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Thursday, 8 September 2011

Growing into Goth

Hi guys! No, my computer isn't fixed yet - we've been trying to buy a new one but every one we try to buy is last season and no longer in stock... >.> So on my day off from work I've tromped up to my dad's house with a memory stick to post some of the stuff I've been writing over the last couple of weeks (can't believe it's been so long!). And of course I've got a bit of catching up to do on the Goth Challenge as well. But at least there will finally be some NEW content around here... yay!

Without further ado, an actual post:

In Gothic Charm School, Jillian Venters describes Goths as people who have not lost their childlike sense of wonder; who don't feel inclined to give up the magic, whimsy and 'dark sparkle' that embodies all that we love about this subculture as they enter adulthood. This, I would say, is a fairly accurate description, at least from my point of view - unfortunately, society is not often as accepting of Goths and this simple philosophy that embodies them as Goths, usually, are of others. Teen Goths, of course, struggle with the insular, clique-driven world of school and possible pressure from their families to conform, but when entering adulthood, there can often be a whole new set of troubles for a spooky person to deal with.

Source
Adult Goths may have noticed that non-Goths around us, be they colleagues, customers or social acquaintances, will often assume that we are younger than we are. (I suppose that, biologically speaking, I am an 'adult' Goth... yikes.) I was recently amused to learn, at the start of the school holidays, that almost all of my customers and some of my coworkers thought I was a college student or schoolgirl. I am actually too old even to attend college in the UK. I pressed a few customers and colleagues for what they thought my age was. "Oh... no older than sixteen, definitely," was one response from a regular customer. I'd like to think I simply have a youthful appearance, but since I'm almost six feet tall (rounding up only a little there...) and, I might add, before I began dressing Goth, in my very early teens most people thought I was about eighteen and I once ordered alcohol in a pub without question.

When I explained to Ms. No-Older-Than-Sixteen that I'm actually twenty (or will be this month), there was a very long pause whilst she looked me up and down with her eyes wide. Perhaps I'm wrong (second-guessing other people's thoughts is often doomed to failure) but I felt I could almost hear the cogs turning as she re-assessed her evaluation of me as a young student going through an angsty phase.

The trouble is that in the eyes of the mainstream, if we Goths are not just teens going through a phase, then we must be possibly dangerous and almost definitely deviant to continue dressing and acting in such a strange manner into adulthood. Opulent and dramatic clothing, elegant and expressive make-up, melancholy atmospherics and a fondness for Halloween are all-too-often seen as childish traits that should be set aside at a certain age. Of course, I have talked before about the 'it's not just a phase' dilemma, but I didn't think to mention that whilst teen Goths are usually seen as harmless kids acting out and trying to shock their parents, adult Goths are often regarded as devil-worshippers, drug addicts or 'just not right', because people who believe that Goth is a 'kid thing' assume that there must be something 'wrong' with people who don't grow out of it.

Older Goths may not have to deal with some of the same dilemmas as school-age darklings, but there is a whole new realm of problems to contend with, such as convincing job interviewers that your hair colour or penchant for stompy boots doesn't actually hinder your ability to do your job; co-workers who back away from you in the cafeteria because of the cute little skull on your computer monitor; and being ID'd in every bar you visit despite clearly being over 25 because adults just don't dress like that. The appearance of being eternally young may be quite flattering, but it can be highly annoying to have people talk down to you because they've assumed from your manner of dress that you're five years younger than you actually are. These irritations are, thankfully, outweighed by the benefits of being that little bit older - you can visit Goth clubs, afford custom clothing pieces, travel to larger events and Aunt Ethel might finally stop asking when you're going to 'grow out of it'.

Adult Goths may be a source of bemusement for the mainstream but with an educated guess I'd say that the majority of the 'Goth scene proper' (as opposed to mallgoths who haven't discovered the origins of the subculture... yet) is made up of those aged 25 and above. I recently met a woman aged forty who was selling off her old clothes as she felt that she was now 'too old' to be a Goth. I didn't like to point out that, of the Goths I know in real life, only one of them is younger than thirty and most are aged between 35 and 50. At any given club or event, I generally feel like a wide-eyed, overeager babybat at just 20 (OK, 19...).

It's interesting that Goth, which is mentioned in so many articles and documentaries about 'youth culture', is really not. Yes, of course there are thousands of young people who associate with Goth, but unlike many modern subcultures like emo and scene, it straddles age boundaries and includes people from all stages of life. Adult Goths have had more time in the subculture honing their make-up and crafting skills and as such may often be better dressed than their youthful counterparts - unlike the world of mainstream fashion which caters to a young market and is often unflattering for those who are older. I have read a lot in the papers recently about those over 50 complaining about feeling 'invisible' or as though they can no longer be 'trendy', which is not much fun for them and, let's face it, not much for young people to look forward to. But Siouxsie Sioux looks fantastic and still dresses as unconventionally as ever in her 60s. Many Goths aged 40 and above dress far better than they did in their teens and twenties because they have the time, skills, money and experience to do so and as such provide a template for us younger Goths to emulate and aspire to.

Which makes me wonder - Goth is usually seen as something to grow out of, but since our tastes, style, and skills are refined and perfected as we get older, isn't it really something we grow into?

Goth gossip: Grab a copy of Terrorizer Magazine from your newsagent this month, darklings (September 22nd to be precise) as Terrorizer and its occasional Goth-oriented pull-out section Dominion present The Secret History of Goth, Darkwave and Industrial, a 100-page special doing, hopefully, exactly what it says on the label.

17 comments:

Phoenix said...

Awesome to hear from you! Fantastic post, as always :) I definitely reckon it's something you grow into, I have found my taste in gothic culture more refined over the years, as opposed to more angsty babybat when I was younger :P

Mary Zawadzki said...

FAN-TASTIC post Amy! I'm 39 and get carded all the time because people think that I'm much younger. I have a combination of my Mom's beautiful skin and Goth to thank for that. hehehe ...

There are indeed so many of us in our 40s and 50s who can be found on the dance floor on a Friday night. Granted, we may sit out more, conversing with friends; or we may go home early, but we're still there and dressed to the nines.

Goth is definitely something to grow into. Thank you for this wonderful post darling!

Nightwind said...

I'm very happy to see you posting again and I hope that you get your computer problems straightened out soon.

I agree with you that Goth is something a person grows into. I'm over 50 and wasn't aware of Goth until later in life. Yet, I took to it like a bat to the belfry, so to speak.

Still, I believe that, as a person grows into adulthood, the demands of life require that he or she maintain a certain amount of credibility in mainstream society. For me, that often means blending my Gothic look somewhat with a more mainstream appearance. Then, when I get together with fellow darklings, attend a metal or Goth-rock show, celebrate Halloween or just plain feel spooky, I dress much more fully Goth.

This seems to work as I'll walk into a place and people will jokingly say, "Here comes Count Dracula." Yet the fact that they joke with me denotes an acceptance.

Stefanie said...

You aren't too old for college. It just won't be free. I was at college for free at 18. Went beck at 20 I believe to do the next level course and found out because of my age I now have to pay. For my college (Weston-Super-Mare) and course (animal care) it was gonna be £200-and-something if on jobseekers or I think £700-and-something if I'm not. Very frustrating as I like college and want to go back but we've have a ton of money problems the past few years.

LovleAnjel said...

Welcome back!

I am a professor and get mistaken for a student a lot. Now it's mostly students doing it, it did not take very long for me to be "known" to other faculty & staff as That Goth Professor in Biology.

VictorianKitty (Sophistique Noir) said...

Very well said. I agree wholeheartedly that Goth just gets better with age! Not only do one's means increase and taste become more refined, but I find that the teasing or rude comments fade as well. People are more respectful toward adults, and more tolerant of eccentricities when they realize those choices are not just motivated by teen angst and rebellion. They may not *understand* it any better, but at least they know there's no point in criticizing a woman in her 30s or 40s. :)

Tenebris In Lux said...

Yes! New post!

So, so true. *le sigh*

But it seems the other way around with me. People think that I'm in my later years of college when I'm still in high school o_0

Bane said...

Great post! I think if goth really suits you - it's not just a persona you're trying on - then you grow into goth as you grow into yourself. You become more secure and less affected by others' opinions, which makes you less of a target for rude comments.

It's definitely tough to be goth as a teen; adults disapprove and schoolmates can be downright cruel. I think one's 20s can also be challenging; employers might not take you seriously and people will scoff because they think you "should have grown out of that by now." By the time you're 30, people begin to accept that it's not just a childish phase or a cry for attention. Your boss might think you're odd, but that hardly matters as long as you're doing your job well. Your mother might even give up nagging you to wear more color. ;)

Angel of Darkness said...

Happy to hear from you again! Hope you can get a computer soon, I know what that's like.
And I really like what you had to say in your post. It makes so much sence that you would grow into than out of it.

Maggie said...

Funny you should say that we look younger than we actually are. I just turned 29 and I still get asked for ID when buying booze :)

Anonymous said...

Amy, I was just wondering as to your goth gossip post as where you got your information. I have been looking for that copy of dominion/ terrorizer magazine and have been unable to find it or any follow up. I would just to know because whatever it is, it sounds awesome!

ultimategothguide said...

@ Anon - I saw a huge full-page ad in the last issue of Terroriser/Dominion. I haven't been able to find it either though. I sent them an e-mail to ask where I can find it and they haven't got back to me. There isn't anything about it on either of their websites either. :-/ If I find anything out I will pass on the info. I'm not impressed with them. Sorry.

InfiltratorN7 said...

You're never too old to attend college (or university) in the UK! Many part-time courses are dominated by mature (24+) students. Some courses even require you to have worked a certain number of years before they'll let you on the course. It's only at sixth-form colleges where they restrict the age range to something like 16-19. You tend to get a lot of older students on vocational courses and of course Access courses (for those want to go to uni but haven't any A-Levels). I know a fair few people who went back to college in their 20 and older.

I'm nearly 28 and still get mistaken for someone ten years younger. :-S Not much fun, though my sister says I should take it as a complement.

It is awful when non-goths assume adult goths must be disturbed or deviant in some way. In one job I had the most appalling things said about me. They drove me out practically, I was glad to leave. It also sucks that there is this attitude that you can't possibly be competent enough to do some jobs if you dress alternative. It's nonsense of course. How you dress does not reflect your abilities or skills.

On the age and phase thing. Similar problems can affect those who are fans of comics, manga, anime and animation. People think those things are purely for children (I can think of many that certainly are not!) and that you should've grown out of it by now. Those things were never originally for children (just look at the earliest Felix the Cat cartoon for example - after a bit of hanky panky in a back alley with a female cat he later finds out he's a dad and then promptly gases himself to death!) and there's still a lot of material is being produced that is for adults. There's a lot of stigma attached to adults into comics [etc], stereotypes as being dorks living in their parent's basements and don't know how to socialise. It's all as crap as the stuff about goths being devil worshippers sacrificing chickens.

InfiltratorN7 said...

Oh yes and I definatly agree with everyone here who says goth is something you grow into not out of. Of course it is! As you get older you refine your style. You've explored and experimented, made mistakes maybe and learnt from them. You're also likely to have expanded your music collection through exposure to music at clubs and seeing live bands. You're also more likely to be settled and comfortable with yourself, with who you are. With age comes independence and the space to make your own choices without parental interference, more room to breathe and grow. There's also an increase in income which means travelling far and wide to gothy events is more feasible. So while there are downsides to being an adult goth, there are also a lot of positives and it is the positives that make it all worthwhile for me.

Kitsu said...

love your explanation a lot! im almost 20 soon also but I didn't grow into goth until I was 18 years old (or dared to show the true me acctualy) for goth's more than a culture. it's a feeling, a lifestyle. as older i've learned more about the culture than I did as early teen (: like your blog a lot. keep it up!

Anonymous said...

I never thought to put the way I dressed with looking younger. I'm 42 and look like I am 23!! People thought it was a " phase" for me too. I love dark creepy things, will only give them up when the dirt is on top of me!!

Shadow Witch said...

okay, so surfing the web i stumbled across this site. and i am astonished! I'm just turning 19, and i am a goth at heart. although no money to buy all the gorgeous cloths out there that i love! iv always been the wired one in school and especially at home. so when i read a few of the article's here they really spoke to me. i have to say there is a lot a knew and a lot more i just learnt, so, thank you for making this site :)

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