Hello Snarklings! August is, as many of you know, Back To School time. (The Lady of the Manners apologizes to her readers in the Eastern Hemisphere for her Western Hemisphere bias. It’s just one of those things.) This time of year fills the Lady of the Manners with a nostalgic urge to shop for school supplies; yes, she really does want a new big box of crayons. Oooh, and new blank journals, and fountain pens, and ink …
But Back To School time also means the mailbox at Gothic Charm School sees swarms of letters asking about school related topics. What to do about dress codes, of course, which the Lady of the Manners has talked about before:
There are the questions from Snarklings worried about bullies, which is perfectly understandable! The Lady of the Manners has talked about that topic, too, and hopes that all of you will read (and re-read) that post:
But amongst all of those Back To School -related questions, one from a gothling named Carley caught the Lady of the Manners’ eye:
question: Dear Lady of The Manners,
I’m 14 year old girl and have been into the gothic subculture for a few years now. With the clothes I wore and the music i listened to i was all alone in my old school since that was a strongly active farming town. Really, down the road there is a buffalo farm. Having a hard time fitting in with the 365 student population at this school with grades 7-12 in it, i did find three friends, not very good friends that didn’t have ANYTHING in common but I thought they were nice, but i know now used me as a novelty rather then a buddy since they very harshly made fun of me behind my back. My mother and i thought we would leave this little farming town and head away for a little bit more culture.
I’m writing you now to ask for help about how should I go into that new VERY larger school this upcoming September, because I am very nervous. My mom is quite a support system in my choice to be in the gothic subculture but she wants me to dress normally..*shudder* and wait for people to get to know me before going back to my whimsical clothing. But without the clothes I haven’t really ever fit in because of the strange things i would say and things i just generally liked that most kids my age didn’t. I really want to just be who I am and ware the things that make me feel confident and happy like my goth clothes. Like you tho Lady of The Manners I do dress more in the Victorian style that flew out of Tim Burton’s imagination, so I do draw a lot of attention (not to mention i have flaming red hair). Also I am asking for help because I am even more nervous about meeting new people and possibly-and hopefully- some new friends since i am kind-of quite who always has her head shoved behind Edgar Allen Poe poems, while listening to the music of people like Bauhaus and Emilie Autumn and many others.
But on the bright side I am not that worried about the bullies and teasing i will probably get at my new school since i have an older sister who used to tease me all the time till the point were I ran up stairs crying, that i have had a hard defensive invisible exterior that only very certain things said actually do hurt but most things just slide right off me and I don’t even acknowledge that the person who said something like they weren’t there at all.
So please read this and give any advice that you can.
With love and vampire kisses,
The Lady of the Manners imagines that starting at a new school is rough for just about anyone, but it must be even more nerve-wracking for the goth-inclined or anyone else who is even a little bit “different”. While the Lady of the Manners understands the logic behind your mother’s suggestion that you dress normally when you start at your new school, the Lady of the Manners doesn’t agree with it at all.
Because you’re absolutely right, Carley. By trying to present yourself as someone you’re not, you’re putting up a false front. It wouldn’t be a truthful representation of who you are and of what your interests are. What good would it be to make new friends, only to have them decide they didn’t like you because you started showing your true self? Or what if those new friends decided that you were “trying too hard” to be different, or being a poseur? Trying to turn yourself into someone you’re not isn’t a way to make it easier to make friends, it’s a recipe for possibly alienating the first people you meet and talk to. While it is a rather trite cliché, the saying “You only have one chance to make a first impression” is very true. Who wants the first impression someone gets of them to be a false one? So you may want to tell your mother that you appreciate her good intentions, but the chances of such a sartorial misdirection backfiring on you and making you more alienated than ever are rather large.
As to your being nervous about meeting new people and hopefully making some new friends: of course you’re nervous. Everyone in your situation is nervous, even if just the tiniest bit. And that’s the important thing to remember: everyone is nervous. Some people are more outgoing than others, some people are more self-confident, but those things don’t change the nervous butterflies that flutter about before every new social event. Another well-worn cliché is “Just be yourself”, and it’s usually followed up with something along the lines of “And people will like you.” The Lady of the Manners isn’t going to say that if you just be yourself people will like you, but she will say that it’s more important to be true to yourself than to worry about whether or not people will like you. The hard truth of the matter is that no one is universally liked; not during school years, and not afterward. The big trick is to realize that it doesn’t matter if people like you. The Lady of the Manners thinks that having friends is one of the important things in life, but they need to be true friends, people who you understand and who understand you, who share your interests (well, at least some of them), and who support you in being yourself. Changing who you are so that you can try to win over people who you may not click with, or even like? That’s a fool’s game, and one that no one should play.
Another very (very!) important thing to keep in mind about making new friends: it’s important that you’re a good friend to yourself, too. Perhaps more important. By that the Lady of the Manners doesn’t mean to only think of yourself or be selfish, but that you need to like yourself and be fine spending time in your own company. Not an easy thing to do all the time, the Lady of the Manners does understand that. But if you are okay with being on your own, you won’t fall into the trap of desperately wanting friends as a distraction from being alone.
Finally, Carley, you say you aren’t worried about bullying because most things slide right off you, and that you can ignore the person saying hurtful things. The Lady of the Manners is very glad to hear that, but is a little sad that you have learned this skill because your older sister bullies you. At some point, perhaps you should have a conversation with your sister about how she treats you, that you don’t appreciate it, and that it needs to stop. Will that help? The Lady of the Manners has no idea, but it might. (You might want to include your mother in that conversation, though.)
Things that the Lady of the Manners keeps saying will happen in the future (and really will!): another trip to The Nocturnal House to talk about vampire books, a review of Spin Doctor clothing, a write-up of Wave Gotik Treffen from Special Correspondant Marc17 , and more reader questions. Now if you’ll excuse the Lady of the Manners, she’s going to go have a piece of toast with peach-lavender jam, and do a little window-shopping of fountain pens and blank books …