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When it’s not “just a phase”, or being Goth as an adult

When it’s not “just a phase”, or being Goth as an adult



Last week, on my lunch break at a café I haunt (no pun intended) within walking distance of work, I spied a couple of young goths a few tables away from mine. Their makeup was stark, clothes over-the-top, and eye-rolls were in full effect – not so different than me when I was their age (I won’t say just how long ago that was). It was nostalgic and charming to see a modern day version of myself and friends in aeons past. As I sipped the mediocre coffee, I began to think about people like me: the gothlings who grew into adults (who either embraced their dark heritage all along the path or denied that it ever stuck).

Just how has being goth been an issue (or not) – and all of us black hearts -- for the long haul? How do we move through a decidedly non-goth world as adults? 

I started to think of the ways this has been different for my various friends, who tend to be well-educated, professional, and goth. Kristen, for example, has a Master’s degree in art history. She has worked at a rather high-end art gallery for a little over ten years. Afraid about stigma from her anything-but-subtle gothic appearance (which she didn’t tone down at work), she never bothered to try to move up and away from her assistant position at the gallery -- until recently. Kristen’s education, experience, and dedication – coupled with the fact that working in an art gallery (even an uppity, posh one) – clearly afforded her permission for a certain level of eccentricity. Kristen is now the director at the gallery and, still gothed up to the Nth degree, enjoys success and respect from her clientele.

On the other hand, my friend Kyle, who has a PhD in Psychology, stands as a different sort of adult-goth example. He made excellent grades, worked hard, and was told by a myriad of professors and supervisors throughout his doctoral career to “drop the goth” and nix the “artsiness” or he’d get nowhere in the field. After all, therapy clients are (apparently) expecting Dr. Freud, not Dr. Edward Scissorhands. So he did. Mind you, Kyle doesn’t dress like the average therapist (his black neckties and gartered black socks are a middle-finger to that snooty side of the establishment), but his gothiness is kept well under wraps around work. He can, however, be found at the local goth night with heavy eyeliner and black nail polish.

Askur is a chap I met on a trip to Iceland. He’s a fantastic professional photographer – and I mean that in the gothiest of ways. His eye for finding the dark and twisted in the most seemingly innocuous of items is nothing less than astounding. Askur could coax the darkness out of a fluffy bunny petting zoo with nothing but the angle and setting of his vintage camera and, of course, his gothic eye. But there’s the hitch: Askur doesn’t think he’s goth.

What’s that Askur? I couldn’t hear your goth denials as I was too busy admiring your shaved-on-the-sides with razor-cut bangs hair and your vintage Nitzer Ebb shirt. Thinking about it, Robert Smith has been vocal (okay, whiney) about The Cure being labeled as a “goth” band. So, perhaps goth denial is actually pretty goth, coming from Uncle Bob himself…

Askur will argue for hours and his protestations might convince the uninitiated, but for an elder member of the spooky family myself, he can’t fool me. But the real question is: whyever would he want to? I’m on the inside here. No judgments. No mockery. As it happens, there appears to be a stigma related to being goth and it doesn’t just live inside my Icelandic friend’s well-hairsprayed head.

Askur is far from the first (and won’t be the last) person to deny their amazingly evident gothness and many fall into that trap as they become adults and are expected to further conform to society. Some people fear they’ll be perceived as silly. Others worry that it’s only for the young. A number of people have to endure workers thinking that being goth means embracing the dark side with a capital Satan (and, admittedly, it can be fun to play with those people if you can get away with it) or wallowing in one’s own depression.

Is there even the slightest truth to any of these ideas? Some of it, sure. But the gothic subculture is actually quite good about being self-referential, about realizing that (at least occasionally) it’s more than all right to be silly. Everyone needs to learn to laugh at themselves and if dressing like a dead thing or putting pink bat wings in your hair doesn’t teach you that – well, maybe nothing will. Would you like an “I’m so goth, I poop bats” coffee mug? That might help.

What better way to close a piece about Goths growing up than a bit about goth parents? Amy and Tyler are a goth couple who have a cute kid, Edgar. Little Edgar is little Edgar until he decides who and what he wants to be – he currently sports a baby Mohawk. What’s not to love? Well, both sets of grandparents had quite a lot to say on the subject. It as, apparently, bad enough that they had to endure their own darkling offspring, but they seemed to unilaterally find it abominable for an “innocent” such as Little Edgar to be born into Gothville. Amy’s mother once declared that Edgar would essentially be growing up in a Tim Burton film. Apparently, she meant this as an insult, but Amy (and I) thought it was hilarious.

Little Edgar may not know goth from country – yet (he is only two) – but he (sporting his little Jack Skelington hoodie) is one of the nicest and happiest kids on the playground. More than that, I’ll bet he’ll have a healthy grasp on just how silly it is to judge someone based on how they dress.

floi Journal author

Posted: 1 year 3 months ago by Immortalbae #2840
Immortalbae's Avatar
Well, it is weird to see someone who is 30+ and a goth but I believe it is weird because we are repeatedly told that it is. Who says that we have to turn to invisible blobs of beige once we pass the certain age? That is bullshit!
But it is kind off sad to see someone who is 30+ in ripped fishnet and smudged makeup, it looks like desperately holding on to fading youth. I believe that everyone can look fabulously goth at any age, and that being over 30 opens up the whole new and more elegant goth styles palette that would look tragically funny on someone in their early 20's. My point being: Don't stop being goth just evolve your style with age and you will always look perfect!