Read Gothic Charm School Online

Authors: Jillian Venters

Gothic Charm School

Gothic Charm School

An Essential Guide for Goths and Those Who Love Them

Jillian Venters

with Illustrations by Pete Venters

For all
the past and present readers of
Gothic Charm School.
For Mom and Dad, for always encouraging
me to be whomever I wanted.
For Pete, for love, support, and sanity checks.
And for Clovis. He knows why.

Contents

 

Chapter 1:
Am I a Goth?

 

Chapter 2:
I'm Not a Goth, But I Have Some Questions About Them…

 

Chapter 3:
Babygoths

 

Chapter 4:
Help! I'm a Goth and My Parent/Friend/Significant Other/Coworker Doesn't Understand Me!

 

Chapter 5:
Gothy Clichés and Why They're So Pervasive

 

Chapter 6:
Goths and Romance

 

Chapter 7:
Socializing, Cliques, and Gossip

 

Chapter 8:
Fashion: One of the Great Goth Obsessions

 

Chapter 9:
Dance the Ghost with Me: Music and Gothy Club and Concert Etiquette

 

Chapter 10:
Where Do We Go from Here?

 

Or why Goths must cultivate better manners than other people, and just who is this Lady of the Manners chick, anyway?

The Lady of the Manners has heard this complaint time and time again from her fellow Goths: “Why should I put so much effort into being polite to people who aren't going to be considerate to me?” The Lady of the Manners certainly understands the complaint, because it can be very disheartening and dispiriting (and other dismal-sounding words) to be as polite toward strangers as possible and have those strangers respond not in kind, but with rudeness, boorish behavior, and even sometimes with threats and violence. Wouldn't it be better if we gloomily romantic and darkly garbed folk all adopted a shield of preemptive scorn and hostility?

No
. No, it wouldn't be better. Because those rude and boorish strangers would take our scorn and hostility as an open invitation to behave in even worse ways toward us than they do now. Because such behavior would feed the suspicion and fear with which many people regard Goths. Because more parents would regard their fledgling Goth children with extra worry and concern. Because
even more people would be skeptical about whether Goths can be good employees or people to be trusted.

Yes, the Lady of the Manners is well aware that all sorts of people are openly rude and hostile to everyone they meet, and they seem to do just fine. But the Lady of the Manners really does believe that no matter how well those sorts of people seem to be doing, they probably would do even better if they weren't, well, jerks. Polite kindness isn't weakness, no matter what some people think.

There's an added benefit to being a Goth and having good manners: it's actually more shocking to some people than the “Booooo! I'm so spooky and scary!” freak show antics they expect from Goths. Looking like you've just come from a gathering with a particularly sinister dress code
and
being gracious and polite messes with some people's heads far more effectively than anything else you might be able to think up.

Does this mean that when people yell, “Nice costume!” or, “Halloween is over, freak!” at you, you should quash your annoyance and ignore them? Sometimes, yes, you should. But sometimes you could smile widely and, in your friendliest and politest tone, respond with, “Oh, I dress this way all the time! What are
you
in costume as?” or, “It isn't Halloween? Oh, I must have forgotten to change the calendar!” or, “Oh my God! I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt when I left the house! What happened to me?!” The Lady of the Manners has occasionally indulged herself in such responses, not that they made a bit of difference to the cretin who started the confrontation. You see, Snarklings, there are many times when trying to change people's perceptions isn't worth the effort. The best way to make your displeasure clear is to simply ignore them. Offer a quick icy glance, and then act as if the rude person doesn't exist.

(Mind you, if it looks like the situation is going to escalate into an attack,
do not
ignore the taunts. Instead, get away as quickly as possible and call the police. The Lady of the Manners does not want anyone to be injured in the name of being polite, and she is sadly aware that some people do react with violence to things they don't like or understand.)

The Lady of the Manners isn't asking you to hold hands and have a joyful sing-along with everyone you meet. Nor is she asking you to be outgoing and friendly toward every person who ever asks you questions about your gothy tendencies. The Lady of the Manners
is
asking that you don't automatically glower, snarl, or retreat behind a wall of sarcastic commentary. That's all. Really, it's a pretty simple idea.

So who is this Lady of the Manners person, and why is she lecturing and haranguing…er, offering gothy and non-gothy people advice? Here, let the Lady of the Manners dispense with the third-person frivolity and affectation for a few paragraphs and introduce herself.

Hi, I'm Jillian. I've been drawn to the gloom-shrouded and spooky side of life for as long as I can remember. Am I claiming to always have been a Goth? No, not at all. But I've always been interested in dark, opulent clothing, in otherworldly stories, in the supernatural and terror, and in looking at the world around me in a different way. I just didn't know there was a subculture that embraced and enveloped all those things (and more) until my early twenties. When I discovered that there were other people like me, that there was a whole movement I could gleefully plunder for more interests, activities, and socializing, I joyfully joined the darkling throng and haven't looked back.

Well, perhaps “joyfully” isn't quite the right word. You see, while I did meet other black-clad eccentrics who accepted me, I
also ran into a lot of people who were…less than friendly. Impolite, you might say. Some were other Goths, who were seemingly determined to be surly toward everyone while simultaneously carrying a coffin-sized chip on their shoulders about the non-Goth jerks who treated them badly. They somehow felt that they were going to be sneered at or regarded with fear and loathing, and that armoring themselves with a thick coating of sarcasm, resentment, and disdainful looks was the only way to go. Other impolite souls were non-Goths who were everything the surly and rude Goths feared. They were the ones making sarcastic comments meant to be overheard, jeering at me and my spooky friends. They were the people who drew back from us in fear because they just knew that Goths were all creepy freaks who were going to attack them or cast evil spells on them. They were the people who assumed we were going to be rude and unkind to them—all of these assumptions because my friends and I chose to express ourselves through our appearance and to talk openly about the things that interested us.

The rudeness and bad behavior on both sides of the shadowy divide bugged me. I was raised to believe that you should treat people the way you wanted to be treated, and that the way a person looks shouldn't matter. In addition to those beliefs, I somehow ended up being one of those people others turn to for advice. Then, one fateful day, an acquaintance who was putting together a Goth webzine mentioned that he wanted to include some nonfiction content, and asked me if there was anything I might want to contribute. I thought about it and said, “Ooh, how about a gothy advice column? Good manners for Goths, why you shouldn't dress like the Crow, or how, if you're going to wear whiteface, you should make sure you apply it on your damn ears and neck—stuff like that?” My friend thought my idea sounded great, and thus I found myself giving my e-mail address and advice to complete strangers.
That was over a decade ago. As the years have passed, I've found myself addressing certain topics over and over: reassuring parents that having a child with gothy tendencies isn't a bad thing, giving advice to other Goths about how to deal with parents or coworkers who are unsure about how to act around darkly dressed creatures, how to deal with the slings and arrows that constantly seem to be flung at Goths, all while watching the Goth subculture creep out from the shadows and attract more attention from the mainstream media and “normal” folks. And the more prominent and well-recognized Goth becomes, the bigger the chances that misunderstandings and just flat-out
wrong
information will be taken as the absolute gospel truth about our subculture.

Which is why I try to be a good example and show Goths and non-Goths that it is possible to be a black-clad eccentric
and
a good person, that just because someone is interested in a dark, spooky, and more somber definition of beauty doesn't mean that he or she should be viewed with fear and suspicion. It's my hope that this book will be informative and entertaining, and that it will help Goths be better understood. And with that, it's time for me to pin my hat back on and slip back into the Lady of the Manners's third-person mannerisms.

Won't you please turn the page and join me in this shadowy, mysterious, charming world that I call home?