Hellllloooo, Faithful Readers, and welcome to your usual monthly visit to Gothic Charm School. This time around, the Lady of the Manners is going to talk to you about the reason behind her writing this column month after month. Yes, Goths and Manners; how clever of you to have guessed.
Now, the Lady of the Manners is sure there are a few of you out there in Gothy Internet Land are scratching your heads in a perplexed manner, thinking, “But she writes about this all the time. Now what is she doing?” That’s fine — go get a cup of coffee, then sit back down and let the Lady of the Manners chat with you.
. . .
No no, don’t look so worried. The Lady of the Manners isn’t going to put you on restriction; she just wants to try to explain why Goths should (and need) to have better manners than the average person on the street.
You see, “gothic” has become a shorthand in the media for “depressed crazy person who is a ticking time bomb.” Mr. and Mrs. Average see someone dressed in elaborate black clothes and think, “That is a bad person. That is a scary person. That is some sort of devil-worshipping freak.” And while all of us in the Great Gothic Underground may hold our sides and giggle at this because we know better (and our friends, families, and co-workers usually do too), that doesn’t do a thing to squash that undercurrent of suspicion that greets a Gothy-type person when they go about their business in the real world. Which is why each and every Gothy-type Person must strive to BE POLITE.
The Lady of the Manners is quite aware that this can be a difficult struggle. After a hard day slaving in the software salt mines, the Lady of the Manners herself will think longingly of responding with, “Then why are you dressed like that?” when someone says to her (for what feels like the four millionth time), “It isn’t Halloween yet.” But she bites back that snarky comment, and others like it, and just ignores the person. Or smiles sweetly at them and then ignores them.
Now, the Lady of the Manners can just tell that the more mopey and/or belligerent of our little subculture are reading this in disbelief. Don’t worry, poppets, she’s not asking you to suddenly all become PerkyGoths. (She doesn’t have enough glitter for all of you, for one thing.) However, she is asking you to rein in your potentially-lethal acid wit, and to just ignore the people who hurl barbed comments at you.
(Of course, there are readers who have emailed the Lady of the Manners after she has given similar advice to tell her that her suggestions wouldn’t work in their town, and that the best thing to do is to trade insult for insult; that the people hassling you will only respect you if you flame them back. Such an idea makes the Lady of the Manners feel a little faint, and she believes, right down to the toes of her pointy boots, that such tactics are wrong, wrong, wrong. Good manners work more often than not, and things aren’t going to get any better if everyone is rude in a pro-active sort of way.)
But being polite is more than just ignoring stupid comments and remarks. It’s answering sincere questions people may ask you about your appearance. It’s not being snobby and unkind to someone just because they don’t look like they would “understand” you, or seem to be part of the Gap-clad masses. The Lady of the Manners would even go so far as to say that being polite includes not deliberately baiting people, be it in person or on-line, but is pretty sure that concept will mostly be ignored.
The trick is, however, that all of the Gothy types need to try really, really hard to be polite to each other, too. Yes, even that person whom you can’t stand. You don’t have to be nice to them, just polite. Besides, there is a specific kind of fun to be had by being icily polite and civil to your dearest enemy. Feel free to call them names and froth at the mouth in private, but be cool and cordial to them in public. If nothing else, it will confuse them, and isn’t that worth something?
The Lady of the Manners’ fond hope is that if everyone in GothyLand tried really, REALLY hard to be well-mannered, then maybe, just maybe, Mr. and Mrs. Average will stop thinking that Goths are horrible people. Yes, we still want to be spo0o0o0o0o0o0o0okie and different, but not demonized. There is a difference, boys and girls. (Or is that bois and gurls?)
The second part of the Lady of the Manners’ Fond Hope is that all of you nice gothy moms and dads out there (such as our fine, fine Evil Overlord and new papa here at Gothic.Net) will raise your children to be well-mannered. To behave in public places, to be polite to people who are different from themselves, to not use all caps in email. (Whoops — sorry, a pet peeve slipped in.) But in all seriousness, the Lady of the Manners thinks it would be a wonderful thing if, in a few short years, kindergarten classes were filled with polite little baby bats — a happy goth version of Village of the Damned, if you will.
Now see, that wasn’t so bad. The Lady of the Mannersdidn’t even lecture you about sloppy whiteface makeup and wearing t-shirts with rude words on them to school. She’ll save that for later.
With that veiled threat in mind, pop back next month. If you don’t want the Lady of the Manners to talk to you about your clothes, then send her your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.