When I was a teenager, my mother was embarrassed of me.
I guess the norm is for teenagers to be embarrassed by their parents, but for me, it was the other way around. My mom used to grimace or give me a look whenever I came into the room. Especially if we were due to have company. I didn’t really get what was so embarrassing. I was only goth.
I always kind of gravitated toward it. When I was a kid, the definitive of cool in my eyes was spiked leather jackets and black leather pants. It was a look associated with bikers and bad boys and girls, illustrated gorgeously in that Michael Jackson wore exactly that sort of thing in his video for Bad. Coincidentally, that song is from the year I was born.
But goths in the 80s and early 90s were a quiet niche, hidden away, out of view in places like The Cure concerts. I had no idea it was a thing, though as I grew up, I naturally began incorporating things like too many belts, spiked collars and fishnets into drawings and character concepts. (Yeah, I was a weird kid.) I didn’t have a name or label for this look I liked so much. And aside from old VHS tapes with music videos on them, I had no exposure to the sort of people who wore all black. But everything hit a turning point when I was a newly vinted teenager, when my great-grandmother accidentally made a horrible mistake at Christmas.
The outfit she gave me was all black.
I never took it off.
I somehow obtained a tube of dark purple lipstick, too, and the mark of the millennium rolled around with me all in black and my mother cringing in dismay. We lived in a small town full of gossipy people. She didn’t want our family to be talked about, which is understandable, but people like that find reasons to talk anyway. The thing was, she was worried about how my family and I would be perceived by people who looked at me.
I got my share of weird looks and people cracking jokes about my frequent visits to Hot Topic, but for the most part, they only amused me. I wore my all-black outfits and black lipstick to church. Old ladies hugged me and told me I looked “like a lovely dark princess.”
But the funny thing is, as I’ve gotten older and haven’t “grown out of it,” I find that people look at me strangely or comment on my black lipstick less and less.
Now I’m an adult. 28 years old, a mother and a professional, still wearing the Tripp pants with dangling chains and burning through a stick of eyeliner every month. The biggest difference is that while I’m wearing my mesh and boots and custom-made spiked collar, I walk alongside a 2-year-old dressed to the nines in layers of pink and Hello Kitty.
For a birthday present to myself this year, I cut my hair and dyed the ends hot pink. It looks great with my black outfits, especially the ones with pink accents. And despite her reservations about my unusual appearance in my teen years, my mom encouraged me to do it. She’s grown accustomed to my particular eccentricities, and instead of worrying about how I’m viewed or what people say, she embraces that I’m just being myself.
People still look at me, but they look at me and smile. People were spooked enough by goths prior to 2005 that I’m not unusual enough to be disturbing any more, and not trendy enough to make people roll their eyes. I’m an adult that knows who I am and what I want to be. I’m not afraid of fashions once labeled “edgy” or of the idea someone might not approve. I don’t need their approval. I gave myself approval long ago.