Tuesday, 24 April 2012

"You'd look better if you were normal."

Another email response; I am trying really hard not to make all my February email-ees wait absolutely forever for responses and I am thrilled that everyone is chipping in with some advice.

The query I am addressing this evening comes from another young lady, who says, "I go to a public school and have noticed a few things from my peers... Like for instance I only get compliments on the days I wear color (it is quite different than my usual almost all black attire) .. And one day I decided to try teasing my kid flat out told me it was hideous and then went on to bug me about my mismatched socks as if they were a crime... But I was just wondering do you ever have people tell you, you would look better.. How do i say this "normal".. I mean I'm just wondering why people can't see goth as beautiful... I'm sorry for the half rant, lol, but I would really love to hear your response to this.. Thank you."

I've got to admit this made me feel pretty sad. I know that when you dress differently it's fairly daft to complain about receiving attention - whilst you might not be seeking it, you should be aware that you'll receive it - but nevertheless, there are times when I get tired, and bored, and frustrated, with some people's seeming inability to live and let live. You don't like backcombed hair? Well, your hair sucks too. Go away.

Moans aside, it's irritating but true that such remarks very quickly become part of life for those of us who choose to express ourselves a little differently. After a while you get used to people who have very few pleasant things to say about big hair, mismatched socks, clompy boots or purple lipstick, and furthermore, you may also learn to love the positive responses - and you will receive them, honestly - from strangers who are pleased, nay, delighted, to see someone who looks quirkier and more interesting than everyone else on the street.

Except maybe this street.
Source: Goth Beauty
I don't deny that the little barbs from strangers and schoolmates alike can be aggravating, but with time you do learn to deal with it, ignore it, and rise above it.

However. Let's be honest here, even the most superconfident amongst us might have off days, and on those off days (or headachey days, or long days, or sleep-deprived days, or really-just-not-feeling-my-best-today days), what feels like constant staring, teasing and needling can become very difficult to deal with. I have days (or weeks sometimes) when I really am not up to handling prolonged attention, and so I have dress-down days, where I slope about in jeans and a beanie hat. It may not be sartorially the most elegant, but taking a breather from garnering attention helps me prop my self-confidence back up ready for the next round.

Do I ever have people tell me I would look better if I ditched the black clothes and piercings? Certainly. I've been told that I've 'ruined my looks' by having lip and nose rings and I find it half-amusing and half-tedious that acquaintances get very excited should I wear something that isn't black - "You've changed your image! I see you're growing out of your phase! It's nice to see you wearing something with a bit more colour!". I think we all hear it from time to time; at the end of the day I just try to remember that everyone has a different idea of beauty, and mine is a little more morbidly cute than your average peach twinset and pearls. ;-)

I was reminded of a conversation that Kitty Lovett and I had on Facebook today regarding my upcoming plans to get the side of my head shaved. When I excitedly mentioned my plans to several people that I know, a few responses that I got were, "But why would you shave your head?" and "Girls should be pretty." At first I was a little taken aback by the assumptions, firstly that 1) I should feel the need to present myself as 'pretty' because I am female - as it happens I do like to feel pretty, it just might not necessarily match up with anyone else's idea of what 'pretty' is, and it's because it's what I like not because of my gender - and 2) (in Kitty's words) shaving one's head/part of one's head doesn't make someone un-pretty.

Why doesn't everybody see Goth as beautiful? I guess for the same reason that we don't all think it's beautiful to dress like Tulisa from N-Dubz or Katy Perry or an Olsen twin. Different people are drawn to appreciate different things, which is understandable, and pretty nice if you come to think about it, since it adds spice and variety to what could be a mass of beige and grey fashion. It would help if people were just a bit more accepting of the fact that what is 'beauty' to them is not necessarily 'beauty' to others.

It can be disheartening if you only get compliments from others when you tone down the Gothier aspects of your style. I also find that some of my friends who prefer mainstream fashion have more nice things to say when I dress more casually (even when it is in various shades of black). I'm sure that sooner or later, especially as you get older, meet new people and travel further afield, you will meet others who are more likely to be appreciative of an alternative style and then you will start to notice more compliments and pleasant comments.

But you have to remember, you didn't start dressing this way to get compliments. You did it because YOU like it. As long as YOU look in the mirror and feel great, that's what's important.


Anonymous said...

I simply ask people why they choose to dress the way they do, to which I usually get the response of "This is what people are wearing." My typical response is usually either, "So... You can't decide what to wear on your own?", or, my personal favorite, "So... If everyone dressed like me, you would, too?" I don't often get any more of a response after that, for some reason.

As for making more "drastic" changes to my appearance, I remember my last year in high school when I was finally, after 5 years of *ocaasionally* asking, allowed to dye my hair black. It seemed every guy I knew, felt a need to tell me how beautiful I was, before I changed my hair color. However, none of these same guys ever commented on my appearance prior (not that I cared). After a few weeks, though, several of them had changed their opinion, and even asked me out. Weird. What mattered is that *I* liked it, and I felt it completed my "look".

I wouldn't suggest doing anything permanent, or that would take a long time to reverse (should you decide you don't like it), unless you put a lot of thought into it. I have played around with the idea of getting an under-shave, but my hair grows way too fast, and it just wouldn't be worth the maintainence (for me), and I am too impatient to wait for it to completely grow out.

The bottom line is, there will always be someone who doesn't like how you look, both "normal" people, and (believe it or not) even other goths.

Emily said...

My friend was having a fight with someone in her class about how girls should feel pretty (he meant while wearing dresses, skirts, frilly shirts, etc). She told him she felt pretty in jeans and a baggy T-shirt. She won.

Nightwind said...

Sometimes being older has its advantages. When a person reaches a certain age, those around him/her come to a point of acceptance. They've been familiar with that person long enough to know his/her character and tend to overlook outward appearances. Unfortunately, this often comes about quite awhile after finishing public school. On the one hand, the person in question, having gotten older, has hopefully gained a sense of better self esteem. Former classmates and other critics should also have a better sense self worth; so they should have less reason to be overly critical toward others.

I also have my off days during which I tend to tone down the gothier aspects. Sure, there are still some visible Gothic trappings, so it's all relative I suppose, but sometimes I do feel the need to be more casual.

Interestingly enough, I sometimes get compliments and approving smiles from mainstream people when I am dressed darker. Maybe a few others do realize that Goth is beautiful.

KAthy White said...

One day you are going to be sixty years old (like me, almost) and wish that you had done the risky express-yourself thing, if only once. Ot twice if you liked it. Or kept doing it if you loved it. I saw a girl today whose head was partially shaved: she had the rest of her long sandy blonde hair pulled up in a ponytail on top of her head, striding confidently down the road . She ROCKED those sidewalls!!

Kitty Lovett; The Unadulterated Cat said...

I was wondering how long it would take for me to be mentioned. When you said my name and "Facebook" i was like "oh no" but...then it was the tame one.

At my last highschool (well it happened at all of them), a bunch of girls in my art class surronded me and were all "you would be sooo pretty if you were, like, normal".

Fuck you bitches. I'm hot. And given the fact that today, I'm engaged and they are still dicking around Vincentia, smoking stolen cigarettes and pot and sleeping with everyone, i think I've done quite well being like totally not hot.

SpiritTree said...

Two replys regarding the colour comment: 1)When people are used to seeing someone dressed in black, their wearing of colour is a novelty and so must be it commented on. 2)Black, grey and other 'noncolours' are so common in pretty much any (gothic or not) wardrobe that after awile even the most elegant of attire blends in to the masses.

gin said...

Years ago, I got these same remarks while in high school. Part of the reason people say these things is that many people do think you should conform to what their idea of beauty is. The other reason I think many people have the issues they do with someone looking different is that if you're actually pretty and alternative, they feel like the natural balance of the universe has been upset, and if a "freak" like you is getting described as "hot", then what are they? It really boils down to people being insecure with themselves.

TanteFledermaus said...

I gave up giving a rat's ass what anyone thought of my wardrobe a long time ago. I also teach children in a very affluent neighborhood in California. One particularly snotty and entitled child gave me a disapproving eyeball one day, and sneered "Your clothes aren't... cool."

I merely gave this child a rather dead stare and said "I do not consider the opinions of an eight-year-old when I get dressed." He was shocked that I didn't care about seeking his approval (yes, the stories you've heard about California are often true).

Those kids grow up to be rude teenagers and rude adults. And the same response will probably still work. "Good thing I don't have to consult you before I get dressed." Say it with a smile, though- dead eyes is too obviously dismissive.

Nina said...

I would first like to comment on the shaving part of your head thing. Go for it. I fully shaved my head a year ago and it was vastly liberating. I now rock a mohawk as growing it back out was hard for me.

Now to comment on the style thing. I've been through the harassment as well, but I always get complements in the strangest places.Usually from older ladies, and half about my bi-coloured hawk. Those are what you have to look forward to. Not everyone is going to love it, but the people who do usually outshine the people who don't.

Laura said...

When someone compliments me for wearing something more colorful or "normal" I try to just say thank you. I think most people don't realize how insensitive they can be when they are trying to be nice.

If someone tells you that you have ruined your looks I would say, "I'm sorry you feel that way but I like the way I look."

Kill them with kindness, lol.

V said...

Ooh you should shave your head Amy! I personally love that look! I need to get the balls to do it myself Xxx :)

BlacknickSculpture said...

Great post and insightful comments! I think the remarks by Kathy White, Nightwind and Nina really hit the nail on the head! This July 4th I'm going to be dyeing my hair a vibrant color and shaving it into a mohawk as a fundraiser to benefit childhood cancer research. I'm 55 and I'm sure I'll get my share of stares but hey you only go around once!

Ria said...

Feeling comfortable and being yourself is what makes people pretty.
Some of the fashion reporters on german tv never manage to look truly beautiful, cause no matter how fashionable their clothes are, how nice their make up is, they always give the impression of wearing a costume.

For keeping your head up: It helps if you have someone, whos positive about your choices. For me (and it seems it's the same for many goth girls) it's their grandma.

To the shaving thing: Please noooooooooooooo....
I'm a sucker for long hair... I don't like short hair, not even on men. On the other hand cropped regions with dyed in patterns look great... Whatever you end up doing, I'm sure you'll make the most of it.

Alexandriaweb said...

"Girls should be pretty." Oooh misogyny and goth hate...Nice...Not...

The moment I realised I didn't really give a toss about the fashion police was about a week after I shaved my hair off (three years ago now!).
A bit of background on that, I'd just got out of a really bad relationship with a very controlling guy who used to tell me how to look and how to dress (he even manipulated me into loosing weight and then complained at me that my hip bone dug into him but I could still do with loosing a few more pounds) and one of the major things was that he didn't want me to cut my hair.
When we split up there was a big charity event coming up (Comic Relief) and I decided partially because I'd wanted to try it for years anyway and partially because I wanted to make sure there was no chance I could be manipulated into taking him back to have a sponsored head shave.
I managed to raise over £200 and it made me feel really nice knowing that somewhere someone had access to clean drinking water, food or a mosquito net because I'd done something as simple as shave off my hair.
A couple of days later I came home from uni for the easter holidays and I arranged to meet up with a guy I'd been talking to online, we hit it off quite well and I figured it would be a nice, fun little summer fling to keep us entertained until I went back to uni in September and then I would concentrate on my studies.
A week after the head shave I was on my way to meet him again (full of smiles and butterflies!) when I ran into a drunk guy who letched at me for a while before slurring at me that I was a pretty girl and then "what've you gone an shaved ur hair off for? Yu'v ruined yu'rself for men like me." at which point my bus came and I screamed "GOOD!" at him before getting onto the bus and heading off to meet internet guy (who later became my boyfriend, and as of Monday we've officially been a couple for three years now!). I stopped caring about people who'd only want to have anything to do with me if I dressed or looked "normal" on that night and never looked back.
If someone only wants to know you because of something as superficial as appearance then they are not worth knowing. [/monstercomment]

OddGhoulOut said...

I had to look relatively "normal" the other day when I went out to see about a job. That day, my dad was complimenting me excessively over the phone to my mother. He usually never says much about the way I dress, but I suppose it was nice for him to see me like that. I mentioned to him last week that I was getting a nose piercing (which I'm too lazy and broke to get right now), but he said something along the lines of "You'll ruin your looks." If all it takes to ruin somebody's looks is a little nose piercing, then maybe we weren't lookers in the first place. So silly. ;)

Anonymous said...

I tend to get looks and compliments in the streets or any place sometimes and I ignore it all the time as I'm nervous, shy and slow to react. It is better to ignore it anyway, but I tend to speak when I'm spoken to nicely or I have something to say.

The Cemetery Dreamer said...

People who says girls with shaved hair can't be pretty are lying or ignorant.

This is the modelling page for an friend of mine.

See what I mean?

Nox Artemis said...

"Well, your hair sucks too. Go away."

Quote of the day.

Tenebris In Lux said...

Argh! I was just thinking about this today. A lot of girls will come up to me and say, "She [me] would be soooo pretty if she was, like, uhm, normal." I take that as pretty offensive. They usually say that about how I dress (the darker aesthetics) but recently I started wearing more blazers and androgynous-y clothing. When I have the time, I'll even go as far as binding my chest. So, a lot of people will tell me that I would look pretty if I looked more like a normal teenage girl. Probably one of the most offensive things, again, but the best way to deal with this is to tell myself that we all aren't living in a magazine ..

Edna said...

I grew my hair out to past my shoulders the first three years of high school but I never really liked it. It was thin, straggly, greasy and the cost of hair dye added up quickly. Also I have such a small, square face that long hair swallowed it up. I got sick of it. Then my Junior year I saw Emma Watson with her pixie cut and did the same thing. I felt so beautiful and feminine.

But though I looked much better and got many compliments from girls and mature males (keyword mature) I still got people who seemed offended and practically demand I grow my hair back out, despite the fact that it was unhealthy and unflattering. Most of these from my Dad's side of the family.

Now that Im almost done with my Senior year of High School Ive finally started feeling comfortable with myself becausr Im listening to who I want to be not everyone else's ideals. I have even begun growing out my hair so the last day of school I can shave it into a death hawk because a girl doesnt automatically lose her beauty when she loses.her hair.

Amy Asphodel said...

Hello there Nox Artemis :-) Long time no see! I missed your comments!

Merrihel Wednesday said...

With parental criticism of appearance modifications, I've found in my own case it stems mostly from the belief, however misguided and sometimes subconscious, that you don't like what they endowed you with and by extension them.

Good luck with your haircut! Just remember to keep in mind your build and body type. An extremely short haircut will accentuate visually your neck, your shoulder width, and your hips. I'd love to shave my head... but I'm also aware I'd look like a pinhead. XD

Sophie said...

Even if I tone it down as much as I can at work, I still get comments. "You really like black, eh?" Nothing mean, but enough to indicate that I've been noticed - in a good or a bad way, I don't know.

My mom still tries to push colored clothes on me when we go thrifting, even if I've been goth for the past 12 years.

Anonymous said...

My responst to the "you should dress normal" comments is to point to my clothes and say "This is my normal."

Loupie said...

There is only one thing that comes to mind when I read this post;

"I think my ego would fall right through the cracks in floor, if I couldn't count on men to slap my arse anymore." - Emilie Autumn, Thank God I'm Pretty

The number of people who seem to assume that the above is true is rather scary

Kaguya said...

I remember I was wearing a green shirt, with black leggings, and I recived "Oh, wow, you're wearing something that isn't black." Mind you, this wasn't the first time I wore something to pair with my black clothing. This just happened to be the outfit that people felt they needed to comment on the obvious.

MoonfacedAsh said...

My mom loves to tell how blue is so my color or even pink. lol

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