Punks all become something else one day. They transition into rockabillies, off-the grid wild people, skin heads, math rock science professors, or even, god, the worst, roller derby girls.
I was never a very serious or hard core punk. I wasn’t born into a prime time period of the movement nor belonged to a cool part of the scene. Unfortunately, I came of age in the ’90s , chasing Eddie Vedder through my formative years, but in awe of the street urchins who occasionally came to school with Rancid patches safety pinned to their leather vests. “Ruby Soho” was on MTV and I was eating it up, unaware that I had missed the boat. Obviously, any waves of a real punk scene had already swelled, crested, and fallen into a placid lake of suburbanization, but I can only see that in retrospect. I was a few years ahead of Hot Topic’s mall domination at least, and I set about copying things I saw in Sid and Nancy like sewing my own bondage pants. My mom even wrote me a letter telling me she was embarrassed to be seen with me, which seemed like success.
Luckily, I outgrew this stage before Blink 182 claimed to be punk, too. I say luckily because, have you ever seen an aging punk who is still clinging to a bygone era? Like the white-haired hippies we always detested driving art cars around with largely ignored conspiracy theory signs in the windows, it’s just sad. We become other things because it’s not hot to be a sad weathered crusty. I saw an old punk guy in a plaid sports jacket with spiked bi hawks walking six dogs in the cemetery the other day. Part of me wanted to high five him for sticking to his guns, but the other part was depressed by the male pattern baldness in between his mohawks.
The cemetery part brings me to this: yes, I do walk in the cemetery. In fact, it’s the only way I get exercise. But I’m too old to become a goth now, and there’s the reality that it’s embarrassing to be an old goth. Just ask Marilyn Manson. Has anyone seen him around lately? He’s getting fat. Fat does not look right on a 40 year old monster goth.
I do not claim to be an expert on goth. As I said, I spent my adolescence as a punk in Thundercats sweatshirt and homemade pants. However, there are several uncool varieties, if you ask me. You have the Morticia Adams-y over-the-top black haired vamps, who work a little too hard to put it all together to go outside. There are also the Japanese what-do-you-call-ems, the little girls in doll dresses? There are the Ministry-type technos who wear those absolutely hideous wide leg pants and the platform boots that look like the kind of shoes someone disabled has to wear, and it seems mean to borrow fashion from the disabled. And then there are the greasy trench coat longhairs who blow up schools. Not cool either! No, goth has gotten as side-railed as punk in these modern times, but there were cool goths, and this is where I take my cue. Siouxsie Sioux, Daniel Ash, or even Adam Ant — yes, I will take even the New Romantics and the flouncy collars of the ’80s.
But how to hide it? I have discovered an affinity with the weirdos in black as the only place to channel my post-punk apathy, anxiety, and angst, and I don’t quite know what to do with it. So this is how I have figured out how to be a closet goth (or at least how I knew I was one).
- When you are shopping, you go straight for the black things. If there are not black things in your size, you can go for stripey. Also, for you, capes are in style all the time.
- When you buy mugs from art school craft fairs, you make sure to buy the lumpy, shiny black ones. It’s like a creepy little kid made your housewares and way better than stressing about picking out some kind of matching china pattern the way some women do.
- You can rock out to “Lucretia, My Reflection” incredibly loudly, but only from the comfort of your car when you are alone or in front of people who don’t know you.
- When you are babysitting, you take kids to the cemetery to draw graves and disguise the creep factor by looking for tadpoles in the nearby stream.
- Every time you make a friend, you don’t call them often, but you think warmly of how many more people will attend your funeral. You have also picked out the kind of gravestone you would like, and the song you want playing from the motorcade.
- You acknowledge your goth tendencies as you dress yourself, and have, in fact, crafted a specific look: Dark Prince. Not princess, prince. That way you can wear those incredibly weird black pony hair booties with the buckles that you just found on sale because no one else would want them, and not wear some agonizing heels only a masochist would hobble around in, and you can still look fancy. You can also wear gigantic rings, like the guys in Sons of Anarchy don for bling. And why wouldn’t you? Have you seen what the women on that show wear? It’s like a cross between that heart-infested Brighton store at the mall and the Jaclyn Smith Collection at Kmart.
- When you teach middle school children how to make art, you play what you think is widely accepted and popular music: “The Murder Ballads” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. However, when Blixa starts a shrieking solo, they stage a riot and make you turn on Katy Perry.
- You’re into flowers but have a utter disdain for gerbera daisies and any other overly-happy waste of petals.
- If you could, you would subsist on nothing but coffee, wine, and brownies. Unfortunately, since you are old, you have to eat vegetables, too. But when you eat a steak, you eat it with your hands, alone.
- If the selection on your basic TV is between the evening news, that infernal nerd show, “Big Bang Theory”, or CSI Miami, you will absolutely watch any ridiculous supernatural show on the CW, without guilt or shame.
- You are still waiting for George R. R. Martin to return to the super creepy flesh-eating wights he hooked you with in the introduction to Game of Thrones. You have gotten through four books of knights and dragons and taunts from your boyfriend that you are a giant dork, to only wait further for the scary parts.
- You prefer watching movies that make you cry by yourself to hanging out with other people.
- You have daddy issues and an eternally depressed mother.
- You own two kinds of makeup: liquid eyeliner and matte red lipstick. Let’s face it, no one looks good in black lipstick, but you thought about it.
- You have the realization that you can no longer wear Halloween tights during the rest of the year because you are in your thirties.
- You assume everyone is interested in talking about the darker aspects of psychoanalysis like the death drive and lack.
- You are a cat person, of course. You prefer talking to them to humans, and spend large amounts of your weekend chasing them around the neighborhood to lavish them with unwanted affection.
- Any apocalypse movie is a good movie.
- Any time you cannot think of a Halloween costume, you go as a goth, because you already have all the clothes.
- Your friend Mark, who was a goth in high school, says to you, “Really, you’re 33 and you just bought a new Bauhaus T-shirt”? And you thought you were incognito because it was white.
What’s a girl to do but accept the smudged black writing on the wall? My name is Serena and I am a Closet Goth.