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October 02, 2006

Because I could not stop for death, He kindly stopped for me


Listen up jock douchebags: We want to help. The Drink Soaked Trotskyites point to Goth Help Us; gothic philanthropy in action. Founder Rebecca Holm explains.

"Do you think it's easy to look gothic? It's non-stop maintenance!" she laughs. "Gothic people spend hours getting ready to go out. Their make-up, hair, and clothing is perfect. A normal person has no ability to pull this look off...only an artist can do it." Hohm continued, "Average people will give you the shirt off their backs to help others when asked, but goths will give you their whole wardrobe, let you move in, and feed you, too." She says the charitable nature of gothics is what originally drew her to the scene in the first place. "Their compassion is unlike any other sect of people I know, and I am proud to be one of them." she concluded.

I confess this summary is only a dim reflection of my personal experience of the sect. At least in so far as my ongoing difficulty in convincing gothic lasses to disrobe is concerned; let alone the prospect of home cooking to follow. Or take away for that matter.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at October 2, 2006 06:44 AM


You should spend a summer down here in Atlanta. Back in our day we had a very gregarious scene that was welcoming to people from other towns that moved here for what ever reason. Those days are largely gone as we've lost our primary haunts to upscale restaurants and shops. The current locale is a once a month art show venue with a slightly different feel to it that's not like the old days.

Posted by: Montieth [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 2, 2006 10:05 AM

I have not been to Atlanta in years but from what I remember I would have thought ghost-haunted Emory had more than enough spooky buildings with front steps that could be colonized for gothic purposes.

And if there is no regular venue it seems there is an excellent business opportunity going spare...

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 2, 2006 10:12 AM

Perhaps they wear too much clothing and jewelry to be able to disrobe efficiently. I'm wondering how exactly a goth lady copes with bedhead or the normal level of morning pillow dishevelment. Is this normally a graceful degradation?

Posted by: agent bedhead [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 2, 2006 10:38 AM

Perhaps it was due to my stunningly-handsome-psychopath look in the early 90's or my collection of pocket knives or my ability to recite "The Raven" from memory -- but disrobing goth lasses was NOT a challenge, at least relative to other sects (punks, yuppies, dweebs, head-bangers, grungies, hippies, Church-ladies, Democrat, Republican, circus freaks, one-legged, two-legged, exc.) which I attempted my usual...whatever.

The goth chicks had such terrific esteem and identity issues all meshed up with the psycho-sexual vampire thing - clothing was like butter in the sub-saharan. I only share this information, Sir Flea, to be of some service to you: If you frame all activity as ritualistic (cooking breakfast, vacuming the floor, the more carnal) and, of course, pretend to like THE CURE - you'll find a puddle of black fabric on the floor with moments.

The problem with dating a Goth chick is the break up, not the hook up. The break up, (again only in my humble experience) often comes with either a homicide or suicide threat. These are to be taken seriously and a protective order should be attained at once.

Maybe I'll write a whole: How To Get Goth With It post on my blog some time...

Posted by: Joshua H. [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 2, 2006 01:57 PM

I concur with Josh H. regarding the esteem and identity issues of teh gawth grrls. However I did not garner any homicide or suicide threats. Some goth girls of my acquaintance did get suicide threats from their exes when they pulled the plug on relationships with similarly goth fellas, though.

In one hilarious case a good friend and colleague of mine lost his goth girl, and he was suicidally despondent. Braniac that he was, he went over to her apartment with a huge knife and threatened to kill himself in the apartment hallway if she didn't take him back. Well, she didn't take him back and she also called the ETF. My friend got a lot less despondent once he heard the MP5 charging handles being pulled and a short sharp command to drop the knife. Nice guy that I was, I coughed up a loan for him to so he could pay his legal fees arising from this fun little outing.

The best part is they worked in the same IT department (although a different division from me) and they still had to see each other at work each day. I had to work with both of them too and although I laugh about it now, I was kinda pissed with the two of them for a while.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 2, 2006 03:23 PM

I avoid these problems by only dating women who are as emotionally stable as they are scintillating and creative.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 2, 2006 03:28 PM

In other words, you are a lonely bachelor.

Welcome to the club, my good man.

Posted by: Temujin [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 3, 2006 12:58 AM

In defense of the goth chics, yes, some of them have major issues. THat's kind of why they join the clique. They're looking for someone and something to accept them despite their feeling estranged from the world. For them it isn't so much about the look and the ideology as much as it is about acceptance. That's what so odd about the lack of chick-a-womp-womp. The neediness, the rejection of traditional morality, seems to push them toward being promiscuous in my experience. Though many regret one nighters later. Hard lesson. Sex as physical act doesn't equate love or acceptance, but sex as bonding experience does.

What i don't like is the delusions of grandeur that stem from joining such a clique and the attendant hatred of 'normals' that usually accompanies it. They may be 'willing to give you their home' but not if you wish to hold onto your 'normalness'. At least, not in my experience. Punkers think they're the chit and everyone else is a moron sheeple. Same for most other cliques. The trully cool are those that can accept what is different from themselves without coming to hate that which is not them. All too rare.

Posted by: ry [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 3, 2006 10:30 AM

I think you deserve some sort of formal recognition for the term "chick-a-womp-womp". I bid 1000 quatloos for the last comment!

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 3, 2006 10:34 AM

A further thought later in the day... We are all on board with this blog being a touch satirical are we not? Most goths I have met - myself included - are actually better adjusted than most people even if ever so slightly displaced in time.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 3, 2006 10:08 PM

Well Flea you tend to be the exception, not the rule. =) You have evolved the ability to ah, adapt yourself to different social settings and adopt appropriate camouflage -- which is something that many goths, rockers, nerds, chavs and their "mundane" office-dwelling opposites -- fail at, regularly.

I am sure we all know folks who eschew certain modes of dress (suits, skirts) or activities (sports, shaving) due to their alleged identification with a hated opposite social group. Whether they are more or less well-adjusted is not for me to say, but I think being able to adapt to any surroundings and any social milieu says a lot about whether someone is comfortable in their own skin.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2006 08:16 AM

I quite agree with this sentiment. The term "mundanes" always annoyed me whether it was from fandom geeks or wiccans. It is the notion that goth women are somehow any more or less stable than other people that I am objecting to. Seriously, people: Have we learned nothing from The Breakfast Club? The jock, the prep, the nerd and the metalhead all had issues. Ally Sheedy was only there because she was bored. Which goes for Helena Bonham Carter in Fight Club too.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2006 08:22 AM

I may need to clarify some things. i've never met a goth over the age of 25. Most of my experience comes from undergraduates and from my years as a hs coach.

Those gurls tend to have some issues. Typically that their parents wanted them to be Barbie or cheerleaders or the embodiment of Christian humility/chasitity while the young miss was more literary and had an askew view of the world. Being goth is more, for these, an act of rebellion, a double fisted flipping the bird. Maybe that goes away after they graduate. Don't know. I've been living as a bohemian grad student/undergrad subsisting on ramen for over a decade and haven't seen what happens when these ladies leave the Ivory Tower.

I'm also not just talking about people who die their hair black/red-so-dark-it-looks-black-from-a-distance/other, like Anne Rice vampire novels, wear psuedo-Victorian fashions in basic black while eschewing the anti-female sexual norms of the time, and see beauty in the 'ugly'/spooky. These tend to have an affinity for the dramatic and the tragic, like Byron who died in Greece.

I am talking about those that have, for example, a love for Dracula as an icon of evil, because he's evil and powerful, instead of because Drac was a tragically romantic individual who just happened to be powerful. Those whose love of the dramatically tragic could be classified as life destroying obsession since they try to emulate it.

I am talking about younger women (hs, college) who have social issues becuase of their love affair with tragedy. Those I've run across as a coach tend to trully be depressed themselves at some point, and thereby easy pickings for a somewhat empathetic dolt looking for a night of fun. These kids also make such productions out of their life problems---like one girl who was afraid her subconscious was out to get her, or so she claimed---that it is sorta earned that they are emotional wrecks(which in a way is why I think they do it. They get attention and get to cut the tragic figure.).

Maybe all this goes away when they grow up or after they no longer have progressed beyond 1st year chem and intorductory organic chem. Wouldn't know personally.

Guys are also a problem. A very different one. Most I've run across, usually the dim witted boyfriend of a girl I coached or had as a student, do the 'I love Drac because he's the embodiement of evil' thing; and hate me simply because I have blond hair, wear shorts with running shoes year round, and am a figure of authority. These guys are a problem. They're predators who bring drama and serious trouble to young ladies who don't need it or deserve it. They aren't gentleman, Flea. They take advantage of the women who aren't as emotionally stable as they are creative and stunning(to steal your words). They impeed the young ladies from attaining emotional stability.

Maybe that isn't the norm for the goth sub culture. I trully hope it isn't since The Wife has taken to the Southern Vampire novels(http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0441014003/ref=wl_it_dp/002-3216072-8450441?ie=UTF8&coliid=I1BXVG4MMODF7K&colid=7TI41XDAQJEI) of late. But that is my, limited, experience.

Posted by: ry [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2006 10:07 AM

Now I think I know where we are at cross-purposes. One of the difficulties I have whenever "goths" make the mass media is how rarely I recognize what is being described. Partially this is due to advancing age; I have, for example, no strong objection to the life and work of Marilyn Manson but I hardly take him seriously. But quite often what is being labled as "goth" or "gothic" to me looks like some variant on metal or what passes for industrial culture once Trent Reznor muddied the waters. The evil dolt who shot up a Montreal college recently looked more like an "idiot" than a "goth" and I admit if he was treated badly because of it this might be considered a factor in his social maladjustment.

Perhaps a post regarding definitions is in order...

You have also identified a critical point early in your comment, this being the goths-over-the-age-of-25 issue. Even in a city the size of Toronto the potential dating pool of single, attractive goths over the age of twenty-five is vanishingly small compared to the pool of, for example, single attractive women who would bore me to tears within minutes.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2006 10:30 AM

I know of a few goth guys and gals over the age of 25, but they are all Wiccans as well. I would be hesitant to describe any causality between the two but there certainly is some kind of non-causal correlation.

The goth guy and gal I described in my first comment, for instance, were both over 25, both employed in lucrative IT gigs (for a major Canadian retailer whose bearded and bespectacled neighborly spokesman we all loved to hate). They both dressed professionally at the office and only let all their goth hang out while at home or on leisure time.

The guy, incidentally, was a Christian and after that little event with the ETF, decided to bail out of the goth scene and rededicated his life to Christ. The lady, as far as I know, is still goth and Wiccan, and must be in her late thirties or early forties now.

Incidentally, many of the adult Wiccan-Goths I once knew and still know are Jewish and were not rebelling against any sort of extternaly-imposed Christian (or Jewish) morality or parental strictness. If anything their parents were quite permissive. I never really plumbed the depths of the psychology of the goth subculture but always chalked it up to a sort of "life phase" that would eventually end. Like hair metal fans and tiger-striped pants; or punks and shaved-but-very-pointy hairdos. That sort of thing. As an example from another group, I do know of one thirty-something rocker who still dresses like he did in his teen years (i.e. all-leather Gene Simmons look) and still cannot stand to be given direction of any sort by anybody. Real problems with authority there.

I would be tempted to classify this sort of protracted hold onto social and personal ids developed in adolescence as some kind of quasi-arrested development, but I'd be talking out of my ass as this is not my professional specialty. I would however, be interested in the Flea's take on non-causal correlations between investiture in early adolescent social groupings and their maintenance later in life.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2006 11:04 AM

Lots to say...

"I would be tempted to classify this sort of protracted hold onto social and personal ids developed in adolescence as some kind of quasi-arrested development, but I'd be talking out of my ass as this is not my professional specialty."

... so I will start with a non-glib observation. I knew people who loved baseball in high school, wore sports gear including, for example, baseball hats when they were not dressed for work and enjoyed playing baseball as a recreational activity. Let's call them "jocks". I know people in adult life who never lost their love of baseball, follow the game religiously and continue to play in their spare time. And yet somehow these guys are rarely, if ever, accused of arrested development.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2006 11:25 AM

I figured that would come up. They would certainly earn the accusation from me though. =) I liked baseball and hockey plenty when I was a younger guy, to the extent of playing avidly on minor league teams, but bailed out of that once work became my dominant activity. (Not that work should absorb every second of your thoughts, either.) Ditched baseball hats entirely when not actually playing ball, as there were very few young ladies in my high school who thought wearing a baseball hat on leisure hours (while not actually playing ball) was a mark of distinction.

I tend to subscribe to Hesiod's admonition, "Observe due measure, moderation is best in all things." Maybe I'm the anomaly, but I let my work, hobbies and so on absorb a certain amount of time and energy, and no more. These days I don't really have the time to cram in everything I'd like to enjoy, so it's a matter of balancing priorities.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2006 11:38 AM

Perhaps arrested development is the wrong term for it. There are plenty of earnest young folks in I.T., for instance, who are diligent and often brilliant workers, but can not see that failure to adhere to certain tribal norms (in, say, mode and style of dress, personal grooming, soft skills) marks one as "smart but socially inept" and thus places unofficial but clearly felt limits on their social, economic and conjugal possibilities.

I am not saying this is right per se but every social group we are discussing here tends to self-select and also feels slight alienation from the "broader culture". Maybe ry could speak to the "jock" aspect but they seem to be a little more socially acceptable than the rest.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2006 11:48 AM

Certainly we all hit the wall that is business casual. But the guys who have decided baseball on the weekend - hats included - is fine even into adulthood are rarely if ever subjected to the pathologizing rhetoric of this comments thread; baseball-widows included.

Which is leading me to reconsider having poked fun at the Goth Help Us folks.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2006 11:52 AM

Don't be cross with me, Dr. Flea. =) I am not suggesting that my analysis is correct or even-handed; and I am certainly not inferring that you are anything but an exception to these generalisations. You're the expert in these areas, not me.

I have tended to move on from most of the crap I enjoyed in adolescence, and hell, I have left behind hobbies (golf, flying) gained in adulthood too. This is not to say that I view these things as worthless, only that I can not justify their demands on my time versus other pursuits.

Whether you want to view this as maturity or flightiness is up to the beholder, I guess -- I merely suggest that humans tend to change activities and interests as they age, and some of those interests carry stigmata with them. I'm not endorsing the stigmata by pointing out that there's a societal cost to these choices.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2006 12:06 PM

"Now I think I know where we are at cross-purposes. One of the difficulties I have whenever "goths" make the mass media is how rarely I recognize what is being described." Which is in part why I attempted to define who and what I was talking about. Jargon. Wicked thing. Unless it has a set def'n it leads to misunderstanding.
From where I sit Hessians, deathmetal followers, etc., sanguinarians really form sub-sets of Goth culture. Same as how the various types of Skinheads fit under the same umbrella despite rather large differences beyond the shaving of heads. THat's where I'm coming from. Not trying to be offensive and insulting(though I'm told I just exude said). At least I refrained from just calling it a hobby(a real 'only Nixon can go to China' moment. It does fit many of the criteria of the word, but I couldn't get away with saying it first without clarification of exactly what I meant by it since I'm not of the group.).

Maybe a post on what is meant by Goth would help, but that's a major undertaking. MAybe your grey matter can handle developing a taxonomy and I'd love to see 'The Flea's Guide To What is Goth'.

I still wear my ballcap. Still wear shorts. It's what I'm comfortable with. I still play video games and watch what most people would cartoons(anime). I get accused of stunted growth all the time. Stupid in laws.

But there are some who do get accused of arrested development for such devotion to sports, Flea. It may not be as braod and general as the poking with a stick that Goths get, but it is there. Growing up in CA I always heard people complain about how childish it was for someone from Ohio State to adorn their office/cubicle with sports paraphenalia('cause, like, you know, it needs art or life affirming stuff in it instead of this childish, patriarchial bs.). It happens. It's just also a slightly more accepted subculture(though NASCAR seems to live outside that acceptance).
But, yes, it is bad that we outside Goth culture poke you with a stick in pop-culture all the time. Boo on us.

Posted by: ry [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2006 12:08 PM

The difficulty with the Goth/"mundane" clash of culture is that Goths tends to celebrate imagery and persons the dominant "mundane" culture associates with death, decay and hopelessness. Without all that, though, the goth world would be an emptier and slightly less appealing version of itself to its members.

I think Flea is being a bit hard on us here as there is plenty of opprobrium being aired within Gothdom and many other subcultures about the crushing fascism of "normal". And there is a multitude of opinions about what it actually means to be Goth. Lots of folks think it's about living by the maxim "deviance isn't evil". Nothing wrong with that, right? I would argue that the dominant culture also argues the same thing, and it's not like Western civilisation was one great lockstep monoculture until Goths showed up on the scene.

I have met both good and evil Goths. By evil I mean they actively wished humanity harm and took definite steps to cause other people bodily harm. I have also met guys who have used their skills and influence for good, like Dr. Flea, and (in saner moments) my goofy friend who got picked up by the ETF. Flea, please understand that we are not judging the whole subculture by the bad apples. At the same time, surely you can see that it's hard to engender good feelings when the sub-group self-selects imagery that has long-defined, overwhelmingly negative connotations for the dominant culture.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2006 12:42 PM

Some guy shoots up a college in Montreal before shooting himself and I doubt there is a single news report on the subject that does not describe him as a "goth". Some guy shoots up Amish schoolgirls before shooting himself and I doubt there is a single news report that considers his actions in light of his interest in golf.

Though I expect if the latter had murdered Jewish schoolgirls in Hebron he would have been described as a "militant" and people who thought this was a grand gesture of rebellion would be described as "activists". So, words have meaning.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2006 01:04 PM

As a former golfer I can understand that the game occasionally drives some to desperation. In my case it never involved killing Amish schoolgirls, but I did frequently think about chucking my clubs into the nearest water hazard.

In all seriousness though... Are you suggesting that one can wear black clothing, listen to "downer" music, be drawn to this social group which emphasizes death, romance, feelings of loneliness and isolation, and somehow not be misunderstood by non-adherents?

I do not suggest that it is right, but I can easily see why the media stereotypes persist.

The same sort of thing percolates around metal fans, and they too are often at dual purposes. Bemoaning the "mainstream" culture's misunderstanding of their scene, and at the same time, trying to affect a "screw you, mainstream, we don't even want you to understand us" attitude.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2006 01:26 PM

To clarify earlier comments, that I DO NOT think goth girls are generally promiscuous, and more specifically, the goth girls I had dated in the past behaved in a circumspect manner regarding their own sexuality.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2006 04:57 PM

Good gawd. What an insane thread!

Posted by: agent bedhead [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2006 09:04 PM

Didn't really follow the shooter up there much. From what little I saw it was just your typical guy gone postal. I only heard he was wearing military garb of some sort---insinuating he was some kind of French sepratist type instead of a Goth---- and left it at that. 'Black Swans' happen. Since it wasn't linked to some kind of global network I just chalked it up to one of those random acts of violence that happens.

You're the anthropologist Herr Flea, is there a tendency toward a need for feelings of superiority? Could that be one of the few across cultural constants? The need to feel better than someone else and to exclude them from the 'in' crowd?

Posted by: ry [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 5, 2006 09:21 PM