Hello Snarklings! This time at Gothic Charm School, the Lady of the Manners is going to deal with a subject that both she and goths everywhere are sadly all too familiar with: people directing unkind or mean-spirited comments at you. Ophelia sent in the following question:
The other day I was touching up my lipstick in the school bathroom (I’m in high school) when I was caught rather off-guard by another girl’s loud comments. She said I was really scaring her, that I looked like I was going to a funeral (I was wearing a lovely Mary-Poppins-esque black coat, a top hat, and some Victorian boots). Not wanting to show any signs of surprise or annoyance, I simply smiled and said “thank you.” She opened the bathroom door and called out to her friends, making sure I could hear as she called me “scary” and “freaky,” and told them how I’d said thank you to the funeral comment. Then she left. Calmly, I gathered my things and left the bathroom as well; when she noticed that I was behind her she turned, shuddered emphatically, and hurried away.
I was a bit amused by the attention, but I also found myself thinking about it for the rest of the day, a bit bothered by it.
Do people do or say outright mean things like this to the Lady of the Manners? I assume some of the more unenlightened folks do, since our style garners us so much attention. But do those mean comments bother you, Headmistress? Should I have been bothered, or not? And what would you have said if you had been me?
::siiiiiigh:: Forgive the Lady of the Manners, Snarklings, she needs a moment or two to let her eyes recover from rolling in exasperation. Dear Opheila, you handled that situation in the same way that the Lady of the Manners would have done. One of the main fashion goals for most goths is to look like we’ve wandered away from a particularly opulent funeral, so if someone makes a comment along those lines, the polite thing to do is say thank you.
People like the girl who felt the need (or urge) to comment on your behavior and appearance do that to be provocative. They’re aware they’re being rude, and they don’t expect a polite, calm response to their jibes. In fact, they’re usually hoping the reaction to their insults will be an entertaining display of embarrassment, hurt feelings, or angry retaliation. They don’t expect a calm response of good manners; it confuses and disarms them, and they have no idea how to react.
In the Lady of the Manners’ experience, when people make rude comments to someone, those comments are a window into the commentator’s psyche. A window that shows their discontent and insecurities, because bullying someone (and make no mistake, those comments were a form of bullying, especially the “freaky” and “scary” ones) is the impulse of unhappy people who are desperately flailing about for a way to prop themselves up.
So when someone makes comments like the ones that were thrown at Ophelia, by all means, respond in a calm manner. If you feel particularly snarky (and the Lady of the Manners wouldn’t blame you in the slightest if you did), smile, say “thank you”, and then ask them why they decided to dress like that? As a matter of fact, when the Lady of the Manners has run into rude and impertinent people who think they’re the soul of wit by saying things like, “You know it’s not Halloween, right?”, the Lady of the Manners has been known to waltz past them while smiling and saying, “Then why are you wearing that costume?” But keep in mind that responding in a snarky (even politely snarky) way could be interpreted as you escalating the situation, which is never a good idea. Make sure you can leave the area and get away from the other person before you indulge in snark! A potentially safer response is, as many people have said before, to ignore them. Act like you didn’t hear them, and especially act like their comments don’t bother you.
Should you be bothered by those sorts of comments? Dear Snarkling, it’s not a case of shoulds. The important thing to remember is that you don’t need to believe those comments, or take them to heart. When the Lady of the Manners has days where those sorts of comments annoy and exasperate her, it’s usually because she’s frustrated that people are still not only making those sorts of comments, but that they haven’t come up with anything new to say.
Here’s the secret, which isn’t really a secret: no one is universally liked, nor should they expect to be. So what? Just because someone says something mean or rude doesn’t make it the truth, and it doesn’t make it worth listening to. Ignore the comments as much as you’re able to, and always, ALWAYS remember that you shouldn’t base your self-worth or happiness on the opinions of other people.
For the most part, the Lady of the Manners feels a bit sorry for the sort of people that feel moved to make unkind comments about her appearance, because their lives must be a bit boring and unfulfilling if they have to resort to harassing others for amusement. Of course, the idea that a black-clad eccentric such as the Lady of the Manners, or you Snarklings, view them with pity would irritate and rankle those sorts of people, too, which is just an added bonus to it.
Finally, the Lady of the Manners suggests that Ophelia (and the rest of you!) visit the Gothic Charm School archives and reread the January 2011 post on dealing with bullies, which has even more suggestions for how to deal with this sort of thing.
Comments are open (moderated, but open!), so Snarklings may share their stories and how they’ve dealt with similar situations.