Hello Snarklings! Now that the Lady of the Manners has drifted out of her crypt again, it’s (finally) time for a new Gothic Charm School post.
Dear Lady of the Manners,
I am a young trans “baby bat” trying to get a handle on what gothic style I want to pursue. I’ve always adored the goth subculture and wanted to be part of it, but I didn’t want to be like my mother, who has been a goth since she was young and raised me as such.
I won’t go into detail for your sake and mine, but she is not a good parent, for many reasons. However, I’m close to moving out (hopefully within a year!) and have started to make the transition into gothic style (I’ve always listened to the music).
I want to know: do you have any advice on how I could separate the gothic culture and scene from its ties to my mother in my head? I want to be able to move on and enjoy my life without thinking of her and wincing every time I see a velvet maxi dress.
The Lady of the Manners has been prodding at this reader mail for a long while; it’s an emotionally-fraught subject, and the Lady of the Manners wants to do it justice.
First things first: Moving out and being in your own space, and having emotional distance from your mother will be an enormous help. Day-to-day ties and reminders are weighty things, and getting out on your own will lighten them. Congratulations and good luck!
Don’t feel you’re alone in this. The issue of needing to untangle and reclaim things that are important to you from upsetting and painful associations is hard and can be almost as emotionally wrenching as the origins of those associations. Almost. However, in the Lady of the Manners experience, the emotional strife of reclaiming those things is worth it. Some of the things the Lady of the Manners has done:
– Write a list of the things you “want back”. Songs, books, fashion styles, and so on. For each one, write why it’s important to you. Don’t feel you must write an essay filled with flowery prose; “Because I love it and want it to be mine” is a good reason. Make a copy (or copies) of that list, then destroy one of the copies. Soak it in water until it turns to mush, tear it up, burn it ”” it doesn’t matter how, just obliterate it. (If you do decide to set it ablaze, do so in a safe manner in a fireproof container.)
Once you’ve destroyed a copy of that list, use another as a checklist of sorts. For example, if there’s a song on that list, listen to it (as often as you can) while thinking about why it’s yours. After you do that, treat yourself very gently and kindly. You just poked at an emotional bruise, and now you need to take care of yourself.
If you’re thinking “This sounds suspiciously like something a therapist would say”, you’d be right. This is something the Lady of the Manners learned from her therapist, and it’s apparently something a lot of therapists recommend.
Please remember the Lady of the Manners is NOT a therapist. If you feel doing this would be too overwhelming, trust your instincts.
(The Lady of the Manners does feel that making lists and destroying a copy would be a low-stress way to approach things without going through the emotional stress of rewriting your reactions part, but again, use your own judgment.)
– Another thing that has worked for the Lady of the Manners is to explore the music, movies, books, aesthetic, and so on that are adjacent to the ones that have uneasy associations. For example, there have been songs that the Lady of the Manners loved that became tainted because of associations with certain people. So the Lady of the Manners searched out other versions – covers, instrumental, whatever – of those songs. Something just different enough that they didn’t hit the “And now I’m stuck thinking about [person] and the bad parts” button, but similar enough to help her find her way back to enjoyment. For the velvet maxi dresses you mentioned, search through Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, and so on for images of velvet maxi dresses that are slightly different than the ones you associate with your mother.
– Then, of course, there’s good old fashioned spite. You deserve the glorious darkness of goth! Those things don’t solely belong to your mother, they are yours, and by heaven and hell, you will take them back and enjoy them.
The Lady of the Manners has had varying degrees of success with motivational spite. There are times when it works wonderfully. There are other times when the Brain Raccoons rummage in the mental and emotional trash to fling things around. At which point the Lady of the Manners decides to put cheerful motivational spite on hold for a little bit.
The very most important thing to remember is that your mother doesn’t own anything related to goth. You deserve to make your own version of it, and keep all of the lush and darkly glittering bits that delight and comfort you.
What say the rest of you? Do you have any words of comfort or advice you can share with Eden and the rest of us? Please comment!
On a completely different topic: summer has arrived with a vengeance in the Lady of the Manners’ part of the world, ugh. Therefore she wants to remind you of previous Gothic Charm School posts on dealing with the burning orb and sweltering temperatures, plus some DIY tutorials to help you stay a bit more comfortable.