Yes, Snarklings, this episode of Gothic Charm School is a book review. A review for a book that the Lady of the Manners thinks is wonderful, but in case some of you aren’t interested in books or book reviews (and if that’s the case, the Lady of the Manners feels very sad for you), the Lady of the Manners does also answer some mail from readers afterward.
So. Remember in the last installment of Gothic Charm School, when the Lady of the Manners mentioned her friend Allyson Beatrice, author of Will the Vampire People Please Leave the Lobby? Why yes, that was foreshadowing, because that is indeed the book the Lady of the Manners has been exclaiming delightedly about, to anyone who will hold still for even a few seconds. Will the Vampire People Please Leave the Lobby? (From Sourcebooks, Inc.) is a collection of essays about what life is like on the Internet; specifically, what life is like on the Internet and what sort of friendships and connections can made in fandom.
(The Lady of the Manners can hear one of you muttering “Fandom? Wait, like those people who are obsessed with Harry Potter and stuff?” Well, yes, that’s one tiny branch of fandom. But any social network where people gather and talk about things they like can be classified as a fandom, whether they’re talking about books, comics, movies, TV shows, or makeup. Or even about being part of a black-clad, frequently misunderstood subculture.)
Allyson knows fandom and the Internet. She’s been involved in projects such as placing a “For Your Consideration” Emmy ad for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, organizing Buffy-related charity fundraisers, and was one of the key people behind the “Save Firefly” campaign. And while those experiences are a big part of her book, the heart of Will the Vampire People Please Leave the Lobby? is about friendships, and how meeting people online shouldn’t be perceived as any odder than making friends at a coffee shop.
The book is full of affectionate snark; Allyson doesn’t shy away from pointing out that with the good comes the crazy or outright bad, nor does she avoid talking about her own moments of self-doubt. But whether talking about her own fears that no one actually likes her, or what happens when fans start writing hate mail to the writers of TV shows because of story choices, it’s all done with fond (if beyond razor-sharp) wit.
A good friend of the Lady of the Manners once commented “A lot of what you get from the Internet corresponds to what you put in. It won’t make you any crazier than you were to start.” Allyson’s book is proof of this. For every person who wants to do nothing more than be an obnoxious, vitriol-spewing troll bent on disrupting communities, there are swarms of people who will band together to celebrate each other’s large and small successes, and who will open their hearts, homes, and sometimes even their PayPal accounts to the invisible people on the other side of the glowing screen.
Goodness, Snarklings, what have you lot been getting up to when the Lady of the Manners has been distracted by books and hasn’t been paying attention? Over the past couple months, the Lady of the Manners has received a steady trickle of letters much like the following two:
I have read many of your articles and I have found them all helpful. Now, I am curious as to your views on propriety when dealing with the opposite sex (or for some folks, the same sex). In other words, what makes one “easy”?
Additionally, how does one best handle gossip in regards to their reputation? Is it better to (politely) speak in one’s own defense or to not entertain such gossip at all?
-A curious reader
Have you got any suggestions on how to get rid of an ill repute when you kind of do deserve it?
A little background: I arrived at the local goth scene a few months ago, and entered a relationship pretty much immediately. after this relationship ended, I ended up having several brief flings (or, to put it bluntly, one night stands) from both the goth scene and the metal scene. Although these do not cross much here, there is enough that when I finally started talking to certain people again, I found out I had gained something of a bad name – I am sure you can guess what was said about me, “loose” being probably the nicest thing.
Any suggestions, dear lady, how to start undoing the damage to my reputation? I don’t really CARE about what is being said – I don’t find sexuality to be something ashamed of. but this is playing havoc with my social life and even though I have no particular desire to have a “standing” I would rather be in a situation where people will not avoid me or new people get warned away from me based on what is a hell of a lot of embellishment.
Oh good heavens. Well, to start with, the Lady of the Manners has some very simple advice: if you don’t want people to talk about what you’re doing, don’t do it. Or learn to be extremely private and circumspect about it. In a perfect world, such things would only matter to the people involved, and pointed comments and whispers wouldn’t be bandied about. But people are always going to talk about what others get up to, and if you don’t want your sex life to become the subject of speculation and gossip, then you need to do everything you can to become a very private person. Or decide that you don’t care what other people are saying. The Lady of the Manners has said this about a lot of things, but it is especially true in this regard: everything has consequences, and you have to decide if those consequences outweigh whatever fun you’re having. If you’re “mature” enough to have multiple romantic or sexual partners, you need to be mature enough to ignore the inevitable gossip.
Yes, ignore the gossip. If you try and defend your behavior, the people gossiping about you will gleefully assume they’ve made you upset and defensive. As to worrying about what new people might be told about you, that’s another exercise in frustration. The best you can do is hope that new people you meet will not have already heard tales about you. If they have, there’s nothing you can do about it except show that you’re a delightful person to know, and should act like the gossip has no impact on your life.
As to what makes one “easy”? Oh, that’s a simple answer. “Easy” is defined by whatever behavior the speaker doesn’t particularly care for or approve of in others. Which is to say, there is no definition for “easy”, and what one person would consider perfectly normal would be scandalous and beyond the pale to another. Or, in the case of people with double standards, what they think is appropriate behavior for them is something they will reject others for indulging in. The best advice the Lady of the Manners can offer is (again!) to ignore any gossip or rumors that may get back to you, and concentrate on being the person you want to be. (The Lady of the Manners doesn’t need to make the statement about “as long as you’re not hurting anyone else”, does she? The Lady of the Manners likes to think that sort of thing is self-evident, but does occasionally worry.)
With that, Snarklings, the Lady of the Manners is going to spend the rest of the day re-reading Will the Vampire People Please Leave the Lobby? and avoiding various Internet Dramas. The next installment of Gothic Charm School is probably going to be a grab-bag of answers to assorted letters from readers. Which, as always, means you (yes, you!) should write to the Lady of the Manners.