No, Snarklings, the Lady of the Manners did not mean to go this long before posting a new lesson. But, as many of you probably know, October is a very busy month for those of a Gothy nature, and time just seemed to slip through the Lady of the Manners’ lace-gloved fingers. But never fear (or do if it makes you happy), for the Lady of the Manners has returned, and with advice for the black-clad parents among Gothic Charm School’s readers. A “Worried mother” wrote in with a serious dilemma:
Dear Lady of the Manners,
I apologize in advance for the length of this message. I am afraid I tend to go on for a bit here.
First of all, I wish to thank you for writing your column. I think you provide a great benefit, not only to the Goth community, but to other so-called ‘fringe’ communities as well (including Fandom, which I self-identify as belonging to).
I am writing to ask for your advice, or perhaps just your support, with a parenting issue. I have two beautiful, intelligent and talented daughters, who give me both joy and pride. I have always been slightly disappointed that their taste in fashion and entertainment has been more ‘mainstream’ than my own, but have made a deliberate effort to allow them the freedom which my own parents have afforded me. I must admit, however, to secretly rejoicing when my younger daughter, who is now 11, began to explore somewhat darker interests, encouraged by the ‘mainstream goth’ fashion trend which you have expressed irritation at in the past. For some time I’ve been toying with asking your advice in how to encourage her in this (she was thrilled when “Ghastlycrumb Tinies” appeared in her Christmas stocking last year).
(A quick comment about your opening section, Worried mother: the Lady of the Manners is thrilled to read that you are making a deliberate effort to give your daughters the freedom to express themselves, even when their choices didn’t match your own. The Lady of the Manners understands that the temptation to mold your children into tiny copies of yourself is strong, and not enough parents –from the Goth community and the more “mainstream” walks of life– understand that children are very much their own people with their own likes and dislikes.)
Unfortunately, that is not the reason for this e-mail. That same beloved daughter has also discovered self-harm. On several occasions she has deliberately cut herself, and hid the marks. She has been seeing a mental-health professional, who has been working with her to develop better ways to handle the stress which comes with adolescence. She has also taken it upon herself to create a presentation on various mental health issues (including both self-harm and eating disorders) geared at children slightly younger than herself, which she will take to the school system in the hopes of presenting it to local elementary schools (incidentally getting herself and her friends out of school for a few days). Her peers have been, for the most part, concerned but supportive.
Unfortunately, their parents have been less so. Evidently several parents have told their daughters not to invite my child to social events because they ‘didn’t want the drama’.
I am at a loss for what to do. She feels (most probably rightly) that she is at an age where I should not intervene in her social activities, but my maternal instincts push me to do so.
There. Now, having said it, I feel better. Thank you for listening, and for writing such a wonderful column in the first place.
The Lady of the Manners is glad to hear that your daughter is seeing a mental-health professional, and very impressed that she is creating a presentation to help inform others about mental health issues. The Lady of the Manners fervently hopes that your daughter can create something good out of what she has suffered through, and that she can reach out to other children that may be facing the same sort of issues and let them know they are not alone. Early adolescence is a stressful time, and anything that can help someone understand that they aren’t alone and they don’t have to try and cope with things all by themselves is something to be encouraged.
As to the parents of your daughter’s peers … sadly, the Lady of the Manners isn’t surprised by their behavior. Disappointed in it, yes, very much so. But not surprised. The social stigma surrounding mental health issues is very pervasive, and people who should know better will sometimes indulge in behavior that makes no sense. Many people act as if mental health issues are shameful and contagious, and that people who are honest about what they may be going through should be avoided at all costs. Which is, of course, ridiculous and just a touch paranoid.
What to do about those parents of your daughter’s peers? Your daughter is right, she is at an age where your intervention about this issue in her social life isn’t the right way to approach things. You can’t force the other parents to include her, no matter how groundless and irrational their fears. However, what you CAN do is make it perfectly clear to the other parents that they are being irrational and silly. The next time you talk to any of the Paranoid Parents, be sure to mention the presentation your daughter is working on; talk about how wonderful it is that she is doing something to help other confused and troubled kids to feel less ostracized and alone. With luck, the Paranoid Parents will realize they’ve been acting in a less-than-rational manner, and will stop telling their daughters to not invite your daughter to things.
If by some chance the Paranoid Parents actually ask you a direct question about your daughter’s well-being and stability, be direct with them. Tell them that she’s gotten help, and then ask them about what sort of “drama” they think your daughter is going to instigate. But only do this if they themselves bring the subject up. While your urge to defend your daughter’s character is perfectly understandable, leaping to her defense without the other parents starting the conversation might backfire. It could make you look like you’re being fiercely overprotective because your daughter needs that much defending, and that the Paranoid Parents’ suspicions about Drama-with-a-capital-D are correct. That is absolutely the last thing you want them thinking, so do what you can to avoid it.
Be sure to let your daughter know that if she changes her mind and she does want you to intervene in her social life, you will of course be there for her. You might want to ask her if she wants to start hosting her own social events, but let her know that if her friends’ parents decide to keep their children from attending for the same spurious reasons, then you will Have Words with the other parents. While taking people to task because they didn’t extend invitations to your daughter is somewhat awkward and generally Not Done, asking people why they didn’t want to allow their daughters to attend an event of yours is another thing entirely.
The Lady of the Manners hopes that her advice was of some use to you; please do write back and let her know how things are going, and how your daughter’s presentation goes.
Be sure to come back soon to Gothic Charm School; in the next lesson the Lady of the Manners is going to address white face makeup (as in, the difference between the good and the bad. Oh yes, Snarklings, there is a difference.), and is also going to talk about why being polite to people who aren’t polite to you is important. As always, Snarklings, the Lady of the Manners enjoys receiving mail from you, and is sorry that she can’t write long answers to each and every one of you.