Siouxsie and the Banshees
Before we realize that we're different, that's when we're the most free to be ourselves. Free from the expectation of rejection, we act most naturally and, I would even venture, are the happiest so far in our lives.
Though I'd like to get more in-depth and technical in the future, this is not a post about the origins or nature of the Goth subculture on the whole. There are other resources out there, many of them contradictory, and I see no point in making this into a debate post right now. Today I feel more positive than that, and I want to share my enthusiasm in a positive way.
As the spooky Powers That Be designated May 22nd as World Goth Day, it has since been taken up most heartily by participants. Though I don't have time to do much of anything special, here I am, just for you.
I don't have a great memory, except a strangely retentive memory for trifles, though I do remember the first trickling instances of things indicating my current tastes as an adult. I grew up with Scooby Doo, Courage the Cowardly Dog, and a fascination with Halloween decorations. In the habit of giving away my toys for Christmas, one such case regarded a large, black plastic rat given to a friend my age, and I thought nothing of it.
While holding my parents hands on the street, they would later mock passersby with dark clothes and bright hair, while I remembered looking on with awe at the magic presence. Quickly interested in reading, there came titles such as Vampires Don't Wear Polka Dots, and Scary Stories to Tell In The Dark. It was a wonderful day when my mother picked up The Little Vampire in the secondhand store and asked me if I wanted it.
Do you see where I'm going with this?
Does this sound like anyone you know, particularly under ten years old?
We are most ourselves when we don't understand or value rejection.
Harm is increasingly subjective in western culture, and accusations of harm increasingly weaponized.
Accusing someone of harming you or others by their tastes and expressions has to come with more basis than simply being unusual. True, there's a spectrum of what's appropriate for a situation, but has to be judged by the individual, and thus the individual held accountable.
I was harmed when I realized I had better not say the girl with pink hair, piercings, and frilly black clothes was pretty, or my parents would be upset. I have distinct, embedded memories of being told that people wouldn't like me, wouldn't talk to me, or that I'd look like an idiot if I looked or acted a certain way, right in the middle of my enthusiasm for something I found beautiful. I began to doubt myself, wondering if all my personality was built on attention seeking, and if I was a bad person for not liking things other people did.
(hint: I wasn't.)
When the unusual or unfamiliar becomes the sole basis for denial or vilification, that's when we find kids afraid to talk to their parents, or even friends -- afraid that something will go wrong. It applies to many facets of life, but with regard to the subject, it became convenient to blame my depression on my tastes, instead of the rejection of my expression. Difference was encouraged, as long as it was familiar and the assumptions were positive.
(I sit here today in a jack-o-lantern t-shirt and purple damask print pajama pants, wondering where my black cat went...)
But I said this was a positive post, right?
Back to that.
Good news is, goth has become less synonymous with Columbine, and more with Tim Burton, Neil Gaiman, and classic literature. There's still a huge variety of expression, because that's what it's about -- taking hold of that thread in the dark, and interpreting what it means to you. It's acknowledging that not everything is a sterilized, safe, shiny way, and that's okay. It's given me, personally, a way to express myself on my terms. My interpretation deals heavily with candy, monsters, and the high contrast of bright colors in the dark. I wouldn't be nearly where I am today without finding this strange four letter word. Just sitting around worrying too much that people wouldn't like what I draw.
If someone wants to harm others and use an aesthetic as an excuse, there will always be a bad excuse for them to hold onto. Yet I see kids are being shut off less and less because Skelanimals somehow relates to Satanism if you turn the peg and push really hard.
I sensed somewhat of a shift right before I was an adult, but there was still a strong, residual tendency for people to refuse communication. Thus I simply went somewhere else. Not everyone has the ability to do that, and I didn't for a long time, so here I am, writing this for you.
I still see media blaming horrendous crimes on kids in black, because they're in black. If tragedy strikes, particularly of the self-inflicted kind, the individual's tastes, occupation, or appearance is often blamed. ("We should have known they had problems...")
It's easy to focus on the irrelevant when it's the most unusual thing, instead of digging deeper and laying out the pieces for what they are, before drawing conclusions.
Whether you're in the position of a child wondering how to express that you think something is beautiful without being in trouble for it, a parent concerned that your child's black nail polish means they're depressed, or even just someone passing by, wondering what this weirdo is going on about -- I'm here for communication. Always pro-communication.
I'm not the Wonderful Fantastic Answer to everything you want to talk about. My goal is to start people thinking, talking, and looking at things in a new way. Regardless of agreement, I hold out hope that the more information, and the more revelation from perspectives that don't fit neatly in the marketed box, the more people can think for themselves instead of have perspectives prepackaged for them.
And they'll feel safer expressing themselves in ways that don't actually harm people, but they've been guilted into thinking might.
Go for it.
It's hard. It's bizarre. It may cause problems - but it's not necessarily your problem, and don't let them hand it to you when it doesn't have your name on it.
As always, your friendly neighborhood candy corn peddler,