
For those souls brave enough to come up and ask questions (even if they’re impertinent, meant-to-be-insulting questions), one should always strive to be polite. ESPECIALLY if the questioner isn’t. The Lady of the Manners has discovered that answering their questions in a cordial, pleasant manner (try to strive for the same sort of tone one would use in answering the questions of a bright six-year old) disarms most people intent on causing a scene. And if a commotion is still caused, you can take satisfaction in the knowledge that YOU were not the boor in the exchange. (The Lady of the Manners told you, Gentle Readers – she is fond of the moral high ground. The view can be quite lovely.)
Goths are supposed to be pretentious, right? Well, what could be more subtly pretentious that being able to bask in the glow of knowing that you, unlike the pod people in the suburban shopping malls, know the Proper Way To Behave? Which is why she believes that when someone decides to become a goth, there should be some sort of Gothic Finishing School that they could attend. Because lets face it, there are those fledgling babygoths (or kindergoths, or baby bats; whatever) that are co-opting the subculture *strictly* to shock their parents; Spooky Kids are the most ready example of that sort that springs to mind. There have been many times that the Lady of the Manners has been out with friends or co-workers when we pass by a Spooky Kid – badly done makeup, disheveled hair, ripped T-shirt combined with a plastic cape – trying desperately to be WEIRD and FREAKY and DIFFERENT, MAN! At which point someone will turn to the Lady of the Manners and say, “Oh, do you know them?” After she gives them a horrified look and says, “No! Why?,” the acquaintance who asked will reply, “Well, they’re all in black, and kinda morbid looking, and that’s your scene …” which just leads to the Lady of the Manners wanting to either vanish in embarrassment, or go wipe all the poorly-applied whiteface and eyeliner off the Spooky Kid and teach them the basics of dress, makeup, and deportment.
But of course, giving into that ‘cleaning them up’ urge would be rude. Or at least, it would be if she just suddenly charged over and started scrubbing at their face with a napkin. So the Lady of the Manners just explains to the people she’s with that no, she doesn’t know every troubled youth in black clothes and lipstick, and walks by the Spooky Kid with a faint, if somewhat troubled smile.
However, if one of those Munchkins of Doom approaches *her*, that’s a different thing entirely. Mind you, the Lady of the Manners doesn’t just jump into lecturing them as to why she thinks they’re an eyesore; The Lady of the Manners tries to be kind, and vaguely friendly to them … and to gently ask what is so appealing about hanging out and acting Freaky with a capital F. If the Lady of the Manners actually ends up having a conversation with the M.o.D., she tries to plant the idea in their little rebellious head that looking unusual but behaving properly is MUCH more subversive that just running around acting like a loon. Sometimes the notion even sticks; The Lady of the Manners should study hypnotism and see if that would be any more effective. One should be able to rely on the idea of peer pressure, that the censure and ridicule of their peers would cause the M.o.Ds to realize when they’re behaving in a ridiculous manner, but the Lady of the Manners doesn’t hold out much hope. The Lady of the Manners knows perfectly charming people who had to be gently led to the idea that wearing makeup ala The Crow to the local goth club was Something Not To Be Done, and that took ages.
So, the Lady of the Manners decided to set herself up as the resident Gothic Etiquette coach. If you have any manners-related questions, send them to her at Gothic Charm School, and she’ll pore through her collection of etiquette books and find you an answer. Then all of us will be that much closer to holding a lovely picnic on the moral high ground of modern manners.