Hello Faithful Readers, and welcome to another month of ranti . . . lectures about etiquette at Gothic Charm School. A quick glance at the calendar shows it’s October; a quick list of important things about October are:
* The weather FINALLY starts behaving itself, allowing more velvet clothes to be taken out of storage.
Which means of course, the annual Gothic Charm School rules for Halloween! Now those of you who have been reading this column for years and years may recognize some of this advice from Octobers past. But tucked in amongst the familiar Do’s and Don’ts there are bits of new advice. With that gentle nudge, on to What to Do (and NOT to Do) at Halloween time for the denizens of GothyLand!
* DO take advantage of the fact that this is the one time of the year you will be able to stock up on ninety-nine-cent fishnet tights, cheap black lipstick and nail polish, black candles, and just about every jack o’ lantern-themed home decor item your little black heart could desire.
* DON’T decide that you should substitute “clown white” greasepaint for your regular makeup, even if it’s on sale for dirt cheap. The same goes for vinyl vampire capes and other “gothic vampire/vampiress” costume items. The quality of materials and construction in those sorts of things are fine for a one-night costume, but not for regular gothy clothes or club-wear.
* DO carve Jack O’Lanterns. Lots of them. Host a pumpkin carving party, if you have the space.
* DON’T go around knocking off other people’s pumpkins from their porches or doorsteps — unkind, very unkind.
* DO attend any special events your local goth club may throw in honor of the holiday. If they aren’t doing any, offer to help plan one — perhaps an event where part of the proceeds go to a worthy charity?
* DON’T complain that “nothing ever happens around here” or “there isn’t anything to do if you’re under 21”. If there really IS nothing to do, start planning something. Even a group of friends watching silly, spooky movies is better than moping in your room, bewailing your angst-filled existence.
* DO take younger siblings, cousins, or nieces and nephews out trick-or-treating, if asked. (Heck, volunteer to do it!) It’s a nice thing to do, most trick-or-treating activities end at 9:30 (which will give you plenty of time to go find your own gothy fun), and there is always the chance that you will get sugary treats along with the kiddies. (The Lady of the Manners is a BIG advocate of sugary treats.)
* DON’T make jokes about poisoning candy, putting razor blades into fruit, or kidnapping little kids. It can be a scary place out in the real world, and (most) parents are already a little unnerved by us People In Black. Don’t add to it.
* For that matter, DON’T perform any malicious or mean-spirited ‘tricks.’ TP-ing someone’s house or soaping their car is fine, property damage or harassment is not. Intentionally terrifying people is another Bad Thing, and you should never make plans for Halloween pranks that take advantage of someone’s fears or phobias.
* DO take the increased amount of “It’s not Halloween YET” comments in stride. Yes, those sorts of comments will increase, as will the “where did you get your costume?” questions. Expect this, and have a stock answer prepared that you will be able to deliver time and time again IN A PLEASANT TONE OF VOICE. Which leads to…
* DON’T snarl something like, “Then why do you look like that?” or any other antagonistic comments. Remember, most of the rest of the world does not understand the “every day is Halloween” aesthetic. Not to mention the favorite goth etiquette hobby horse here at Gothic Charm School — if you are going to dress in a manner that attracts attention, you MUST deal with the attention (questions, odd looks, whatever) gracefully. If you don’t feel you can do that, then only go out in public wearing black jeans and inoffensive T-shirts. There is a price to dressing in an overly-gothy manner (besides the cost of assembling such a wardrobe) and that price is being polite to complete strangers who feel the need to comment on how you look.
* DO feel free to buy whatever silly Halloween-themed toy strikes your fancy, if you can afford it. Look! Black and orange stripy socks that have toes! (The Lady of the Manners bought two pairs, she was so smitten.)
* DON’T be soooooooo caught up in your own pretentious gothic attitude that you can’t laugh at yourself, and admit that you want the blinky, light-up skeleton lights. This is the one time of year when a person can actually find place mats with bats on them, not to mention kitchen storage jars shaped like jack o’ lanterns; don’t miss out due to an overgrown sense of your own coolness.
* DO have a sense of humor about the fact that relatives or co-workers might announce to you that they are planning to dress up like you for Halloween. The Lady of the Manners’ beloved mommy does this every other Halloween or so, and the Lady of the Manners doesn’t mind a bit.
* DON’T loan them your clothes, unless you really, REALLY trust them, and are confident that they will take good care of them.
* For that matter, DON’T get annoyed by the endless “Hey! For Halloween you could dress up like a normal person! I bet you haven’t thought of that!” comments. The Lady of the Manners’ co-workers think repeating this suggestion is the pinnacle of sparkling wit — she just smiles at them and goes back into her office.
* DON’T go hang out in the local graveyard. Yes, it’s spooky and goth, but lots and lots of normal people will have the same idea, and the police will be out in force dealing with trespassers. The Lady of the Manners is assuming you DON’T want to spend Halloween night in jail.
* And on that sort of note, DON’T do anything involving ritual sacrifice of any living creature, okay? The Lady of theManners is sure that none of you would do that sort of thing anyway, but you never know who reads these things. So she wants to be very, very clear on this topic. No sacrificing kitties or goats or anything else, right? Right.
* DO check out the local thrift stores; many of them save their more…unusual clothing items year-round, to sell at Halloween for costumes. Not to mention that many thrift stores hold lots and LOTS of sales right before Halloween, and a clever person can find all sorts of good basic gothwear for low low prices.
* DON’T color your hair unnatural colors with semi-permanent dyes for your costume and then expect them to wash right out. The Lady of the Manners would have thought that was blindingly obvious, but every year she sees posts from people saying “Help! I dyed my blond hair black for Halloween, and now I’m grounded because it isn’t washing out!” This is what wigs are for, even if most wigs sold for Halloween costume purposes only look okay under dim lighting conditions. Better to wear a silly wig than have your hair a color you didn’t want to keep.
* DO use Halloween as an excuse to dress up even more elaborately than you might usually do. This is a chance to wear clothes you might never ever get to during the course of “normal” life. Take advantage of it!
* However, if you are going to a crowded place, DON’T wear a costume that might impede someone else. As cool as enormous black feathered wings look in pictures, they’re annoying to try and maneuver around in a crowded club. Not to mention that there will be ill-mannered louts who won’t bother telling you that you’re creating a problem with your costume, but will just try and damage it. No sense wearing gorgeous faery wings if someone is going to amuse themselves by burning holes in them with cigarettes.
(Not that those people should be doing anything like that at all. But there are people who have NO consideration for others, sad but true. Which is why the Lady of the Manners thinks it’s better to be safe than sorry, and won’t wear her more elaborate costume items out to her local gothy clubs.)
* DON’T dress up like The Crow and go out to the local goth club. Yes, it’s Halloween, but friends STILL don’t let friends dress like The Crow. No they don’t, not even if it is done with a sense of irony. Just don’t, okay?
On that note, the Lady of the Manners is off to the store to buy more plastic light-up pumpkins and stripy socks. Come back next month, and send your etiquette questions to firstname.lastname@example.org!