miscellany

Confessions of a Grade School Goth

Guys, I want to explain something, albeit 17 years late:

When I started wearing black as the dominant staple in my wardrobe, back in 7th grade, my classmates speculated tirelessly about the reasons.

It was a boring town.

Yet even then in the early naughts, I suspect they could have found something better to do than stereotype, gossip, and exclude me. Making fun of me could not possibly have been the most exciting activity available in our town. For instance, I danced competitively. I liked to walk in the woods. I enjoyed writing stories and blogging. I thought a lot about how I wanted to help people when I got old enough to drive. I liked rock music, but also showtunes and classical music (like I said, I was a dancer). My friends and I watched TV, played video games, went to the movies, read comics, loitered at shopping centers, chatted on AIM, and told stories. In our case, we told stories about fictional characters or ourselves, as opposed to stories about other people we didn’t know (or even those we did know).

In my town, everyone wanted a tattoo when they turned 18. Everyone loved skiing in the winter, and going to the Cape in the summer. Everyone walked to the same sandwich shop after school, and those old enough to drive stopped at the same Dunkin Donuts before school. Most people were Catholic but many, importantly, were not. Most people were white but some, importantly, were not.

In my grade, I was the only goth. There were other Hot Topic kiddos, but they would break up the blackness with colored band tees and blue jeans and such.

I remember the day my friend told me that people were calling me a goth, and that she didn’t agree with them, because she actually knew me and if people got to know me, they would know I was cool. Also, she loved the way I dressed, and supposed everyone else was just jealous of my confidence and style, so I shouldn’t worry about it.

It was news to me that I had style, and a pleasant surprise that she thought I aired confidence. It felt nice to hear how she felt about me, but I had one question: What’s a goth? And (added my inner Pandora), why shouldn’t I worry?

Later, I would research the term and its connotations among demographics ranging from architectural historians to rude schoolchildren. This prepared me somewhat to deal with backlash from my peers — backlash I neither expected nor invited. In their wild yet woefully unoriginal imaginations, I was one or more of the following:

  • a satan-worshipper
  • guilty of animal cruelty
  • a slut/into BDSM, and mind you I was 12 years old, so what the everloving FUCK was wrong with them
  • clinically depressed, and mind you I was, but I feel like being a jerk is not the appropriate response
  • mean
  • trying to be a badass
  • trying to get attention
  • a poser

That’s all very interesting, but I’m here to break some news:

Why I Started Wearing All Black

My mom took me back-to-school shopping before spring semester in seventh grade. We went to Wal-Mart, Sears, Macy’s, you know. I chose some clothing off the racks, because I liked it. My mom bought it for me. The fact that black matches everything played some role in my decisionmaking, because when my mom pointed out that I should choose matching colors, this was my simple (and less costly) solution. Also, I liked the contrast of reds and purples and silvers against black, so sue me. And! I had started doing my own laundry. Wise to the fact that stains are annoying, and to the fact that I frequently dripped ice cream and spaghetti sauce on myself, I thought, brilliantly, to avert crises by choosing dark colors.

That is all. That is really, truly, gorgeously simply all.

Shit, maybe you would have been a goth too if you’d done your own laundry as a child, dig?

The makeup and armwarmers and stockings and things came after my peers rudely introduced the word “goth” to my vocabulary, and it turned out, hey, these styles are kind of cute. And there’s a store in the mall that sells all of it in one place. And because of the everything-matches bonus, I got to be creative with layering and mixing and make-up. My mom never taught me how to do make-up, because she doesn’t wear it. I learned as a dancer, so I was not subtle. OTOH, I was fabulous, so there’s that.

I’m an adult now, and people will still presume things and psychoanalyze me if I dress the way I chose to when I was 12 and fashionably lazy (yet elegantly stylish, if I do say so myself). People still guffaw and state the obvious about what I’m wearing, or make insensitive cracks about it, when what they mean to say is “Wow, nice duds.”

This does something to the way one views humanity, and oneself in relation to other humans, if one lets it.

My clothes hang in the closet arranged by hue. I have diversified with clothes and rarely bother with makeup, but I still wear goth well. When I do, for every flashback of 7th-11th grade, there’s someone who just smiles and says, “You look great today!” like a well-adjusted member of society, and I like that.

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