A Question About People Being Petty, With a Slight Tangent About Emo

The Lady of the Manners would like to apologize, Snarklings, for yet another lengthy absence from posting. It’s not that the Lady of the Manners hasn’t been reading your correspondence and thinking fondly of you all; it’s just that, well, things. They happen. However, the Lady of the Manners isn’t going to waste any more space on trying to excuse the sad lack of new lessons, but is going to go directly to a heartfelt question from a reader, who has turned to the Lady of the Manners upon being bad-mouthed and being called a poseur because of preferring The Cure and Bauhaus to Marilyn Manson:

Dear Lady of the Manners,
My name is Kate and I have a problem that is most annoying and slightly upsetting at times. You see, I have recently joined the local Goth scene, if that is what you could call it. There are many of my friends in the scene too. However, there is one girl (we shall call her Jane) in my year at my school who also hangs around in that scene. She likes to think she is very popular an every male and female is attracted to her. This would not usually bother me apart from that I fell out with her a couple of months ago and ever since she has been bad mouthing me to others, including my close friends and my boyfriend.

It was not even really an argument. I happened to say how I do not like Marilyn Manson and do not think he is Goth at all and I much prefer The Cure, Bauhaus etc. Jane just happens to be listening and then starts on about how The Cure is emo music.

(The Cure is … emo music? Oh dear. The Lady of the Manners feels the need for a strengthening cup of tea or something after that statement. But do go on with your question, dear.)

I am willing to let this drop as I realise I might of offended her but the next day I hear that she has been saying to my close friend that I can’t be a Goth if I don’t like Marilyn Manson. Over the last few months, she has been constantly telling others how I am a poseur, am ugly and not a nice person. She says I only want attention when really I am a quite and shy person.

This annoys me as she never says it to my face and I fear that people will not like me if she tells them this before they get to know me. I know Jane has been talking about me because only today a girl I am on quite good terms with told me she has. Jane also says rude comment to my face such as I have no friends without me even talking or acknowledging her. This is in front of all my close friends.

I am starting to yet annoyed and slightly angry at this behaviour, which I consider immature. I have tried to rise above it and I do not talk to her but I do not like to hear that she has been talking about me. Just because I do not like Marilyn Manson gives her no right to hate me, does it? She also sees herself as the most gothic person ever and introduces herself as “gothic Jane” on the phone.

How do I stop this behaviour towards me? I would like to be on ok terms with her to stop her talking about me. Any ideas?

Any ideas? Yes, actually, the first one being that you should resign yourself to never being on “okay terms with her”. Jane (for the Lady of the Manners just refuses to call the young woman “gothic” Jane; the Lady of the Manners finds that rolling her eyes that hard gives the Lady of the Manners a headache) sounds like one of those sad people who don’t feel their lives are complete unless they have someone to be snippy about, someone to wage a needless vendetta against. Whether it’s because they want to feel important and the center of attention, or whether it’s because they think by bad-mouthing one person, they’ll somehow magically appear to be a better person themselves, the Lady of the Manners isn’t sure. But from your description, Jane does seem to be one of that tribe.

Which means that there really isn’t anything you can do to change her behavior toward you. But! This doesn’t mean that you should stoop to Jane’s level and start saying unkind things about her. No, instead you should be, if you can manage it, distantly polite and kind to her. Distant not as in avoiding her or staying across the room from her, but distant as in you aren’t making any special effort to be polite and vaguely friendly to her, but that’s how you would treat anyone. Yes, this means you’ll need to become very good at controlling your reactions when she walks up to you and says things like “you have no friends”. Instead, if you can respond to her at those times by saying something like “I’m sure it seems that way to you” (accompanied by a faint smile, if you can manage it), you will achieve two things. Firstly, you will be showing by your actions that you aren’t troubled by petty people saying petty things to or about you. Secondly, it will (probably) have the wonderful effect of annoying Jane to no end. People like Jane love to get reactions from people. They love to make people upset. And usually, they don’t quite know what to do when the person they want to make upset doesn’t respond. Think of the hours of fun you could have by thwarting her!

As to her bad-mouthing you to your friends and boyfriend; try not to worry. They almost certainly won’t take her seriously, and won’t fall for her attempts to turn them against you. Actions really do speak louder than words, and it sounds like Jane’s actions and words are saying “Hello, I’m a vindictive, spiteful, needy twerp, and I’m trying to make myself seem much, MUCH more important and cool than I really am. Pay attention to me! Why aren’t you paying attention to meeeee?!”

If, for some reason, your boyfriend or your friends are swayed by whatever poison Jane has been saying … well, then they weren’t very good friends to begin with, and you’ll eventually be better off without them. No, the Lady of the Manners knows that’s not the most comforting thing to be told, but it’s true. People who can have their opinions about you changed that easily aren’t true friends.

Now, the amusing bit of nonsense about how you can’t be a Goth if you don’t like Marilyn Manson, and that The Cure is emo music; Jane is very, very misguided. And, by the way, wrong on both counts. As the Lady of the Manners has said before, while Marilyn Manson himself might be very Goth, his music should probably be classified as Metal.

Before anyone starts getting upset and writing earnest letters asking if they can still call themselves a Goth if they like [fill in band name here], the Lady of the Manners would like to state that she thinks that a person’s Gothness (oh goodness, what a humorous notion!) is not solely dictated by what music they listen to. In the Lady of the Manners’ world, being a Goth involves a larger asthetic: the books you read, the things you’re interested in, the way you choose to decorate whatever space is yours, the way you dress, and your outlook and perspective on the world in general. While there are degrees of Gothyness, there is no standardized checklist for what makes a person Goth or not; no “If you score under X amount, you’re not a Real Goth” nonsense. Especially when it comes to musical tastes.

A confession: the Lady of the Manners is quite fond of a lot of music that isn’t considered Goth. Yes, including Marilyn Manson. Some of the Lady of the Manners’ gothy friends are devoted to prog-rock, folk, country, or boyband pop music. Does this make them (or the Lady of the Manners) less Goth? No, it just means that they have wide-ranging and eclectic tastes.

As for Jane’s assertion that The Cure is emo music … look, the Lady of the Manners is going to be frank with you. After doing a lot of research, the Lady of the Manners is still very unclear as to what “emo” really is. Some sources say it’s a subgenre of hardcore punk, while other sources say that it’s a catch-all term to be applied to anything that melodramatic and strongly-emotional teens like. (The latter information made the Lady of the Manners raise an eyebrow and mutter, “What, just like the term “Goth”?”) All the Lady of the Manners really knows about emo is that some of the self-labeled emo kids are terribly cute, and that they probably don’t deserve the abuse and insults that get heaped on them any more than the equally-harmless Goth kids do. However, nothing in the Lady of the Manners’ research led her to think that The Cure could be considered emo. One of the bands that helped found the Gothic subculture, yes. Emo, no. In fact, when the Lady of the Manners mentioned this “The Cure are emo” notion to one of her DJ friends, the Lady of the Manners was worried that they’d injure themselves from laughing so hard.

With that, the Lady of the Manners is going to wander off to re-read more of her correspondence, and possibly even try to get a head start on the next Gothic Charm School lesson in the hope of avoiding another lengthy pause between posts. The Lady of the Manners isn’t going to promise any sort of update schedule, but she is going to try to be around more often. Until the next time, Snarklings, behave yourselves, and try not to get into any more trouble than usual.

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