Monday, 9 November 2015

Why I'm an Ex-Goth

This subject is something I keep coming back to, I suppose mainly because it's hard to sit down at my computer and start blogging without recalling the years I spent as a 'Goth blogger'. At the time, I was 100% sure that I would be a black-clad darksider for the rest of my natural life, but now when I look back I feel almost as though I was a different person. Reading back through posts on my old blog (which I have left up by request) makes me cringe occasionally - I am eighteen-nineteen-twenty and so convinced that I know it all, with my skinny eyebrows, stompy boots and overeager verbosity.

Now I'm twenty-four and in a state of near-constant neurotic paralysis due to my utter conviction that I know precisely nothing. I'm OK with that. In fact I'm kind of enjoying it. (The person I am now is a person who didn't exist five years ago. That's terrifying and liberating all in one hit. Who will I be in another five years? No one knows. How exciting.)

I know a lot of the people who come to this blog now come from a link on one of my old sites (hello there). I am also still friends or fond acquaintances with a lot of people I met through the blogging community back in the day, and it's fantastic to see the achingly cool people they have grown into (Sary. Allison. Just to name two incredibly awesome people). I look back with a slightly creeper-ish sense of pride on the days when we were all strange teenage bloggers together.

OK. Fangirl moment over. *pulls self together with great effort* What was I saying? Ah yes. I know a lot of you reading this right now are here because of Ye Olde Goth Blogging Days, and I almost feel as though I owe you some sort of explanation as to why this:
became that:

A photo posted by Amy Townsend (@wildlavendergirl) on
I'm not going to lie, I do look back at old photos of myself and think dang, I used to look so much cooler, but the thing is, I do so with a little smile and the quiet knowledge that, well, that was then. And whilst I'm glad I did it, it's not a reflection of who I am any more. I still think of myself as 'alternative', just in a gentler, nerdier sort of way. I no longer feel like I need my appearance to shout, "I AM DIFFERENT." I suppose because I no longer need my appearance to say anything at all to other people. It's just me. I just am.

[Hopefully unnecessary disclaimer: I don't speak for other alt people! I'm not saying that people dress up in their various subcultural ways to proclaim how different they are. I'm saying that, in part, I did. This post explains and expresses no one's thoughts or motivations other than my own.]

As I've recently mentioned, being an 'ex-Goth' is something I consider an important part of my identity. After all, Goth culture was something that consumed me for a six-year period of my life. It played a large part in shaping who I am and how I look at things today; it's not something to be shrugged off. I find it strange now when I realise that I actually have friends who never saw me with long black hair and a multitude of facial piercings, as though I'm a puzzle and they haven't got all the pieces. (But of course, I didn't witness their developmental years either, so I guess it works both ways.)

So. What changed?
  • I'm lazy. Not only that, but I don't want to put so much effort into thinking about my appearance. My version of Goth culture centred heavily on fashion and make-up, and I found I was no longer enjoying anything - I was outside myself, watching myself take part, monitoring how I looked at all times, and it wasn't good for me. I needed desperately to take a step back and evaluate what I wanted to be doing with my time, where I wanted my energy to go. And once I'd taken that step, I couldn't - and still can't - bring myself to focus so heavily on my looks again.
  • It wasn't fun any more. Blogging and being a Goth went hand in hand for me, and when one took a hit the other did too. On the one hand, I got some criticism. This is par for the course as a blogger - people are not always going to agree with you, and had I been thicker-skinned I could potentially have a) continued regardless or b) learned something, but my self-image was so tied up with blogging that I felt under attack. On the other hand, people were recognising me out and about at clubs and festivals, and whilst this was incredibly exciting at the time, I did come to realise that I'd rather be under the radar.
  • I wanted to be able to develop as a person. For example, one thing I was heavily criticised for was my music taste. That's fine - my music taste is pretty awful and I won't deny it, but because I was so obsessed with being a Goth, I felt like I had to start listening to the 'right' music. Obviously, this then led to me feeling like I was squashing my own personality. (I might have stayed a Goth longer if I hadn't become so obsessed with the culture. It was my entire identity. It was all I wanted to be. If parts of me didn't fit, I squashed them, stomped them or simply made excuses for them, and in the long run that doesn't work. You can't just cut off bits of yourself like an ugly sister hacking off toes to fit into a glass shoe.)
  • As soon as I started to look outside Goth for clues as to who I was and where I fit, I found myself dredging up more and more things from my pre-Goth past and from the world around me that were more 'me' than the narrow self-definition I had tried so hard to shoehorn myself into. So once I was out, as it were, I couldn't squeeze myself back in. It just wasn't 'me' any more. For some people, there's no squeezing and no squashing - which was how I knew that for me, it was time to move on. You can't force yourself to be a Goth once it stops being something that speaks to you!
  • I stopped being able to pretend that the things that annoyed me in mainstream culture (drug use, body shaming, bullying) didn't happen in the Goth scene. I had thought of Goth as some sort of perfect haven and when I realised it wasn't I felt disillusioned. Again, my own fault.
To be shameless and quote myself, from a previous blogging incarnation, "Of course, those aspects of me that drew me to dark culture still remain and are still celebrated - I am an avid bookworm with a particular fondness for dark faerie tales; I adore dark fashion; I have an enduring fondness for fantasy art, particularly with darker aspects... etc, etc, etc. 

"For me, the trouble with belonging to a specific subculture is that I felt I had to live up to other people's expectations of what a proper Goth should be if I wanted to 'earn' the label, which after a while felt limiting and uncomfortable. I learned that I prefer a more fluid, general descriptor like 'alternative', because there were things outside even the most vague boundaries of dark fashion drawing my attention, and I didn't want to just shut off the side of myself that wanted to (for example) wear florals and no make-up. 

"Long-time readers will know that crimping personal tastes to fit labels is certainly not what I'm about and never will be. I was reminded of those slightly awkward adolescent years when I tried to buy the 'right' clothes to impress the 'right' people, and something inside me rebelled against the idea of reliving a time when I didn't feel good enough to be accepted for who I was. I liked having the freedom to experiment with fashion, the quirkier the better, and experience different styles and genres of music without feeling like a fraud for calling myself a Goth."

16 comments:

  1. This was a really interesting read! I had read bits and pieces of why you'd stopped considering yourself goth but it's nice to see it all in once place. I definitely understand where you're coming from and I can only be happy for you that you've grown to know yourself well enough to realise all this. Kudos!

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    1. Thank you! :) I wasn't sure what sort of responses I might get to this post so I am really glad you found it interesting!

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  2. I still think you are a great person and happy to see you happy, no matter if that means more or less gothy-ness :-P

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  3. i support you! 100%. i was not goth, but into scene fashion and 'lifestyle' until i realized thats not my life at al!! then i went through a style identity crisis and to this day am not committed to a single category. i came here because i realized a lot of different aspects of the large range of goth subcultures are pretty rad. i feel like your article just reinforced what i was already thinking, and that is i can be interested in whatever I am but i dont have to sign a contract to that being my identity. who needs a label anyways? :)

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    1. Thank you Ebony :D
      Corny as it is I'm pleased to know there are others in the same boat as me! I used to feel incomplete if I couldn't announce 'I am this' or 'I am that' but it's just as easy to say 'I am interested in....' instead of making it a blueprint for your entire personality and lifestyle. If I had had more confidence in myself I might have come to understand that sooner instead of continually looking for 'my perfect subculture' for a model of how I should be.

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  4. I've been in the goth scene for nearly 17 years and don't plan to leave it as I still quite enjoy it, but I know that it's not for everyone, and I don't lose any respect for people who decide to exit, as long as they don't slam the whole scene while doing so. Your reasoning is absolutely sound, and I hope that you're enjoying your life more now. :)

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    1. Thank you very much. :) I don't imagine I will ever stop lurking around the fringes of the scene, as there are still so many facets of it that interest me, but there were different aspects of myself that I wanted to explore. The problems I had weren't with the scene itself but with the way I was relating to it - I have no reason to slam anything. Hope that makes sense! :)

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  5. I was an occasional reader of the Ultimate Goth Guide a few years back, never commented though. I wish I came across this post sooner. A lot of this exactly describes what I went through myself! A previous commenter called it their "identity crisis" which is what I kept referring to it as myself, where I no longer wanted to identify as being "that goth chick".
    I've changed drastically from the little gothling I used to be, but I can't deny my roots and it's helped me become the person I am today. Thank you for putting it in words better than some of us could do ourselves. <33

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    1. Thanks so much for this comment <3 It's nice to know that other people have gone through similar thought processes. I did quite often worry that I was making a mountain out of a molehill by stressing so much over how I wanted to present myself, but to spend years building up a specific identity and then realise you've actually limited yourself (not to mention then trying to dismantle the whole thing and 'find yourself' again) really does feel like a crisis. At least, it did to me! I cut myself off from myself, which was no good.

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  6. Pretty much sums it up, if you keep growing as a person you outgrow narrow boundaries of subcultural labels and tropes. Then one day you realize you don't have to conform to anyone's expectations and just become your true self.

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  7. I have to mention how proud of you I am, and that I really enjoyed Stripy Tights and Dark Delights for a long time. I am not goth, but my fascination for the subculture and it's people, what it stands for (or is supposed to stand for *glares at elitists*) has been with me for quite some time. I have to say some parts of this post surprised me, because looking back at Stripy Tights I didn't ever get the sense that you were having identity problems/and or feeling pressure to be 100% goth, you just ... seemed to be? But yeah, I agree; subcultures can be hard on those who feel pressured to surrender entirely to it.

    I'm sad that I won't be getting anymore super gothy posts anymore, and my list of places to go for those are getting shorter, but what's important is that your happy ^ ^

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    1. Oh my gosh. What a lovely person you are! Thank you so much for this.

      I think my problems with Goth came to be not long before I closed the curtains on Stripy Tights, when I read back some of the later posts I can sense my disillusionment but I'm glad it doesn't seem to be too obvious to others. I have quite an obsessive personality so when I'm into something I'm all in... I was absolutely hoarding clothes, spending money like mad, I couldn't go anywhere without trying to buy something that would make me 'more Goth'. And I wasn't really cultivating any parts of my personality that didn't fit the label. It was definitely time for me to take a step back and reassess my priorities.

      Hopefully there's a new generation of Goth bloggers out there waiting to rise up. You never know! ;)

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    2. I'm anon, and I'm SO happy I didn't write my reply thousands of times because the process of commenting confused me greatly lol

      ... Were you? I'm sorry, but I REALLY didn't see any of this in the posts you made; I always consider you to be one of the "mature", oddly confident goth bloggers who laughed in the faces of gross elitists telling everyone what to do! If you felt any insecurities about your gothiness, I didn't pick it up at all lol

      I'm quite obsessive, too, the only thing that pulls me out of it is boredom with one thing so I move over and become obsessed with something else. I'm a mess of a person lol

      I certainly hope so! Goth culture seems to be dying and I don't like it one bit!

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    3. Well, I'm more than happy to take 'oddly confident' as a massive compliment, so thank you for that! ^^

      In that case, I'm a mess of a person also, but since I quite enjoy it, I'm OK with that ;)

      I'd be amazed if Goth culture really did die out. Perhaps the online presence is just not quite so strong now?

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