An Assortment of Questions About Religion, Gossip, and Vampires.

Yes, Snarklings, go ahead and stare surprisedly at the Lady of the Manners. It was not the Lady of the Manners’ intention to be away so long, but … remember when the Lady of the Manners wrote that working in the tech industry was a good option for clever people who don’t want to be overly concerned with dress codes? The Lady of the Manners still believes that, but must add the caveat that there will sometimes be deadlines that laugh derisively at the notion of a person having a life outside of work.

However! The Lady of the Manners is back, and is rejoicing in having some free time by answering a varied selection of questions from readers. Yes, it’s true! The Lady of the Manners reads each and every bit of mail that is sent to her; don’t ever doubt that, Snarklings.

The first of the reader questions comes from Alexandria, who asks:

What, oh what to do?

I absolutely hate disappointing my parents.
They’re slowly coming around to the fact that their daughter is in fact a Goth.
Well, my parents are youth pastors.
Not a problem.
The problem is, I no longer want to attend church anymore.
I still believe in God, so I’m not recanting my faith or anything.
So the question is, how do I make them understand that I don’t want to attend services, I don” want to participate in activities, and that I just want to be alone?

Firstly, congratulations on your parents slowly accepting that you’re a Goth. The Lady of the Manners frequently hears the opposite, and is delighted to hear that your parents aren’t asking you to change your ways.

Now, as to how to make them understand you don’t want to attend church any longer? Well, you could try telling them that you feel your faith is a private thing, and you’d rather pray in private. Sadly, the Lady of the Manners doesn’t think that will do much to convince them. No, the Lady of the Manners thinks you’re going to have to resign yourself to attending at least some church functions or services. Especially since your parents are youth pastors. Because of that status, their actions are probably under more public scrutiny than the behaviors of other members of the congregation. In fact, if the Lady of the Manners were to make a guess, there are probably people who attend your church who are a little skeptical of your parents’ devotion to their calling as youth pastors if they have a daughter who is a Goth. Which is utter nonsense, but some people are more judgmental than is good for them.

So what the Lady of the Manners really thinks you should do is sit down with your parents and be very matter of fact about the whole thing. Tell them that yes, you DO still believe in God, but that you don’t want to go to every single church function. Then tell them that you’re willing to attend some activities and services, but not all of them, so which ones do they feel you absolutely MUST attend?

Be prepared; your parents will probably ask you why you don’t want to attend all the activities and services, and no, saying “Because I just want to be alone” isn’t a good enough answer for that question. It sounds like faith is a big part of your family’s life, and you owe them the respect of having thought about and being able to explain your reasons for wanting to stop attending church. While your parents will be disappointed in your choice (if they aren’t even a tiny bit disappointed, the Lady of the Manners will be very surprised), if you can speak to them about the reasons behind it in a calm, thoughtful, and not cranky or over-dramatic fashion, they may be wiling to not insist on you being at every event.

The next question is from a charming and well-written lady by the name of Zanna, and also concerns religion:

In the spring in my town, along with flowers and birds, come door-to-door evangelical Christians. Last summer, two rather nice ladies with wicker baskets full of bibles happened across me sitting on my porch, dressed typically: short black skirt, black shirt, boots, and what I believe to be a tasteful 1 inch pentacle necklace. I politely said I wasn’t interested, but then they saw the necklace and became convinced I was a Satanist. (I am, in fact, Wiccan.) Ever since then (although stopping for the winter) they have been dropping by my house at least twice a week, sometimes more than once in a day. They have no problem with marching up to my door and repeatedly ringing the bell until I answer. I have no idea how long they wait when I’m not home. I have been forced to abandon my favorite seat on the porch, and lately they have been actually walking around the house to accost me on my patio in the backyard. Is there any way to make them leave me alone, short of a restraining order?

Oh. Oh dear. You say that they’re rather nice ladies? The Lady of the Manners can understand why you wouldn’t want to get a restraining order issued against them, not to mention the Lady of the Manners isn’t sure if you would be able to get one. They aren’t actually threatening you, just being very exasperating.

The first thing the Lady of the Manners would suggest is to obtain a couple of tasteful “No Solicitors or Salespeople” signs, and post them on the paths to your front door and back yard. Then the next time the nice ladies with the bibles come calling, you can point out the signs and ask them to leave. Sadly, that probably won’t work, because those sorts of people don’t think such signs apply to them.

The next thing to try is to smile at the nice ladies and say in your politest tones, “You do realize I’m not a Satanist, right? And that I don’t appreciate being lectured about my religious choices in my own home? Perhaps you could give me the address of your church?” Keep repeating this (or some variation of it) until they tell you where they go to church. Then contact the church, ask to speak to the pastor, and explain that while you admire the nice ladies’ fervor, you are feeling harassed and that what they’re doing is not the way to go about converting people.

Now, the Lady of the Manners isn’t sure that will solve your problem either, but it certainly couldn’t hurt. Who knows, the pastor of the church may take the nice ladies aside and ask them to stop badgering people. But in case that doesn’t happen, the Lady of the Manners thinks you should look into local laws about trespassing and harassment. If you have signs clearly posted and you’ve asked the nice ladies to leave you alone, there may be some legal options open to you other than getting a restraining order. Please write back to the Lady of the Manners and let her know about the outcome, because the Lady of the Manners is sure that this sort of thing happens all over the place, and more information on how to deal with nice, if over-zealous, church people will be nothing if not useful.

Question number three comes from someone who asked to remain anonymous, as their concern is about a rather sticky social situation:

Recently I had a SEVERE falling out with a couple in the scene. So bad that I had to create a new LJ profile as they (mainly him) was making snide replies to my posts in others journals. (I removed them from my friends list on my old profile and if I post on that I post friends only).

My question is ~ what do I do to repair my reputation with others they may be bad mouthing me to? Yes, I know that in a perfect world, others would make their own judgement of me if/when they meet me in person ~ but I feel as though I can’t go out in public because of things they are saying about me (I’m not paranoid, mutual friends are telling me things).

You’re right, in a perfect world people would make their own decisions about you when they meet you in person, but that isn’t how things works in this brave new technological world, is it? The best way for you to repair your reputation is to behave impeccably; do not give in to the temptation to talk about the falling-out, do not try and defend yourself to people (except your very closest friends, in private where you won’t be overheard or repeated), and DO NOT start bad-mouthing the couple in question, no matter how much you want to. You need to let your actions speak louder than their words.

Don’t feel that you can’t go out in public because of this. If someone comes up and asks you about what this couple has been saying about you, ask the person where they heard these comments, then smile and say something ambiguous like “Everyone has their own version of events, don’t they?”, then change the subject. Again, do not try to defend yourself or say awful things about the couple in question; that will only make you look bad. Yes, your first instinct will be to defend yourself, because no one likes hearing that people are saying unkind things about themselves. But if you can maintain your composure and not stoop to their level of bad behavior, others will notice and ignore what they’re saying.

The fourth and final question for this lesson at Gothic Charm School is, quite possibly, the Lady of the Manners’ favorite question ever. The Lady of the Manners has received quite a number of touching, amusing, and entertaining letters from readers, but this next one (asked by someone calling themselves Bugged Out) caused the Lady of the Manners to clap her lace-gloved hands in glee, and the Lady of the Manners had oodles of fun thinking of the answer:

Hello there. I know it’s typical for people of the gothy persuasion to also enjoy vampire lore and tales, and even may like to pretend they are, in fact, vampires. My problem is, I have a few (about 3) friends who actually believe they are creatures of the night. It gets pretty annoying, especially when they walk around like they’re hot shit and better than us “mortals,” sometimes even totally disregarding what we say, instead looking away disdainfully or just ignoring us! I guess my question is, how do I tactfully tell them that the act is silly?

They really, honest and for true, believe they are Creatures of the Night? That they’re vampires, and are better than all of we common mortals? Hee!

(Forgive the Lady of the Manners for the giddiness, Snarklings. It’s just that this sort of thing is such an over-the-top bad gothy cliché that the Lady of the Manners is having a hard time believing that (a) people really do act that way, and that (b) someone asked the Lady of the Manners for advice about it. Really, you have no notion how amused the Lady of the Manners is by this.)

How do you tactfully tell them that the act is silly? Why, you don’t, you silly creature. You go along with it in an as exaggerated of a manner as you can possibly manage. Talk to them in tones of overblown awe, with your eyes as wide as you can open them. Ask them (in an overly earnest tone) every silly question you can think of about vampires; including if they can go out during the day, do they really sleep in coffins, and can they help you with your history homework? (If they tell you that they aren’t the type of vampires that have been around for hundreds of years, ask them if they know any.) Ask them how they became vampires; ask them this every time you see them, and if there are any contradictions or details that seem to change from telling to telling, then (again, as earnestly as you can possibly manage) ask about those inconsistencies. When you’re all out in public together, be sure to tell EVERYONE that your friends really ARE vampires, and that they’re so much cooler than we mere mortals. Refuse to let them talk about anything else; make every conversation with them be about their status as Creatures of the Night.

As the Lady of the Manners keeps pointing out here, exaggeration is the key. You want to sound as much like a wide-eyed, breathless, confused, and awed child as possible. There is no such thing as laying it on too thickly.

Eventually, one of two things will happen: they will realize that everyone thinks their little vampire act is ridiculous, or they will be so embarrassed by your behavior that they will resolve never to mention vampires again in your presence. Either way, continue to ask them for help with your history homework.

(Vampires! Hee! Oh, the Lady of the Manners wants to pinch their – no doubt- pale and gaunt little cheeks, she is so overwhelmed with the over-the-top cliché-ness of their silly behavior. If they persist in claiming that they Really Are Vampires, please ask them to write to Lady of the Manners themselves, as she is longing to speak with them.)

With that, the Lady of the Manners is going to go lie on her couch and try to stop giggling. The Lady of the Manners also swears on her collection of pointy boots that there will NOT be another multi-month break in lessons, but will post another one within a month. In the mean time, please do write to the Lady of the Manners, using that marvelously helpful Correspondence link that’s up in the right-hand corner.

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