Of Gothy Age Limits (There Aren’t Any), And Of A Bad Idea In The Name Of “Fashion”

Hello Snarklings! Guess what? This installment of Gothic Charm School is going to, ::gasp:: answer some letters from readers! A flock of them, some of which are from the younger readers. (The Lady of the Manners loves getting mail from readers, but letters from the younger babybats do make her go “Awww!” in fond affection.)

The first question is from a young creature with a concern that their older brother has planted in his head:

Dear Lady of The Manners,I’m 10 years old and my older brother says I am too young to be goth and I don’t know what to do.Am I too young to be goth? Or is there even a age limt

Oh you poor darling babybat. Firstly, the Lady of the Manners would like to direct you to a previous post on this very topic: Of Being “Too Young” To Be A Goth. Here, allow the Lady of the Manners to quote the paragraph that will be nearest to your heart:

Oh Snarkling, no, you are not too young to be a Goth. While most people associate the Gothic subculture with people in their teens and twenties, there is no age limit for Goth in either direction. You are never too young (or too old) to look for beauty in dark places, to have a morbid sense of humor, or to be able to look at the magic and monstrousness of the world around you.

The Lady of the Manners knows six and seven-year olds who are Very Gothy Indeed, what with their preferences for black or crimson clothes, stories about monsters or ghosts, and their fondness for dressing up as vampires or witches. Good heavens, the Lady of the Manners parents’ used to say that they should have realized how she was going to turn out once she started announcing that she wanted to grow up to be the Wicked Witch of the West and live in a castle with an army of flying monkeys, or that she was going to grow up and be a vampire queen. So no dear Snarkling, there is no such thing as being too young to be a Goth.

The Lady of the Manners is a little curious as to why your older brother would tell you such a thing. Perhaps it’s because he considers himself a Goth, and doesn’t want his younger sibling tagging along. The Lady of the Manners doesn’t agree with such a notion, but can certainly understand that an elder brother may feel that way. Or perhaps your older brother is not even remotely Goth, but feels that Goth is scary and dangerous, and thus wants to protect you. Which is sweet and well-intentioned, but is motivated by some very false ideas.

Again, no, 10 is not too young to consider yourself a Goth. There are parts of the Goth subculture that are not age-appropriate for you, but the fiction, the music, and the interest in beauty in darkness are available for all ages.

The next question is from a “really confused 12 year old” by the name of bre:

Dear Lady of the Manners,

First of I would like to say I love your website! But my question is am I a goth? I only have 2 earings on each ear and havent dyed my hair(my grandmother wont let me)and I am not a major poetry fan. On the other hand my closet is full of black and I have a serious obsession with vampire books and skulls. I would be happy if you could sort this out for me.

A really confused 12 year old,

Darling babybat, do not worry about having “only 2 earrings”, a natural hair color, or even not being a fan of poetry. None of these things are required to be a Goth. It may be a shocking idea, but there is no checklist from the Goth Cabal (which doesn’t exist) including things such as piercings, hair dye, or poetry appreciation. (Though’ really, you don’t even like “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe? What if it was read by Sir Christopher Lee? Or by Christopher Walken?)

The question is, dear bre, do you feel you are a Goth? You say you’re obsessed with vampire books and skulls, and your closet is full of black. To the Lady of the Manners, those are certainly signs that you have some gothy tendencies. Because Goth is more than the sum of its parts; it’s more than dark, swirling, or bombastic music, it’s more than dark and decadent fashions, it’s more than a taste for eerie or supernatural stories. In the Lady of the Manner’s opinion, Goth is also about feeling (to quote Lydia from Beetlejuice) “strange and unusual”, about looking at the world in a different way. Yes, the world can be a horrible place, but Goth isn’t about celebrating that. Goth is about finding things to celebrate and admire in spite of the world being less than perfect.

So. The Lady of the Manners is not going to tell you if you are a Goth or not, mostly because the Lady of the Manners is not going to make those sorts of judgement calls for people. It is up to you to decide if you’re a Goth, not up to anyone else. (No, not even those handy-dandy Goth Tests that you can find all over the internet.) So what do you think? Are you a Goth?

Pavi wrote in asking about a troubling trend at his school:

Dear Lady of the Manners,

I have found very good information on this site, however I still have a small question on one important theme. You see, my school have a certain “fashion” for cutting the wrists. I see people with cuts and scars all day, and some even like to show off bloodstains on clothing and such. If they be cut because they have depressed I would understand but to cut as fashion I simply don’t.

Do you have any idea why this could be, and if so, do you know any way to make it stop before my friends start cut wrists?

Thank-you for answering and sorry about my mistaken grammar.

The Lady of the Manners is horrified to hear about this. And honestly, the Lady of the Manners doesn’t have a good answer for why your classmates think this is a good idea. The only thing she can come up with is that perhaps your friends think that they need to show how “edgy” (and oh! How the Lady of the Manners loathes that word and concept) they are, how tormented and oh-so-hardcore they are.

The Lady of the Manners is going to be blunt here: this is a very DUMB fashion. It is pathetic, and is making light of a very serious issue. Not to mention that is helps reinforce some of the worst and most damaging misconceptions about Goths. What should you do? Confront your friends about this. Ask them why they’re doing this, why they think it’s cool, and do they realize how much of a bad and foolish cliché they’re being? Really, the Lady of the Manners is almost at a loss for words about this. As she has said before self-harm doesn’t help solve anything; mimicking self-harm as a fashion statement is appalling, clueless, and, yes, idiotic. So ask your friends why they’re doing it. Perhaps just the act of you asking them point-blank why they’re doing it will be enough of a wake-up call as to the ridiculousness of their behavior. The Lady of the Manners can but hope.

The last question in this lesson at Gothic Charm School is from Miss Kitty, asking about what to do when imitation isn’t exactly flattering anymore:

Dear Ms. Venters,

I have quite the dilemma in which I must ask of your assistance.
You see I know this charming young girl, who is very…interested in dressing gothy and taking part of this lovely subculture.
Now this greatly pleases me too a point. This lovely child is starting to copy the way i tend to dress, which is very flattering, until she owns and exact replica of several outfits of mine. In this case, it’s becoming rather bothersome and kind of creepy. She also has taken a liking to very fetishy styles, which are all very lovely…but not quite right for someone around 12.
I honestly don’t know how to point her in the right direction, her mother is against dressing as such, and is starting to state that i am a “bad influence” on her child. I would very much wish to avoid unpleasant squabbles. Also I’d like to help steer her toward more acceptable styles for both her age and that her mother would accept….and help her create a style all her own (instead of looking like she borrowed from my closet! ;P)

Thank you very much for you’re time!~
Hugs and zombie kisses!
~Miss Kitty
(Also I’m not forgetting to show her the music as well!, and you have the CUTEST fashion sense <3)

Firstly, thank you for the nice compliment! Now, as to your dilemma ”¦ oh dear. The Lady of the Manners is delighted to hear that you have taking a gothling under your wing, but understands your dismay at her trying to precisely imitate your wardrobe. The Lady of the Manners had an epiphany about this sort of thing the other day; on the one hand, as the Lady of the Manners has said many, many times, no one in the Goth world has a 100% original style, and we all need to get over ourselves. On the other hand, it can be incredibly disconcerting to see someone copying your style as exactly as they can, because then it feels like they’re trying you on as a costume. (To be clear, the Lady of the Manners is delighted when she’s told about people dressing up as her for Halloween or other fancy-dress events — even the Lady of the Manners’ wonderful Mom occasionally borrowed items from her closet for a costume.) But when it’s not for a specific costume, seeing someone turning themselves into a carbon copy of yourself feels a little weird. As to the showing a liking for fetish-y styles, the Lady of the Manners absolutely agrees with you in that they are lovely, but in no way appropriate for someone who is 12. No wonder her mother is starting to be concerned!

So what can you do? To start off, have a talk with your young friend and explain that while her emulation of your wardrobe is flattering, she should be figuring out her own style and who she wants to be. Offer to help her go through her own wardrobe to come up with fun outfits that express her growing sense of gothy style without looking like she’s a paper doll of you. And explain that yes, fetishwear-inspired clothing is striking, but sends some messages about sexuality that she shouldn’t be broadcasting (even unintentionally) at her age. (You may want to take a look at the posts Of Goths On Makeover Shows, And Of Parental Concerns About Provocative Clothing for some further commentary about that.)

You also should sit down and talk with the young lady’s mother, and reassure her that you are not out to corrupt her daughter, and it isn’t your intent to be a “bad influence”. Ask her mother what her worries are, and do your best to address her concerns. Maybe do some things with her mother around, such as a movie day with family-friendly Goth fare such as The Addams Family and Addams Family Values, Beetlejuice, or The Nightmare Before Christmas? Or baking gingerbread bats?

Again, the Lady of the Manners is incredibly happy that you’re trying to help one of the babybats out there explore and learn about the Goth subculture. Good luck!

With that, Snarklings, the Lady of the Manners is going to go have some tea, read (yet another!) vampire novel, and perhaps give herself another blood spattered manicure. (You didn’t think the Lady of the Manners only indulged in that during October, did you?) Oooh, and maybe get around to doing a particular wardrobe D.I.Y. project involving shoes and spikes that she’s been thinking of writing a tutorial about ”¦ However, as always, please feel free to write!

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