Hello, faithful readers, it’s June. For those of you still incarcerated in school, your seasonal freedom is soon at hand! No more for you the drudgery of doing homework, kowtowing to teachers, or panicking at the words “pop quiz.” Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re going to stop learning. Oh no; the Lady of the Manners is here to kick off summer vacation with an overview of the Basics of Being a Goth. Why, you ask? Read this missive from one of the Faithful Readers and you’ll understand:
Dear Gothic Charm School,
I recently encountered goths for the first time in my young life, and they have become my favorite people. I am especially fond of one, who at the age of only 14 has strived to be everything you think a goth should be (you would be proud!). My one problem is this: I desperately want to cross over, but I am overwhelmed with reluctance. What if I unknowingly do something that makes me look ridiculous and an obvious newbie? Do you know of some sort of crash course in becoming a goth? As I said before, I have these friends who inspire me, but I just can’t bring myself to ask them about their lifestyle (I doubt that would be the right way to go anyway).
To your loyal readers going over the basics might seem redundant, but I know several kids who spend their time a gothic.net trying to figure out this whole thing. Please help!
A crash course in becoming a goth? Dearie, dearie me, the Lady of the Manners doesn’t think there is such a thing, and if there was, it would already be for sale at H*t T*pic for $29.99. Most of the goths the Lady of the Manners knows didn’t suddenly wake up one day and say, “I’m going to become a goth!” It was a gradual process; hearing certain music, watching certain movies, reading certain books and discovering all of that coloured your world-view to a darker, more quirky style. Discovering that you liked black vintage clothes far better than whatever the current trendy look being pushed at the mall was. Realizing that you had multiple black eyeliner pencils, but no such thing as a “neutral coloured” lipstick. Deciding that you wanted to decorate your room (or apartment or house) in dark velvets, black lace, and a recurring bat theme.
So, as to crossing over to goth; first of all, you need to decide if it’s something you really want to do. Does the whole goth aesthetic make you happy, or are you just considering it to catch the eye of someone you have a crush on? (The Lady of the Manners covered this extensively in a previous column — check the archives here at gothic.net). If you truly believe that the goth lifestyle is for you, then there are some words of advice the Lady of the Manners can pass on to you.
Firstly, don’t feel awkward about asking other goths you see about their lifestyle. Make sure that they know you’re sincere, and not just trying to mock them, but talking to people who seem to know what it’s all about is an easy way to get started. Most goths love talking about themselves, their clothes, and why they decided to be the way they are.
Second . . . if you’re reading this, you have access to the Web, right? Well, there you go. Using your favourite search engine, do a search on goth or gothic. You will be amazed at all the things out there. Keep in mind that some of what turns up on these searches is crap. The Lady of the Manners won’t name names, but can think of some sites that come up under a “gothic” search to which, when the Lady of the Manners looked at them, her first reaction was to laugh derisively.
Since you’re on-line, you may also want to check out the newsgroups. alt.gothic is the big one, but can be a little harsh on new people, whereas alt.gothic.fashion is a kinder, gentler place that feels like a big slumber party. If you do decide to join the newsgroups, be sure to search on the Web for any FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) for them and read them before you begin to post. The Lady of the Manners strongly suggests lurking (that is, reading but not posting) on the newsgroup for a little while, so you can see what the tone of the group is.
The above are some ways you can find out more about goth. But as to becoming one . . . well, the Lady of the Manners has some strong opinions on how a goth should look and behave, but they are HER opinions. Well, more like strongly-held convictions. However, that doesn’t mean you HAVE to take the Lady of the Manners word as law — just keep in mind if you don’t, there is a good chance that people who have been around for longer than you may be rolling their eyes at you behind your back when you go out.
That disclaimer out of the way…
The Lady of the Manners has a strong aversion to off-the-rack gothwear. While the Lady of the Manners has occasionally succumbed to the temptation of the H*t T*pic sale rack, the Lady of the Manners tries to mix her off-the-rack stuff with more eclectic and personalized pieces so she doesn’t look like a cookie-cutter goth (or doom cookies, as some refer to them.) For the price of one dress or coat from a mall chain that caters to alternative youth culture, you can go to the local thrift store and find a couple of different outfits. Yes, that takes time and patience, plus a good eye for what has potential to be altered into something gothy, but it’s worth it if you want a more individual look instead of what everyone else is wearing.
Also, keep in mind the time and weather conditions when you get dressed. Sure, you want to look really cool and goth, but no one looks impressive when they’re wearing heavy velvet in 90+ temperatures with a miserable, sweaty expression on their face.
The Lady of the Manners knows that lots of people do this, and it’s just a pet peeve of hers, but it has to be said. The majority of people out there in GothyLand just do not look good with huge swirly eyeliner all over their faces. Simple, subtle designs are much more effective. Does your eyeliner design cover more that a quarter of your face? If so, you are in danger of being handed a WetNap™ by the Lady of the Manners if she sees you. The same goes for obvious whiteface makeup applied in a hamfisted, smudgy manner. And for the love of all things sacred, if you must wear whiteface, don’t use greasepaint, if your ears are exposed you have to put makeup on them too, and blend, blend, blend at the jawline!
Goodness, the Lady of the Manners got a bit impassioned there, didn’t she? But you have no idea of the depths of annoyance the Lady of the Manners feels when she sees someone with bad makeup, and anything the Lady of the Manners can do to help stop it is a Good Thing.
Other than that, the only other piece of advice the Lady of the Manners can offer is this:
Marilyn Manson is NOT goth. MM is a very clever marketing mastermind who learned everything he’s done from Alice Cooper and David Bowie. However, that doesn’t mean that MM concerts aren’t fun pieces of dazzling spectacle — they’re just not goth.
So that wraps up this month’s advice and ranting from the Lady of the Manners. Come by next month when the Lady of the Manners explains goth etiquette for two big social rituals in life: weddings and funerals.
As always, send your burning etiquette questions to email@example.com.