On Being Goth

I debated writing this post over the last week until something popped up on my Tumblr:

gothI am a self-identified rockabilly goth with a slight film noir edge. I don’t like to limit myself. I’ve always been a goth, though I wasn’t always confident about it. Way back when, I wrote that post about being a Monster Girl, and the truth is, that wasn’t the whole story, but part of it. I’ve always loved the macabre, the grim and the ghastly. For all my mother’s insistence that she was “punk” in her younger days, I don’t think she fully anticipated what it would be like raising me. She’s always ragging on me about my choice of clothing/hobbies/haunts, but I’ve never “outgrown” the lifestyle.

It wasn’t a choice. I simply am.

But something bizarre happened to me Christmas Eve.

At The Day Job, we get to break with the hideous uniform and wear “Sunday Best” for holidays. I’m not entirely certain how “Sunday Best” is portrayed other than dressing nicely, so I wore my boots (because if I’m standing all day, I’m doing so in comfort), slacks and my new poet shirt. You know the sort. Vaguely Victorian, frilly details, lacy. Everything, as per my usual, was black.

I got a ribbing “Merry Gothic Christmas!” from my boss, which we both laughed at, and that was that. Until one my coworker came up and started commenting on my clothing. And then it turned into commenting on things I liked. I mentioned to a customer (who was discussing old television programs) that the man who’d played Pugsley in the Addams Family had recently died of a heart attack.

“Oh, you would know that.”
“Of course I would. I read the news.”

The joking turned into an inquisition. And it never let up.

“How much Marilyn Manson do you have on your iPod?”

Four songs: Tourniquet, Sweet Dreams, Redeemer, and This is Halloween. I don’t particularly like Manson’s music as a whole, but there are a couple winning songs.

“You’re so festive. Do you even like Christmas?”

Not really. I have no religious affiliation to it. I follow the Victorian tradition of goodwill, candles, and ghost stories.

At one point, he said he knew I was an angry person. I shall have you know I am majestic and fucking delight to be around. Seriously, though, I’m pretty nice. I find most goth people are.

It’s not that these lines of inquiry bothered me in and of themselves, but the very high school natural of it all. Actually, I don’t remember being teased when I was in high school. I can’t fathom someone trying so hard to make you care about what they think of you.

You can read the full post by clicking the link above, but I think Anna (SpookyLoop) had the best response:

Goth doesn’t revolve around an idea, it’s not political, religious, or a cult. We’re not a bunch of people who think the world is horrible and life is pointless, that’s just the stereotype. We see beauty in the macabre – which many choose to interpret as bleakness – but that doesn’t mean it is something to grow out of or that it is reserved only for those who are growing up.

We are in this because we enjoy the music, the literature, the styles, the aesthetics, and so on. There is no reason why we would have to abandon any of those things as we grow older: reading horror literature and listening to The Sisters of Mercy doesn’t stop me from being a great employee or a good parent, which seem to be the biggest concerns of those who don’t understand the subculture.

The whole story is this: I grew up with a mother who loved Stephen King. I had horror in my household before I thought to be scared of monsters under my bed.

When I was young, I discovered Edgar Allan Poe. I think the first poem of his I read was “Annabelle Lee.” Something about his words echoed in me, and I felt like someone understood. Edgar Allan Poe got me. From that moment, I was devoted to him. I own volumes of his works in any incarnation I can find. I took courses about him in college and cried when my dad went to Poe Cottage in New York without me. My friends took me to a Poe puppet show for my birthday.

He’s the reason I blossomed into the creature I am. The monsters would come later. Poe was there from the start.

My friend Leanna, author of the Magic Most Foul saga and perpetual Victorian goth, wrote in one of her books a take on Polonius’s quote from Hamlet on greatness:

Some are born with darkness. Some have darkness thrust upon them.

Another string of words struck home. I knew the moment I met Leanna that she’d be someone I’d get along with splendidly. And her words (Nathaniel’s rather) are absolutely true: I was born with darkness. I used to wonder if it was a bad thing, but like Poe “I could never bring my passions from a common spring.”

The truth is, it’s not the darkness I like, but the otherworldly beauty of the impossible and overlooked. I like seeing magic where others fail to see anything at all. I like wearing black and knee-high boots and tiny brass crow skull necklaces. I love Mortimer, my nectar bat skull I got last birthday. I love reading horror books, and having cemetery picnics and drawing monsters and dead girls. I collect antique medical things and read books about science.

I wear an ungodly amount of glitter and red lipstick, and yeah, I own a lot of black clothing. None of that makes me an angry person (although the second biggest influence on my life was Daria, which accounts for the sarcasm), or scary, or unworthy, or weird. I like things, and mocking someone for liking things is stupid. 

If anyone doesn’t like you for being yourself, you’re better off without them. Whatever or whoever you are, fucking own it.

I didn’t want this to be a “New Year” post, but I think it’s a bit unavoidable at this point. 2014 was hell, but I’m ready to throw down with 2015 if I must.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “On Being Goth

  1. “The truth is, it’s not the darkness I like, but the otherworldly beauty of the impossible and overlooked. I like seeing magic where others fail to see anything at all. ” This is so me! Basically captured everything I feel about being goth in those statments. Great post.

  2. Autmn Tooley

    What’s interesting to me is the assumptions people make based on our appearance. I fit in as the classic girl next door, and when people find out I write they expect it to be chick lit or romance, but I write horror.
    I’m not sure why people continue to need to put people into tidy little boxes, ok I sort of do, still it’s vexing.

    • I know that completely. I write horror as well, and it’s always a surprise to people.

      “But you’re so nice!” “You don’t look like someone who could do that.”

      What did they expect? A literal body in the basement? 😉

      • Autmn Tooley

        I know! I’m a non-violent Buddhist and practice living a life of compassion; and yet, psychopaths and serial killers run amok in my books and often my protags are not what society would consider to be good people.

        It’s amazing the judgment people pass onto others based on the assumptions they make about them.

        Nice to meet another Horror writer.

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