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Thursday, 5 January 2012

Bring back the 'mutual freak nod'

Our dear Lady of the Manners at Gothic Charm School mentions in her wonderful book that, back in the day, if two Goths or other dark and unusual types encountered each other in the street, they would acknowledge each other with a nod. Maybe even - and, all right, we're talking about old-school Goths, so probably not - a small, friendly smile.

Model unknown
Source: Goth Underground
This is not only a nice, polite thing to do, but it is a terribly good idea for several reasons.
  1. It makes up, a little bit, for the moron a few blocks back who swore at you and made ghosty noises.
  2. It reminds both of you that Goth has become a 'community' by politely acknowledging someone who probably has at least some of the same interests as you.
  3. If you, or they, are the chatting-to-strangers type, you could find out about a new band or club, or simply have met someone new.
  4. It gives you a chance to check out their outfit.
So, why don't we seem to do this any more? Perhaps it's just that the younger Goths I tend to see are shy or trying to be aloof, but nowadays if you want to check out somebody's outfit you have to loiter about giving them the sideways eye and feel like a creeper (I was doing this to a green-haired young Goth I saw yesterday, who - horror of horrors - was wearing the same jacket as me. Typical. I threw on a baggy tee, jeans and jacket to pop out and buy some elastic bands (don't ask, and hence no Filthy Victorian outfit post yesterday) and bump into a well-dressed young Gothling... don't you hate it when that happens?).

In fact, what most often occurs nowadays is that two Goths passing in the street actually pretend not to see each other - it must appear extraordinarily odd to an onlooker as two similarly-dressed darklings turn their heads here, there and everywhere in an attempt to size up each other's appearance without catching each others' eye!

I can partially understand why this practise might have died out. There is, sadly, a certain level of elitism in Goth culture and many of us, even the more well-intentioned, are guilty of it, so perhaps older Goths stopped acknowledging younger Goths in case that person was not a 'real Goth' but a mallgoth, Mansonite or (more recently) someone jumping on the nu-Goth bandwagon. And younger Goths don't acknowledge older Goths because they are too shy, or because (to use a delightful phrase from the Lady of the Manners) they are spooky and NOT to be smiled at.

But seriously? If you offer a nod to your fellow black-clad traveller and then spot that they are wearing a Linkin Park T-shirt, what's the worst that could happen? They go away from the encounter feeling that their 'Gothness' has been validated; they may well then go on to explore the scene further, and voila, a babybat is born. That's my theory, anyway.

And younger Goths? So what if that eldergoth you just nodded at turns out to be a snooty so-and-so and ignores you? Most older Goths I have met are actually very friendly, but I'm sure there are a handful who still think smiling is illegal and anyone under the age of thirty is a poseur. If you meet one of these, well, you made the effort. You are the pride and joy of the Goth scene. They are an elitist old fart. Well done you.

I propose that Goth Guide readers bring back the mutual freak nod. I'm not asking you to have a conversation with every new, strange Goth that you meet... just nod! Acknowledge their presence! If you're really brave, smile, or say, "Nice outfit." It's probably a little sad that I feel disappointed if other Goths don't nod or smile, but hopefully I am not the only one.

Do you nod or smile at other Goths? What DO you do if you bump into another spooky type? Do you agree to bring the mutual freak nod into your life from this moment forward?

44 comments:

Naomi said...

I love this idea! Why shouldn't we be a bit more polite to each other? If I were a goth, I would definitely do this. But unfortunately the Dutch lolita community is very small. So it's highly unlikely for me to run into a fellow lolita :( But I really encourage this idea. And I hope you will succeed in your quest to bring this old habit back ^^

Miss Eva Morgan Reeve said...

I'm in!

linnea-maria said...

Well written! I've noticed that if a black dressed stranger likes the outfit they look a little longer from the side with an interested expression. I wish people could be more spontaneous and polite to give compliments to each other.

Dalestair Kidd said...

I was at the Royal Adelaide Show in September last year, showing my cat (dont ask)

Any way, these dark clad gals came in and were near where I was with my cat, I noticed them and gave a friendly smile, to which I was given the "Darkeness Does Not Smile" stare. While they were older than myself by possibly a few years, I couldn't help but have "Spooks" run through my head.

I do think we should acknowledge each other more, otherwise we're not a community - we are just people running around in black.

The best Freak-Love I get is when I go into "Witch Shops" I always get compliments and great service when I go in my darkest attire. I'm not sure why. LOL

Daniel_8964 said...

We should do this more often. I do this sometimes, but some may smile back. You can't do this to every black clad member in the subculture because you can't please everyone and some are rude, snobbish, nice and friendly. But they still should acknowledge each other more like a family in the community than acting like an angry pouty teen.

Violette B. said...

Nodding does not kill anyone and I think it is a charming way to be polite :)
I am in my last twenties but I never thought about this before. I appreciate the advice of the Lady of Manners, she is really a person to take into account :)

DEATH OF A RAVEN said...

Perfect points Amy. Something that I've wished would happen, when two or even three dark souls meet or pass by in the street. Not as easy as that in a narrow-minded place like Oswestry though.
The nod sounds great though. And YES you could find out about newer Goth bands. The Trad Goths of the 1980s used to be so friendly, back in the days when I was a younger outcast/outsider.

Under_The_Stairs said...

I'll try,but I hardly ever run into goths down here.Also,last time I did that was when I spotted a goth who looked to be about 24.She gave me a look that said something along the lines of,"Go crawl in a hole and die,you shitty little poser".

KatSaw said...

Amusingly I had just left Art History class one day and spotted a dark-clad girl and boy walking in the opposite direction. It was rather funny because we both stared at each other unabashedly, but I was midway through explaining the salient points of the Dada movement to one of my friends. Unfortunately just as we passed the pair I was talking about URINALS in a very loud voice, but next time I will certainly nod and smile.

Abigail said...

I also nod or smile when I see another Goth. I think it´s a nice way of behaviour and I would definitely appreciate if this would be ususal again :)

robyn bright said...

I always nod and smile because it makes me happy to see goths ;-)

Nightwind said...

A few months ago I passed a young Goth on the street. We both smiled, said hello and continued on our way. In this case our short encounter was most definitely an acknowledgement of one another's involvement with Goth culture. Sometimes you just know these things.

That said, I'm fortunate enough to live in an area where everyone says hello to one another. It's a place where hippies say hello to goths, mainstream folks say hello to hippies and goths, punks say hello to mainstreamers, hippies, goths, other mainstreamers...well, you get the picture. And why not? It strikes me as a common courtesy and it opens the door to further acceptance. Plus, shouldn't those of other alternative cultures also be recognized for holding to their own individuality? As I've mentioned before, the subcultures tend to mix and take part in common activities here; so we all know one another anyway and are accepting of individual and subcultural differences.

I know one thing for sure: If other goths were the only people I socialized with, I'd be a lonely person indeed as I generally only see other darkly inclined folks at our monthly tea society gatherings or when I occasionally make it to a metal show. Even then, the metalheads greatly outnumber the goths, but at least these are gatherings of the darkly inclined.

In spite of the generally friendly atmosphere in my part of the country however, the mutual freak nod is always special and should be given freely. Why practice elitism? We should all be supportive of one another; after all, we really are a minority.

Abilene said...

At the risk of sounding like an idiot, what on earth is a nu-Goth? o.o

Amelia Jane said...

I may not be a Goth, but I can definitely understand this. It's awesome to meet someone in the same subculture as you, it must feel horrible to be shunned by them as if you weren't 'worthy'. If your own subculture doesn't accept you, it might make you wonder who will. :/ Great post, it made me giggle at parts. :)

TropigothMama said...

I never stopped! :)

Caroline Carnivorous said...

I don't.. I want to smile, but I'm either too shy or too slow! But I will try harder from now on.
My city is FULL of posers and mansonites, but they're easy to recognize. But there are actually a few older people who have nice taste, but of course I don't know them.
I myself am a GODDESS to all wannabe goths, scene kids and alternatives. Because a friend of mine who was literally the king of this city, because he hung with both alternatives ang gangsters, a type of style was born: Wannabe scene gangsters; Poorly dyed black hair, lip piercing taken with a needle from a pharmacy in the handicap toilet at the bus station / mall (where they hang), and sweatpants. It's just sad.

MistressOfTheDecay said...

I'm in as well! I would have done this anyway, but I've never seen another Goth...

ultimategothguide said...

Abilene - http://ultimategothguide.blogspot.com/2011/07/actually-we-lived-our-lives-in-black.html

Anonymous said...

I remember reading another good post about this.. I think it was in Gothic Divine magazine! You should check it out!However I agree with this. Let's bring the mutual freak nod back!

Excerpts From Hell said...

I personally nod and tell people nice outfit as often as I can. Though coming from me it might not be as appreciated as I strayed from my victorian goth style into graver style with my partying.....so I do seem a bit colorful sometimes lol

Dirgesinger said...

Oh dear! If that would be possible in my country!

Anonymous said...

Yes I'm in!

babybatdanielle said...

I've always tried or wanted to do this, but I am awfully shy, and I never see many other goths around where I live, but I will try harder in the future :-).

Great post!

Danielle xo :-)

Maeam said...

I need to do this. I'm nervous so I admit I'm guilty to ignore the other person, but hell yes, I've wanted to say "Hi" and nod...I really really want to do this! So next time I see someone...I'll nod, at least.

Must try harder...!!

BellaDonna said...

I've only seen ONE other goth in my city in the past 10 years, and that was from a moving bus (she was on the street). However, I do plan to do this if I can.

xToxicTears said...

*Finally got blogger*

I still do this, always have.o_O If I see an alternative person I'll give a nod and a smile, I suppose now that I think about it, it generally is the older lot who return the favour, but then again the alternative scene in this country doesn't really exist other than a bunch of weemos and the one or two older, slightly more alternative lot.>o<

Theres one very tall slightly gothy guy who seems to live quite close to us who always gives a massive grin when we pass eachother, and of course we return the favour.^-^

The Black Rabbit said...

I really like this idea,and I try to do this whenever I can. Unfortunately, there don't seem to be many alternative types around my area to exchange mutual freak nods with.

gin said...

I always do my best to give other black clad individuals a comment or two. Unfortunately, some are are c*nts and are very rude back. You would think they would like hearing a compliment, rather than a jeer, especially from someone else with multi-coloured hair and facial piercings. Oh well, their loss^_^

Darling Violetta said...

I think I did a post similar to this one. Something about the awkward goth meetup. :)

Anyway quite honestly I haven't had a problem with older goths. It's the young one's that have snubbed me the most. Which makes sense. At a young age you're more concerned with being "troo gawf". So when another creature of the night crosses your path all your insecurities about your place in the subculture rise up. It's easier to give off the vibe that you're far more spooky and "troo gawf" to be seen with likes of them (i.e. "everyone is a poseur except for me") instead of taking the risk of being snubbed. When you're older you start to gain more confidence in your own persona and generally don't give a crap what people, goth or not, think of you.

Sarah said...

Granted, I flutter on any given day between gothyness and frilly pink victoriana, so I don't always feel that goths will feel the camaraderie towards me that I do toward them, but whenever I see someone of similarly inclined non-mainstream attire I rather treat it like flirting: a slight nod, smile, and brief eye contact before demurely lowering my gaze and continuing on with life. I know I've done my best to be nice, and they get to either ignore it grumpily, or smile back and be happy that someone appreciates the effort they took to be magnificent :).

On an only slightly related note, sometimes the most unexpected compliments are the best. Today my boss told me he liked my make up (purple lip gloss, black eyeshadow) because it was bad-ass, and that I needed a spiked collar to go with it!

Tenebris In Lux said...

This is so true! Whenever I've seen an alternative type before, all I could really muster up was a polite nod. It felt like surreal, silent communications. I nod to you, to acknowledge you. You are one of us. xD

One time I actually saw some Goth dude -- about my age, too -- and I cursed myself for not wearing "more gothy" stuff xP

Maggie said...

Love the idea! I must say, however, I'm not very good at making contact with strangers, so not sure if I'd be brave enough to practice the "mutual freak nod" (what a lovely name, BTW!)

Loreia Lunatic said...

Ah, I used to do this when I was younger. Can't recall why I actually stopped because it was a good thing, even though not everyone nods back. I live in a pretty small town so you can feel pretty lonely here as a Goth and it's good to see others. Sometimes I actually wonder whether all others have wandered off to other cities and I'm the only one left. o.O So I guess I will start nodding (or saying hi when I hav abrave day) to other Goths again. Even if some take me for an awkward bat then. ;-)

CNGB said...

It's always kind of strange to hear reports from across the world (as well as only a few states north from Mississippi) saying that people don't acknowledge each other. Down here in the Bible Belt, we wave at people we've never even seen before then.

With that being said, of course I'm in!

Lady Bethezda @ Bethezda's Preocupations said...

Hear Hear!

Anonymous said...

I always give the "mutual freak nod," especially when I worked at the mall. Every now and then as I walked to and from work, another goth, or just other oddly-dressed people in general would swap a smile with me. It was great fun, and it was one of the things I loved about working at a mall. I'm sorry to hear that it's not so common, elsewhere. It's all this darned technology making us all anti-social. >:P

Anonymous said...

An elitist old fart. Lol

From now on i am going to nod just to see what their reaction is.

ophelia said...

so funny. I seem to remember the smile-without-eye-contact option, but relies on the other person looking at you at the right moment ...

Nephälia VonDämonen said...

I've always really liked this idea, but I'm of the "too shy" type >.> I'm not really SHY, I just get nervous about "strange" (out-of-the-usual) social encounters XD even if it's just nodding or smiling.. sigh.. I'll try my best though. I keep trying to tell myself so what if I go out of my way to be friendly and the person is rude/doesn't return my friendliness? They're a stranger and chances are I'll never see them again.
I don't know why I'm so socially "shy" if in all other parts of my life I couldn't care less what people think XD >.<

Nephälia VonDämonen said...

It also happens that my (one) friend and I are the only gothy types in our town I think XD But I do go to cities a lot and I see at least generally alternative people there. It's hilarious though, in the class below mine in high school about 55% of the kids are scene/emo XD it's just kind of crazy that there's so many.

Anonymous said...

I'm also from the UK, but im fairly new to the scene, and a Babybat of 14, but if i saw another one of us black-clad types i would be sure to to the Mutual Freak Nod. Where i live you dont see many other Goths/Alternate-folk, so if i saw someone else dressed like me, id be sure to aknoledge (do?) Their presence, partly from friendliness, partly from relief that there is another black-clad person out there! Xxx p.s. i love you!!!!! :3

Willow Ninghtingale said...

I always acknowledge other alternative folk when I see them - even if I'm at work in my uniform. If I see someone who's trousers are simply amazing I just have to tell them. What bugs me though, is when I smile and say Hi to someone I recognize but can't remember their name, they just blank me. I mean, even if someone I don't know smiles at me, I have to smile back - it's just basic politeness! Am I too old fashioned to believe in good manners?

Cherry Divine said...

It is always so important to have good manners. This shows how intelligent true Goths can be. Plus it makes us a stronger voice within the sub-culture itself. Real true Goths have always had very deep and profound manners, whenever I've spoken to other darklings.

NekoChan89 said...

This seems to be awesome! In the town I dwell in, there are not many goths though. Mostly scene and emo people. And the others who try and be goth, but don't actually feel it. A person inpeticular that I know went from: norm, scene, emo, goth, emo, norm, goth. What?! Is that even possible? Worst off, when they were "norm" they ignored me! I don't get the So-called "goths" of today! I may be apart of the younger goth generation, but I certainly know my own feelings. It just "clicks" with me. Oh, sorry, I got off topic for a wee bit :). Anyways, "bring back the goth-nod!"!

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