Of Assorted Questions From Younger Readers

Hello Snarklings! Oh gracious, it’s 2013. The Lady of the Manners apologizes for the break in updates here at Gothic Charm School, and is starting to suspect that perhaps she should just schedule an Official Late Autumn/Early Winter Break -type thing, because she is fairly certain she has had this sort of lapse before.

Anyway! All sorts of things are in the works here at Gothic Charm School — plans for interviews, reviews of music, clothing, cosmetics, books, dolls, and of course, answering reader letters! There are some rather serious topics that are going to be featured in upcoming posts, but the Lady of the Manners decided that the first post of 2013 should be more of a mixed assortment of questions from some of the younger readers of Gothic Charm School. (As always, the Lady of the Manners will do her utmost to not respond to queries from younger readers with coos of “Oh my goodness, you’re adorable!”, because she remembers what it was like to be a youngster with goth tendencies and wanting to be taken seriously.)

The first letter answered in 2013 is from ClaireMetalVeil:

Hello, Lady Of The Manners. My name is Claire and I am a 10 year old fan of yours :D. When I first told my mother I wanted too be goth, she didn’t care and just said ”It’s your choice”. I was so happy 😀 ,but I was just wondering something. How long will I be a baby-bat for? And, considering I’m only 10 how do I get gothic outfits? Do I make them? Do I try and find a store that does all sizes …or will I just co-ordinate :-]?

-Your Biggest Fan ,ClaireMetalVeil.

The Lady of the Manners is delighted to hear that your mother is accepting of you being a Goth, Claire! Far too often the Lady of the Manners has read letters from other young Goths that talk about their parents not approving of how they want to express themselves or their interest in darker-themed music, books, and fashion. The Lady of the Manners fervently hopes that your mother will continue to be accepting of your gothness, and that she will also be supportive and help you express yourself.

Now, as to your questions: How long will you be considered a babybat? In the Lady of the Manners’ eye, you’ll be a babybat until you’re 21. The Lady of the Manners, along with many other Elder Goths, uses the term “babybat” as an affectionately-meant term for younger Goths. “Babybat” has nothing to do with how long someone has been interested in Goth or has been expressing their gothy tendencies, it’s entirely a reflection of age, like the terms “pre-teen” or “teenager”.

There are other people who try to use the term “babybat” as an insult, or as a slur and a slight against anyone they think is Less Goth Than They Are. The Lady of the Manners thinks that usage is not only rude and unkind, but is also ridiculous. As the Lady of the Manners keeps saying, there is no Goth Cabal that awards Goth Points or keeps an ordered list of Who Is Gother Than Someone Else, and people who belittle others are trying to hide their insecurity behind a mask of haughty elitism.

So! Yes, dear Claire, you are a babybat, and will be a babybat until you’re 21. Yes, it’s a bit arbitrary to link babybat-dom to drinking age, but that’s the birthday where the rest of the world considers someone an adult, and it generally means you are (finally!) able to attend gothy nightclubs. Being a Goth does not hinge upon being able to go out clubbing, not at all, but it is an important milestone.

How do you get Gothic outfits at your age? The Lady of the Manners suspects that you’re going to need to content yourself with finding basics in black (leggings, skirts, t-shirts and blouses), then add finishing touches to them. Add lace trim and ribbons, rows of safety pins, or interesting buttons. Don’t be afraid to ask your mother for help! Sit down with her at the computer and show her the sorts of clothing you’re interested in (keeping in mind that some of the more elaborate/racy elements of Goth fashion are not particularly age-appropriate for a babybat), and maybe go onto Polyvore to create some idealized clothing sets to get an idea of what options are out there.

Should you make your Gothic outfits? The Lady of the Manners strongly believes that everyone should learn how to sew, so of course her answer is YES! Just remember that no one is able to turn out a perfectly-finished item at first, so don’t let the inevitable mistakes and complications fill you with despair, just keep trying. (And as a final bit of sewing advice, do NOT try to sew anything from chiffon, vinyl, or velvet for your first few projects. Those are notoriously tricky fabrics to work with, and have been known to cause experienced sewing-types to succumb to tantrums of rage. Stick with cotton blends at first!)

Good luck, Claire! The Lady of the Manners hopes that you keep exploring the Goth subculture as you grow older, and that you never lose sight of who you want to be.

The next letter is from a teenage Goth looking for advice about meeting other Goths:

Dear The Lady of Manners,
I am a mature 15 year old goth and am well past my baby bat years. I had been involved in the subculture for about two years now. I live in a small community outside of LA where i am the only goth. I have been wanting to start socializing with the gothic community, but i don’t know how to start seeing that most Gothicly inclined events are 18+. I want to meet people who have a common interest of Goth. How should I go about this?
A Teenage Goth

Oh gracious, Dear Snarkling, you’re still a babybat. (And there’s nothing wrong with that!) It is difficult to be the only Goth in your community, and even more so when your options for socializing are further restricted by age. There is, of course, finding like-minded creatures on the internet (the Lady of the Manners has been delighted to discover there’s a thriving Goth community of all ages on Tumblr), but sometimes you want more than talking to people on the other side of the computer screen.

A quick Google of “L.A. Goth all ages” turned up a listing for an event that the Lady of the Manners has heard of: Wumpskate, which is “L.A.’s only all-ages Goth, Industrial, EBM, Alternative monthly rollerskating event!”. Even if you don’t roller skate, it would still be a chance to meet up with other gothy types and socialize. If you do go, ask people you meet if there are other options for all-ages events, or if there are message boards or FB groups that are for Goths in your area. Discovering any sort of online social groups for spooky types in your area is very important, because once you know they’re out there, you can take the lead in organizing all-ages events. Go to the zoo! Hold a fancy-dress picnic in a local park! Movie outings! Just meeting up and chatting at a coffee shop! The most important thing is finding out where the rest of the gothy people are in relation to your location, and building friendships with them.

The Lady of the Manners is well-aware that the socializing and events options in the general Goth community are aimed at those who are over 18, and agrees that it’s extremely frustrating. Which is why she encourages you to reach out and find other people online, and start organizing events and meet-ups! Who knows, there may be other Goths your age nearby who are suffering the same frustrations as you, and will be thrilled to bits if you come out of the shadows and seek them out.

For the final letter of this first post of 2013, here’s a Snarkling with some musical questions:

Hello Lady of the Manners. I love gothic music, fashion, literature, worldview and culture. I discovered goth during winter break, and I just realized I wanted to do this. I’m in the stage of trying to ease my parents into it (black and purple turtlenecks, etc.) before I give them the Goth Talk. About the gothic music part of it; I adore the gothic music I’ve found, particularly Faith and the Muse. One of the bands I found before I discovered Goth was, as an example, Evanescence. I realised quickly this was a band apparently frowned upon by the gothic culture. I don’t think of them as a really Goth band, but I just think their songs are really pretty. I am very open to everything Goth, but my life has always been kind of all about music. I have a lot of good memories associated with My Chemical Romance, Evanescence, and the old stuff like Simon & Garfunkel and all the old Christian rock bands from the 80s and 90s. Should I try to ease myself out of my old music, or do a mix, or what? I feel really ignorant of what good snarklings should do.

What should a good Snarkling do in this instance? Listen to whatever music makes them happy! Yes, explore Goth music (the Lady of the Manners especially approves of you adoring Faith and the Muse!), but don’t feel you must give up all music that isn’t officially deemed “Goth” by the nonexistent Goth Cabal. If there is anyone out there who only listens to “Goth music”, the Lady of the Manners pities them, because they’re missing out on a universe of wonderful, amazing, catchy music by being so narrow-minded.

Yes, the Goth subculture as we know it today sprang from the punk/post-punk music scenes. Yes, there are “Goth” bands; however no one can agree on the Final Definitive Goth Band List! Do we respect the wishes of the musicians themselves and say that certain musical acts that Goths hold dear aren’t actually Goth? If so, that removes The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and The Sisters of Mercy from the list. Do we say that any band that didn’t start in the 80s is disqualified? Then say goodbye to Voltaire, Sopor Aeternus (well, they did start in 1989), Faith and the Muse, Creature Feature, and Switchblade Symphony. What about bands that feature broad-reaching musical influences, such as Dead Can Dance or Nox Arcana? As you can see, trying to figure out what bands should be filed under “Goth” is an impossible task, one that has kept Elder Goths bickering amongst themselves since someone adopted an all-black wardrobe and smudged on some eyeliner.

As for listening to bands that are “frowned upon” by the Gothic culture: piffle. Again, listen to the music you like, and don’t worry about what other people think. For example: while the Lady of the Manners doesn’t listen to Evanescence (there’s something about Amy Lee’s voice that grates on the Lady of the Manners’ ears), she would never tell someone else that they couldn’t or shouldn’t listen to them! And the Lady of the Manners is a, well, let’s just say fervent, fan of My Chemical Romance, and cheerfully ignores anyone who rolls their eyes at her for enjoying their music. (Also, if pushed, she will also launch into a detailed explanation of the Gothic themes and images that are scattered all through MCR’s music and videos. The Lady of the Manners wasn’t kidding about being a fervent fan of theirs.)

Another example: the Lady of the Manners tends to prefer music that is swirly and/or heavy on guitars. Alex is of the Lady of the Manner’s dearest, oldest friends and fellow Elder Goth is a devotee of electronica and EBM. (Or as the Lady of the Manners fondly mocks it, “tweedly-beep-oontz-oontz”.) At nights out at the club, you can find us indulging in histrionic mock-fights over Real Goth Music, then giggling delightedly at each other, and then stalking purposefully to the dance floor when a song that both of us enjoys starts up. (Never, ever get between us and the dance floor when “Ribbons” by Sisters of Mercy or “Face to Face” by Siouxsie and the Banshees is played. We’ll knock you over en route.)

Be aware of the long and tangled history of Goth music. (The Lady of the Manners recommends taking a look at Mick Mercer’s books on the early days of the Goth music scene!)Be willing to give something a listen to see if it strikes your fancy. Always try to support independent artists, because creating music and getting it out there is a difficult and stressful thing. But at the end of it all, listen to whatever makes you happy at that moment. And if that happens to be something Not Goth, so what?

Goodness, answering that last letter has made the Lady of the Manners feel like she should put on the least Goth music that she owns and sing along with it at the top of her lungs. Disney movie soundtracks it is! But while she’s indulging in that, feel free to read through the archives, or perhaps write a letter to Gothic Charm School.

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