My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

The Gothic subculture is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, and looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Rice et al.) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. Goth should not be limited by what is considered "goth", inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Saturday, 24 December 2011

30 Day Goth Challenge, Day 1

I am going to take part in the 30 Day Goth Challenge. This is 30 questions theoretically to be answered on consecutive days. I can guarantee these won't be up on consecutive days. These are the questions:


Day 1 – How did you come to the subculture? 
Day 2 – Share photos and experiences from your Baby Bat days. 
Day 3 – When did you come out the Goth closet? (If you didn’t then simply discuss the topic) 
Day 4 – Name a stereotype or cliche you can relate to. 
Day 5 – Is there a local Goth band or group in your area? 
Day 6 – Hand write your favourite lyric and take a picture. 
Day 7 – Ten of your favourite goth bands. 
Day 8 – What’s your worst and best experience with non-Goths? 
Day 9 – What genre of music do you dislike? 
Day 10 – What do you hate and love about the subculture? 
Day 11 – Is Goth a lifestyle for you? 
Day 12 – What’s your gothic inspiration? 
Day 13 – What was your first band t-shirt? 
Day 14 – What was your best and worst DIY disaster. 
Day 15 – Your favourite or most expensive item in your wardrobe. 
Day 16 – What’s the most casual you’ve ever dressed? 
Day 17 – Your favourite Goth brand. 
Day 18 – Worst hair experience. 
Day 19 – Share beauty advise and take a photo of your make up. 
Day 20 – If you could dye your hair any colour what would it be? 
Day 21 – What body mod do you have or have you considered? 
Day 22 – If you could attend any Goth event what would it be? 
Day 23 – Your favourite artist or photographer. 
Day 24 – Name the best websites for Goths. 
Day 25 – Did you ever consider leaving the subculture? 
Day 26 – Show a photo for every year (or month if you’re new) that you’ve being into Goth. 
Day 27 – The worst thing you ever did to a newbie. 
Day 28 – Do you consider yourself an eldergoth? 
Day 29 – What do you think will happen to Goth in the future? 
Day 30 – Make a list of blogs you regularly read and link to them. 


I'm not sure who started it, but I want to take part. 


So, for Day 1! How did I come to the subculture... Well, the very first goth I met was a girl called Rose or Rosie who was a few years older than me and at the first secondary school I attended. This secondary school was a state girls-only day school and we had a navy-blue uniform that was pretty conservative for state school uniforms (long skirts, shirts, ties, blazers), and she used to change into black dresses for the journey too and from school, much to the dismay of the staff, wore a "Vote Satan" t-shirt to P.E and had pentagrams drawn on her bag. I was just getting into Wicca at the time, and asked her if she was a Witch, but I was huge "fluffy-bunny" and I think I annoyed her. A fluffy-bunny is the Wiccan equivalent of a mall-goth or babybat, but they come in all ages, and some never realise stuff like that Wicca has only been around since the 1940's and that sparkly wands are just silly. I confess, I had a sparkly wand... Anyway, I thought she was cool, but at the same time I was terrified of her. There were a lot of rumours about her self-harming, that her and her goth friends slit each others wrists and drank blood, that she was on drugs, etc. etc. Now, I realise that it was a bunch of malicious nonsense, and it was probably the fact that she had to put up with that sort of bullying which made her snap when I asked her if she was a Witch too.  I regret having believed the rumours, and regret being afraid of her, as she was probably really nice. 

While not at school I was a bit of a tomboy, and as I had grown upwards unusually quickly and without much sign of  gaining curves, I ended up looking like a male teenage boy that was vaguely into metal and a bit of a geek. I wore baggy, ripped-by-use jeans and those black t-shirts with pictures of "cool stuff" on. My favourite t-shirts were one that said "I don't do mornings" and one that was all black with a space scene on the front. I'd wear chokers and my hair in a ponytail and wore those silver-looking necklaces that come on black cord. My favourite was a moon necklace, but I also ended up with dragons and swords and suchlike pendant designs. I had a girl ask me out when I was 13 because she thought I was actually a boy! I also ended up with big round glasses and a jaw-brace, completing my geekiness. 

It was a couple of years later when I got interested in Goth for myself. I was sent away to a very conservative Christian girls-only boarding school, where I did not fit in, was disliked by many of the staff and felt very isolated. I had a handful of good friends there, including Dawn who gave me that candle-holder, who I am all still friends with, but most of the girls spread rumours about me, didn't want to talk to me, and bitched about me behind my back. There were a lot of nice people there, don't get me wrong, but my  experience was mostly negative, and I will admit that my memories of this period are also patchy and distorted. While I was there, I was suffering from mental health issues relating back to my childhood, and the oppressive atmosphere and lack of support from my peers, who, admittedly I alienated further as I started acting on delusions and slowly falling further and further into insanity, only made matters worse. At this point I was having violent mood-swings, from deranged hyperactivity where I was gabbling nonsense and dancing about in the corridors, to suicidal depression when the hyperactivity and its associated distance from reality wore off and I was back faced with a life that had been rather painful, and only looked to be getting more painful. I started hallucinating and then became quite delusional, really believing myself to be an elf in a human body, and paranoid, partly because when I wasn't at boarding school I was being stalked by a neighbour and partly because I was also genuinely having bad things done to me by people who had realised that if I complained, nobody would believe me. The staff also used this - when it suited them to use it as an excuse, I was insane, the rest of the time, they said I was acting up for attention. I was seeing mental health professionals at this time, and the school ignored their advice. Needless to say, it ended badly.

My usual mode of dress at this time was rather bohemian, floaty, lots of green. This fitted in with the "elf" delusions, but when I was more myself - and I did end up with some extended periods of clarity - I started dabbling with an all black look, babybat Gothic. Part of me was being rebellious, as it was primarily the "preppy" rich and fashionable girls who mocked me for being at school on scholarship, for being socially awkward, for having no interest in popular culture. So I took on a Punk-inspired anti-fashion "I hate the mainstream" look, not one executed particular;y well, but one that was my sign of defiance. I had a pair of black patent wedge boots that I loved to death and did not know how to do my own makeup, and my spiked collar originally belonged to a neighbour's dog. Of course, this was seen as a sign of my instability or wayward nature, and while my Dad didn't mind, the parents of my friends and the school did. I quickly decided I was going to go back to colours. I had enough problems in my life, I did not need more.

I had begun teaching myself to play the piano in secret, after dark, as I could not afford the school piano lessons, and the school had halted my 'cello lessons as music was being considered a distraction. I would sneak in an out of the music department or the piano room below the dormitories of the younger children, still clad in my long white night-dress and pastel purple kimono/dressing gown, and I would play. I taught myself basic pieces, how to play with both hands independent of each other, how to play scales, and would write songs of my misery and madness because that way I could express all the things in my head without fear of being locked up for being mad or judged for being unorthodox. The piano was inanimate, but it was my confessional, my comfort, my link to sanity. Of course, this was thoroughly against school rules, so I learnt how to open windows from the outside, how to sneak around outside of CCTV view, how to hide and escape whenever some member of staff came to see who was playing piano in the early hours of the morning. I convinced several first-years that the school was haunted by a piano playing ghost, and I, all in pale colours, white as a sheet, with long scraggly dark hair and enough synthetics to spark as I ran, made a very good ghost when necessary. This might seem a tangental anecdote, but later on I will explain the huge impact classical music has had on my life as a Goth. 

After my GCSEs I left that school, and switched to another boarding school, but by that point the psychological damage had been done. I had become painfully shy, depressed and highly distrustful, even if my moods were more level and the delusions and hallucinations were gone. I kept to my bohemian look, and got a bit more hippie. 

At this point I met three wonderful people. Two were day pupils at my school, and one was one of their friends. The two day pupils weren't Goths, but one of them had a definite Gothic streak, with her attic bedroom painted purple, the empty bird-cage, the poetry written on on the door, her beautiful velvet skirts and her taste for the macabre, and the one who didn't go to my school definitely was a goth. I thought my goth friend's clothes were amazing, especially her towering Demonia platform boots. It didn't cause a change in my style right then, but it began something. I was given a purple, black and blue velvet lace-up medieval style blouse that suddenly became my favourite piece of clothing, and then a black peasant blouse got worn a lot... then I bought an all-black cheese-cloth ensemble. It had definitely influenced me. I was still predominantly a colourful bohemian, but a darker edge was beginning to emerge.  The dark one of my school pals steered me in the direction of deliciously dark books and horror movies. There was already a dark edge in my art and poetry, and I was working on the second draft of my post-apocalyptic novel (although it was more dark fantasy at the time).

My music of choice at the time was classical. I especially loved music of the Romantic period and 19thC.  Everything from stormy Beethoven to grand Mahler symphonies. The school did a performance of the Mozart Requiem, it wasn't quite Romantic but it was the most exciting concert I've performed in (and that still stands, years on and many concerts later) and that is when I started getting interested in period dress and historical fashion. I loved the passion, I loved the darkness, the power, the storminess. Liszt and Beethoven became my favourite composers. I read up on the Sturm und Drang movement, and felt I was born in the wrong era. I read Faust. I left school before completing all of my A levels because the pressure of school was starting to take its toll on my fragile mental health, and took a year out of studying at school, and became a bit of a recluse at home, but a very studious recluse. I had not previously had the opportunity to learn much in the way of music because of finances and attitudes from staff who saw my passion for music as a distraction from more academic pursuits.  Now I had time to myself, I threw myself into research on the Romantic era and latter movements such as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. 

I really wished for the money to learn instruments properly. My then step-brother (my Dad's now ex-partner's son) was off at Trinity College of Music in London, and I was in envy of his skill. The cheapest instrument to learn was the recorder, so I started studying that seriously, and I soon grew to love it and respect it as an instrument. I also ended up playing a lot of baroque music. I must say I still love the Romantic period more in terms of music, but I loved the period clothes on the covers of the music. I bought my first lace-cuffed shirt, and oh, how I adored it. The Baroque period was beautifully decadent, but I longed for the passion of Romantic-era music. I ended up learning a few Romantic-era flute pieces on the recorder for my amusement.


My passion for music had become a passion for history, art history and historical fashion. I discovered steampunk, and my daily dress was blend of bohemian, steampunk and historical influences. I had a pocket-watch, a parasol, and wore long velvet skirts, or dressed as a Victorian or earlier gentleman - not historically accurate, just what I thought looked good - but there was always a tendency towards wearing dark colours, and in looking for Victorian things I found a lot of Romantic Goth clothes. My music had diversified, I was listening to Evanescence, Marilyn Manson, Muse, Nightwish, Within Temptation and lots of other rock with a darker edge, including plenty of songs by mainstream bands that were tinged with a certain level of black. One day I went to a friend's house to play computer games (LAN party... I admit it) and they were playing Rammstein. I was in love with this harsh sound that was less growling than metal, with audible lyrics (albeit in German) and I discovered Industrial. I'd gone from orchestras and pianos to electric guitars and synthesisers, and was looking at rock music with the dissecting eyes of a music student. 

I also dyed my hair purple as purple is my favourite colour and has been for a very, very, very long time. I also went to college.

My first application was to do an art course rather than A Levels, but I was advised to get my A Levels and then apply to do my degree in art by the people at the first college, as they said I'd have got bored, and needed the academic side. I was really upset at the time, sick to death of academic pressures (I had been skipped a year at school, and it was always expected of me to be perfect, anything less than 95% on an exam was as bad as failure) and just wanted to be creative. I already had an AS in Art, though, so went to the local community college, and took my A Levels. My mental health had levelled out by this point, and I was lucid and socially aware enough to make friends, and I became friends with lots of Goths and Metalheads. My outfits were a mix of historically inspired, Bohemian, Steampunk and Goth. I studied English Literature, Classical Civilisations, Music, Art and Geography, all of which fed into my Romantic attitude. The more I studied, the more I absorbed. I started writing poetry profusely, composing my own music, and designing my own outfits. I read and read and read, and joined the literature society at college...

I had a mental health relapse as a consequence of being in a very destructive relationship, and ended up back in the pit of despair. I ended up hallucinating and with a fractured personality. Once again I was on the brink, but this time I was aware of it, and sought help, and eventually got the help of a reasonable psychiatrist after having been moved around the system as they couldn't pin a diagnosis on me, and came to the realisation I was not inherently mentally unstable, there was no neurological fault or chemical imbalance; I was an abuse survivor whose wounds had never been given chance to properly heal because instead of getting productive help, I had been pushed from one stressful and negative scenario to the next. I was also older and wiser, and realised that I was not a child needing the support of adults anymore, I was a grown woman who needed to fix her own life. So I did. I sought out my piano in times of emotional distress instead of cutting, I wrote bad poetry, wrote venting letters to my psychiatrists, and finally cut my mother out of my life like I should have has the strength to ten years previously. I faced my inner demons on my own terms and dealt with them.

A lot of my reading and music in this dark time was what could be considered Gothic. I felt solace in knowing I wasn't alone, that other people suffered, that other people went through this sort of agony. I started listening to Emilie Autumn and The Dresden Dolls a lot, and wrote a few angsty songs of my own. I started searching for beauty in the darkness, rather than fleeing. By this point I had suffered terrible abuses, gone mad and nearly died a couple of times - I had lived in the darkness - and I refused to let it dictate my nature in a negative, broken way. I was determined to use it as fuel to grow into a better and stronger person. My then boyfriend wounded me deeply, but in having to deal with him I found a deeper strength in myself. He also helped me pick my first guitar.

While I was in my final year at college (I spent 3 years there in total, as I took on music in my final year) I was definitely completely Goth. I wasn't a babybat aesthetically, definitely a Romantic Goth this time around, and I was also a modern Romantic, full of Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth, Liszt, and Pre-Raphaelite paintings, going out to seek experience, the awesome power of nature, trying to convey that in my own creative output. I was also into Victorian Gothic Revival art, architecture and design. I spent many hours in books and many hours outdoors being inspired.  Musically, though, I hadn't yet discovered the 1980s. My music tutor changed all that, he made me write an essay on the origins of Goth. In less than a week I'd listened to large chunks of the back catalogue of Siouxsie and The Banshees, Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, and on researching the BatCave, Specimen. I learnt about Bowie and about Velvet Underground, I learnt about "Paint it Black" by the Rolling Stones and about Ian Curtis and Kurt Cobain... I ended up writing two more detailed essays pertaining to Goth - one about Siouxsie and the Banshees as a punk band, post-punk band, and how they then kept stylistically changing, and another about multicultural influences in the music of Dead Can Dance (which I rehashed as an answer to a question on multicultural influences on modern music in an exam). With discovering 1980's goth music, I discovered the complete Goth scene, and finally felt like I had found myself in the process.

Years have passed between then and now, and I'm still a Goth, still a Romantic, still with my head in a book or out playing the flute above the creek. I changed, took on a degree in Creative Arts, grew up, moved out, moved country, moved in with my partner... I came to the Goth subculture in stages throughout my adolescence, skirting around the edges, but always being tugged towards it, finally, in writing an essay in my last year of college, I fell into the core, and have absolutely no intentions of ever leaving.

2 comments:

  1. You wrote this so beautifully. Especially the piano part -- I conjured such a tangible image, it seemed like a scene out of a movie or long-lost book!

    I also enjoy the length of your posts. Some bloggers I know could just write something short and unmemorable -- I know I'm guilty of it myself. "I found goth when I was a young, grew up, and here I am now, the end."

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    Replies
    1. I used to write a lot of short stories - I don't do so as much these days (and am terribly rusty and have terrible run-on sentence problems) but I think it's been good for me.

      I'm glad you like the fact I write quite a bit - sometimes I wonder if they become a terrible wall of text and that's why people don't comment much, and that people get put off from reading the whole lot. I know my blog is quite new and I can't expect that many comments yet, but I guess I'm just insecure, lol. I'm trying to put more pictures up.

      Delete

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