I recently read "9 Rules For The Black Birdwatcher" and "9 New Revelations For The Black American Birdwatcher" for a college course. I really loved Lanham's style and the content. He wrote conversationally which lulled you into a false sense of security then BAM! He hits you with the hard societal issues that people don't want to talk about...because it's uncomfortable. I also recently came to the conclusion that if something is uncomfortable to talk about then it ABSOLUTELY SHOULD BE TALKED ABOUT.
Anyway, we (students) were tasked with writing a journal entry containing 5 rules pertaining to one aspect of our identity. I chose my optimist aspect but looking back I didn't really mimic Lanham's style well. So, here is my second attempt.
1) Prepare to be ogled. Not only as a ‘goth’ but as a woman. As a woman who dresses uniquely and may or may not wear outlandish accessories you will be stared at, leered at, smiled at, and sneered at. After all, we are dressing for others aren’t we? So, what did we think would happen? We should be flattered by all the attention! It doesn’t bother us does it? It actually doesn’t...most of the time. As a woman, especially a curvy one that wears mostly black, yes I said mostly, the eyes that latch onto you will be your constant companion. We mostly wear black, yes. But we really mostly wear what we want and when we break out some color they’ll stare harder because their tiny minds won’t be able to handle that they can’t put you in a box.
2) Don’t wear too much makeup- at least lighten up on the white. Someone might actually accuse you of being a cadaver. They may call the cops, a coroner, or their local funeral home. You may also scare all the little children away, as if that was something you wanted to do! Your mother will be adamant that it’s no way to “get a man”...your grandmother too. Getting questions like- “why do you wear so much makeup”, “do you wanna look dead”, or “why are you hiding your pretty face” is normal, even if you aren’t, which they’ll make sure you know...repeatedly. All this is, of course, moot because you’re going to be focusing all your attention on maintaining this unique beauty to even notice the plebes.
3) If you’re going to wear a black trench coat, wear it appropriately- open so that everyone can see you aren’t packing. I’m not sure who is going to read this but I suppose some of my readers will remember or know about the dreaded trench coat mafia which rose to infamy in the 90’s. The Columbine school shooting was correlated with goths after the media noticed the dark colored dusters the shooters wore that looked close enough to the trench coats many goths wore. There is still a stigma surrounding goths because of this. I’ve been accused of carrying a weapon even though I wasn’t wearing anything close to a trench coat. Honestly, it’s never a good idea to wear any garment that could possibly conceal a plethora of weapons, whether you are or not, especially in today’s social climate. Just don’t do it.
4) Try not to slap the guy who treats you as a fetish. I know some of us out there might be into kink but this could get you arrested. I actually had a guy come up to me while I was waiting outside a Hot Topic, how cliche, and offer me a proposition simply because I was wearing a red and black tartan skirt, fishnet stockings, and combat boots. He claimed that he’d always “wanted a goth girl”. What? He couldn’t have been more awkward. I was a teenager and just stared at him. I can’t believe I was so polite to him. Looking back I would’ve slapped him...and enjoyed it...I should have. But you...don’t do that...you...might get arrested.
5) Be prepared to show receipts in order to prove yourself or at least your level. Elitism is alive and well in the goth world. Most of us would like to change this and endeavor to do so but there are still pockets of resistance. Make sure you know how goth started- when, where, who. There will be quizzes and if you get so many answers incorrect your unspoken membership will be revoked. Make sure you know all about the central bands that are the epitome of goth- hits, the members, their backstory. Memorize all gothic writers and other artists so as not to embarrass yourself and cause your elders shame. A good idea might be to get a copy of your membership certificate, make sure the date you started on your goth journey is legible and don’t fiddle with it. Or maybe do, because the longer you’ve been in the scene the better. Even though this has nothing to do with “how goth you are”.
6) Have at least ten photos of yourself in a cemetery. Post them everywhere- Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Grinder, Tinder, Craigslist, Meetup, LinkedIn, EVERYWHERE. This is non-negotiable.
7) Similar to rule number six, make sure you get plenty of photo ops with children, as many as you can really. Since people think all goths are automatically either Satanists or witches due to ignorant assumptions, all the negative stigmas and stereotypes unfairly associated with those lovely religions will apply to us as well- y'know, eating babies and such. The public is always so suspicious so we must remember to overcompensate. We must show the general public how much we actually love kids, not how much we actually love them. It’s not like we’re the witches from the movie The Witches. That movie low-key scared me as a child but since then I’ve grown out of my fear of witches, having met a couple and become one myself. Heh, talk about conquering your fears!
8) Be careful performing your rituals, for spirit is not the only all seeing eye- some ignorant person might mistake you for a "Satanist" instead of a witch or a real Satanist. The fact that the general public equates "Satanism" with bestiality, eating children, human sacrifice, and actually worshiping Satan, which it has nothing to do with, that will have Karen calling the cops. Maybe don’t tell people you are a Satanist since the very name is misleading. Or shout it from the mountain tops and you be you! After all, that is what Satanism is all about. Some of us goths may or may not actually be witches too and there are way too many types to mention here. Wiccan witches are probably the most generally known but either way the world will still see you as a weirdo wearing all black even though the credo for both these religions is “harm none”. The only people who don't see me as a crystal-hoarding, sage burning, tarot reading weirdo are the gals at my local metaphysical shop in the mall.
9) Don’t let ANYONE know you love k-pop! You must, at all costs, hide the fact that you love, love, LOVE pop music. All kinds. It’s bad enough that you like different genres at all but POP?! This can cause your downfall in the goth world. Goth elitists don’t respond well to people that have differing views and tastes other than goth- in fact they may go on a tirade about how vapid the music is and therefore so must you be. When you’re a member of such an elite club with fickle definitions yet solid boundaries it is imperative that you hide your differences. Would you like to be an outcast in a club full of outcasts? Not only is it very dangerous to be seen smiling by club members but to be seen smiling while listening to pop music, especially k-pop music, will result in immediate expulsion. Of course, the council will hold a formal mandatory meeting in which they tell you all the things wrong with pop music, the industry, and you before they expel you. I know you can’t help the toe-tapping, the nodding head, spinning, twirling, dancing, whirling, neither can I, which is why we need to hide it at all costs so we don’t seem natural. We are in the club that celebrates preternatural things- ghosts, vampires, the undead, mysticism, the macabre, the occult, and none of those things twirl or whirl. We can’t be seen to associate with anything that would connect us to the ‘normal’ world.
10) Be ready to explain the intimate details of your intimate situations. Just like not slapping the guy who treats you like a fetish, so too, must we show restraint when people assume we’re kinky. Unless the guy consents to being slapped of course. It’s all about consent which, apparently, the plebes don’t realize. They assume since we’re so bold that we’d be bold and proud and not be bothered by some stranger’s presumptions about our sexual lives. Nothing is private when a plebe gets bit by the curiosity bug. We can either choose to grin and bear it like a well trained Sub or we can give them a sampling of how a Dom would handle this situation, assuming we’re even into the scene! Lifestyle does not correlate with sexual predilections. But like I said, that doesn’t matter to the plebes as long as they get an answer. Remember, a slap is an answer!