Sunday, 24 April 2011

It's not just a phase

Firstly, I'd like to apologise for not posting yesterday, I ended up heading to my boyfriend's house straight after work and unexpectedly staying there very late. I told you April was not a good month - but I'm planning to try for at least two or three posts a day over the coming week to make up for my laxness. Secondly, I'd like to wish you all a happy Easter. ^^

I often like to wait a while before approaching reader requests, so that I can get my thoughts in order and do a little research. But when Daisy Fiend asked "I was wondering if you could PLEASE make a post about how to deal with people saying "It's just a phase" and arguments to help them understand that for some Goths it's NOT just a phase?", I couldn't quite resist formulating some sort of response straight away. I may also post more on this topic when I think of some more to say on the matter.

Abby from NCIS (played by Pauley Perette)
The perfect fictional example of 'not a phase' - adult, forensic scientist, and Goth party girl.
I am so fired up about this post because, when I first became very interested in Goth and started trying out Goth fashion, my dad took me round to visit various far-flung relatives post-Christmas. Needless to say, many of them were not hugely impressed by my new appearance, complete with fresh lip piercing.

But the two comments which struck me the most were meant in vastly different ways. My ex-policeman, highly conservative uncle remarked, "Let me take a photo so that in five years time you can laugh at how stupid you look." My cousin Deb, who had briefly been a Goth in her younger years, mentioned her own 'Goth phase' and then joked, "Oops, mustn't say it's a 'phase'."

Five years later, my passion for Goth is showing no signs of fading. The increasingly bemused expressions on the faces of relatives who was sure this was another short-lived teen fad (I had a hippie phase, a punk phase, a wearing-only-rainbow-stripes phase...) are somewhat satisfactory.

The trouble is, the people who are telling you that your current lifestyle choices are nothing more than a 'stage you're going through', are not just being a pain in the ass. With the benefit of age and wisdom, they can tell that your fondness for black and heavy boots is OBVIOUSLY a form of teenage rebellion, and sooner or later you'll 'grow up' and get on with life. Without having a reasonable knowledge of subculture, and how it can manifest itself, for lack of a better term, in all areas of your life, at any age, Goth presents itself as a rebellious fad that can't possibly extend beyond the teenage years, because clearly (this is sarcasm) you can't get a job, start a family, etc, if you're still green-haired and black-clad.

Even those who previously were Goth will make such comments - in fact, these are probably the worst, because they are speaking from honest experience, usually with an amused air of 'been there, done that, grew out of it'.

The truth is that some people never grow out of Goth. But some people do. These people felt just as strongly about Goth then as you do now. In five, ten or twenty years time, you (and I) may also decide that the Goth subculture is no longer going to be a big part of your life. We can't predict how we will feel about it in future. Which doesn't make it any less annoying when people patronisingly insist that what you currently love is something you will 'grow out of'.

Again, many people have little understanding of what Goth is - its rich and vibrant club scene, festivals and events; online communities; a vast array of fashion and music subgenres - it's just a bunch of kids in fishnets and whiteface. Even people who were briefly 'Goth' may not have discovered the Goth scene proper - maybe if they had they would have stuck around a bit longer. This lack of understanding fuels the misconception that, sooner or later, we ALL grow out of it.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try to insist that it's really not a phase, these people are highly unlikely to believe you. They're more likely to smirk, pat you on the head and go, "Of course not. We'll see in a few months' time, won't we?" If you know the person well, e.g. a family member, there isn't any harm in attempting to explain to them that actually, there are hundreds of grown-up Goths who have jobs and families, and for some people it's a lifelong interest. But be warned; they think they know better than you, and are unlikely to accept it.

You can also show them creations such as Goth magazines (Gothic Beauty, Unscene and Spider's Web being my personal favourites) and books such as The Goth Bible and Gothic Charm School - written by adults, run by adults, created, written and devised by people who never 'grew out of it' and probably never will. Bands such as The Cruxshadows are not rebellious teens. Goth models like Adora BatBrat are not trying to shock their parents. But, again, be mindful of the fact that these people are convinced that they are right and you are wrong, and they may not pay attention because nobody likes being proven wrong.

When these remarks come from people you don't know well, there isn't really anything you can do. You could say something along the lines of, "Maybe it's a phase, but I'm happy like this right now," or simply, "Perhaps." A stranger's opinion shouldn't matter that much anyway - they're just ably demonstrating their lack of knowledge about alternative culture, which doesn't need to bother you.

Close relatives may be swayed by displays of non-rebellious behaviour - a teen who does all her chores, is polite, and works hard in school is clearly not rebelling. If their behaviour and remarks are bothering you, explain to them calmly and politely that whilst you MAY grow out of this 'phase' in time, at the moment it is important to you and you would appreciate them respecting that and not making comments.

Remember that they may feel threatened or concerned by your 'Gothness' and could be making these remarks to a) reassure themselves or b) put you off. If you suspect this may be the case, it's best to sit them down and have The Talk about what Goth is and why they don't need to be worried about you becoming a junkie cult member.

Unfortunately, the only definitive argument you have in this case is time. In ten years time, they might have stopped telling you it's a phase. In thirty years time, they will DEFINITELY have stopped saying so.

For me, as they say, the proof was in the pudding. Childish though this is, at the grand old age of nearly-fifteen, I kept a mental tally of every single 'just a phase' comment, and decided that I would spend a month dressed as a Goth for every single one of those comments. I did so. And then carried on, long after my mental tally was left far behind. I don't suggest that you force yourself into a mould to spite other people - but I can tell you with honesty that, at the time, my mild-mannered revenge made me feel a hell of a lot better about such remarks.

I hope this has at least been a little bit helpful, I may come back to this subject for future posts!


Qwack said...

My parents don't even think I'm going goth.... Lul. None of this "just a phase" stuff for me... I guess I'm really lucky. I mean, I've worn a lot of black since I was in fifth grade, and that was a result of a rather frightening "emo" phase. Now wearing lacy Victorian stuff along with my stompy boots is making them think I'm nothing but a well-mannered teen with a thing for black and jewel tones. My mom /watched/ me buy The Cure's Greatest hits a few months ago and didn't say anything about it at all. We actually sing along to it in the car together, because apparently she was a fan of them ages ago.
My dad makes funeral comments now and then, but they don't bother me. They actually encourage me, because it's hard to look like a Victorian who's going to a funeral when you're wearing jeans and a random T-shirt.
So yeah, I guess I'm super lucky. I don't dress like this to rebel, even though a twelve year old wearing all black with her nails painted blue and stompy Doc Martens seems like it from the outside, it's not a phase or a rebellion. Heck, if it were a rebellion, I'd be blasting Marylin Manson rather than listening to Bach right now.

Angel of Darkness said...

Well, I had a thought on doing a post about this very subject, and still might... And you know, I have a cousin who when she found that I was "getting into Goth" told me that she would still love to be one but knew she couldn't get a job, and said it was time for her to grow up. (Actually I don't think she knew much of actual goth at all.)


KatSlaughter said...

One of my lecturers knew I was pretty sad about stuff last year and would keep 'checking up on me' every now and then. Lately I've been feeling a lot better, and after our most recent holiday he looked at me and said *surprised tone* "You're still wearing black?"

As if it was a mood thing. Which I guess it could easily be, as I've heard similar things from a lot of people (various acquaintances who got depressed and wore black and then moved out of it and into colourful clothing). But not always, or at least it wasn't that way with me.

I think 'ex-goths' speak so derisively of their own phases because of the way in which they were so serious about it at that stage, and then realised that it was not for them. In effect they were 'proven wrong' by society. I know I would vindictively want others to suffer the same fate =P Kind of like a last one standing thing... If I can't do it, well, then nobody should be able to either. I also think that because it is associated with youth people think that you don't really get 'old' goths, as you said in your post.. So people may associate it with immaturity and/or arrested development. I have an ex-goth friend -- who wasn't actually really goth, in retrospect, except for clothing (didn't know anything about the scene or the so-called mindset or the music) -- who speaks about her dark stage as something stupid and embarrassing, like a bad memory.

Here's hoping I'll see you guys all here in ten years, the lot of us still avidly pursuing gothic style in all its frilly glory.

MissGracie said...

I remember one holiday when I was still in high school and a relative was saying this sort of thing. I made me so annoyed at the time, but I hope she is starting to see this is a bit more serious than a phase. She was basically saying that there aren't any goths past a certain age. Implying that it is a silly youthful trend.

Violette B. said...

Good night! I totally agree with your advice for the readers: years are the best proof. Meanwhile you must be pacient and polite. Not everyone is able to understand certain "exotic" lifestyles.

Congratulations for your blog.
Really one of my favs.

VictorianKitty said...

I'm proud to say I'm at year 22 of Gothiness (started when I was 15; I'm 37 now) and the "just a phase" comments are long gone. In fact, most people who know me personally not only accept what I am but many of them actually admire it (talking about non-Goths here). I think your point about coupling your Goth look/lifestyle with non-rebellious behavior is the key. I always had excellent grades, did my chores, obeyed my parents, and then got my degree and worked hard to get great jobs and built a very successful career. Seeing this behavior, no one ever had a right to complain about my appearance. Plus, such behavior gives the whole scene a better name: the rebellious ones who are trying too hard to fit into cliches make it more difficult for all of us to gain acceptance.

At the same time, I definitely have been talked down to by some "ex-Goths." I attribute that to the fact that they felt pressure to "grow out of it" and maybe now they regret not remaining true to themselves. They really do seem to resent people who have the strength of character to remain Goth at all ages in spite of the stupid comments from an ignorant public.

VictorianKitty said...

I should add that I didn't mean to imply that all cliches are bad (we all follow at least some of them), as long as one is sincere about who they are and has the right motives. :)

snapexforever said...

@KatSlaughter: your theory about the derisiveness of ex-goths is brilliant. This is kind of what I've always suspected it might be, only you put it into much better words than I ever could! It's sad, in a way. Makes me remember to not get so annoyed, because I don't know what could be going on in their heads behind the slightly condescending commentary.

Ophelia Black said...

This post was much appreciated. Saw the family today, and with them came my very first 'Don't you know it's not Halloween yet?' comment. I felt like I had just reached a new level of gothiness. I also got two varations of 'Are you planning to go to a funeral?'. At work at the grocery store, a woman asked if my old fashioned dress belonged to my grandmother and was impressed that I had made it myself. Something about the holiday must make people really vocal about their opinions, or maybe it just took nine months to pick up on the goth thing.

jenny said...

I'm at year 22 of gothiness as well (from 13 to 35). For some reason, despite growing up on Oklahoma, my family never bothered me about it at all. I did get hassled in school, though, just the usual stupid comments, but maybe heavy on the Satan-worship angle since it was Oklahoma. I definitely agree that the older you get, the less anyone puts you down for being goth. And also that more people start to admire it (this is even more true if you move to a more cosmopolitan place, as I did). I initially decided to comment on this because of the picture of Abby, actually. When I worked in West Hollywood and in West L.A., different people wold come up to me and tell me that I looked like Abby and sometimes even mistake me for her at first. It happened almost every day, and it was almost always older people, often elderly. They'd have such NICE things to say about the character, how beautiful and quirky and smart she was. So it really made me feel that public perceptions of goth have changed a lot.

I don't really have anything to contribute, as far as advice for people having trouble with their parents. I think you nailed it! Your blog is one of my very favorites! xoxo

Ashlee said...

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”

That Dr. Seuss quote pretty much sums up my thoughts.

The people you are close to will get over it. Promise.

Strangers and other people you'll never really see again, most likely, don't matter. Who cares about what someone you'll never see again thinks?

Lady Faisca said...

Hi! I've just started to read your blog like two days ago and I find it really interesting, good job ^__^

Now, talking about the post, I also have my own experience here. I'm 20 now and by the age of 14/15 I started to get into the Goth scene if I can say it that way. The true story was that I'm from a little city in the north of Spain where you hardly ever find something related to goth. I had never seen a goth at that time buut there was Internet. So, I started by slightly introducing darker make-up (well, I didn't use make up before so...) and slowly darker clothes.

My father didn't really care about it, actually he liked it (he even likes some of the music that I listen to). On the other hand, my mother didn't enjoy it very much. She used to ask me, each time I bought a piece of cloth, 'black again?'. They also said once or twice the 'phase' thing, but it was actually my brother the one who made fun of me. (Well, brothers, you know).
Now they are really used to my looks, and with time I have softened them in a more ellegant way. Furthermore, they have become familiar with the looks since my father has done photoshoots of gothic models (all in an amateur level).

I have experienced weird commentaries at home, but I never got anything from my grands, and that's quite surprising regarding how conservative they can be. I think I'm quite lucky because my family respects me, even they do sarcastic or ironic commentaries (I think there's something we share genetically :P).

It happened that the first time I met some goths was when I started to go to Uni and they were closer to 30's than to 20's. Some have already finished their degrees and have a job. Now I'm living for some time in the UK I even found a goth professor.

For non-Goths and families is just a matter of time to see if that is really a phase. But I think it also is for the person who is experiencing the process of getting into Goth. Sometimes you are just experimenting with yourself and your identity, and teenage time is the really first time you actually do it. Getting to know yourself is quite difficult for everyone. From the outside people should just respect personal tastes or tendencies.


daisy.fiend said...

Thank you for posting this :)
Sorry I didn't comment sooner, but I ended up pretty much living at my friend's house :)
I din't really have that much of a problum with the "Just a phase" thing with my parents, They acully love it and like the music. But I do get it alot from Teachers, and some of my peer's (snooby) parents. A few weeks ago at a Parent-tacher get together my mom heard some rude comments about me dress wise. Let's just say she went all "ATLEST MY KID COVERS UP HER BOOBS INSTED OF LETTING THEM HANG OUT FOR THE WHOLE WORLD TO SEE!"..... I love my mom. Haha :)
And thanks again for posting this :)

Emily Lynn G. said...

The problem, guys, is that some things really ARE a phase for some people. Heck, you really might "grow out of it" if your just a goth at,say,12. WE can all think of kids in high school who called themselves all kinds of stuff and have completely changed:heck, most of the kids I know are completely different now then they were a year ago. And that's because, at this age, we are experimenting to discover our own identity and nice. Which is exciting and healthy; it's not bad to change your mind or alter,mixing thing,etc. We do that until we die,hopefully,change and adapt and grow :) But by the time you'r,say,30 (or even Amy's 19, if she's been a goth for many years like I think...?) It's time your family be past the "it's a phase" stuff. Even "IF" Amy "changed", by now it'd probably be gradual and she'd still retain "gothiness" because it's been part of her life for so long.Compare that to a (I know we all hate her and know her,)the 13 year old girl who buys black Converse and stripped shirts and deems herself Goth for Life, then gets over it in two years because,"oh,like, i so got over that!"
So, what I'm saying is that at a young age I'm sure your family did all kinds of stuff they "grew out of", and chances are you have-and will-to. But if you and Goth have had a long going affair by now, then its time to get them to move past the jokes: Your not a developing teen, you're a matured person. And you're ALLOWED to change from one type of goth to another, or do whatever! You're IN a subculture, you're not married to it:/ what do they care how you dress or what music you like? Tell them THEY don't look like how THEY did 10 years ago either!

Kitty Lovett; A Charming Notion said...

When I bought my first ever actual goth-brand skirt from a goth shop (I was 13, still have that skirt three and a half years on, and it's very well-loved and needs repairs), my mum said, "oh, yes, it's very nice, and you can even take the chain off when you've finished this phase". The woman behind the counter gave her such a death glare, I couldn't help but join in. She was quite terrified. That made me determined to never get out of this "phase".

My great aunt never liked me. She saw me a little while ago, time before last, when my hair was bright blue and purple split down the middle. She saw my mother some days later and promptly bitched about me behind my back. "That Madeleine", she said (and yes, that *is* my name. Shame on me). "Dressed like a whore with disgusting hair." My mother got halfway through, "oh yeah, what about your oh-so-cherished Sally? She's covered in tattoos!" before remembering she wasn't allowed to tell her.

ultimategothguide said...

@ Kitty - ooh. Your mum landed herself in in there. >.<

My great aunt hasn't seen me for about six years, so there's no chance of her recognising me. ^^ Next time you see her, tell her you prefer the term 'harlot', if she must insist on being so vulgar.

Kay said...

A phase it is to a lot of people. People do flow in the Goth scene, then right out of it. My sister, for a few months, became 'Goth,' and yet, like I said, it only lasted a few months. My oldest brother became punk, and though that lasted all of another few months, he's now a hippie in a scream band.

I've been Goth for two years now. I love my all black Converse, even if they're not considered the 'Gothiest.' But it's not like I don't have other 'Gothier' shoes, I just love my Converse and have been wearing them for over...four years.

My parents were so freaked when I started going Goth. They tried, in vain, to convince me to get out of it. And yet, here I am, and I haven't been maimed for being Goth, being me. I am me, and that's all they care about.

My grandparents, on the other hand, are still not so happy about it. My grandmother insists on attempts to buy me ANY burst of color, even something like grey jeans instead of black. They wouldn't let me buy anything from Hot Topic when it was considered a 'Goth' store. But my granddad, as of late, commented on one of my chokers, saying I reminded him of Abby, and no one commented with anything insulting.

Two years ago my family thought my Gothiness was just a phase. Now, just two years after, most of them (the ones that matter) have realized I am who I am. And though I scared them out of their minds when I became Goth for reasons of depression...I'm not depressed anymore, and I'm still Goth.

People usually stay away from me, but that's because they don't understand me. I'm shy, I'd rather shove my nose in a book, or fill my ears with creepy music, and dress un-mainstream (to say the least). Though if they tried to get to know me, I'm a wonderful person, or so I've been told.

I'm only fourteen, and I will be who I want to be, despite the things people throw at me. Goth is who you are, not what people say about you.

Anonymous said...

Ick, I recently met a girl I truly despise. She said, " are you Goth, I used to be Goth but it was just a phase."

I'm sorry but I feel like real Goths are not just a phase. It's a lifestyle not a club you join and decide to check out of because it's no longer. cool. I think those people have the wrong ideas about the such culture. d are in it for the wrong reasons.

Also how to deal with concerned relatives when they say things like "o no you're not Goth are you? ...What are you and why? " I was caught off guard and said alternative. I'm a bit anti label and I am apart of the alternative culture and can relate to various parts of it.

FakedTan said...

I just have to say I ran across this site and was amazed! I have always loved the goth fashion and I have always thought of wearing the "normal people" clothing as a "stage show". I have worked in an office and am now working as a student worker at my community college. So now I feel responsible to "dress appropriately," but honestly I really wish i could dye my hair wild colors, and wear my demonia's. Goth isn't a phase, it is a lifestyle and personality expression, and I miss it!

Lola Boots said...

I was never allowed to be a "Goth" whilst in highschool ( I had very strict parents and school) but it wasn't till I was in my mid-20's that I was watching NCIS and saw 'Abby' and finally decided to do something about it. Thanks for the great article

pandora said...

I have been on and off extreme styles from the age of 14. Today I would be considered as alternative at age 45. I do not feel it is necessarily to have a label on people unless they decidedly want to be acknowledged as part of that very community. There will always be narrowminded idiots not getting the point, and I am working very hard not to go into ragemode everytime I come across them.

Anonymous said...

hey there, just ran across your blog today. Just wanted to point out that not everyone gets a "rebellious" stage. I'm almost 26 now, I wore black through most of high school and stood out most of the time. But, I've never gone the route of makeup, never dyed my hair, never been pierced or tattooed. It's not that I have anything against it, it's just in the back of my head I will always hear my parents telling me how awful tattoos are, that you shouldn't defile your body, and my dad telling me if i ever came home with anything pierced, he would wait until i was asleep and rip it out with a pair of pliers. He was the kind of man who would do it too.

Today, I am a heavy equipment technician. I travel around the country, and I have three sets of clothes, none of which are black. But, I do envy those who are free to express themselves. For now at least, I wear the trappings of a company man, and do my best to keep my head from the chopping block.

Anonymous said...

I had almost the reverse experience, growing up. My adopted father let me dress as I pleased, yet continued my 10 pm curfew and punishments for less-than-A's until I left the house, at 19. This, although I'd already graduated high school, was paying rent at his house, and had started community college. I'm 26 now.

I confronted him sometime later asking why he was so strict with me, and he told me that he hadn't believed that he was strict at all, and that "after all, I let you dress however you wanted!"

Little Black Car said...

I feel like there is far too much baggage on the word "phase". Moving out of a phase is not always outgrowing it. Sometimes it's a sideways shift. Most people, I think, who swear they've "outgrown" a phase have really, if they admitted it to themselves, just moved into another, different, but no more "mature" phase. Technically, I "outgrew" model horses and "moved on" to vintage sewing patterns, except that my interest in horses was
(is; I haven't left them completely behind) pretty sophisticated and my interest in sewing, since I'm starting over from scratch, is, as yet, still that of a neophyte.

So, I wouldn't say that most people who leave Gothdom (or any other "phase") outgrow it so much as they find new outlets. Different interests serve different purposes for us at different places in our lives, and I don't think there needs to me so much antagonism and anxiety about moving in and out of phases, or whatever one wants to call them.

Sophie said...

I am 29 and recently received my first "Just a phase" comment from a 60-something co-worker. She said that her son had grown out of his goth phase, and so will I. My reply was that I've been that way for the past 12 years so, while I did adapt my looks to my age and to the workplace, it isn't a phase. She still sneers at most of my outfits and says things like: "Oh. That dress is very YOU." in a snark tone. It's the first time I have encountered that. Even in my BabyBat days, people around me were very supportive (my mom is actually gave me my first goth outfit, before I was even into goth), and the worst I had to put up with was: "You really like black, eh?" My co-workers either say positive comments or nothing at all, and it seems like I have started a desk gargoyle trend.

In fact, during my 20s there were some times where I dressed really mainstream, and those are the times I consider my "phases". They never lasted. I would tell myself "Ok, I'm X years old so I have to start being normal!" and then I would feel weird and go back to goth. I'm comfortable with my life, I have found a signature style that doesn't clash with my very plain civil service work environment but still sets me apart, no bosses or customers have ever said anything negative, and that's what's important. There must be something missing in that lady's life for her to feel the need to be on someone's case like that, at her age.

Dame Silu said...

Yes, I remember that, when my mother went along trying to "reassure" everybody saying, "she's just in her black phase, it won't last!".

The problem was that I had never had had any "phase" in my life, like my cousins who changed their favorite stars every year. So that didn't really match.

I had always been attracted by things different, unlike other girls at school who were right into mainstream TV soaps and ready-made stars. So when I just discovered that we could actually live our dreams, I just did.

I was 15 then (ooo the bad age !) and now I'm heading towards my 28th birthday, still very passionated with everything goth and fantasy... Of course, I have evolved and behave less like a narrow minded teenager since I turned 18 ^^ But I do not imagine my future life without these dark dreams... A somehow goth granny would be great !

I'm going to be an official teacher, I have already done that job and my students love my humor and my way of handling lessons. In class I dress very seriously, but my mind is still there, and I just release the physical layer of gothicism outside work :)
So yes, goths can definitely have a good job :)

midnightpaw1313 said...

I'm 25 and yesterday i had a guy i know tell me about his son's "Goth phase and that you'll grow out of it."
His son is now 21 and in the military. Good for his son, he moved on and found what fits him.
I was very polite and said nothing in response to his comments. Then he flip through a the pyramid collection magazine and loved a steampunk dress. He also said he liked women who ware corsets on the outside of there clothes. I told him that I have 2 corsets, but I wear them under my clothes. (Then the converstion was over he left.) I was polite the whole time
People in life should be comfortable with who they are, happy in their own skin, if “Goth” (whatever it means to that indivual) is not for you than move and find what works for you. If you come back and are her to stay I and others will welcome you back.
Just thought I share my story, he just thinks he’s right, no one can say what the future holds, so we will all see wont we. 
This link might internist you guys and girls.
- Midnightpaw1313 :),91f8a049

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