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Dealing with Parents: Explaining Goth

by Magdellin

If you discover the gothic subculture during your teen years or early twenties, there is a great chance that you will have to face your parents over the issue. If your parents are easy going hippies, then this shouldn't be too hard. But if your parents are at all like mine--authoritative and Christian--this could be a bit of a task.

How to avoid an argument

Parents are told to watch out for strange behaviour in their children, and to a lot of parents your wearing black and listening to goth music will be a definite concern. Ditto if you have found a new friendship group or changed your routines. Your parents may worry that you are depressed or angry, that something has happened to you, or they may guess correctly that you are goth but make erroneous judgements about what that means.

If you are in a position to talk with your parents before they worry too much, you are probably best doing so. I have generally found honesty to be the best policy here, and parents appreciate knowing what is happening. If you don't say anything at all, it might seem to them that you've overnight just started wearing black and acting differently. They will worry, which may lead to grounding et cetera, and it's really not worth it.

If your parents talk to you before you talk with them, try to be patient. It is more than likely that they don't understand the choices you have made, and things will should go smoothly if you can explain it to them rationally. Describe goth like you might describe a new boy or girlfriend. Focus on the positives all the way, and negate any stereotypes.

Gothic stereotypes

The gothic subculture has received a lot of bad press recently: most notably from the media after a few instances of black-clad youths murdering their classmates and from Christian groups who believe us to be evil or possessed, anti-Christian or just plain Satanist. Explaining away these negative stereotypes is necessary and important: your parents' fears for your health and safety can seriously restrict your life, and the last thing you want to do is have them constantly watching you for a sign that you'll embrace the devil or murder somebody.

Firstly, goth is a non-violent stereotype. We do not beat people up, we do not kill people. We may enjoy horror movies and a lot of us collect ceremonial swords, but we do not hurt people. If somebody dressed in black murders somebody we of course get blamed, but the goth community does not condone these actions. These murderers are troubled and deluded, and downright dangerous, and we do not want to be associated with them. Repeat 'goth is a non-violent subculture' to your parents. They need to know this.

A common stereotype of goths is that they are Satanists who kill animals and drink their blood, sacrifice virgins, howl to the moon and all sorts of other nasty crap. This is a good time to point out that not all goths are Satanists: in fact, most of us aren't. And even if you are a Satanist, but this might not be the time to mention it to your Christian parents. Baby steps.

Your Christian parents may also be concerned that you have 'abandoned' your religion. Now, for a lot of goths this is the case, so it is generally prudent to step carefully here. Whatever your beliefs are, your parents should be happier if you explain that goth is an accepting, non-violent subculture, and that this means nobody is going to force you to change your religious beliefs. This explanation also works against the Satanist argument if your parents are concerned about that.

Your parents may also be concerned that your being goth is going to lead to drug- or alcohol dependence. This is, of course, very silly, but that might not be the best thing to say. In my experience, people are more likely to drink themselves stupid in a normal club, or do drugs at a rave. There are goths who do drink to excess and goths who are addicted to drugs: no subculture is perfect. But it is in no way expected of you as a goth to be an alcoholic or a junkie, and your parents should know that. There are many goths who never drink or do drugs at all: just go to clubs and outings to have fun, enjoy the music and enjoy the company. Your parents will be happy to know that you have no interest in drugs or alcohol, and should be happier about letting you go clubbing or to goth parties if you promise to stay clean and safe. If you explain that you know about drugs, as well, possibly through school drug education or something of that sort, your parents will be more comfortable.

Parents are also concerned that because of the way goths look and dress you won't be able to get a job. This is a valid fear, but really quite silly. How on earth would goths get the money for all these pretty clothes and lovely boots if we didn't work? On the weekends we may seem scary and weird, but by day your parents wouldn't be able to tell any of us from their friends' normal children. Admittedly, some goths have obvious tattoos and piercings, but you'll find that the more tattoos and piercings a person has, the better their income. Think about how much a tattoo or piercing costs: how on earth does one afford so many if they can't find a job? A friend of mine has seven facial piercings and a gorgeous amount of body modifications, yet despite this he earns over twice what I do in a nice, respectable office job. You don't have to be stuck behind a corporate desk to make money, and while a lot of us prefer corporate positions, there are always back-office jobs, casual positions and blue-collar jobs that will earn you a very respectable income and give you the freedom to wear whatever you wish.

Explaining everything

Write down your points, if you can, or keep them in mind. Explain the benefits and positives of being a goth, and try and counter any of the negative stereotypes your parents may be concerned with. Remember to stay calm and positive, and make sure they know that you will still be the child they love: just that you wear different clothes now.

Talk with your other friends whose parents know they are goths. Find out how those discussions went, and take note of anything good your friends told their parents that helped the situation. Your parents may be stressed and confused, and it is important that you reassure them that this is a positive, and not at all a negative, life choice.

Finally, a lot of parents will see your becoming goth as a failure on their part. Having a goth child does not make them bad parents, and they should know that. There may be issues in your family, and some of these may be serious issues of abuse or neglect. These are very valid issues and should not be ignored, but this is perhaps not the best time to bring them up. The last thing you need is for your parents to believe you are goth because you hate them, that you are rebelling against them, or that you hate them. Try to keep things calm, even if your parents can't: they should respect you more for your mature outlook, and all your lives will be easier if your conversation remains calm and does not degenerate into screaming or arguments.

It can be a very hard conversation, and you may need to revisit it a number of times to reassure your parents. But so long as everybody understands one another, your life should run smoothly and you should be free to do, wear, and listen to what you wish. Remember, we've all been there, and you can do this too. Good luck.

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