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Oh, my conservative parents were so wrong: the many benefits of growing up (and staying) goth...

Oh, my conservative parents were so wrong: the many benefits of growing up (and staying) goth...


“…Going through a bit of a goth phase,” I overheard one of my parents sigh to someone on the other end of the line. “Goth phase,” I snickered to myself, “yeah, they’ll see, this is who I really am.”

Years into this “goth phase,” every time I exited my teenage goth bedroom, my latest goth outfit – nah, creation! - was met with furrowed parental brows and the pleading look that said, “are you really wearing that out?” I’d double down in my resolve, and meet their look with my own defiant (albeit overly-eyelinered one) that silently said, “of course.”

For parents, it’s often distressing when their seemingly innocent offspring start dressing for funerals, adorning their rooms with Halloween decorations, and hanging out with what look like rejects from the Cure. And, to be honest, that’s what so many parents read goths as: rejects. They despair, “What will become of my child? Surely this goth thing signals maladjustment! The wrong path! I’ve seen this on Maury and the other talk shows. First it’s black clothes and blue hair, soon it will be tattoos (a permanent horror!), and immediately after that, all life prospects are squandered.” My own parents would command, “don’t wear black to Christmas dinner!” as if a simple clothing choice could alter my life course.

In the minds of so many parents, those black clothes might as well be unconscious metaphors for burned up life options, or for the intense parental melancholia over the fact that they happened to raise such a freak. But so many of us veterans of the goth scene know better.  We’ve seen the advantages to being goth and we feel those strengths. This scattered legion might be a little scrawny and pasty, but it’s also a rather tolerant, educated, deceptively diverse… and I daresay, wise group of people.

Despite the stereotypical goth uniform (in case I need to say it: black clothes, black hair), goth culture tolerates differences. People from all walks of life identify as goth, and through this subculture, one can readily meet people from a range of income levels, backgrounds, sexual orientations, genders, ages, etc. Sure, there are pretentious pricks in any subculture, but goths tend to value things differently. While many goths admire – or at the very least appreciate - elaborate, expensive Edwardian costuming, a cheap black t-shirt and jeans is perfectly acceptable attire, too.

Ignoring initial impressions (as so many goths feel an inherent responsibility to look the part, bless their lovely dark hearts), it’s more about who that person is and what they bring, as a person, to the table. While goth music is an important shared interest, most goths value literature and art and education. The goth culture is not just tolerant of a rich inner life, it truly encourages it. And, thankfully, it’s about more than just sad feels and wallowing in darker emotions. As a fledgling gothling enters the scene, they quickly learn there’s more to this subculture than Egyptian eyeliner and quoting The Crow. (The former being much less annoying than the latter.) And they learn to look at people differently, scanning a goth club brimming with people with diverse lifestyles and ways of expressing themselves. They learn that the rules, here, are different. (This is informally known as the “OMG, boys can wear makeup and skirts” phenomenon).

It takes a certain strength of self to venture into society being different, looking different; it’s much easier to outfit oneself in khakis and… well, whatever not-black-mass-produced crap they sell at the GAP… than to proudly ensconce oneself in velvet or ratty Skinny Puppy concert t-shirts or really, any chosen flavor of goth gear. And that sort of determination and grit is a very real thing that does not stop at fashion choices. For some, claiming their own space as they stomp down the sidewalk can be incredibly empowering. Particularly for some women, owning that space – sometimes even seeing “normal” people move out of the way in an “eek, the freaks!” sort of way – is a revelation of power.  In being goth, you learn to stand up to others for your appearance, for your space, for your interests.

While the goth subculture is known for its darker, some daresay, morbid aesthetic, there’s a zen-like quality to embracing the darkness. Through a goth viewpoint, a rose isn’t beautiful only when it’s in full bloom (as it is to those shallow normals, pfft): it is lovely, too, as it wilts and dies and its petals crumble to dust. (Excuse me as I dramatically apply back of hand to forehead and sigh.) Things that dominant culture tells us are ugly or less desirable or to be feared are instead revered. Emotions that mainstream culture tends to push away, like sadness and angst and despair, have a solid place in goth music. Instead of avoiding death and bad feels, goths embrace the natural, inevitable other-side of life and emotions, like a troupe of anemic Zen masters.

As my parents have reluctantly come to acknowledge, maybe it’s not such a bad thing when this “goth phase” seems to stick around. While they’re still dismayed that there’s a good chance I’ll be gothing out to Sisters of Mercy well into my retirement, they can see I’m (mostly) adjusted and a productive (ish) member of society. And perhaps not a bad human being. Personally, I know just how much of that is due to the goth subculture and the people I’ve met through it.

And, perhaps most gratifying: my parents have stopped asking me to not wear black at Christmas dinner.


floi Journal author

Posted: 1 year 6 months ago by Lumpenstinzkin #2153
Lumpenstinzkin's Avatar
I was allways part of some team, crowd or movement.
There is nothing wrong in that. Conservative parents dont exist. There are only those who understand and support or the one who doesnt.
My parents were allways in the golden middle and that Im so thankfull to them.
I was able to differ many stuff in people, from inciting offers to lucrative deals.
Im much more prepared for life now. Life that brings many false alarms. :)
Posted: 1 year 7 months ago by Max #1975
Max's Avatar
I have never been influenced by any group.
Barely had a time for those who gathered in packs ( metal - punk - rave ).
Thats why I remained open to everyone. Had huge advantage over others in order of broader perspective and tolerance to music genres. Also lifestyle morphed with me.
The article is putting few perspectives in its place. smooth reading.
Thanks