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, and things in the broader realm of the Gothic and darkly Romantic. 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.

Goth 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, the expression of that in Goth rock. It 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 (Siouxsie, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, 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. The Gothic should not be limited by what is already within it; inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Monday, 7 May 2012

Babybats, ElderGoths and In-between

I used to think a Babybat was a Goth under the age of 15 and an ElderGoth a goth that's also an adult. I didn't realise that there were a significant number of Goths over 30, and I thought that most of the time Goths got forced out of the subculture by the practicalities of work and children. 

I was so naïve!

I was also, like most people mistaken about this sort of thing, a Babybat myself. Yes, I'd been associating with various subcultures including Goth since my mid-teens, but I had not really walked deeply into the Goth subculture. I was socialising with a handful of Goths of a similar age to myself and not really talking to other club patrons as much as I ought. Internet goths got dismissed as people who were only on the internet and not participating in real life (terribly erroneous, I know). Basically, I was centring on a small world of those approximately my age and whom I knew well and inadvertently blinkering myself to the wider picture. 

It was partly because I was having too much fun with my circle of friends to be paying attention, but it was also because I was rather shy about talking to these older goths; after all, they'd seen and done things I only dreamed of. There was this fear that they would look down on me for being young, for not having been there in the '80s (Being alive in the '80s is not the same as actually having been to those gigs, those concerts, those clubs...), for getting things wrong such as not knowing things like that Robert Smith and Sid Vicious had played with the Banshees and that Patricia Morrison joined the Damned in the 1990s; for having wonky, under-practiced makeup and for not having quite the right sense of Goth fashion... Part of me really wanted to talk to these people who had been Goth longer than I'd been alive, and learn, and possibly make new friends, but part of me was too scared of being turned away with mocking words by people I admired. 

Now I am older, slightly wiser, and in time, I will be an ElderGoth (it's not like I am going to leave the subculture, at least not until I leave the world entirely). I've already realised that through writing this blog, some people look to me in that way but - openly - no; I am too young and too inexperienced to call myself that. I am also not a Babybat any more - having been in the subculture too many years and being too old. I have got to the age where random strangers have started telling me it is about time to "grow out of it".  So what am I, in this case of two worlds and the in-between? Well, just a regular Goth! It appears that there are those who think that "Babybat" and "ElderGoth" are the only two forms of Goth, but that is not the case. 

There is nothing wrong with being just a Goth.
It does not mean that you are not still learning, and it does not mean that you haven't got anything to say. 

There was a time when there were no such concepts as Babybats and Eldergoths, when everyone was fairly equal, and didn't always even call themselves Goth (that term, by the way, was applied to the subculture from outside, by the music press) but over 30+ years of the subculture's existence  and a constant fresh intake over those years, these distinctions have been made. The first person I saw using the terms was Jillian Venters, also known as The Lady of The Manners, who runs the online Goth agony-aunt and advice site ::Gothic Charm School::. I don't know if it precedes her, but do think that the popularity of her website has certainly helped spread the terms. 

Plenty of remarks have already been made across the internet on various blogs and forums about how older, more experienced Goths should not shun and mock younger Goths, even younger Goths that are getting it terribly wrong, but educate them politely in the hope that the polite lessons will stick. Plenty of suggestions for Babybats in that vein have also been made, some more factually accurate than others. There is no need for me to repeat these things. 

Time and a dedicated interest in the subculture are the only things that make Babybat metamorphose into a Goth, and as long as they fabricate their chrysalis (or pupa) from good resources, a full Goth butterfly (or moth) should emerge.

People learn throughout their lives - once they have become fairly established  as Goths, they do not suddenly know everything about Goth just because they are no longer Babybats, nor do they suddenly know everything about anything else.  There is always more to learn, there will always be another band to come across, another fashion idea to inspire, another interesting book to read, another factoid to amuse. Even the ElderGoths who have been at this lark for longer than I've lived will still come across new things. It is important to have an open mind, and never be too fixed as to be immovable in the face of new information. 

Goth is a subculture based around musical tastes, aesthetics and a broadly dark mindset, apart from facts such as who sung in what band, what date a book was published, etc. a lot of Goth is about subjective matters and personal tastes and opinions, and those things do not have a fixed right or wrong, more what one likes and dislikes. There is no fixed line, just general consensus. Remember that if you stray out of the vague boundaries of Goth that being Not Goth is not bad, it's just not Goth. 


  1. I can really relate to this post. Although I'm older, I cannot even begin to think of myself as an ElderGoth.

    Living in a small city in the south/central United States, I really didn't even realize that a Goth culture existed until about twelve years ago. Once I was exposed to Goth Rock and Dark Wave however, I fell heads over heels for it; but even then, I didn't know how or where to connect with the right people.

    As my interest in Goth grew and I started getting inklings as to where the right venues might be, the local scene correspondingly, was dissipating. I was sort of like a donkey chasing the proverbial carrot, never actually catching up with it; at least not until fairly recently.

    Even now, there's no actual Goth scene in my community or in neighboring cities. I've been fortunate however, to finally connect with some fellow Goths through various groups and activities as well as over the internet. Still, I've missed out on a lot of shared history with these people, and that makes me feel somewhat isolated.

    Yes I'm older, and had I discovered the subculture earlier and participated in it, I would definitely qualify as an ElderGoth. But it would be very disingenuous of me to make any such claims. I'm just me and I'm happy to now have some Goth friends.

  2. Speaking as an older person (52) or Eldergoth “You do learn something new every day”. By chance I covered my early, then missing years and return to Goth in my blog on Saturday. Please see here

    1. I think I started following your blog - I hope I still am!

  3. I personally think that babybats can be of any age, as it's really a loving term that means "goth in training". Doesn't mean you're not a real goth, just means you haven't really immersed yourself in the subculture yet. I think an eldergoth is anyone who has been living in the subculture as an adult(making their own way)and been out of their babybat phase for about 10yrs.

    1. I don't think "babybat" should be seen as a pejorative term, to me it's just a newbie goth, a "goth in training" indeed. Other than those who were there to create the subculture back in the '80s, we all have to start somewhere and learn about where the subculture has come from .

  4. Very well put. There are a lot of undercover goths out there over 30. I work in a very formal setting, and have had to curb some of my goth dressing after college, but I have always remained inclined to the music, aesthetic tastes and interests. It's quite interesting that you said that many goths did not label themselves as such. I had the same experience. I never considered myself goth when I started listening to the music, dressing and reading literature in my very early teens, but non-goth called me as such.

    I do find it incorrect when people consider that if you no longer frequent goth clubs that you are no longer a goth. I am very busy, and many people who are over 30 have children and family, so we cannot go to clubs as before, but the tastes are the same.

    Thank you for this post.

    1. I wear a suit to work, and I'm often too tired when I come home to bother with getting really fancy at the moment. Yes, my suits are black, and when I wear colours they tend to be purple or dark red, and while I don't make it overt because I work with children, I haven't utterly drained my outfits of anything even vaguely Goth. This doesn't mean I've changed what music I listen to or what films I like or what books I read. It does mean I have the disposable income to spend on things like black damask lamp-shades and fancy cutlery... I guess I express my aesthetic tastes more in my house when I can't express it so much in my clothes.

      My nearest Goth club is over 100 miles away. I don't exactly get to go clubbing any more. There was one more locally, but it closed when the venue closed. I'm thinking of starting a local Goth social group, though. I don't think being out of the club scene makes a person "not goth". It just makes them busy or remote or whatever - that's a change in circumstance, not a change in tastes.


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