Hello Snarklings! Things have been very exciting around Gothic Charm School of late, what with the Yahoo Picks Profile and the floods of email that it generated. The Lady of the Manners had several different topics she was all set to hold forth upon, but decided that an assortment of answers to reader mail would be much more entertaining.
The first question is from Cordelia Rose, who has apparently been reading Gothic Charm School for a while now:
question: As a long time reader I knew you were the perfect person to petition for advice when I received a message on facebook about a week ago (I know I should have replied sooner, but between work and perpetrations for moving countries it’s been busy.)
A long time acquaintance of mine sent me a very nice and polite message inquiring about my relations ship with Jesus Christ.
I’m touched that she cares about me enough to send me the message, and I respect how intimidating it must have been. However, being an Atheist, I don’t know how to respond in a way that expresses my high regards for her while firmly putting a stop to this sort of thing in the future.
Any advice you can offer would be much appreciated.
You have part of the answer right there in your letter, Snarkling. You should respond to your acquaintance with something along the lines of “I’m touched that you care about me enough to ask me this sort of question. While I am happy with my spiritual choices, I prefer not to discuss them”, and then go on with other conversational topics. If your acquaintance attempts to revisit the topic in following messages, be polite but firm in your refusal to discuss it. Be warned, you may have to repeat that you don’t want to discuss the topic several times. Of course, your acquaintance may not be inquiring because she wants to preach at you, but because she thinks you would be an interesting person to discuss religion and spirituality with. Perhaps you may want to subtly attempt to find out what she’d like to talk about before completely stopping the conversation.
From a reader who calls themselves Photophobic, a question about how to deal with the Burning Orb in the Sky:
As a faithful reader, I rely on your socially adept yet totally workable solutions to everyday etiquette problems.
Here is my quandary – I currently live in the South. Due to the climate, I prefer to spend my time indoors, avoiding sun and/or heat. This always irritates friends and family who are inviting me to incessant pool parties, barbeques, trips to the lake and other outings which require exposure to the unkind elements. Even night outings can be uncomfortable when temperatures scarcely drop below 90.
When asked to explain my refusal to participate in these sorts of events, the anti-sun, no-sweat stance is usually met with disbelief if not outright contempt. After all, “IT’S SUMMER! IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE HOT.”
I’m left feeling whiny and anti-social; each refusal makes me think the invitations will stop coming altogether. Yet I refuse to lie and say I’m sick or need to spend time with my cat. There must be a way to reconcile social expectations with personal preference. How can I graciously decline invitations on account of the season?
The Lady of the Manners is in complete sympathy with you, dear. Summer is the Lady of the Manners’ least favorite season of all; not even the delights of ripe strawberries and cherries can make up for the glaring sun. The Lady of the Manners knows she’s lucky to live in an area renowned for its mild climate, and shudders at the notion of the sort of weather you have to put up with.
As to how to graciously decline invitations due to the season? Frame your declination in terms of you not wanting to be a killjoy at whatever event it is. ”Oh, I would love to go, but I just don’t seem to cope with heat well at all, and I become beastly to be around. Please tell me all the good stories afterward!”
However, if you keep declining invitations, you will run the risk of the invitations stopping. The Lady of the Manners isn’t going to dismiss your fears about that, because there is some truth to them. Which means, oh Photophobic Snarkling, that you will need to develop some strategies for coping with the heat and the sun. Wear loose, billowy clothing in white, ivory, or pale grey. You can wear loose, billowy clothing in all black (Heaven knows the Lady of the Manners doesn’t give up her black dresses during the summer), just understand that a lighter color would help deflect the heat better. Summer is an excellent time to scamper around in lightweight bloomers, chemises, and petticoats. Yes, the Lady of the Manners realizes this suggestion isn’t of much use to the gentlemen reading. Perhaps shirts and trousers made from lightweight cotton or linen? But Goths of all genders should carry a parasol; not only will you look delightfully antique, but you’ll have shade with you wherever you are. Also carry a folding fan to make your own cooling breeze, coat yourself in sunblock, and be sure to drink plenty of water.
A rather serious and heartfelt question comes from a young lady:
There is a question that has been on mind for sometime, I recently came across your site, and was quite impressed with the tasteful, and practical advice you give, and was hoping you could help me with a particular quandary that continues to puzzle me.
I used to self injure (burning, cutting, etc). I am now in the process of quitting. However, this practice left me with scars along visible parts of my body, I use leather cuffs with studs and other stylish accessories to cover them up, or long sleeves. But there are not always places I can wear such things (bridesmaid dresses, poolsâ _) My question to you then is, how to answer people when they ask with a certain judgmental snideness what happened. I know I could just tell them, but not wishing to give elderly people a heart attack, or be treated as a person with a problem, I change the subject. So any advice as to how to politely answer the question without coming off offensively would be greatly appreciated. Thanks 🙂
Well first, the Lady of the Manners wants to offer you very sincere congratulations on deciding to stop harming yourself. That’s wonderful, and hopefully the scars will be a reminder of why you wouldn’t want to go back to such behavior.
As for how to politely answer questions about the scars, it will depend on the situation. An answer of “They’re from a time when I made some poor decisions” (delivered in a polite, friendly manner, of course!) should be enough of an answer for most people. However, if the person asks for more information, you will need to decide if you want to explain things or simply change the subject. If you want to give a short explanation, you could say something like “I used to injure myself. I’ve stopped”. The important thing here is to be very matter-of-fact about it; try not to sound defensive. The Lady of the Manners wants to be certain that you understand that the fact that you previously injured yourself doesn’t make you a bad or broken person; it merely means you were confused and hurting, and now you’re learning better ways to deal with things. Please write back to the Lady of the Manners and let her know if you try this advice and how it works for you.
For something a bit lighter, a reader by the name of Paul asks about a subject the Lady of the Manners is very fond of:
I have a clothing question. I am 19 and I have been wanting to become a goth for sometime now and I am wondering were you buy gothic clothes. Now a lot of people saw hot topic but their is always a limited selection. I was wonder if their are other places to go to buy gothic clothing.
Where to buy Gothic clothes? Why, everywhere! Everywhere, that is, if you’re willing to put a smidge of effort into assembling your wardrobe, and not just looking to buy pre-packaged GAWTHICK items. Just about every place that sells clothing offers items in black; black slacks, a black blazer, and a dress shirt in black, white, or a deep jewel tone would look elegantly spooky. Not to mention those basics are easy to customize: change the buttons on the blazer or shirt. Add band patches and pins; find someplace that sells safety pins in bulk quantities and cover side seams in them. If you’re skillful at drawing, use fabric paint or bleach pens to add designs to the blazer. The ladies have it even easier, for not only do they have a wider selection of clothing styles to play with, but adding yards and yards of lace trim or ribbons to an item of clothing won’t get them as many odd looks as if a gentleman indulged himself similarly.
The Lady of the Manners’ favorite stores are thrift shops, consignment boutiques, and eBay. In fact, when the Lady of the Manners isn’t writing, she is sure to be found altering and decorating her latest clothing find. Yes, searching through thrift stores and customizing items does take time and patience, but is worth the effort if you want to avoid looking like a run-of-the-mill Mall Goth.
The Lady of the Manners could go on for hours and hours about Assembling Your Gothic Wardrobe, and very well might indulge herself in a full lesson here at Gothic Charm School in the near future. Will it be the very next one? Who knows! The Lady of the Manners is still working her way through the droves and droves of email all you lovely creatures have been sending her. But please, Snarklings, always feel free to write!