There is a train of thought that bullying stops as soon as you leave the school gate behind you. Once you’re an adult, you’re safe.
After all, no adult ever bullies another adult for leading an alternative lifestyle, right?
Mmmmm… ok. It’s not an ideal world. But let’s focus today on what it’s like to be a Goth in a world which would prefer you weren’t.
When I was a teenager, my parents didn’t get it. I went from playing with my beloved Cindy doll to wearing black nail polish, listening to The Mission and generally feeling a bit annoyed with life. All my colourful 80’s Howard Jones jumpers got the boot and in moved the wardrobe of a Sisters of Mercy band member. My Dad laughed. My Mother hoped it was just a phase. I have to say even now when I’m 40 something, my Mother still has a little pop. Nowadays, it’s ‘aren’t you getting a little too old for that, dear?’
My friends at school were all Goths. The guys in winklepickers and drainpipes and us girls in long flowing dresses and buckles around throats and wrists. We loved music, culture, The Lost Boys and anything which featured vampires (hence the film mention) and Nick Cave.
During the 80’s, there was much to contend with. If you weren’t a Goth, you were a New Romantic, A Pub Rocker, Skinhead, Two Tone bopper, Punk (yes, they were still around) or a Wham! Beach Life tee shirt wearing chick. Everyone belonged to some group, music genre, be it retro, vintage, pop or rock. We all were in clans of one description or another. We belonged and what’s more, we respected each other.
I had mates who were into band tees, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Michael Jackson, Duranies, Spandau, Simple Minds who dressed loudly with pride, style and hints of flair and lip glossed glamour, yet it didn’t stop me being a Goth/wanting not to be a Goth/ditch the black for some pastel pink. We all got on. That doesn’t seem to happen these days.
Back in 2007, beautiful Goth girl, Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend, Robert Maltby, where brutally attacked whilst walking out one day by five thugs. Sophie sustained such violent injuries to her head, that she died in hospital almost 2 weeks later after slipping into a coma in which she didn’t regain consciousness from.
This vicious attack on the couple simply for looking different sparked an outrage in the alternative Goth community and since then, The Sophie Lancaster Foundation has helped and supported alternative lifestyle people, young and old, everywhere, who have been assaulted or even just feel unsafe simply because of how they dress.
When an auction was held for the Foundation at the Steampunk and Goth Fair at the Brew Haus Bar in Bradford, a few years ago, I was working as an editor of a Vintage Magazine, another alternative lifestyle support group. I just had to travel the 300 miles north to show my support and meet other Goths, Emos and Steampunks and generally beautiful and fascinating people who had also felt drawn there.
Now, as I say, 40-ish, I am still a Goth although because of the job I ended up doing (a PR Manager and high profile Publicist,) I make myself ‘tone it down’ for work. After all, when you’re smooching the press and the media on behalf of your employer, you don’t them to be frightened of you. I want them to be frightened of me for what I say, not what I look like!
So, there we are, I am still being dictated to by society. I dress down for work, to see the public, to do my job. Because of what? Being judged. Everything is about what you look like and only a small percentage is about what you say and how you say it. Even at 40 plus, I am considering constantly what the world thinks of me when they look at me.
I have to admit, when I am ‘off duty’ from the public, I do go to town. Rather in a rebellious, ‘oh yeah?’ way. Out comes my favourite frock coat a al Eva Green (Penny Dreadful) complete with slightly menacing and ‘the devil’s after me’ look. I don’t care. It’s me. It’s who I am.
So what best advice can I give to Goths, beautiful alternative lifestyle people? Young and old? I could witter on about ‘oh, the Police are okay with it now blah blah blah’ but that’s actually not what would help. I have alway found that walking away works. I never go out alone, I only go to places where I know I will fit in and where I feel safe. I surround myself with like-minded friends and people who accept me for who I am. Goth or no Goth.
But what if you are at school/work/college and there is no getting away from being picked on? Apart from reading the wisdom of The Lady of the Manners, I want you to also remember this: People will pick on people. No matter what. It’s a fact. If it’s not in this life, it is in the next for another reason, because it’s another time of the day, because they have been bullied too.
There is only one cause of bullying – ignorance. It is the death of the world and the sin of many. It is the one thing that stops this world from being the light and love it should be. People bully because they don’t understand. They have their own victim issues, they are probably being bullied elsewhere in their lives.
They are jealous because you have the courage to express yourself and they don’t. They don’t know how to because they are scared, very very scared. And what’s more, they are scared of anything which is above who they are. So where there is bullying, there is a strong one and a weak one. The victim is never the weakest. They are strong where it matters most.
Feel pity for the people who bully. Feel deeply sorry for them. So, dearest friends, get strong inside yourselves. Meditate, listen to music, read your favourite literature, talk to someone, lots of people, get into groups with fellow Goths who are friendly (because we are, deeply) and supportive and be safe. Don’t venture into places where there is likely to be a darkness that’s not a friendly one.
Be proud of who you are. Because you are strong enough to do it.
Do you want to share something with us today? Maybe you have been bullied or experienced isolation because of how you dress? Leave me a message, I would love to hear from you
Love and Absinthe,