As I'm sure you will have noticed if you've ever taken to the streets in your Gothwear, when Goth collides with the mainstream the results are amusing at best (and can be tragic, at worst). The smart Gothling soon learns that bustle skirts, PVC corsets and top hats may not be suitable for shopping in one's rural hometown and should instead be kept for the club - but even in slightly more toned-down everyday wear, it's generally true to say that a black-clad darkling still sticks out like a sore thumb. Let's face it, even black jeans, boots and a band T-shirt will stand out if you have green and black dreadlocks, sixteen piercings and a full sleeve of tribal tattoos (for example).
And why on earth should we want to fit in? The above paragraph is not a complaint, readers; merely an observation. But no matter how happy and comfortable a Goth may be in what they are wearing, they are likely to garner a not-inconsiderable amount of attention from the non-Goths around them. Oftentimes this attention isn't hostile, simply curious. But it can be no end of amusing for a people-watcher to see the ways that perfectly sane, ordinary people behave when confronted with something (or rather, someone) a little, well... extraordinary.
Here's my spotter's guide to the ten most common reactions of non-Goths to the sudden appearance of a VIB (Vision in BLACK) on the average highstreet.
Oh, yes, always the staring. There is no escaping it. It's a well-known fact that a chemical reaction in the brain causes normal men, women and children to turn slack-jawed and goggle-eyed at the presence of a Goth in their midst (or something like that, anyway). Ever wanted to turn heads, honey? Just buy a black dress and a pair of spiky boots.
At the end of the day it's probably fair to say that most, if not all, Goths are at heart either peacocks, or uncommonly self-confident (if you want to dress like a fairy of the night or a vampire on the prowl, and go out in public, you'd have to be at least one of the two, surely?), and so the sight of people walking into lamposts whilst craning their necks to get a better look is generally countered by a small smile and an extra hint of 'strut' in that stride. The world is your catwalk, dah-ling.
But there comes a point when the constant gawping gets annoying. This point is reached, for me at least, when I am trying to eat my lunch and a middle-aged woman in a beige fleece is standing three feet away staring at me with her mouth open for about ten minutes straight. Or when I'm enjoying a romantic date. Or when I'm out for dinner with my two (non-Goth) lovely and beautiful best friends, and people feel the need to stand by our table and just.... stare.... Perhaps, however, they were simply awestruck by our collective gorgeousness? That's what I'd like to think, anyway.
9. The daft insults
You know - when a passing tracksuited moron feels an overwhelming urge to suddenly point at you and shout, "EMO!" I would find this less amusing if I thought these people were deliberately mis-labelling - making a joke out of the common confusion between the emo and Goth subcultures and thereby using it as a snarky insult, loosely translated as; "You've tried to be Goth, failed miserably, and ended up looking like an emo... oh dear."
Unfortunately, since I doubt they could tell the difference between alternative subcultures if we all carried a nametag and handy diagram, I think it's generally a case of the same mentality as pointing at a banana and shouting, "Banana!", then expecting the banana to be offended. No, I don't get it, either.
8. The REALLY daft insults
At least, I think they're supposed to be insults. You know - when another passing tracksuited moron (what is it with people wearing tracksuits? Is this some sort of wannabe-ghetto version of the Trenchcoat Mafia?) again gets that urge to point at you and shout something inane. This time, it's, "GOTH!"
Really? I hadn't noticed. Thanks, Sherlock.
Does anyone understand this? If so, can you please explain it to me, because clearly this clever, witty and ironic insult is going right over my head. I mean, what reaction are these people looking for? Am I supposed to realise that yes, indeed, I have by some terrible error accidentally dressed in Goth clothing today, and I must run home and change? Am I supposed to be mortally offended by the fact that this specimen of Neanderthal Man has deduced that yes, I am in fact a Goth?
Yes, I'm a Goth. Was it supposed to be a secret?
7. The cloak of invisibility
Right at the other end of the spectrum from those who stare and occasionally take photos (note to self: if you pop out to eat your lunch in the cemetery, you WILL have your picture taken by Japanese tourists) are those on whom the wearing of black or otherwise alternative clothing has the same effect as donning a cloak of invisibility.
Whilst this would be massively handy if 'bank robber' was my chosen career, after a while the thrill of doors shutting in my face and shop assistants pretending not to hear me gets old, even for the perkiest of perkygoths.
6. The helpful Halloween countdown
"It's not Halloween yet!" "Halloween's not till next week!" "Halloween was last month, you can take the costume off now!"
In case you don't own a calendar, you can always work out the proximity of October 31st by listening to the catcalls of prats who think they're being really funny and original. Because you've never heard that one before.
5. The sudden development of a strange speech impediment
I don't know how often you will have experienced this if you have never worked in the field of retail, but this interesting reaction is one I get when I am behind the counter of the charity shop where I work on weekends, and is most often seen in ladies over the age of 65, usually sporting a grey or lavender perm and wearing wrinkly nude tights (and now I'm stereotyping; but in my defence I am stereotyping from experience). If they suddenly realise that they have to actually speak to the intimidatingly-dressed (yes, fear my ruffles, lace and pink sparkly bats. Fear them, mortal!), eyeliner-decorated outlandish creature in front of them, they instantly - and seemingly incurably - develop a most unusual speech impediment that causes them to mutter and mumble whilst being simultaneously unable to meet my eye.
I know, I know - generation gap. But really, I am the politest of perkygoths and do not want to eat you. There is no need to look so terrified.
This also happens when I am serving the tracksuited morons that were shouting "EMO" at me whilst I was on my lunch break ten minutes before. In which instance, I rather like it.
4. The stating of the Really Rather Obvious
"You've got long hair!" "Your lipstick is green!" "There's a rip in your tights." "Are you, like, Goth or something?"
There really isn't anything I can say about this without stating the obvious myself, so I'll let these comments, and others falling into the same category, speak for themselves.
3. The new best friend
Amongst my classic moments from DV8 Fest is definitely our Gothy tour-guide Chris's immediate, sharp response to the idiots (yes, wearing tracksuits) who had decided that sarcastically pretending that they wanted to bond with the Goth crowd whilst taking the piss out of them was their recourse of entertainment for the afternoon. After the fiftieth "Oi, bruv...", Chris turned to the small cluster of Goths (including, obviously, me) that he was escorting about the city, and said with a sigh, "Unfortunately, we aren't allowed to hunt them any more..."
'The new best friend' is a traditional Goth-baiting manouevre described in Gothic Charm School as 'playing a game of "Taunt the Weirdo"', and is one of the main reasons why Goths may often be wary when responding to even the friendliest and politest of comments - sometimes the compliment that is setting the poor Goth up for a fall can be a very genuine-seeming remark.
2. The bad touch
You're walking along the street, minding your own business, when before you know it a stranger is feeling up the arm of your fluffy coat (one night outside a train station in a large city I had my purple fluffy jacket manhandled by a severely intoxicated young man, which was not an experience I would like to repeat), patting your velvet skirt or rustling your ruffles.
Usually this isn't a sexual thing, just curiosity or interest, but being handled by a stranger when you weren't expecting it is surreal to say the least...
1. The 'Well, I wasn't expecting that...'
At the theatre, a little old lady taps me on the shoulder. I turn around with some trepidation, and she looks me up and down and remarks, slightly ominously, "Are those Gothic boots?"
Me (expecting a tirade about how EVIL, SATANIC and UNLADYLIKE my attire is): "Um, yes..."
Little Old Lady: "Good for you! I wish I'd been able to dress like that when I was younger! Keep it up!"
Real, genuine compliments for a Goth's appearance or attire can come at the strangest of moments from the most unexpected quarters, and these are often the ones which are remembered and treasured. Dressing strangely brings attention both good and bad, but I find it's the negative comments that fade from memory the quickest.
Listening to: AntiCristianos - Dulce Liquido