Hello Snarklings! The Lady of the Manners hopes that all of you had a delightful Halloween holiday, and that if you went for the post-Halloween clearance sales you were able to stock up on all sorts of goodies. (The Lady of the Manners stocked up on spooky paper napkins and vampire-themed cupcake wrappers.)
This installment of Gothic Charm School is going to focus on some questions from the younger readers, and no, it’s not just going to be the Lady of the Manners exclaiming “Awwww, precious little babybats!” (Though in the interests of honesty and full disclosure, that is the first automatic reaction the Lady of the Manners has when reading letters from the younger Goths. She simply can’t can’t help herself.)
The first letter is from a young Goth going by the name of Black, with some questions about creepy books:
Hello lady of the manners, i am calling myself Black because i am uncomfortable with using my real name on the internet. I have a problem, I like to read ghost stories but when i read them i become paranoid at night. I don’t at all believe in ghost but i still get frightened at night. i don’t get frightened in the morning though. please help me.
P.S I am ten and a big fan of your book. 0 0
Dearest Black, being frightened by the ghost stories is a completely appropriate reaction for anyone! Ghost stories are supposed to be eerie and frightening. Well, yes, there are all sorts of lighthearted and/or comedic ghost stories (Beetlejuice, Ghostbusters, and so on), but at the core, ghost stories are about something unnatural. Supernatural. In other words, unsettling.
So you read the ghost stories, and then at night, as you lay there in the dark, you are filled with a creeping sense of unease that something is wrong? That there are monstrous, not-very-pleasant things waiting for you to drift off so they can pounce? The Lady of the Manners can completely sympathize with your plight, being a long-time fan of the horror genre and someone who is easily creeped out. The first suggestion the Lady of the Manners has for you is blindingly obvious, but she feels she must state it: stop reading the ghost stories. Or at least, don’t read them right before you go to bed. Sometimes, no matter how much you like a certain type of story, you need to take a break from it for the sake of your mental health and sleep patterns. For example, the Lady of the Manners loves the fiction of Caitlin R. Kiernan, or The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, but the Lady of the Manners has learned the difficult and sleepless lesson that she simply cannot read those things after dark.
What if you don’t want to give up reading the things that scare you? Then you need to accept that once darkness falls, your hindbrain is going to do its utmost to freak you out, and come up with ways to reassure yourself. Please note that the Lady of the Manners did not say “convince yourself there’s nothing to be scared of”, because she has yet to meet anyone who has managed to pull off that trick repeatedly. If you’re feeling unnerved and unsettled, it’s not only difficult to shrug that off, but it takes an immense amount of concentration and energy.
So, what can you do? Listen to music you find soothing. Get a nightlight or one of those LED candles. (Yes, really, and do not worry that having a nightlight is “silly” or “kid stuff”.) Keep a small flashlight on your bedside table or under your pillow. Keep a few favorite non-scary books in your room to read for distraction. Have a favorite stuffed animal or fuzzy companion keep you company when you go to bed. (There are many reasons the Lady of the Manners’ fanged bunny Clovis sleeps above her head at night, but her being easily unnerved by scary stories is one of them.) If your religion or faith has some sort of protective iconography, find an image of that to put near your bed so you can stare at it and focus on taking deep, controlled breaths as a form of meditation or self-hypnosis.
(Tangent time! When the Lady of the Manners was a small spooky child, and would spend nighttimes convinced that the monsters in the closet were going to join forces with ghosts and come torment her, she went to the local library, checked out books on folk magic, and spent an afternoon drawing up protective sigils with paper and crayons, then sticking them on her closet door. You know what? It worked.)
Again, the Lady of the Manners feels that telling yourself you’re being silly or dumb, and trying to convince yourself not to be scared, are all going to be counter-productive. If you can’t manage to quell your paranoia and fears through rational thought and logic (and let’s face it, not many people can change their emotional reactions through rational thought and logic), then you run the risk of spending nights feeling like you’ve failed at something in addition to feeling scared. So take it easy on yourself, have some gentle light sources nearby, and talk to your favorite stuffed animal until you fall asleep. It’s what the Lady of the Manners does from time to time.
The next question is from Amber, a soon-to-be-thirteen babybat who wants some advice on being more open about her gothy interests:
Dear Lady of The Manners,
I’m 12, 13 in December, so I’m a baby-bat. 🙂 Since I’m about to be 13 I’ve been wanting to be more of myself. Myself would be Goth.
Now, my dilemma is that at school I hardly act this way. I don’t want people to start asking why i went Goth, when really I’ve been goth since….the day i was born! 😀 At our school we wear uniforms but I’ve thought of a few ways of expressing my Gothyness in my wardrobe. I hope you can give a little advice on that too.
Anyway back to the real problem, I don’t know how I’m supposed to deal with people asking me questions. I’m very…different i guess you can say. I’m not too shy, but i consider myself shy. So when people ask questions on how am i goth or why are you dressed like that, i feel as if they’re trying to bully me. I’m not quite sure what to say or how to take it. Please Help!
Look! She calls herself a babybat! The Lady of the Manners doesn’t have to feel like she’s being inadvertently and unintentionally patronizing when she uses the term! (Because the Lady of the Manners always calls someone a “babybat” as a term of affection, but worries that she will cause hackles to be raised in some of the younger Gothic Charm School readers when it’s always meant with love!)
Anyway, onto Amber’s questions. How are you supposed to deal with people asking you questions about how are you Goth or why are you dressed like that? Well, the Lady of the Manners favors the direct approach, so she suggests look the questioner straight in the eyes, say “Because it’s who I want to be”, and leave it at that. You shouldn’t feel like you have to justify who you are or what you are interested in to anyone. The Lady of the Manners realizes that things don’t always work like that in the real world, but she still recommends starting out with that simple, direct answer.
You say that when people ask you those questions, you feel as if they’re trying to bully you. The Lady of the Manners understands that reaction. Let’s face it, being almost thirteen, shy, and wanting to express more of your gothy tendencies almost assures that there will be people trying to bully you, which is a sad, sad thing. Which again, is why the Lady of the Manners is so adamant about sticking with the direct approach. Don’t let people asking you questions make you feel intimidated, or like you aren’t allowed to express yourself. Own your weirdness. Who cares if the other students are confused by you expressing your gothiness? You shouldn’t, because you know who you are and who you want to be. Yes, it’s easy for the Lady of the Manners, with the horrors of adolescence safely in her past, to say that, but that doesn’t change the essential truth of it. If you show that you’re happy or secure with yourself, questions and possible bullying from other people become less … harrowing? Less important and soul-crushing, at least.
This is actually one of the biggest, most important things the Lady of the Manners wants to impart to everyone out there. Know who you are, know who you want to be, and be true to that. Don’t worry about “fitting in”, or what other people will think. Those other people may stare, point fingers, make comments, or ask pointed questions, and that DOESN’T MATTER. That’s what people do to anyone who is even slightly different from what “they” are used to, no matter if the different person is flamboyantly Goth, has an accent, is a gamer, a comic fan, a fervent sports fan … you get the picture. And since the default setting of people is to point out and question anyone who is different than what they expect, getting overwrought about it is fruitless. So make yourself the best possible version of who you want to be. Not only will you be happier in the long run, but you’ll almost certainly end up finding like-minded people to communicate with.
As to how to show your true Goth colors while in a school uniform? Sadly, there’s not a lot you can do, because a school uniform is generally there to help make the students a homogenized mass, not to celebrate differences in outlook or opinion. If your school dress code permits it, add badges and buttons that signify your interests to your shirts, or on the strap of your book bag. Wear stripey tights or socks to school. Paint your nails your favorite color. (If your school dress code forbids nail polish, paint your toenails and know that they’re your little gothy secret.) But mostly, just grimly accept that you’ll have to indulge in the majority of your Goth indulgences for when you’re not at school.
The Lady of the Manners is opening up the comments on this post, because she hopes that the Gothic Charm School readers will have suggestions or words of encouragement for Black and for Amber. Just like always, the comments are going to be MODERATED.
With that, the Lady of the Manners is going to finally get around to writing up another visit to the Nocturnal House and to the Doll House (she still hasn’t figured out a good way to combine the two). And hey look! A handy correspondence link for those of you who want to write to Gothic Charm School!