That Old-Time Religion

Hello Faithful Readers, and welcome to another month’s worth of Gothic Charm School. This month, the Lady of the Manners is going to hold forth about a topic that she really didn’t think she’d ever need to; a topic that is such a cliché that the Lady of the Manners just assumed everyone knew what was the truth behind it. The topic? That there aren’t any particular religious beliefs you need to hold to be a Goth. No, really. There aren’t. The Lady of the Manners isn’t joking.

The Gothic subculture is just that, a subculture, with no religious requirements. Sure, some aspects of the Gothic subculture are laden with occult trappings (candles, incense, strange images, odd old books, ghost stories, tarot cards), but that doesn’t mean that to be a Real Goth , one must check the “Other” box for religion and list “Spooooooky.”

The Lady of the Manners personally knows Goths who are Jewish, Christian, Catholic, Wiccan, Mormon, Buddhist, and yes indeed, even one or two Satanists. The Lady of the Manners also knows many many Goths who are agnostics, atheists, or just are keeping an open mind about the whole topic of religion. One’s choice of religious belief does not automatically make one Goth.

So why is there this strange assumption by some people that Goth = Satanist? Well, the Satanists the Lady of the Manners has met tended to dress in black, be very decadent, and a little extreme in personality. (The Lady of the Manners doesn’t have to explain to all of you that real, honest-to-goodness Church of Satan Satanism is in no way involved with raising demons, sacrificing anyone or anything, and is nothing at all like TV and movies would have you think, does she? No, she thought not.)

Now, what if the people you go to church with are made uncomfortable by your gothness? Then you need to try and make a good impression on them. This doesn’t mean changing the way you look, this just means being polite towards them (you must have known the Lady of the Manners was going to say that, surely). If people ask you questions about why you choose to dress that way, don’t roll your eyes and snarl at them. Give them a polite answer (“Because I like to” is always a good response), and make sure to act as friendly as you can. Yes, you’ll probably get asked that sort of question a lot. You still must be as polite and civil as you can manage, every time you’re asked it, even if you’re so tired of hearing “Why are you dressed like that?” that you could scream.

With that in mind, however, you should probably make sure you’re appropriately dressed for religious services. Don’t wear PVC or vinyl club clothes, don’t wear anything overly low-cut, don’t wear a corset, don’t wear T-shirts with sarcastic slogans or comments on them. Strive for darkly elegant instead of spooky, and you’ll be on the right track.

Now, a word of advice to the parents reading this column: please don’t automatically assume that just because your child is wearing black clothes that they’ve become some sort of cultist. They almost certainly haven’t, and if they have, the Lady of the Manners is willing to bet her collection of parasols that the cult has nothing to do with being a Goth. However, do try and have a conversation (not a lecture, a conversation) with your child about religion, what their religious beliefs might be, and what yours are. Yes, they may have different beliefs and ideas than you, but assuming that they’ve become evil because they’ve started dressing in black is just silly.

With that, the Lady of the Manners is going to wrap things up for this month. Be sure to come back next time, when the Lady of the Manners will try to answer a reader’s impassioned defense of Marilyn Manson (it was a very sweet, thoughtful letter, and the Lady of the Manners quite looks forward to responding to it). In the meantime, send any Gothic-related etiquette questions to

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