Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Reader Question: Goth-phobic parent

"Hi Amy,

I am a 14-year-old babybat. I have no contact with the Goth world, other than the internet. I have a problem.... I keep my style very simple due to my private Christian school, and especially my mother. Even so my mom seems to think I dress like a "prostitute" or a "tramp" (her words, exactly). I'm afraid to talk to her. She thinks Goths are a bunch of depressed druggies who are crazed over horror, death, blood and guts. She refuses to listen if I start to explain otherwise. Any ideas? I need help!
Amelia, USA."

Hi Amelia,

Your method of approach is good; it sounds like you've tried everything I would usually advise, although I might suggest writing a letter explaining your thoughts or even asking a sympathetic relative to speak to your mother on your behalf. It's great that you're doing your best to communicate and help your mom understand what your interests are instead of letting her think you're being rebellious or getting angry. Well done you for trying the mature, direct approach.

Unfortunately, as you're learning, even the most sensible, honest and all-round lovely Gothlings sometimes can't change a person's mind about their (ridiculous) opinion of what this scene is all about. Of course we drink blood and sacrifice goats at the dinner table. Why haven't we all been locked up yet when we dress in this really obvious way to help the authorities identify the wrong-doers in our community? Jeez... :-/

When talking doesn't work, there are really two things you can do.
  1. If your style, as you say, is already simple, and I'm sure your schoolwork and manners are impeccable, then CHANGE NOTHING. Just stop using the word 'Goth' around your mother; don't discuss with her the way you dress or what you're into, just keep doing exactly what you're doing. You have done your best to put across your point of view in a mature and adult way; if she just isn't listening, there isn't much more you can do, so keep calm and stay spooky. If she asks why you're still wearing so much black, say, "Because I like it," "Because it suits me," or something equally vague. Hopefully she will come to see that black clothing and macabre tastes don't actually change you as a person; if not, you only have a few more years until you can get a job or go to college and when you live under your own roof you can call yourself whatever you want and dress however you want.
  2. If, however, your mom won't drop the subject and insists that you change your style of dress, there really is very little you can do. Express your objections in as calm a manner as possible; make any compromises you can - but at the end of the day, as a minor living under your mom's roof you may sometimes have to grit your teeth and keep counting down 'til you move out and can do your own thing. (I usually point people having a similar dilemma to this post; you might be able to glean something from it too.)
One thing I do find genuinely concerning is that you say your mom describes your style as dressing like a 'prostitute'. Obviously this is a fairly upsetting thing to hear from one's own parent; again, I would ask if there's a relative who perhaps could speak to your mother on your behalf and explain that remarks like this are bothering you.

Goth aside, what is it your mom objects to about your style? Fishnet tights, perhaps? Shorter-than-knee-length skirts are often a common parental concern. If you can compromise on this particular area, e.g. opaque tights without rips; knee-length skirts and modest blouses, it might help. Can you ask your mom exactly what it is she objects to? (As in, not your Goth tendencies or your colour scheme, but which items of clothing.) If it's a favourite item, it can always live in the back of your closet until college.

I hope this is helpful - please keep in touch and let me know how things go. Readers, can you offer any further advice?


xxxx little darkling xxxx said...

Add a bit of colour- parents sometimes freak out when you're in all black! I have coloured jeans, you don't have to be too bright I'd you don't want to, I have some gorgeous deep red jeans that my parents like (I also have striped jeans, pink (!) jeans and purple jeans, they can all add colour to an outfit). And shoes, I own electric pink doc marten style boots, simarilly adding colour to outfits. And, to stop worrying parents, it's best maybe not to wear skulls, coffins and death related stuff, they can find it morbid.

Anonymous said...

well you could see what kind of interests your mother has and use them for your advandage.For instance my mother has an interest for painting history and victorian culture.I showed her that goths have the same intersts.She ended up liking the music of nox arcan and adrian von ziegler.Try it...

Shannon Rutherford said...

She can also try and make a compromise with her mother: she will dress "normal" at school but in the weekend she gets to wear whatever she wants.
Or if that doesn't work, well... she can still get changed at some friend's house before going out (possibly one whose mother doesn't freak out for some innocent black clothes).

MadamNoire said...

Here's my advice; try to explain to your mother that you get hurt when she says that you look like a "prostitute". I also agree with Amy here, ask her why she thinks so, what particular clothing items she has a problem with. There are so many gothic dresses/skirts/shirts etc that would never look "slutty" in any occasion so I'm sure you can find something that your mother can approve of. :)
If it is just the whole Goth subculture your mother has problems with, then I agree that avoiding the particular word "Goth" might be a good idea. For instance, you could say that you're into "Victorian fashion" if that's the style you like. Or simply that you like to wear black so that you won't have to worry about matching your clothes? ;)

Spooky love /Noire

Laura Morrigan said...

In my last couple of years of high school I 'came out' goth. I had been reading gothic literature forever and my parents never cared, but the G word, and the black clothes drove them over the edge, and I never heard the end of it until the day I moved out. It made me feel really sad and distanced from my parents.

I would say maybe try and share with her the whole Christian Goth thing maybe? there are loads of blogs online, I saw one which explained why Goth does not necesscarily disagree with Christian values. But my parents weren't Christian, so I might be wrong there.

Definitely try to wear more demure clothes, longer skirts, maybe more of a Romantigoth style. When you look like a charming Victorian lady, it might be harder for her to complain. Also check out Steampunk fashion, it's a good example of how to wear cool Victorian style outfits with a bit more colour thrown in. It has been a great help to me in expanding my wardrobe in include more colours, while still keeping a Victorian aesthetic.

Whatever you do, stay mature about it. Any weakness or immaturity, and your parents will store that stuff up for later as proof that you are immature and don't really know yourself. Hopefully, someday in the future, she will come to appreciate you as who you are.

I know it can be hard, I cried myself to sleep sometimes before I left home, although things got better after I left home. Hang in there, and I hope things work out for you.

Anonymous said...

This past summer I lived with my parents between college semesters, and while my family never directly called me a whore (though they would have said I looked like one a few years earlier) they teased me mercilessly about my clothes and makeup. If I wore my favorite eye look (basically just black shadow blended out all around the eye) they would laugh and say thing like, "Oh, you must have really upset your boyfriend for him to have beaten you up like that. Just look at that! Two black eyes!" Yeah, I know, it was stupid, but it still hurt. I could be wearing lots of colors and no symbols or jewelry, but one swipe of silver eyeshadow and I was freaking them out again. I guess what I'm trying to say is, I agree with Laura in that sometimes you have to just tough it out until you can move out of the house. It can be done. But before you despair, definitely try the advice these lovely people have given. I hope it makes it easier for you.

Max Corvus Tenebrus said...

GULPING GARGOYLES!!! A babybat going to Christian school! I hope they won't burn you as a little witch baby. Just joking, but being 14 is a very critical age where you want to do and try everything. I myself passed the teens and do know how it gets being interrogated by your own parents about your new lifestyle. Explore further on kid and find out whether you truely are a goth or not and then take action.

Anonymous said...

despite being lucky enough to have extremely laid back parents (they were both hippies-my father in the 60's and my mother in the early 70's, and did a lot of traveling, festivals and experimenting with clothes that were considered outrageous at the time!) I had quite a few arguments with my mother about clothes being 'too sexual'. Not just the obvious things like skimpy and revealing clothes, but also the fact that she considered the corsets, ripped layered tights, fish nets and velvet chokers that were the main stay of my riot grrrl/punk/glam tinged wardrobe to be inappropriate and overtly sexual (I was 15) negative comments ranged from 'you're projecting yourself in a way that will attract negative sexual attention' to 'you look like a hooker'-cheers, mummy...I was exasperated, but looking back I understand some of her concerns (the idea however that anyone 'deserves' negative/sexual attention for the way they dress I still find abhorrent-we had an argument recently about the validity of the 'slutwalk' movement-me pro-it, her agin it!)
I think sexualisation through clothing and age appropriateness could be a great theme for a post btw.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps cross necklaces? They are understated and tasteful, I doubt you could go wrong with that. Also, maybe try explaining to your mother about gothic literature { Edgar Allan Poe, etc.} as I think parents might be glad you are reading. Good luck and I hope it goes well! Great post as always Ms. Asphodel

punkasaurusJess said...

*sigh* Sometimes, not even age will stop your parents from criticizing the way you look. Earlier in the year my mom (who was usually so understanding and supportive of my "weird" fashion choices) made the lovely comment "If you were standing on a street corner in Chicago dressed that way for more than five minutes the police would pick you up for prostitution!"

And I happen to be twenty years old...

Of course, she was also worried about how my ripped tights and short skirts would reflect upon her mothering skills -- how it would make people think of HER. There's always a chance that what your mother is worried about, Amelia... Which can be a hard thing to break your parents of, unfortunately.

I really, really hope she eventually comes around and starts to understand that the way you dress makes you happy and she shouldn't worry so much about appearances... *hugs*

Beth W. said...

Such good advice! I blogged about it here:

Amy Asphodel said...

Beth W. - thank you! I love your post :-)

Midnightpaw1313 said...

I know this probally won't help the prson asking the question, but i'm 24 and my mom still does not like me doing the "goth" thing. I'm dressed in black lace, a very elgaent victorian look today, many layers and you can't see my feet.

She still does not approve, she lies to me to make me feel better. When she does not like it, so we are in the same boat. We would not be happy as clones of our parents. Goth's keep the world a interinsting place.

Anonymous said...

I'm 45 and one of the "original goths" I was listening to Bauhaus and Joy Division while they were first making records. I dressed always in black, bleached my hair gray or black (depending on the year) and was generally an intellectual dork and artist kid. All my goth friends were this sort. I was also a horribly abused, neglected and emotionally abused child who was sick a LOT. I spent 8 months bedridden being very erratically fed. I was clinically depressed. My father died when I was also very young. I didn't do drugs. I had a 3.87 gpa despite never going to school and got a full scholarship to the best art school in the world. I found that many sensitive artistic kids are drawn to being goths because they are putting on being scary as a way to scare those who they are afraid of. It's interesting because goths are actually the sweetest and often most introverted people one will ever meet. I turned out just fine. I'm well known in many areas of the arts. So tell your mother to look at this post. It just means you are a bright, emotional and sensitive soul who is putting on the dark side to scare away those who intimidate you.

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