Sunday, 19 December 2010

Parents and Goth - or, "You're not going out dressed like that!"

Imagine this scenario: you're an average parent who just wants the best for his or her child. You want them to have friends, gain a good education, and to lead a productive, successful and happy life.

So it's possible that it may come as quite a shock when your child comes clomping down the stairs clad in a shredded Cruxshadows T-shirt, velvet pixie skirt, fishnet tights and huge stompy boots. Double the shock factor if you're an avid news watcher, as many people have viewed Goth with an air of suspicion ever since Columbine.

Source: Photobucket
If you're the son or daughter in such a scenario, it can be hard to understand why your parents might be freaking out. But Goth is a misunderstood subculture which many people have heard rumours and misconceptions about - they may be concerned that you are self-harming or depressed, getting into drugs, or otherwise at risk. They may also be worried that dyeing your hair, wearing heavy make-up or choosing to have piercings or tattoos may be limiting your future career options (sadly, this may actually be true - if it's permanent, consider it wisely, as many employers may be biased when it comes to appearance). Chances are, your parents aren't being hard on you because they're conformist Nazis, but because they are concerned and because they care about you.

Because of the myths and misconceptions surrounding Goths, many people are unaware of the positive side of Goth culture. Goth is a subculture with a strong focus on art, literature and philosophy; it encourages creativity and freedom of expression. Goths are often articulate and intelligent - in fact, recent studies have shown that a large percentage of those identifying with the Goth subculture go on to get respectable, well-paid jobs. There are Goth lawyers (I know a lovely, tattooed Goth girl who is at Oxford University training to become a solicitor - hi, Mia, if you're reading this!), Goth dentists, Goth doctors and Goth CEOs.  In fact, here's a great article in the Guardian discussing the positive aspects of Goth culture.

Identifying with a subculture or group of any kind can be useful during adolescence as it provides a sense of belonging. Meeting other Goths, who will have similar interests, helps to ward off the feelings of isolation that many teens experience. The Goth subculture functions as a strong and thriving community, involving thousands of people of all ages, races and religions. Many Goths provide support networks for each other, whether online or through groups and friendships that develop in the real world. And no, when a group of Goths gets together you won't find them raising demons or setting fire to the cat. In case you missed it, here's an early post of mine on Goth myths - common worries that many people have regarding Goth culture.

Young Gothlings - talk to your parents about the subculture. Explain that it's not a cult, and let them know what it is about Goth culture that appeals to you. You may find it useful to show them books such as What is Goth? by Voltaire or Gothic Charm School: The Essential Guide for Goths and Those Who Love Them by Jillian Venters (or direct them to the Gothic Charm School website). Remember to remain calm and polite - try to find out what fears or misconceptions they may have so that you can discuss them. Did your parents try any alternative fashions or lifestyles when they were young?

One of the main concerns that parents have about Goth culture is the look - they may be worried that you will be judged by others, or that others will judge their parenting skills by your appearance and attire. To begin with, it may be best to find a style or subset of Goth fashion that won't give them too much cause for concern. A toned-down version of romantigoth or perkygoth may be a safe bet - flowing skirts, rich, textured fabrics, and sparkly bats are generally inoffensive! Your parents may also be willing to compromise - for example, if you get good grades for a month, you can dye your hair purple.

My mum points out that, depending on the attitudes and ideals of some parents, there may be a world of difference between what you would like and what they will decide you are allowed; all you can do in this situation is to continue discussing it with them and try to find a middle ground, as the only other options include screaming rows and slamming of doors (could this be why Goth culture came to be regarded as 'rebellious' - because in some cases a young person may feel that they have to rebel to be able to have involvement with the scene?).

Many young people feel that they have to hide their 'Gothyness' from their parents or other relatives, but hiding it only implies that there is something wrong with doing it. You have a right to your own lifestyle just as your parents do. However, grandparents and older relatives are more likely to be unsettled by this look so you may find it best to tone it down when visiting grandma, if only to keep the peace.

In a recent issue of Gothic Beauty, Kynt from The Amazing Race submitted an article on parental relationships with Goths. He suggests, "Try to share your lifestyle with your parents in ways that they can digest and understand. One way I was able to accomplish this was by introducing my parents to Gothic music. I carefully selected the Cruxshadows CD Ethernaut because of the album's iconic themes of heroism and honour - which I knew they would respond well to. Find an aspect of the scene that you feel confident would be of interest to your parents and share it with them. One positive glimpse of your lifestyle can begin a cascade of greater understanding."


Julietslace said...

I know a Goth training to be a solictor too! Some people find it surprising that I want to be a Police Officer but Goths are very much everyday people despite the myths.

Anonymous said...

When my mom and I were out shopping one day two elder ladies (around their 70s) came up to me and told me they loved my outfit and the zippers on my pants! To bad I never get compliments from my two grandmothers.

Dark Soul said...

If any of my mothers faimly found out I was Goth they would have a heart attak like my nan did when she found out the my oldest (and coolest in my opinion) cousen Jole was a Goth (she had been having mini ones for ages but it was quite ironic that when he told her she had a heart attak). My Dads faimly is more accepting though (even if my Dad isn't).

Anonymous said...

Like I said in other post, I'm sure my parents think that nasty things about goth. If they know I'm seriously wanting to be a wiccan... I prefer don't think about it =X Because my terribly ridiculous dad think the incenses =ahhhh, I LOVE incenses... ^^= is a evil thing, a nasty thing. I don't give a fuck to what the others think of me. Everyone have your own style, your own religion and it must be respected. I know a loooooooooot o ppl who says: "I'm a God person" and that thing, but when they turn their backs I see them lying, killing, stealing, warming others, disregarding, envying, copying the hard work of other ppl... I think this is the true devil work. Who work for God is a nice person who respect the others, don't make (and don't wish) evil to others, are united... :) I think the clothes, the music and our way don't say exactly who we really are.

Anonymous said...

Amy, i love the advice you are giving to young gothling's! :) i am just leaving my baby-bat esque era and i read blog after blog to try and work out how i was going to tell my parents (i was so worried) and eventually ended up doing almost exactly what you suggested in this article, and i do love your blog :)

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