Yes, Gothic Charm School is going to talk about goth life at school. The first thing to remember is that any adult who uses the quoted phrase above is lying. The same goes for any adult who tells you that their high school years were fun or great. Nobody, and the Lady of the Manners means nobody, has a wonderful time throughout adolescence. Sure, there are some bright spots, but for the most part, one’s teenage years are character-forming in the sense that if you can survive them, you’ll have a greater understanding of human misery and angst. Why do you think all the John Hughes movies of the ”˜80s were about the misfit teens? Because they struck a resonating chord in just about everyone. Besides, most people find the shy admission that your high school years were a trial to be charming once everyone has grown up.
Since the start of this column’s life here on Gothic.net, the Lady of the Manners has gotten lots of mail from the gothlings asking how to deal with the slings and arrows of scholastic life. Reading their desperate questions makes her even *more* grateful that she’s no longer a teenager than she usually is. In the interest of helping all of you out there struggling to survive your own “Wonder Years,” the Lady of the Manners presents to you a plaintive question and her answer:
From: “Leonard Ticsay”
Subject: life sucks
Hello.I am a goth going to a ‘Christian’ school(Arrrgh!!). Everything here sucks! These stupid pastor’s kids (who go home and do nothing but talk to their daddies about God) make fun of me and call me stupid names. What would you do in my situation?
Oh goodness, where to start? The first thing the Lady of the Manners would suggest is to cultivate a quietly superior attitude as your armor at school. When the pastor’s kids (or any other classmates) start harassing you, smile at them in a faintly amused, faintly elitist manner, and then walk away. Don’t get into name calling fights (or any other type!), because you won’t win them. It doesn’t matter if you’re right and they’re wrong; the other kids won’t be willing to admit it. If you can just act quietly indifferent to them and not react to their taunts and attempts to annoy you, they will eventually get bored and find a new person to bother.
Another plus to the advice above is that Authority Figures (be they parents, teachers, or something else) tend to be impressed by good manners, even if they think you’re a freak. The Lady of the Manners survived a lot of slings and arrows in high school (and even college and the “adult” world of employment) by being mannerly and polite. In a condescending and somewhat elitist manner, true, but most of the people who were attempting to torment her didn’t catch that. Went right over their heads, it did ”¦
(Of course, that is NOT a good reason to brush up on one’s manners, but it gives the practice a devilish and sneaky sense of fun. *wink*)
However, if the fight escalates, WALK AWAY. Find the nearest place in wherever you are where there is some sort of nominal adult presence. Most tormentors won’t continue with their “fun” if there is a grown-up around to witness it. If the people persecuting you DON’T stop once you move to such a location, it’s even MORE important to not respond in a similar manner, but try to get the attention of the adult in the area and bring the problem to them. (As prejudiced as it is, most adults will try and pin the blame on the freak or weird kid involved in these sorts of events, which is why it is SO important that you make it clear by your behavior that you are the blameless party in the incident.)
Of course, if the harassment moves to a violent sort, then there’s an even bigger problem. Again, try to walk (or run, if necessary!) to a different location, preferably where there are crowds of people and hopefully a few sane adults. If this isn’t possible (and the Lady of the Manners is unfortunately aware that sometimes it isn’t) then you have to make the uncomfortable and QUICK decision of whether or not you are capable of defending yourself. The Lady of the Manners doesn’t like advocating violence, but if your tormentors seem intent on hurting you, do what you must to come out of the situation as unharmed as possible. But she very STRONGLY recommends reading up on the laws of your city (and school rules) concerning assault and battery, and to remember that while sharp pointy jewelry and metal lunchbox handbags are fun accessories, if used in a fight they can possibly land you an “assault with a deadly weapon” charge. Even if you didn’t start the fight.
Eww. The Lady of the Manners doesn’t like having to think about such things. It wasn’t something that she had to worry about when she was in high school, but watching the news tells her that times have changed. Hate crimes and weapons in school seem almost status quo, and until that changes, be as aware and well-informed of the laws and your rights as possible.
On that somewhat somber note, The Lady of the Manners is wrapping up this month’s column. Join her next month for dating, romance, and dealing with your ex-love interest, all just in time for Valentine’s Day! If you have any other burning etiquette questions, send a message to email@example.com, and she’ll do her best to help you.