Of Being Who You Want to Be, and Not Knowing What the Future Holds.

Snarklings, it appears it’s again time for a discussion of how to continue being the person you want to be. There are so many letters from you darling odd creatures out there fretting about how to stay true to your gothy inclinations! The letter that recently caught the Lady of the Manners’ imagination and yanked at the strings of her fuzzy black heart was from Holly:

Dearest Lady,
You could say I’m not a very ordinary girl. I am one of a set of triplets born three months premature. I was born with Cerebral Palsy and use a wheelchair. I also have ADHD and scoliosis. I had a very goth babysitter from the time I was eight months old to about eleven or twelve years old. I’ve been riding horses since I was eighteen months, and visiting the local goth shops since I was four. All through my childhood I wore all black and watched Tim Burton films and read books like Catwings and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. My constant companion was a little black stuffed dog and cat. I usually kept to myself and talked to my adorably frightful imaginary friends.

Now, a teenager, I wear Lolita, and when I cannot that is traded in for a black and white striped dress, large hair bow, and combat boots. I listen to dark soundtracks and bands like Nightwish and The Birthday Massacre, along with music boxes and scary soundtracks. I now own a rat named Draco and a black and white Andalusian horse named Leo, who I partially named after a fictional psychopath.

Because I am getting older, my family members are getting more concerned for me. My mother thinks my darkness is getting less cute and rather ridiculous (for example, I want a corset or waist cincher and the answer is always no), my sisters ridicule my clothing choices, and my grandma thinks I am off the wall mad (she insists that ghosts are not real when I have seen and talked to them for years).

I am concerned for my own future. All I can really do is ride a horse and write creepy, romantic novels and poetry. I worry that no one will ever want to marry me as I’m just a creepy little gothling in a wheelchair. I want little dark children named Severus Alexei and Alice Anastasia. My question to you, dear Lady, is how do I continue being my gothic little self as I get older, and even now?

Sincerely,
Holly

“We are kind of gothic about cats.” Me, four years old

(The Lady of the Manners left Holly’s sig line in because she found it particularly adorable.)

First things first: In case you haven’t read them before, here are handy links to some previous Gothic Charm School posts about dealing with parental disapproval!
Of Dealing With Your Parents.
Of Fashion Choices and of Feeling Like a Fake.
Of Scary Books and of Becoming Who You Want to Be.

… Good heavens, there are 47 posts in the “Growing Pains” category on Gothic Charm School. Go, read!

Next, to address some of Holly’s specific concerns: the Lady of the Manners is just making a wild guess, but suspects that part of the reason your family is becoming less tolerant of your gothy ways as you get older is because they want you to have as “normal” a life as possible.

(A quick caveat: the Lady of the Manners is doing her best to avoid any sort of condescending or ableist language. If she has somehow failed at that effort or has said something problematic, please know that it wasn’t intentional.)

Because of the issues in your life, the people you meet will probably never immediately treat you like everyone else; add being a Goth to that, and you’ve pretty much guaranteed that you will always stand out from the crowd. There is  nothing wrong with that. But your family (especially your parents) almost certainly want to protect you, and they probably think that expressing an interest in the weird and spooky is just going to make your life even more difficult. And, as much as the Lady of the Manners hates to admit it, they’re not entirely wrong. There will be people who think that it’s somehow “inappropriate” for you to be a Goth, and there will be other Goths who think you shouldn’t be part of the subculture. BOTH of those ideas are wrong, wrong, wrong, but you need to acknowledge those ideas exist so you won’t be surprised if (or when) you encounter them.

Talk to your family. Remind them that your interest in all things Goth has been a part of your life for years, and turning away from things that make you happy is a joyless concept that you don’t agree with. Suggest that they talk to your former babysitter about their experiences as a Goth. For that matter, talk to your siblings! How do they feel about your gothy inclinations, and would they be able to help you explain your feelings to your parents?

As to your hopes and dreams for your future, the Lady of the Manners can’t give you any assurances that things will turn out the way you wish. (The Lady of the Manners can’t give anyone those assurances, sometimes not even herself.) However, all that means is that you must keep those dreams close to your heart and keep working toward them. Keep writing your creepy romantic novels and poetry and see where that takes you. Be aware that the thing that could transform your life and help you create your dreams may not be immediately recognizable. The truth that is simultaneously reassuring and terrifying is that the future hasn’t happened yet, which means you can act to make it into the future you want.

Hmmm. In the process of answering Holly’s questions, it seems the Lady of the Manners has committed somthing of a pep talk, one she suspects that many people need to be gently thumped with. (The Lady of the Manners most certainly includes herself in the “many people that need to be gently thumped with a pep talk” collection, oh yes.)

In the spirit of pep talks and supporting each other, comments on this post are open! Moderated, but open! As always, be polite, be kind, and be aware that sometimes it takes the Lady of the Manners a day or two to get to reviewing and approving the comments.

Also! Do you want daily bits of burbling, clicky-links, and eye candy from Gothic Charm School? Then head over to the Gothic Charm School Tumblr!

12 Responses to “Of Being Who You Want to Be, and Not Knowing What the Future Holds.”

  1. Cathi Says:

    From a Mom’s point of view I have to say that I think you hit the nail on the head Lady of the Manners.
    As parents we want our children to have happy easy lives and when we see our children in the midst of something that we know will make their lives difficult we want to protect them from that.
    But we can’t.
    It’s a fact of life that life is hard and sometimes choices we make can make it harder. As parents we can have a hard time remembering that easier doesn’t always mean happier, we need to split those two apart and that can be hard for us.
    Try and have patience with your family Holly, they really do want you to be happy, they’re just having a hard time figuring out what makes you happy about being a Goth and that it’s important enough to you that you can work with the difficult stuff to get to that happiness.
    As for the rest, be true to yourself, be happy in that truth and someday someone will love you for the happiness and the truth that you carry.

    A Mom who loves her crazy kids too and wishes their lives were easier but knows that happiness is the real goal….most of the time.

  2. Kai Jones Says:

    Oh my dearest Lady of the Manners, and Holly too, it is much harder to not be who you want to be, even if that means not getting all the things your family wants for you or even the dreams you have for yourself, than it is to be who you are and accept the consequences. If you have the strength leftover from what you are already dealing with, I think encouraging thoughts toward you using it to protect and express your self image and identity.

    Holly (and really, Lady too), if I were your mother, I’d happily support your choices. As a mother myself I have not always agreed with my sons’ choices but I have always known that they need me as a cheerleader after they make a choice just as much as they need me to point out the possible negatives before they make a choice. My sons are now 23 and 27, and they both still like me, and we game together (Xbox and Dungeons & Dragons and all kinds of other good games) and read comic books together and I would be happy to give you a good motherly cheerleadery support, and this is it.

  3. Dylan Says:

    Dear Holly, just be yourself, that is all any of us can be. It will make you happier in the long run, and your family will eventually understand. You might need to help them, as they just sound as if they are genuinely concerned for you out of love, by explaining what it is you like about being gothic, whether the literature, art, music, historic period, anything at all. And when they get it, they will want you to be just the way you are.

  4. Mmy Says:

    Honestly, I think there is no better place to belong, for those of us with medical issues and accessibility problems, than among gothlings.

    I’ve frequently mused that, although I have some wonderful healthy friends, and some wonderful non-weird friends, I have very few healthy, non-weird friends… and most of my dearest friends and lovers have been those who understand difference, particularly medical difference, very deeply. It changes one’s perspective. I think there are high rates of goths and geeks amongst the physically different because we are already odd, and different, and usually spend a great deal of time at home. Queer, plus-sized, different bodies, different learning styles… we all understand what it means not to be able to do what the mainstream assumes you should be doing. We belong to this oddness, and it’s nice to feel safe in a space where we BELONG, and find our individual oddnesses beautiful.

    I actually started running an all-ages goth night specifically WITH accessibility in mind — oddly enough, because of another friend named Holly with similar needs and tastes! As weird as we are, there are people who are so like us out there! <3

    I'd actually recommend, as soon as you can, to get out and meet others in the darkness; you needn't be alone with your ghosts. Your mother surely wants you to socialize, but most mothers I've talked to (including my own) are fine with an alternative one… they just want you to have some corporeal friends and companionship. There are plenty of lolita groups out there (some are more accessibly-friendly than others) and while goth nights can be harder to find nowadays, they are still out there, even all ages. If you're ever around the DC metro, you can come to Sanctuary! But there is so much community out there, even when it feels like no one is around who understands. <3

  5. Sam Says:

    Things will work out Holly, try not to take your parents disapproval of your lifestyle too personally, keep reminding yourself that they’re humans who can make mistakes and react badly out of love just like everyone else.

    It’s going to be all right, a few’s disapproval of your lifestyle doesn’t mean everyone around you will always disapprove of it. There are tons of us living all over after all! Try not to stress and the rest will come 🙂

  6. Marc Cabot Says:

    I’m not going to get into the “be yourself” thing because our gracious hostess has already said it so often and so well. But I would like to address one side issue that Holly brings up which might be of import to many other creative Gothy types as well.

    There has never been a better time to be a writer or other creative artist in the history of… well, history. Until they figure out how to grow/print Holly some new organs (probably won’t be much longer, but hope for the best, plan for the worst) it seems entirely plausible that one contribution she could make to society, and support herself with at the same time, is write creepy novels and poetry that make other people happy and indie-publish them. If she can have, and wants, a “regular job,” fine and dandy. But if for whatever reason that’s not in the cards, it doesn’t mean she can’t do something that will bring herself and others great joy, as well as provide a living for her.

    People who are interested in indie-publishing should hie themselves to the wonderful blog http://www.deanwesleysmith.com, which has tons of info, as well as links to many other sources of information on same. If you make music, or draw, or paint, or do other kinds of creative things, the same applies, it’s just not something I know anything about, sorry. But opportunities abound!

  7. Crystal Says:

    When I was seventeen, I was in an accident that resulted in severe nerve damage down my right side, putting me in and out of a wheelchair for the rest of my life. So, Holly, I remember feeling what you’re feeling. Being a teenager is hard, being a goth teenager whose choices aren’t understood is harder, being a wheelchair bound goth teenager whose choices aren’t understood is harder still.

    But at the risk or sounding cliché, things get better.

    I cannot guarantee that everything will work out how you want it. No one can. However, if it helps to know I have a wonderful husband, a beautiful daughter named Lilith Lain, and have my own successful line of gothic accessories for children and families. So while I cannot promise you happily ever after, I can say that it IS possible to get what you want from life later, even if things seem hard now.

  8. Lady Tam Says:

    *wipes away several black-stained tears*

    I just want to give Holly a huge hug! Being in a wheelchair doesn’t make someone any less full of dreams. I hope, very dearly, that she DOES find true love and have the sweet little gothlings she wants!

  9. Maia Says:

    Holly is a very lucky child, so what if she’s disabled? It doesnt make her any more different. I understand that she thinks that she will never find a husband, but hey, you never know, it might work out! I would have to wait until I’m out of the house in order to dress the way I want (lolita) because my family has been filled with tons of stereotypes. But you’re on a good track, Holly. Keep going and moving on with life, because that is what you can do when nothing seems right.

  10. Jordan Says:

    Holly, you are an absolutely amazing person. Right now, I’m also struggling to stay me with pressure coming on from all sides (friends, family and even teachers!)I’m so proud of you and I think you should be proud of you too. Just because you’re different, doesn’t mean you’re not going to find that perfect guy and have fantastical little gothlings and live happily ever after in some ghost infested castle in the woods somewhere 🙂 Stay strong because, as Crystal said, it will get better.
    Good luck and if you ever meet a psychopathic ghost that goes by the name of John Dart, please tell him is granddaughter says ‘hi’?

  11. Stacey Says:

    Holly,

    I was once in those same wheels. I still am. Though you and I may have different medical needs I feel your pain and frustration. I have a disability as well and from time to time it does get hard to balance what you personally want from what your family wishes you to have. In truth I go back and forth from feeling like I can take on anything to feeling that maybe a love life for me was not meant to be. The best that I can say to you of being loved by another is that though you may feel the odds are against you (as most all of us do whether you’re goth or disabled) is that the best thing to do is to keep the door of possibility open. And I quote “May good thoughts be your shining armor” (I also recommend you watch Too Wong Foo because I feel we all can connect to this wonderful movie).

    As for being goth and disabled, it is always going to be your personal journey. My experience will differ from yours. It’s up to you to take in the good advice while keeping in mind the harsh possibilities. But never stop being yourself and be happy for it too. I’m lucky to have people recognize that allowing me to be me in all my unusual ways can help me move forward. But even then I still hit a field of rough spots with friends and family who most of the time are just worrying them selves silly. It’s tough but don’t worry. Disagreements will happen. Just try to be understanding to their fears, patient and keep the line of communication open. Things should smoothen out eventually and if not then that’s ok too. Agreeing to disagree sometimes helps. You can’t always expect everyone (not even your closest people) to fully understand your needs. You can only try to get along with them and be yourself. Never allow anyone put you down for your disability or for your personality.

    The future may hold many things that are negative but the hope and drive to achieve what we want should never die. Think of your experience as a personal bootcamp. You’ll get through this and come out strong. We believe in you. Personally, my own future feels bleak at the moment only because I know that I am unclear as to how I will be able to survive in this world. This scares me since I understand it’s a different journey than the rest of the people my age. Somehow I will fight to make it. And I know you’ll make it too.

  12. Tabitha Says:

    Dear Holly, I am also in a wheelchair with a disability. I am also Goth at heart. I wondered those exact same questions. But then I realised I am me, strong, proud and no one is going to take that away from me! (No one else is going to take yours or anyone else’s.) There are going to be a lot of challenges people face whether they are goth or in a wheelchair or not! But, Stay strong! You have inspired me! And made me realise I am the only Goth at heart on wheels. I have no doubt someone will fall in love with you! Because of bravery and determination and who knows maybe that special person might you goth style interesting and unique! It would be their lose if they did not! Thank you Holly you have given me hope and inspiration!

    P.S. I love your names for your future children they are cute! And that end quote made the end of the year for me thank you!

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