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, 4 August 2016

Being An Adult Goth

Being an adult Goth has its own challenges.

I wrote about being an adult Goth before, ::here::. After watching ::this:: video by Mama Bat on YouTube, who wanted to hear from Goths over the age of 25, I was inspired to write about it again. I know I'm probably repeating myself, but I hope I am not repeating myself too much.

Firstly, some clarification. I'm not an ElderGoth; I don't remember the most of the '80s  as I wasn't even born until the latter end, and I wasn't part of the scene in the '90s, and I only started getting interested in Goth in the early to mid '00s - that's still well over 10 years ago, but it's only a fraction of the time some people have been in this scene, and I don't want to claim experience that I don't have. However, I am an adult, and I've had to live in the 'big wide world', beyond education institutions (school, college, university) and there's definitely a shift that takes place when you have different considerations in your life. This entry is mostly about the differences in my experience being a Goth as a teenager and as an adult. 

It's NOT Just A Phase
As a teenager, I did go through phases of experimenting with subcultural identities, starting with Goth and eventually returning, and this, coupled with the general misconception that Goth is unilaterally an expression of temporary teenage angst and rebellion, meant that it was very often presumed that it would be something I would grow out of. Adults around me often refused to support me in being Goth, because of this - it wasn't based around disapproval of the content, more that when I was still dependent on my family financially and was fixated on the idea of made-for-Goth clothes and buying my music as CDs, I wasn't going to get bought anything Goth as it was seen as something too transitory to invest in (this was less of an issue when I realised that charity shops sold non-mainstream things and adaptable things, and how to customise things, and as I got older and could earn my own money, etc.). As I did flit between subcultural identities this was understandable, and as stroppy as I may have been about this when I was 13/14, I don't begrudge it now. The other problem I had was how my mental health issues, as real and obvious as they should have been, where dismissed as me "attention seeking" as some sort of angsty teenage phase connected to my being Goth, but that is another issue. 

Still being Goth now, all those years laters, has proven that this time, it wasn't a phase; this actually is who I really am. Some of my family are now more accepting because of this, and others are less accepting. I think there were some who tolerated it because they thought it was something I would have abandoned soon enough anyway, and now that I've demonstrated that this is who I am, they have more of an issue with it. I feel that there is a sentiment that if it had been a feigned interest done for temporary rebelliousness, then that was something tolerable because it wouldn't have been a reflection of me, just an affected pose, and therefore while pretentious and annoying, not an indication of my truly embracing values and interests that they are opposed to. 

I also get criticism from strangers - often variations on "aren't you too old to be trying to piss off your parents?" and "how are you supposed to get a job when you look like that". My rebuttal to the first is that my father's completely accepting of my dress sense. He doesn't personally really like that style and I think he liked it better when I was into more hippie/bohemian things as that is closer to his interests, but he also accepts that there's nothing wrong with it, and has no problem with me being Goth or dressing the way I do. As to the underlying idea that Goth is inherently for teenagers, I explained in previous article that it's actually aimed more towards adults, especially when the club scene is such a major component. My reply to the second usually was "I have a job!" but now I'm at university and had to quit my job to study (architecture is an intensive course, and I personally can't juggle the course and a job), my response is a bit more detailed; there are plenty of Goths who have jobs, but I accept that some employers prefer a more conservative appearance, and I can change my look to be appropriate to the situation.
This brings me on to the next topic..


Balancing Employer's Requirements And Goth
This is something I touched on in my previous blog article about being an adult Goth.

One thing I worry about is if employers and potential employers would deem my subcultural affiliation as a sign that I might be a bad employee - there are reasons I keep this blog under the pseudonym of 'HouseCat', and where I do use my real name, only use part of it,  and one of those is that if potential employers search me on the internet under my full name, they won't immediately find my work in the subculture. I'm not ashamed of being Goth, but I am worried about the prevalence misconceptions and misinformation; a lot of people think we're deviants and delinquents, when we're really nothing like that. When I do things with a subcultural leaning that can be relevant work experience, I get very conflicted, and think very carefully about how I word things, often leaving out the word 'Goth'. 

Each employer and each job will have different dress-codes, some have uniforms and some are very strict about a homogenous appearance. Some are also more likely to look down on anything relating to subcultural identity - I worked in one place that had a policy of "pale" nail-varnish colours only, and where I got reprimanded for silver nail-polish (definitely pale!) while another girl with a more mainstream aesthetic was allowed to wear neon yellow and I got told that there wasn't going to be a colour I would be allowed to wear that would fit in with my style, and that they'd prefer pink... In general, however, I've found that my aesthetic quirks are usually accepted as long as I am smart and well-groomed and wear whatever attire is required for the job in hand. 

I know that architecture, the field I will be going into, requires a more conservatively professional aesthetic than some, but it is also a creative field, so there is some leniency for eccentricity. I expect that it will be beneficial to me in the search for employment to dye my hair a natural colour, for example. One of my friends, a purple-haired Goth lady, has recently got an internship with a firm in the US, and she is dyeing her purple hair a more natural colour for that. When the time comes for me to sacrifice my emerald green hair, I will either seek out either a PPD free black dye (SUGGESTIONS WELCOME!) or go for a redhead look. I have been ginger before, and I liked it, however I do sometimes miss my jet-black hair, hence the collection of black wigs. In the meantime, I will continue to revel in the freedom being at university gives me. 

While, in an ideal world, aesthetic preference wouldn't be taken as a measure of competency, and whether you prefer dyed green hair to dyed blonde, or have piercings and tattoos would be irrelevant as long as you maintained a smart and well-groomed appearance, we're not living in an ideal world, and I accept that compromises have to be made. All my tattoos are planned for parts of my body that won't show under usual office attire, and I took most of my piercings out years ago. I have a real passion for architecture and especially for historic buildings, and if modifying my appearance makes it easier for me to do what I love, then I'm willing to make compromises, especially as Goth is so much more than just fashion, so even if I'm making compromises with my appearance, it doesn't stop me from having an '80s 'Trad. Goth' playlist for my bus commutes or going out to a Goth event on a Friday night instead of a regular bar, or whatnot. 

Benefits Of Being An Adult Goth
The obvious benefit of being an adult Goth is that I'm old enough to participate in the club scene; I'm above legal drinking age (18 in the U.K.) and to go to gigs at venues that sell alcohol, and therefore take part in a huge portion of the subculture I couldn't take part in as a younger teen, but that's not the only benefit. As mentioned before, having my own independent income means I am free to chose what I spend it on (even though often times that has meant spending what little I earned primarily on rent, food and utilities, with little spare for things like music, clothes, books, etc. - being an adult also means adult responsibilities) and even though I certainly don't think how Goth you are should be measured by disposable income spent on Goth, it certainly does make things easier now that I can buy records or velvet skirts for myself, or tickets to gigs, entry fees to clubs... As I've progressed in terms of employment and had more income, that has allowed me to afford to spend more on Goth, too. I'm now a student again, and gave up my job to study, so I'm back to thrift shopping on the rare occasions I can afford even that, but when I was working, that certainly helped with how much I could participate.

I think the best thing about being an adult and a Goth is that I can travel around more independently. Personally, I am unable to drive due to health reasons, but there's still a lot of benefits to being able to travel independently rather than having to ask my Dad for a lift, or always having to travel with friends, in terms of flexibility of participation. I only have to fit travel around public transport and my own schedule, not everyone else's. While I am limited by my schedule and by the reach of my disabled person's travel pass (Scotland only), it's nice to be able to go beyond the town I live in to access Goth gigs and events, and meet up with friends in the subculture. As I live somewhere a bit more rural, this is definitely useful, as even nearby towns don't have much in the way of Goth events and gigs, and it usually means a trip to Glasgow or Edinburgh.

Having my own space, free of parental rules, or the rules of dorms and student housing (eg. no posters on the walls was frequently a rule, as this was seen as a fire-hazard, and also all electrical items must be safety-checked, including string-lights, and this had to be paid for so a £1 set of Hallowe'en scary-lights suddenly would also have to cost an electrician's safety-check fee, and seemed a less attractive proposition, and again another fire-safety rule was absolutely no candles or incense) meant the ability to have a space I could make more homely, and more in keeping with aesthetic and musical tastes. Rental properties often didn't let me make any major changes to the decor, but I was free to put my own pictures up, to have string lights and candles, to put in my own furniture, etc. Now I've got a mortgage on my 'own' house (well, it doesn't feel like it's completely mine all the time the mortgage is fairly new and the amount we've paid off is tiny compared to the size of the loan) I can completely re-decorate - a process I am thoroughly throwing myself into.


This is mostly my own experience as an adult Goth, and I would love to hear about the experiences of other adult Goths. Also, as someone who feels like they missed out on the first 25-ish years of Goth, I also love hearing about Goth before I started being one in the early/mid '00s (although that is somewhat tangental from this blog entry). 

7 comments:

  1. Once again, you've created a well written and well thought out post.

    I'm an adult goth, and dare I say that I'm considerably older than you. In years past the community I live in was much more remote than it is now. For that reason, I was completely unaware of the Goth subculture until the spring of 2000. Yes, I liked the Cure and other dark music before that, but I was unaware of the subculture. Once I had discovered it, I took to it like a duck to water, and I never turned back.

    I sometimes think about the advice you've dispensed in some of your posts here about how important it is for us to leave good impressions with the people we meet. I have to concur that politeness goes a long way toward eradicating prejudices toward those of us in the lifestyle. In these times of excessive incivility, it's almost guaranteed to leave a good impression.

    As an adult goth, I strive to leave good impressions while being comfortable with who and what I am. It seems to be working out quite well for me. I have little doubt that things will turn out the same for you.

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    1. I've always believed that the cure for hatred isn't more hate, it's love - or at least kindness, politeness and being the better person. Perhaps that's a shade too optimistic for a Goth, and I probably inherited it from my Dad, who is very much a Hippie, but I think that there's a lot that happens in the world that stems from either fear or hurt, and proving that you aren't yet another threat is a good way of turning that around. Goths are often thought of as some force for evil, and yes, there are people so entrenched that they won't alter the blinkered perspective regardless of all evidence to the contrary, but by being affable, polite people rather than deliberately frosty or antagonistic, we do a lot to nullify that threat. Now, if we could only get the mainstream media to portray us better in articles, and have more fictional Goths like Abbey Scuito and fewer that reinforce either the 'delinquents involved in anti-Christian evil' or 'dorky angsty pretentious edgelord' stereotypes, that would do well, too.

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  2. Hello!
    thank you for sharing this! I wish you all the best for your study!
    I am 33 years old, and I am back to the Goth community after years of "break". I came into a gothic group at my school at the end of the 90' but because of parental rules and their misconceptions about it, I was not allowed to continue, I think a lot of us had experienced the same, sadly. Even now, my "come-back-into-goth" is taken as an expression of rebellion. But it's not at all, as you mentionned. My expression of rebellion against to much parental/social/religious community pressure was anorexia, when I was a teenager. Beginning to dress gothic was an expression being free from all that. It was an expression that I was on my way to healing. I know a lot of people think this could be the beginning of depression, it is for mots of us, I think, an expression of more freedom and inner healing because it's the way we express that we are how we are without wearing a "social acceptable mask". People need to understand this. Should we, Goths, make efforts to give more information about ourselves? I wonder... There are already plenty blogs like yours were everybody can get a god idea about what being Goth means. But misconceptions are still there... Maybe they always will be there, because often, people talk before thinking, people talk about things they don't know, people don't check things they are spreading around, people don't check what they hear. This may sound sad, but it's reality. Of cours there are people how make efforts to know others, to get information before talking or to check what they hear, but, as I see it around me, these god and intelligent people are the minority. That's why I don't waist time to explain things, I am just how I am. I am very busy with 2 kids + a full time job + my study. I concentrate on my family life so my kids have a happy life, I concentrate on my study because this gives me a perspective for getting a higher qualification (a better job!) and I don't have time to think about what other people think about me. Actually, I don't give a shit about it. Maybe this attitude is also an expression of freedom? I am happy with myself! I don't harm anybody, so what should I pay attention to others peoples' opinion?
    I wish you a good weekend,
    I hope to read you soon again,
    sending you much positive thoughts from France
    Mirjam.
    (sorry for my broken english... I try to improve it!)

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  3. Hallo, fellow Elder Goths!

    While I have been into the scene for 27 years, I do think length of time as part of the subculture doesn't really matter that much.

    I have spoken to my fair share of Used-To-Bees, as I call them. They're the scene tourists who did just do it out of rebellious teenage angst. Hey, I get it. As teens, we all try on different experiences. So, I'm good with them as long as they're not condescending about it.

    I agree with you, HouseCat, and the other commenters on catching more flies with honey than with vinegar, as we say here in the Southeastern U.S. I am happy to discuss my lifestyle with people who are genuinely curious. Sometimes they are surprised at how average I am.

    Shout out to you HouseCat as a non-traditional, adult, undergraduate student! I'm a non-trad undergrad myself, majoring in Creative Writing and English lit. I am also neurodivergent and have mental illness. We rock, because this stuff isn't easy.

    But I find that I am a far better student now than I was as a traditional-age student. I value it so much more, and get so much more out of it. Do you have the same experience?

    All of this said, I'd like to encourage all of us to know that we don't owe anyone any explanations for our life. As long as we don't harm anyone (who hasn't harmed us), we are free to live as we desire. I, too, think of this as who I am. And I dig me!

    Darkly yours,
    The JurassiGoth

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    1. I don't really consider myself an ElderGoth yet - perhaps in another decade.

      I don't mind ex-Goths, and those who had a Goth 'phase' as long as they're not condescending, too. Some are condescending, and those just seem daft to me. Just because it's a phase for one person, doesn't mean it's a phase for others. I wonder if some of the rude/condescending ones are just jealous of those who have stayed Goth when they perhaps feel like they couldn't/didn't and regret that? I don't know.

      Being neurodivergent and having mental health issues while at University is definitely difficult. I get support from the university, but it's not going to erase the difficulties of say, doing a group project when you have social anxiety issues, being late, forgetful and disorganised because you have issues with concentration, short term/ 'working' memory and executive functioning, etc.

      I was actually struggling more starting the second time around - the first time, I went in after having been in education as far as I could remember, and it was all I was used to, and I had this momentum and routine behind me - this time, I went in from employment, and switching gears was tricky. However, this time around I also know the CAUSES of many of my issues, and have support, which makes that a lot easier.

      Yes, we don't owe the world a justification for being ourselves! Sometimes people try and demand one, but really, as you say - if we haven't and aren't harming anyone (except in cases of self-defence and necessity, rare though they may be), we should be free to be ourselves without having to constantly answer the same questions and demands as to why we insist on being different.

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  4. Found your article most interesting and made me feel just a little better. I am an adult goth, given my age probably out of elder goth and into coffin dodger....

    I experienced punk in the late 70's / 80's. I sort of discovered Goth in the early 80's but was not able to get much music. None of my friends were into goth. It was only when I started working after uni that I started to grow my music collection and at some point in the late 80's that as my knowledge and interest grew I realised that I was pretty much a goth. However job and social constraints meant that I was never really able to express that visually. My music collection is pretty much 90% goth with 10% classical and 'other'. I love bats, grave yards and old buildings. I look nothing like a goth, and certainly agree that goth is not just about how one looks. I wonder how many of 'stealth' goths there are, we just don't see them.....

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    1. My music collection is a mix of Goth, Classical, darker folk stuff and random things. Mostly Goth and darker music genres (I'm quite a fan of darker strands of neo-folk and dark folk. Songs about death, transience and the futility of life, despair, etc. just with acoustic instruments :P )

      I think there are quite a few stealth-Goths, especially those who are limited by practicalities such as jobs, wearing clothes that won't get wrecked by being a parent and doing chores, etc. etc. I feel lucky to be at college where I can look as Goth on the outside as I am on the inside, but even when I have to don corporate attire in the world of architecture, I'll have by Goth'd out study. All hail the joys of interior design :P

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