Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Grounded from being Goth

Alysin on Twitter sent me a tweet asking for help with a rather unusual situation - she's been grounded from being a Goth, permanently.

The Birthday Massacre
Now, I'd like to begin by stating the really obvious - you cannot actually be grounded from anything for life, because at some point you're going to grow up and move out. But parental rules can be difficult to circumvent, and frankly living your teen years in a permanent state of rebellion creates an uncomfortable, tense, even hostile environment, which really isn't the most fun. Sure, if your parents say "Don't dye your hair! Don't shave your head!" you can go right ahead and do it anyway, and there's not really a lot they can do about it once it's done, but then you - and they - will have to put up with the fallout.

Which is why I always advise that you compromise, compromise, compromise, and talk about it with your parents. In this particular instance I would advise Alysin to raise the subject with her parents at every opportunity. In the car. Over dinner. Watching TV. Whenever you get a moment with your parents, start the conversation that goes, "About me being Goth... it is really important to me and it's not as bad as you think it is..." Yes, of course they will roll their eyes and ask you to change the subject. But each and every time the opportunity arises, persist, and whilst it probably won't magically make them change their minds, it will show them that your interest in 'this goth thing' isn't just going to go away if they ignore it.

Ask them if you can be Goth if you don't dye your hair or wear heavy make-up. Ask them if you can be Goth if you don't wear any sexualised or offensive clothing - even if this limits your wardrobe to black T-shirts, blouses and jeans. It shows them that you're serious and that you can agree to sensible compromises. Ask, ask, and keep asking.

What are their reasons for this decision? Is it a (very creative) punishment for an unrelated misdemeanour (in which case I'd guess they'd give in sooner or later, when they feel you have been appropriately punished)? Do they disapprove of Goth in general (in which case, make sure you have The Talk, and keep on trying)? Or did you do something specific and Goth-related that they really didn't like, e.g. getting a piercing when they had forbidden you to do so (in which case undo the damage as much as you can, apologise, and, yup, keep trying to talk to them about it)?

In the meantime! Whilst wearing them down with pester power, what are your remaining options? I'll admit, I'm not entirely sure how you could ground someone from being a Goth. Have they banned black clothing? The cream, brown and sepia tones of steampunk are still available to you, as are the pale shades of 'ice Goth'. Could you get away with a black T-shirt if you wore blue jeans? Try working around the basic definition of Goth clothing and see how much you can get away with. If they're on the lookout for Tripp pants and heavy eyeliner, they may not realise that the purple T-shirt (or nice white blouse) with a nice black skirt and subtle bat jewellery is equally 'Goth'.

Have they banned Goth music? If so, find out as much as you can about what they think Goth music entails. I'll wager it won't involve Classical music, anything that sounds upbeat or bouncy, or many of the ethereal/ambient artists e.g. Dead Can Dance. What if the band members don't look ooky-spooky? Again, try working around the basic and obvious signifiers of Goth and explore what has been left available to you.

Lastly, make-up! Heavy black or other dark colours are obviously out, so again, try thinking outside the box. Silver eyeliner? Vintage or retro-inspired styles, e.g. winged eyeliner and red lips? A plum-coloured gloss and a flick of mascara? Don't make it too heavy or extravagant and don't draw attention to it, and see what will pass without notice or comment.

However, it's best to bear in mind that at the end of the day whilst you are under their roof you need to abide by their rules. The above advice will hopefully help you keep a smidgen of your spookiness, but remember that they are your parents and you do need to respect them! It won't last forever; when you are eighteen you will be an adult and can do as you please! Bear that in mind when you feel frustrated, and start daydreaming about the uber-Goth outfits you can wear when you leave home.

Best of luck, hope this helps! Readers, any further advice?


Inmate 4 said...

I opften find that the Victorian styles of Goth can be easily forgiven by almost everyone - whilst I was in medical school I compromised by going for smart-but-bleak styles, adding romantic touches etc - When on ward rounds I had a white broderie anglais blouse with elbow-length sleeves and layered a long black skirt over a slightly longer white one, swept my hair up and wore simple-but-striking makeup. It maintained a smart and respectable air and followed all the rules for hospital dress-codes whilst allowing me to experiment with less mainstream styles and I often got praise for my appearance. If people will let their doctors and med students dress this way I'm sure you can edge it past one's parents with very little complaint.

Jeffery said...

If you can't be Goth without the make up and music then you'll never be Goth with it. The Superficial aspects of our Aesthetic do draw the most attention, however there is much much more to it than what we look like and listen too. A mind is its own domain!

OddGhoulOut said...

I'm guessing her parents have a distorted view of what Goth actually is. She should try to explain it to them as best she can. Maybe she could expose them to positive examples of Goth in pop culture, and put them at ease by saying the old, "Marilyn Manson is not Goth."

Xanthy said...

I've had an article in my drafts pile about exactly this, waiting to be published. I'm going to re-read it, finish it and post it, because I managed to get my mother's approval on a lot of alternative fashion and music, and I'd love to share that with people :)

The Tenth Muse said...

I avoid dressing in a really Goth manner both to avoid freaking out my parents and because I know that, unfortunately, people are still prejudiced against Goths... and dressing that way could possibly affect my chances at success in a few areas. (I hate this, but it's true.)
However, I haven't met a single person objects to my preference for the dark scene or interest in Goth music-- in fact, some people admire it! And my parents think the music is pretty, as well.
As long as Gothy things don't affect me in academic/competitive areas (I'm Asian, guys XD), and I'm working hard, my parents are totally fine with my tastes in music!
(And I can buy dark-tinged things, too, as long as they're somewhat disguised. ;) )

Anonymous said...

First of all, this girl is from a very conservative part of the US; perhaps her parents are biased, perhaps they are concerned for her safety & well-being. She's stated she's had bouts with suicide-maybe her parents (mistakenly) associate that with "angst-ridden, goth teens". Or perhaps her parents feel her being suicidal has to do with not "fitting in" with her mainstream schoolmates, and that if she made an effort to fit in, maybe she'd be happier. Then there may be the concern that she will be teased mercilessly, or worse, physically attacked.

There are far too many variables here to just say "constantly" bring up the topic. I would suggest she bring it up, once, in a controlled, mature manner. She should ask her parents *why* they object; they may have a valid concern. If it's a matter of personal bias, then perhaps she can slowly work in some edgier pieces, from a mainstream store, like H&M, Forever 21, and the like. Also include her parents on the decision making-it may be easier to find a compromise if the parents are involved. Take mom window shopping, or find looks online, and talk about it. Mom may actually see some maturity in this inclusion. If the parents aren't up for a discussion, let it go, for a while, at least 3-6 months. If she has a well-adjustyed friend, who happens to dress goth, bring him/her to meet the family, so they can see goths aren't a group of "misfit, suicidal, angst-ridden losers", as is often shown in the media.

Another issue is that her parents don't want to invest in a wardrobe she may wear for a short while before she gets bored. Again, shop mainstream stores, pick things that can work back to a mainstream look, and maybe the parents can compromise. Compromise takes both sides to agree, so she may have to give in a little, as well. Again, do not pester the parents about it; it comes off as immature and whiny, and one loses all credibility in the argument.

Or, she can just wait a few years, and dress how she likes when she's an adult.

Krystal Fenix said...

I honestly wonder what gives any human a 'right' to control another human. Biological or not, I don't believe we should entirely control another human being. If someone shares a house with me be it biological or not, there should be common house rules shared by ALL household members, not double-standards so that the adults get their way over younger members of society just to be 'powerful' and 'in control'.

When they are under 14, I understand the general concern for health, safety and making sure what is done is done legally but I do not believe that just because you have the title 'parent' means you can control your kid left, right and centre. If people don't start sticking it to their parents at some stage, they are allowing their parents to have control even when they have left home and this isn't good on a person's wellbeing and psychology.

I mean, I understand if a household is smoking free, or drink free or something sensible as that but what one does in their own space behind closed doors shouldn't be of concern unless they are setting fire and can risk the health, lives of everyone else.

People should learn on their own trial and errors. Instead of raising kids to fear making mistakes, always needing to meet societal, unrealistic expectations and making them have anxiety attacks about every little thing, we should encourage and praise trial and error. It's how we learn.

Stop with the 'Be a perfect, obedient human being who must not make mistakes, who must follow all rules and just lump it'. This is how we are creating a generation of kids who won't stand up for what they believe in because parents and other apparent authority figures have become very strict.

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