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..

Monday, 23 February 2015

5 Things I Would Tell My Babybat Self

I watched ::this:: video on "3 Things You'd Tell Your New Lolita Self" by 'The Adventures of Rhon and Quinn' and it inspired me to think about what I would tell my Babybat newbie-Goth self. I started off with just 3 things, and ended up with 5... I've had over 10 years of hindsight to recognise my mistakes, and I'm sure in another 10 years I'll be able to write a longer list! 

1) Just because something is black, that does not make it Goth.
This happened mostly because I could not afford to buy from proper made-for-Goth shops, and I was not very good at thrifting yet, especially as I was 14, 15 years old and didn't have much of an income, and not allowed to go internet shopping, plus I was at boarding school and not really allowed in the Goth shops in town... not that this actually stopped me from sneaking off anyway. I would eagerly grab anything that fit me and was black, and try and put it together into an outfit, with accessories that were as close to Goth as I could manage... really, I just looked a mismatched mess. I should have given some more thought to what I was wearing, and balanced desperation with patience, because I was unhappy with how I looked in what I thought was 'Goth' and this put me off fashion part of the subculture for a while (during which I experimented with hippie, Steampunk and anachronistic fashion) and not looking the part made it hard for me to get the confidence to talk to other people about my Goth interests, because I presumed they'd be cliquish as teenagers can be, and dismiss me for not looking Goth enough. I think this held back my exploration of the subculture. If I had put together flattering Goth outfits earlier, I think I would have stayed with Goth for a while longer, but I guess then I would not have learnt how to gather the medieval and fantasy elements from hippie fashion and use those in Goth, or bought some of the long velvet skirts I later dyed black, or got into Steampunk (while cross-dressing) and learnt how to do a shirt + frock-coat + waistcoat + trousers + hat outfit properly quite early on (good practice for wearing Ouji and Gothic Aristocrat fashion!). Either way, it's still good advice, and perhaps I needed to explore other subcultures anyway, and would have done that anyway. 

2) Try and get inspiration from the make-up of some Gothic icons - don't try and 'just make it up' yet!
My teenager-self's make-up skills were thoroughly awful. Dire does not even cover it. I had no idea how to blend pale foundation, no idea how to do neat eyeliner, no idea how to pick colours for my skin-tone, no idea on contouring, no idea even on how to properly tidy up my shrubbery eyebrows! Compounding this lack of skill was treating my face like a sketchbook and basically scribbling swirls on. I like swirls, but they are NEVER going to be well-achieved with a blunt kohl pencil and no real idea on how to swirl. (I feel like one day doing a make-up tutorial SPECIFICALLY on how to do snazzy swirls with different kinds of liquid eyeliners). I looked a bit like a panda that had been attacked with a Sharpie marker. Part of the problem was that I had no real idea what I was aiming for, and while there were a few Gothic make-up tutorials on the internet back then, there were far few than there are now. Modern newbie Goths - be glad you have the resources on the internet to learn from! At the time, I was probably better off having a good look at what the various female vocalists I liked were doing, and working from there - and not taking inspiration from drawings I'd found of "Gothic" characters on Elfwood! 


To newbie Goths now, I would suggest watching and looking at as many make-up tutorials as possible, and always look at the end result and try and find tutorials with good, clear photographs and clear instructions. Not all make-up tutorials are created equal. Look at several tutorials for the same sort of design and see which works best for you. Also, do not try and cover acne with foundation - it makes the acne worse and does nothing to cover the texture, just the redness. 

3) Don't take every opportunity possible to rail against the failings of the world.
I really should have learnt not to rant about the "terrible conformist world that makes everyone try and live robotic lives", why "the patriarchy is RUINING EVERYTHING" and anything else I had strong opinions on and little information about when I was a teen. I was on the right side of the argument, but I wasn't right. I also felt that being angry at "the world" and "the system" was the rebellious Goth thing to do, and I was genuinely angry at the world as I started to break out of the bubble of childhood innocence  - which was more when adults tried to shield me from how bad the world beyond my life really is; I always seemed to be a bit more aware of what was going on than most of my peers, and that wasn't always a good thing. On the receiving end of a lot of injustices myself (I'm not going to go into the details, but life growing up was hard, painful and not very pleasant), I tended to be very quick to notice other injustices in the world. I could see a lot of things were very wrong, but I didn't know enough yet to get beyond the surface reasons as to why they were wrong, or to have any idea of what I, personally, could do beyond rant to everyone who would listen about how everything was wrong, wrong! WRONG! I mostly made an idiot of myself, I didn't change anyone's opinions, effect any change in the world, or even properly ally myself with those who knew more about these things than I did. 

I actually see a lot of young keyboard 'social justice warriors' who have access to reading about a lot of issues via the internet, but seem stuck at the same place - it's easy to call people out on accidental slights, or write long blog posts on the problems you see in the world, and it helps you vent all that righteous anger that is mostly justified, but it doesn't actually do much to fix the problem. Ranting at people alienates those who might otherwise come to your side and grow to be allies. I would suggest volunteering for charities as soon as you're old enough, and trying to listen to as many perspectives as possible. It's important to have compassion for the people who disagree with you, and who are on the side of wrong, because they didn't end up there for no reason. Often, hatred is a reaction to a deeper underlying problem, often an injustice they have received. Always individuate, and try not to generalise; those particular thuggish yobs who threw stones and called you a "Goth freak" are prejudiced and bad people for throwing stones, but they do not represent everyone in a tracksuit, and they probably have hard lives themselves - not that this justifies their actions, but it does give a starting point for understanding them, and it is only through understanding that change can be wrought. 

Also, being angry at the world is not a prerequisite to being Goth. 

4) Try to listen to a wider variety of music genres.
I was into Marilyn Manson, Within Temptation, Evanescence, Nightwish... and pretty much only Marilyn Manson, Within Temptation, Evanescence and Nightwish. I 
was very narrow in my tastes, and oblivious to how qualities I liked (and still like in music) aren't genre dependent; right now I love Hozier's "Take Me To Church" and Coldplay's "Cemeteries of London" - not exactly Siouxsie and the Banshees or Joy Division! 

I went through a phase of almost ignoring the classical genres I actually really like because they didn't seem Goth enough... oh, if only I had put together then my playlists like the "Gothic Classical: Dinner Party" one I put together a short while back - excerpts of 
Léon Boëllmann's "Suite Gothique", plenty of Arvo Pärt's works ('De Profundis' is a masterpiece!), the absolutely divine and heavenly "In Paradisum" by Gabriel Fauré from his Requiem mass... I put together over 2 hours of amazing classical music with  Gothic atmosphere very rapidly. If i wanted to put together something all dark and stormy but classical, I'm sure I could easily look to lots of Liszt (Totentanz?), 'Night on Bald Mountain' by Mussorgsky or a whole heap of Sturm und Drang period music (Beethoven!). 

Also, the music I was listening to wasn't Goth - it was shock rock, Gothic metal, symphonic metal... And I didn't even know it! Goth as a music genre is a specific thing, and these artists while certainly Gothic, weren't Goth, but I thought they were. I still like Marilyn Manson's music, I still like Evanescence and Nightwish, but I feel that genres should be properly categorised. If you are a newbie Goth, try to listen for that Gothic influence in a variety of different genres of music, and try to get a good grasp of the musical history of the subculture. Without the bands of the late '70s and early '80s the subculture would have probably never crystallised into existence. 

5) Don't try and deliberately be "shocking" as a method of rebellion. 
I was a bit antagonistic and argumentative as a teen - I tried to be deliberately "scary", to mention witchcraft in a way that was probably dishonouring my religion, and make inappropriate criticisms of the faith and institutions I was surrounded by. I was lashing out at what I felt to be a very constrictive set of circumstances, but all I was doing was provoking people in a way that was counterproductive to my interests, and giving Goth and Wicca a bad name in the process. I was a very badly behaved babybat in this respect, and I am glad I did all this before social media really took off, so my impact was geographically and socially limited. I was young, emotionally immature for my physical years, dealing with partially treated mental health issues and very, very angry at the world, which to some extent explains some of my behaviour, but does not excuse it. I felt at odds with the "establishment" world, and felt like I was being pressured to conform to a set of standards and expectations that I had no interest in (and still don't) and that as I was heading to the age where I was expected to choose a career and what university I was to attend, that my whole life was going to be shaped by these pressures from my family and those around me, to become something "sensible" and "respectable" and most of all "normal" - and as I felt powerless to take any real control over my life, I decided to just try and antagonise all those who I perceived as trying to control me. All I achieved was to create more battles for myself, more unnecessary struggles in a life already full of unavoidable struggles; I made life considerably harder for myself.

My reaction to what I saw as "being forced to be what I'm not" was to try and deliberately be the opposite of everything expected of me.
 Most of these opposites were all exaggerations of myself, pushed to extremes in order to be that antithesis; I was really just being childish and contrary, these things were not who I really was. If I was able to go back and tell my teenage self some advice, I would say that I should definitely remain true to myself, but I should not react to the pressures to conform by deliberately being the antithesis of everything they wanted, because that was NOT being true to myself.  With time, I learnt that I was not always going to be under the control of others, and now I am very keen to be mistress of my own life, and to be in control of the various aspects of how I live. By the time I was 19, I ended up with a part-time job, doing creative things at college (after I had to leave school a year early due to health reasons and then take time out to recover), and I am still Goth, still alternative, still proudly freaky and very creative over 10 years later. Some of this happened 13, 14 years ago now! I have not had to buckle to 'the system', I have not been forced to conform, and I have learnt that I do not have to live the life that other people felt was best for me. 


Hindsight is 20/20. I made my mistakes, so now you don't have to!

7 comments:

  1. This is a great post and really reminded me of some of the cringy moments in my baby bat days! Particularly drawing on my face with cheap eyeliner and just throwing together whatever black clothes I could find. I particularly remember often wearing a black Blink 182 shirt (of which I wasn't even a fan of) just because it was literally the only black shirt I owned xD Aah, youth.

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    1. The good thing about the folly of youth is that it leads to experimentation, and the bad thing are all the cringe-worthy moments. I didn't really know how to connect to the Goth scene as a teenager, and I didn't really know how to style myself. It took a while to learn how to do that better.

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  2. While your situation as a teenager was certainly unique, as is everyone's, you did many of the things that are typical for that age group. I did many of the same things, although I didn't discover Goth until quite a bit later.

    As for music, there were many genres (including classical) that I liked but would never admit it even to myself. It had to be rock or nothing. Over time I branched out. These days I listen to metal (Gothic, symphonic, doom, etc.) and classical almost equally. While I tend toward darker classical pieces, such as Sibelius' "Swan of Tuonela, Rachmaninoff's Isle of the Dead, I enjoy a lot of non dark classical as well. I do, of course, listen to a good amount of Goth music, and I'll never forget how positively I reacted to it once I made the discovery.

    As an adult, I've come to realize that my musical tastes should not be hindered by my trying to adopt to the expectations of any peer group. I like what I like and my life is enriched by all of it.

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    1. Rachmaninoff is a brilliant source for dramatic and stormy classical music. Some friends of mine and I made up a rating system for how fast and tumultuous his pieces got where we rated them from Rach 1. upwards, playing with how the flow speed in relation to the local speed of sound is rated as 'Mach x' and bad fighter-jet puns... I think this possibly one of the geekiest things I've done.

      Your last paragraph really is a good life-lesson. People should like what they like, not follow the expectations of a group, or what they perceive those expectations to be. I think what a lot of newbie Goths THINK more established Goths expect from them is often a quite different to what we actually expect!

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  3. First time commenter (just created a blog), long time reader and admirer. Hello!

    Really good, helpful and interesting post as always. At 17 years old I am still very much a babybat (although I don't really consider myself a Goth) and am constantly, unsurprisingly, making mistakes. One of my first forays into alt fashion involved a skirt that fell horribly and didn't look at all nice. Now, a few years on, I have learnt how to actually make it fit well with the little help of an underskirt.
    Make-up wise, it was only just over a year ago that I realised that wearing dark eye-shadow without mascara was a big no-no. >.<
    I've managed better with music I'd say. I did my research and now have a music taste that ranges from typical goth/ post-punk acts to metal (Symphonic), from Rock to 80s synth/ new romantic. Although most tends to be darkly inclined I wouldn't hesitate for a second to say that I also enjoy the boppiest indie act Two Door Cinema Club.

    Being 'Gothically inclined' leads my interests but certainly doesn't restrict them. If I like something that isn't at all 'Goth' I'd still buy it/listen to it/ etc. ;) Still have so much to learn though!

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  4. Very nice post, I agree with 98% of it. With one exception - we should be more forgiving/understanding for our younger selves. These were the times when we were constantly searching for interests and exploring our minds. Proper make up certainly needs a lot of practice, experience and observation, but. Let's not put any more pressure to the young life, everything will eventually be figured out in time and clothing/make-up certainly shouldn't be a high priority for a baby bat, and as you wrote - funds and time are crucial in creating a style. I'm quite happy for myself not being involved too much in fashion at the time, because it let me focus on developing wide range of interests, hobbies, and therefore helped me find my passion & future profession :) And that's crucial to any young being, because in a sense it gives you a destination you can stick to when other things try to bring you down.
    Hey, we are who we are because of those awkward moments in the past ;) Hadn't experienced this struggle we wouldn't have shaped our characters.

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    1. I'm not saying that clothes and make-up should be a /priority/, but that if you do want to do these things, there are resources out there to do them well. My appearance was something I could rebel with, and a diversion for some nasty stuff in my life, so while it wasn't a priority at that age, it was something I was quite into - hence why I have 2 style points in this post.

      I don't think how good you can look should be limited by budget; I'm very keen to spread budget style tips because I think beauty should be for everyone, not just people who can afford expensive cosmetics, trips to a hairdresser and all the newest pretty Goth clothes. I think it's definitely possible to put together a fancy Goth wardrobe on a thriftstore wardrobe - /most/ of my clothes are secondhand!

      Non-Goth people also tend to be more accepting of very well styled Goths - I think those Goths get filed under "artistic eccentrics" rather than "creepy losers". I don't think we should have to look perfect all the time to cater to some outside pressure, but that pressure is sadly there (even if it's from cliquish Goths /within/ the subculture), and if knowing you've got your make-up on point helps boost someone's confidence (because make-up is a /skill and an art/ and should be appreciated as such) then that's a good thing, but I also worry about youngsters feeling never-quite-good-enough, getting anxiously perfectionist about their appearance; that is not healthy. Like with all things, there has to be a balance.

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