Hello Faithful Readers, and welcome to your monthly peek into the Lady of the Manners’ brain. This month, Gothic Charm School is going to re-visit a topic from Years Gone Past. The Lady of the Manners has been receiving … well, not quite a flurry, but a light dusting of mail from new Faithful Readers who write earnest and charming letters about how they never considered themselves Goth, but they wear all black (or dark jewel tones), they like to read horror and fantasy fiction, they like bats, they collect gargoyles …
Thankfully, this batch doesn’t ask the Lady of the Manners to validate their gothness, or complain that whatever online test they took doesn’t think they’re Goth. No, what is troubling these poor readers is very simple: they think they’re too old to start calling themselves Goth.
The most recent letter that flew into the Gothic Charm School inbox was from someone who was an ancient 29 years old. 29, and afraid that she was too old to start exploring the Gothic subculture.
Ahem. For the record, the Lady of the Manners is … older than that. (In fact, the Lady of the Manners is staring her mid-thirties in the face, and realizing that she likes them better than her mid-twenties.)
Let the Lady of the Manners assure all of you reading this RIGHT NOW, there isn’t really any such thing as being “too old” to be a Goth. Good heavens, the Gothic subculture itself is almost 30 years old, and that’s just the current incarnation of it, never mind the literary or architectural roots.
So why do people think there’s a “use-by” date on being a Goth? Perhaps because the main images people have of Goths are either moody teenagers in black, or mid-twenties club-goers in PVC. Many people think being a Goth is something you grow out of, not into. Which, if you stop to think about it, is preposterous. The wonderful thing about being “old” and being a Goth is that you’re secure enough in who you are that you don’t (or shouldn’t, at the very least) worry about “Am I Goth enough?” However, the Lady of the Manners will admit there are some pitfalls awaiting “old” people exploring the Gothic subculture for the first time, things they should be wary of if they don’t want to look like they’re trying too hard.
* Warning the First: Age-appropriate looks, please. Don’t draw all over your face with eyeliner, don’t feel you must wear head-to-toe “I am the Queen of the Night” spooky vampire clothes. Unless, of course, you’ve been dressing that way for years and years anyway and it’s become a personal trademark of yours. The Lady of the Manners’ daily wardrobe includes a hoopskirt and top hat, so she’s not going to tell you that you CAN’T wear such things, just make sure that the outfit isn’t wearing you, as opposed to you wearing it.
* Warning the Second: Just because you’ve decided you’re a Goth does not mean you must act depressed, languid, or mysterious all the time. This is a mindset that, er, younger Goths fall prey to sometimes; being older should mean you’re a bit wiser about this sort of thing. Goth is a subculture and (for some) a way of life, not an emotional template.
* Warning the Third: Lurk, and do some research. Keep up with the local mailing lists or boards, read Usenet, just be sure to pay attention to what is going on so you don’t make any clueless newbie mistakes when you decide to de-lurk. And for heaven’s sake, do not ask “What is Goth?”, because that will either get you flamed or start an endless round of content-free replies.
* Warning the Fourth: Do not become a Goth just to meet sexxxy deth chix and bois. Don’t get affronted at the Lady of the Manners for mentioning this; she’s seen far too many people (to be fair, of all age groups) decide they want to be Goth so they can meet attractive people dressed in black. If this is your whole reason for joining the Goth subculture, perhaps you should re-think things. Also, while there is absolutely nothing wrong with dating someone younger than yourself, if all of your romances are with younger people, be prepared for gossip and possibly unkind comments.
The joy of growing older is that one becomes more comfortable with oneself, which means not needing to prove how Goth you are by how many Goth stereotypes you live up to. There’s nothing wrong with not wearing all black 24/7, or deciding that getting enough sleep so you can go to work the next morning is more important than staying out all night at the club; it doesn’t make you less of a Goth, it makes you your own person.
With age comes wisdom; that’s the theory, anyway. With age also comes the probability that a person will be more settled in their life, and able to devote more time, energy, and money to their hobbies. Sure, the general public associates Goth with depressed teenagers, but most Goths are in their late 20s to 30s, and have decent enough jobs that they sometimes have the spare funds to blow on really extravagant Goth toys or clothes. Also ElderGoths, are generally smart enough to realize that appearing on sensationalist TV shows won’t be doing themselves (or the subculture) any favors. They know the difference between something cool and something that is strictly a marketing gimmick aimed at weird people in black. Plus, most people are loath to tell someone who isn’t a teen-ager that their interests and hobbies are “just a phase”, and that they’ll grow out of it.
With that, the Lady of the Manners is off to go wave her skull-topped walking stick in a threatening manner at the neighborhood children. Scamper back next month, and send questions and adoring letters to email@example.com.