Hello, Faithful Readers, and welcome to the July episode of Gothic Charm School. Ahhh, summer vacation, or even just summer weekends. Nice weather, and (hopefully) the time to enjoy it. There’s so much to do! Picnics, outdoor festivals, the zoo, theme parks, the beach (while the Lady of the Manners herself doesn’t go to beaches, she’s been assured they can be quite nice), outdoor concerts…
But, there are still some rules of etiquette that we, the Gothy Peoples, must observe. Not just the ones about waiting your turn in line and not pushing people either. The Lady of the Manners has been going out and doing social things recently, and is sad to say she’s noticed some terrible things being done and said by other goths. So she’s going to gently warn the rest of you, and keep her daintily-gloved fingers crossed in hope that you don’t need this advice.
Going out to the sorts of places the Lady of the Manners described in the first paragraph all involve one thing — interacting with people who aren’t goth at all. (gasp!) This is not a bad thing. This is not even a thing that should have to be commented on. But, some people in our Dark and Spo0o0o0o0okie sub-culture feel the need to comment on that fact, and loudly. So, for them, some guidelines.
1. Oh Look, Children. Not everyone likes to be around children; the Lady of the Manners understands this. That doesn’t mean people get to make disparaging or threatening remarks about the children running around. Even if the children are under the age of 3 and screaming. No commenting that you love children, “especially with a light cream sauce” or other garnishes, no musing aloud what would happen if you tossed the munchkin into the cage with the bears, no attempting to deliberately frighten the kiddies.
The Lady of the Manners is very, very serious about this. The gothic sub-culture has had to suffer being labelled as a cult of black-wearing, devil-worshipping, blood-drinking loonies by the media; don’t do ANYTHING to encourage that view. You may think your comments are funny, but they’re not. Not at all. In a way, each and every one of you is an ambassador for the gothic community. If you set out to deliberately alarm, frighten, or alienate people from the more mainstream section of the world, you are doing goths EVERYWHERE a disservice. So swallow your annoyance at that group of kids who are running around the park, and just tune them out.
2. Not Another Photo Op! Face it — if you show up at a picnic, the zoo, or an amusement park in your Gothick Finery, people are going to want to take pictures of you. Most people don’t see Folks Like Us everyday, and want to commemorate the sighting. This means you have to be polite when people ask if they may take your picture, or if they could snap a photo of little Jennifer standing next to you. The Lady of the Manners has lost count of how many tourists’ vacation photos she’s in, and often wonders how they explain her appearance when showing off the pictures to the family back home (“And here’s that strange Victorian lady we saw . . . “)
This doesn’t mean you have to accede to these requests — not at all. However, you must NOT be rude about telling Mr. and Mrs. All-America, “I’m sorry, I don’t like having my picture taken. Thank you for asking, though”.
If you do agree to let the tourists take snapshots of you, by all means ask for a copy if you want, just make sure to give them a mailing address for them to send the resulting picture to.
Another thing about the whole people-taking-pictures flurry is this: you DO NOT get to take pictures of them. Yes, I’m sure there are those of you who think it would be great fun to turn the tables and run around asking various “normal” or mainstream people if they would hold still while you took their picture. It’s not as hilarious an idea as you think. Besides the fact that it would just be a waste of film, there is the point that goths look, well, different than everyone else. Goths are exotic creatures compared to most folks. We look and dress this way because we like inciting comments. If people looking at you makes you uncomfortable, stop dressing in a way that draws attention. You will just have to find some other way of expressing your inner tormented-ness and angst besides smudgy black lipstick, covering your face in spirals of black eyeliner, and wearing a velvet cape in 80+ degree weather.
3. Why Yes, There Are a Lot of People Here. You’re in a public place or at a public attraction. It is summer. Why are you surprised that things are crowded? Do not growl, do not glare, do not act like a sociopath, and do not swear at anyone; it’s not nice. If you do not want to deal with lots and lots of people, stay home and never leave your computer.
4. Hey! Aren’t Those People Being Rude by Staring and Pointing at Meeeeeeee?! As a matter of fact, yes they are. That does not mean you get to be rude back. No, the Lady of the Manners is going to be quite stern about this; again, it goes back to the “if you don’t want the attention, then behave in a different way” idea she expressed above. Besides, the quickest way to counter those people who are pointing, staring, and whispering about you is to make eye contact with them, smile slightly, and wave. This will startle most of them so badly that they will desperately try to ignore you for a little bit. (Note: this does not always work on children under the age of 8. Smile and wave at little kids who are looking at you with fascination and you may end up with a munchkin toddling over to you to ask you why you look like that, and asking if they can touch your clothes. Be warned.)
Now, the Lady of the Manners is sure that most of you didn’t need the various . . . hints that were the body of this month’s column. Of course you didn’t — you’re all well-behaved ladies and gentlemen who just read this column for a bit of diversion.
But, in case any of you have any questions about your no-doubt impeccable behaviour, drop the Lady of the Manners a quick word at firstname.lastname@example.org, and she’ll see what she can come up with.