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..

Thursday, 22 May 2014

What Does Goth Mean To Me

Goth has been my sanctuary, my bridge connecting me to others, and is something I love being a part of. 

I've already written a post about how I define Goth ::here:: - this isn't about that, this is about how Goth has been a positive influence on my life, and why I love being part of the subculture. I'm posting this today as today is World Goth Day which seems like the perfect day for an article like this. One of my friends on FaceBook asked me this question, and I think it's a really good one, but also one I can answer in quite a bit of depth. Be warned: wordiness ahead!

One thing that is probably obvious is that I am hugely passionate about the Goth subculture and the broader Gothic aesthetic. I run this blog, run one group and participate in several online communities, organise tea parties within the local scene, try to attended every event in a four-hour travel radius (and fail when I need to be in three places at once) and am working on a Secret Gothic Plan (or three) that I will only unveil when complete. I dress Goth every day - even my work clothes have a Goth or Gothic edge even if it's very toned down - and everything from my home decor to my work-out music has been touched by the Gothic aesthetic whether musically or visually or whatnot. I'm currently burning some incense called "Vampire's Blood" so my apartment even smells Gothic! :P  Most of my interests are dark, macabre or somehow tie in with the subculture. I am pretty much a "lifestyle" Goth, down to graveyard picnics and structuring holidays around what ruined castles I can visit.

I don't think this makes me a better Goth than someone that only participates in a few online groups, or only listens to Goth music sometimes, or doesn't get to dress Goth most of the time - just one with more opportunities to express myself, and perhaps a slightly more enthusiastic one. 

Goth means an awful lot to me for a lot of reasons. I am passionate about my subculture because I am driven to give back to an entity to which I feel indebted for how it has bettered and enriched my existence. 

The subculture has been the first group into which I feel I have been accepted. Within the Goth subculture I have found other people with similar interests to me, and people who are very accepting of differences too. I have found people who genuinely understand me. In Goth I have found a group who rather than being freaked out by my "creepy" interests or laughing at my "outdated" tastes in music, or prejudiced against my "occult" spirituality accept these things and actually think such things are interesting too. Other Goths will have actual conversations about the history and social context of vampire mythology or about how the style of architecture termed as "Gothic" is actually an umbrella for quite a few stylistic variances and centuries of building, or even something like whether Patricia Morrison or Siouxsie Sioux had the cooler hair!

For reasons I would rather not go into on my public blog, I have always had trouble with socialising and being "normal" in many ways, and I have my quirks in terms of personality and in terms of how I think and am, and whereas many mainstream people treat me like I am stupid or insane for my innate eccentricities, within the Goth subculture people have been far more accommodating and accepting of how I am different. Within the Goth subculture I have finally felt like I am no longer an outcast - and as someone who was severely bullied and ostracised by their peers through out their school years, that meant a the whole world to me as a teen when I was first getting into the scene.

Spotting another Goth is a good way of spotting someone I will probably have at least one thing in common with beyond simply being in the same place, and while not all Goths have the same interests or compatible personalities, it has been a good way for me to find like-minded individuals, many of whom have become very good friends indeed. I am also not the best at striking up conversations, least of all with strangers, and it has been a blessing in making it easier for me to actually talk to someone, knowing that they probably won't freak out at how I look and probably has a few things in common with. It can't magically improve my social skills, but it does improve my confidence. 

I have made so many good friends within the subculture - I'm sure most of my best friends I met either at Goth events or through just bumping into someone with a similar dress sense and getting chatting. Many of the friends I made at college and school are folk who were good friends while we were studying together, but we left we have drifted apart. I'm still friends with my Goth friends from England even since crossing the border, and some of my Internet-based friendships are across thousands of miles with people I will probably never be able to afford to meet -in Canada, America and Australia- but we're still good friends. 

I also owe meeting Raven in part to my Goth and Gothic interests - one of the things that brought me and Kate B together was a mutual fondness for the dark, creepy and Gothic (even though we initially met through mutual geekdom) and if I had not become friends with her, she would never have introduced me to Raven, who himself is partly Goth (although mostly a Metalhead and Industrial fan - I'm a firm believer that you can be fan of more than one genre at once, and certainly participate in several related subcultures) and I'm sure that sharing a love of the macabre has strengthened our relationship - we go clubbing together, we watch supernatural and Gothic horror movies together, we borrow each others' black nail polish and half the time I'm wearing either one of his coats or something, and he appreciates being given the darkest roses I can find, or a resin skull to decorate his side table, or whatnot. 

Goth is something I got into as a very troubled teen going through a lot of confusing and painful experiences. It gave me a subculture in which I could find sanctuary and acceptance, and helped me forge an outlook on life that sees the beauty in the darkness, and has helped me to see times of suffering as something to learn from and transform into creative out-put rather than as something to overwhelm me. Since then my circumstances have much improved, and like most people, I have come to know myself better and have resolved things like figuring out my sexuality, knowing what I want to do in life, dealing with the complex issues within my family and accepting a lot of who I am. I no longer have the same worries, the same problems with bullying and boarding school, the same problems at home, the same mental health problems, etc. so I don't need that safe haven as much as I once did, but I am glad that it has always been there for me. 

Within Goth it is more acceptable to acknowledge and express the darker emotions, and the response I got was mostly supportive. Certainly there were those who dismissed me as a histrionic teen full of melodramatic angst, but for the most part people were non-judgemental and prepared to listen. People outside the subculture often say that Goth is depressing, but I think it contributed in improving my mental health and making me a generally happier person. I still struggle with depression, and it is probably something that will recur throughout my life, but I am by no means in as dark and horrible mental place as I was as a teenager and have not had any episodes as dark as that in the years between then and now. 

One of the central themes of much Goth and Gothic art is acknowledging the darkness and facing what lies within it rather than running away. I think that attitude, both to my personal problems and to life itself, has really helped me be a more grounded person. Life has its troubles and strife, but trying very hard to push it all away eventually becomes counter-productive, and problems are best solved by facing them. Reality may often suck, but it is the only reality we have, and to best cope with it and to best see its brilliance as well as what it can inflict on us, we have to appreciate it in its entirety. 

Goth also helped me out of that very dark time by showing me replacements to the thoroughly dysfunctional methods I used to try and keep my inner turmoil at bay. The two most prominent things I can think of are almost teenage angsty Goth stereotypes, but I can honestly say they actually helped. 

I learnt to use my (very badly written) poetry as a vent rather than keep things pent up - it was work I would never share, and certainly had little literary merit, but the act of trying to express myself through words and metaphor helped me to better understand my own emotions and think about whatever problem was at hand in a less anxiety producing way. In writing plenty of bad poems, and reading plenty of good ones, I also slowly learnt to write better poetry and to write poetry for more than just to vent emotions. I was not trying to be as dark as possible, or write genre poems, I was just trying to turn the complex mess of emotions and thoughts in my head into something more concrete and understandable, and it worked. 

Much of the music I listened to was very helpful, too, even if that is a complete cliche and even if my first 'dark' bands and music was not actually Goth, just often thought of as Goth by those who do not know it as a musical genre, like Marilyn Manson, Evanescence and Nightwish. It meant something to me that other people felt their own pains and wrote songs about it, rather than hiding it and pretending to be happy, and while those musicians are often dismissed as the stuff for babybats or just plain not part of the subculture, they're part of my history of becoming Goth, and they are something that really helped me get through some tough times, and inspired me to write my own songs - another creative process that helped untangle the chaos. Since then I fell in love with actual Goth, Post-Punk and Darkwave stuff (and a good bit of French Coldwave) as my regular readers will know. 

I believe that my life would have taken a much more negative path out of my teens if I had not become a Goth, and for that I feel hugely grateful that the subculture exists and that all those good people were within it. Goth has also been a useful umbrella for all the interests that draw me in - I am sure I would still love vampires, historical architecture, macabre artwork and suchlike if the music scene of the late '70s and early '80s had not coalesced into the subculture we know today, but the subculture's existence has given me a framework for those interests, and an easy way of finding those that share them. I have discovered so many things that I have come to love through the subculture, and met so many brilliant, accepting and supportive people. Goth changed my life for the better. Yes, humans are inherently variable and my experience has not been a completely good one, but I feel that the overall contribution has been vastly positive. Some people grow out of the subculture, but over the last decade or more I have grown into it, and long may I continue to be part of it. 

World Goth Day website is ::here:: and all the W.G.D. artwork and graphics were produced by DJ Cruel Britannia and are available to share to promote W.G.D on their website. 

8 comments:

  1. What a lovely post! I suffer from social anxiety disorders and have difficulty meeting new people and going to social functions. Although I don't consider myself goth (I'm alternative), I have many friends within the gothic community. If it wasn't for the goth scene I'm not sure I would have friends at all! They have been far more friendlier and understanding than anybody else I've met. So hoorah for goths! And a Happy World Goth Day to you. \(^ - ^)/

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    1. I think there's a lot of Goths who have gone through rough times and various form of social ostracism or bullying at one point or another, and that tends to manifest itself as one of two ways; being very welcoming and accepting and being the exact opposite of what was done to them, being sort of insular and a bit cliquish. Thankfully most of the Goths I've encountered have been the former and not the latter.

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  2. Unfortunately, I didn't get to read this wonderful post yesterday as my own World Goth Day activities took precedence and I didn't have much time to spend online. Still, I agree with Ms. Ladyfair's above comment. This was a lovely, heartfelt post and a very appropriate one for such a special day.

    Even though there is a local Goth community here, my online interactions are still a vital part of my connection to the Goth community. For quite a while, HouseCat, you and your blog have been an important part of that connection.

    For what it's worth, I'm very glad that you're here and am grateful for all that you contribute to our subculture.

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    1. Thankyou :) That really means a lot to me!

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  3. Hello m'dear, I just came here via Red & Black week and then read on. What a beautiful post; I could identify with many of the points raised within it. I've always felt like more a goth geek librarian (I have 17 cardigans, it's a problem!) but have always felt welcomed within the gothic scene, both on and offline.

    Hope you are feeling better soon.

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    1. I'm glad the Goth scene has been so welcoming to you. There's nothing wrong with cardigans! I've apparently got another bad sinus infection, but have antibiotics to clear it up, so hopefully I'll be better soon :)

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  4. I came across your blog via Red & Black week and really related to the issues you were discussing. I have certainly felt very blessed by the gothic subculture and it has given me an environment where I was accepted. Although I don't dress in the goth gear like I did growing up it's still very much part of me, from the books I read to the music I listen to and even the cute animals I squee at (bats).

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    1. Bats are really adorable :3 I think one of the best things about the subculture is that it is quite accepting of most people, not just people that are the Gothiest looking things since Razor Candi or something.

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