My 10 Un-Goth Confessions

This is a topic that I’ve seen a lot around YouTube. I think it’s really fun, and since I’m at home sick with a cold today, I thought why not do my own to pass some time?

I think that some people who know me only see the goth aspects of my personality. In fact, while the subculture is a big part of my life and is something that I love, my personality is a lot quirkier and more complex.

1. I don’t like coffee or dark red wines. Both of these are seen as “gothy,” but I hate bitter flavors and would much rather drink hot chocolate or the ultimate of basic white girl wines, white zinfandel. As much as I wish otherwise, I also dislike the taste of absinthe, although I liked how silly and giddy I felt when I drank it.

2. I love Christmas. While Halloween is my favorite holiday and I have had my share of sad Christmases, I do love the holiday. Gift-giving, decorations, carols, riding around looking at lights, the food, just everything.

3. I’ve never been through a haunted house attraction. I went to a really pitiful one when I was a kid and it scared me so much I had to leave early. I’ve never worked up the courage to try a real one as an adult.

4. I’m a romance junkie. I read plenty of horror, mysteries, and thrillers, but one section I always visit when I go to a bookstore is romance. I love getting swept up in a dramatic love story, and I don’t only read the dark ones, either. Oh no, my favorites are funny romances by Sarah MacLean, Kylie Scott, and Jennifer Crusie.

5. I really want to be a mom. Some people associate being goth with not wanting to have children, but I like kids and look forward to having my own in the next few years. 

6. I love to laugh. There’s this idea that goths are really dour and sad, but it’s not true at all. I like to crack jokes and make terrible puns to make my friends laugh (and groan), and I spend far too much time giggling at funny animal memes on Pinterest.

7. I’m more of a dog person than a cat person. Yes, I adore my two kitties, but I had my dogs first and cannot resist a cute canine of any kind. In my mind they are all cute, but I have to say that my special favoites are chihuahuas. They’re so tiny and goofy, and I don’t understand how anyone can dislike them.

8. I love pink, purple, flowers, glitter, Hello Kitty, and other girly things. Just get me in a craft store if you don’t believe me. 

9. I listen to some very un-goth music. I adore darkwave, ’80s goth, post-punk, and other spooky staples, and you best believe that when “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” came on at the club last Saturday I was on the floor before you could say, “Oh shit, that’s my jam.” But my jam is also stuff like Taylor Swift, the Hamilton soundtrack and other Broadway showtunes, and Ryan Adams.

10. I don’t really have goth friends. I have a few mutual follows on Instagram, but I don’t really know any goths in real life. I love my friends, but I am hoping to get out more and make some friends who share my interests so I don’t always feel like the “token goth.”

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Thrifting Tips for Goths 

(First off, sorry for the lack of content lately. I recently took some time off from work and have been sort of mentally recharging. I have to admit that it felt so good that it’s been difficult to jump back into my creative projects!)

Today I want to talk about a subject near and dear to my dark little heart: thrifting.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that over 90% of my wardrobe is from Goodwill. Thrifting is a great way to find unique fashion for anyone, but I think that it’s crucial for goths. Not only is it difficult to find pieces that suit a darkly elegant aesthetic in regular stores, but specialty goth brands often are prohibitively expensive. I don’t know about you, but I’m doing goth on a librarian salary, so I have to find frugal ways to build my wardrobe.

Luckily, I’ve been thrift shopping from a very young age thanks to my mom, so I’ve developed tricks that help me make the most of my time and budget. 

Tip #1: Don’t be afraid to shop in unlikely places.

I live in a bustling city with a Goodwill minutes from my house, but I prefer to drive 30 minutes in the opposite direction to my favorite Goodwill in a podunk little town. I always find amazing pieces there and leave with armfuls of black velvet and lace. Sometimes I think it’s magic, but the more likely explanation is that there is simply less competition because I’m the only goth shopping there. It’s well worth the drive–and the locals gawking at me. 

Tip #2: Shop by color, not by size.

This is my foolproof method for saving time at Goodwill. Section by section, I head directly to all the black clothing, almost entirely ignoring what size something is. Women’s clothing sizes vary so much from brand to brand that I look at it all to ensure that I don’t miss good pieces by assuming a section wouldn’t have anything to fit me. Today I found a medium sweater that fits like an extra large. You just never know until you look.

Tip #3: Try on EVERYTHING.

This goes hand-in-hand with the disregard size rule. Nothing makes you look a mess faster than clothes that don’t fit properly, not to mention that clothes look completely different on bodies than they do on hangers. For that same reason, don’t shy away from trying something on that you like but aren’t sure about. It could end up looking brilliant on you.

Tip #4: Only buy items in good condition.

This seems like a no-brainer, but I thought I would throw it in because it’s what ensures that people are shocked when they find out where I buy my clothes. Avoid sweaters with pills, anything that’s faded, and purses or shoes with visible wear. Even when it hurts, like today when I passed over a pair of pointy-toed ankle boots because the toes were scuffed. 

Tip #5: Remember that customization is an option.

If you find a piece that is almost perfect except for one little thing, buy it anyway and fix it! Those with more advanced sewing skills obviously have the upper hand at this, but it’s ridiculously easy to change out the buttons on a blazer or snip off an ugly embellishment. Recently I attended a wedding in a velvet dress that came with a hideous beaded belt, which I promptly removed.

Tip #6: Take advantage of extra discounts.

$7 for a dress is already a great buy, but to really get the most for your money, pay attention to extra discounts. Goodwill marks down items with tags of a certain color, offers student discounts (that I sadly can’t take advantage of anymore), and runs a 50% off everything promotion on the first Saturday of each month. They also have a members card that lets me save up points and get a discount for my birthday, too. Independent thrift shops often do similar things, so if you’re not a Goodwill shopper, ask at your store to see what discounts they have.

It might take a little extra time and creativity to build a thrifty wardrobe, but it’s definitely worth it, and these tips should make it easier even if you’re a newbie thrifter. Happy shopping! 

The End of the Big Harry Potter Reread… And The Cursed Child

So, I finally finished rereading the last two Harry Potter books, and then immediately read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. And, well… I’ve been putting off saying anything about it here.

Why? Because I was sorely disappointed in The Cursed Child. Though initially skeptical, I had, over the course of my preparation for reading it, come to truly look forward to returning to this fictional world that has meant so much to me since I was eleven years old.

But it was not a return at all. The characters I have loved felt unfamiliar, speaking words that rang untrue. I found myself not returned to the world I loved, but thrust into a facsimile that, try though it might, was incapable of functioning as the genuine thing.

I’m glad that, if we have to confront the fact that The Cursed Child is not what any of us hoped for, at least I’m not alone. I’ve had lots of discussions with friends and read plenty of articles and reviews that demonstrate that, although glowing praise exists for the alleged “eighth story,” there are also lots of people like myself, who look at it with unclouded eyes and recognize its deficiencies. 

I did have the fortune of returning to the Wizarding world this year, but it was through rereading the original books, not through the promise of The Cursed Child. The fact remains that in the Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling created a singular type of magic that has astounded, inspired, and united so many people over the years, and will continue to do so. Harry Potter is a special and precious thing, and no imitation or embellishment will ever change or diminish that.

Love The Cursed Child if you will and are capable, but as for me, I  cannot consider it canon.

Except for Scorpius. Scorpius I will allow.

Dating a Non-Goth

I am, in a lot of ways, a walking goth stereotype. This fact hits me in moments of sudden self-awareness, like the recent night when I was sitting next to my black cat, listening to Sisters of Mercy, wearing a black lace dress and a Fiend Boutique pendant, and working on a chapter of the vampire novel I’m writing. (When those moments happen, I spare a self-deprecating laugh at my own ridiculousness and continue on.) It would be understandable for you to assume that my boyfriend matches my aesthetic.

And you would be completely wrong.

I met Jeremy in January, and we quickly fell in love. He wooed me with hot chocolate, homecooked meals, songs played on the ukulele, and hours of fun conversation (and pretty awesome kisses). He’s amazing, but he’s also the least gothy person I’ve ever met. He owns maybe five articles of black clothing, most of them work-related. He’s never read an Anne Rice novel. And currently, he is most excited about the two-night Phish concert that he’s going to attend in October.

I’m sure we look more than passing strange when we’re out together. We’re one of the most visually mismatched couples you can imagine. Between our nine-year age difference (he’s older) and the black lace/geeky T-shirt dichotomy, we probably look like we shouldn’t even know each other. One of my best friends recently described us as “like if Finn and Marceline got together.” But somehow, we work, and we work better than any relationship I’ve ever had in the past.

We might have met on Tinder, the least commitment-ready dating site in existence, but from the very beginning we spent a lot of time really talking to each other. We uncovered the similarities between us that truly matter, like our feelings about family and work-life balance, our senses of humor, and our values. Those are things that shine regardless of the outside package, the things on whcih you can build a real connection.

We also truly love and respect our differences. We both have things that we resprectively adore, that make absolutely no sense to each other. But unlike some relationships I’ve had in the past, Jeremy has never belittled my interests. We both support each other, and sometimes we share some good-natured laughs about how weird we find each other.

Overall, our relationship is one of balance. I sometimes say that he’s like sunshine to my moonlight, but it’s more nuanced than that. We understand each other’s moods and know how to be there for each other when things are difficult. We broaden each other’s horizons while creating a foundation of love and familiarity for each other. We take our serious moments seriously, and when it’s time to be goofy and have fun, we’re ready. 

At the end of 2015, which was also the end of a couple of bad relationships for me, as I prepared to really date for the first time ever, I considered toning the goth thing down. Living in a place where goths are scarce, I felt unsure whether I would find anyone else who shared my battiness, and I was equally unsure whether anyone who didn’t share it could appreciate it and accept me for who I am. But I’m glad that I stayed true to myself, and that I was openminded enough to go to a coffee shop to meet a cute hippie bartender.

Because if I had decided to adhere to superficial standards of what my ideal partner was, I would have never met the person with whom I know that I belong. I would probably still be on Tinder, having unsatisfactory conversations with self-absorbed morticians who assumed I knew nothing about the funeral industry. (Hello, I’m goth. Of course I know about the funeral industry.) Or guys who unmatched me as soon as they found out that I didn’t live in Nashville. (You’re seriously saying that you can’t be bothered to meet me halfway?) And all the various other Very Not Right people I met. (How many women are you sleeping with??)

I don’t care how weird Jeremy and I look. I do care that I have a boyfriend who loves me and all my quirks and who never tries to change me. 

I wouldn’t change a thing about him, either.

The Big Harry Potter Reread: ORDER OF THE PHOENIX

I’m one step closer to finally cracking open Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, having just finished my second reading of Order of the Phoenix. What a doozy of a book.

I’m in my late twenties, so when I read the books the first time, I was roughly the same age as Harry (he always got a jump on me because his birthday is in July and mine is in October). So we’re looking at an age difference of 14 to 27, just to contextualize things for you.

Ugh, this book. There is so much I could talk about, because there is so much that happens in Order of the Phoenix. I remember how much attention its length got when it was released, to the point that there is even crack about it in the book-flap synopsis, but I had forgotten just how much J. K. crams into this one. But I can’t just ramble on about everything, so let’s try to focus on the big picture.

To me, the biggest theme of Order of the Phoenix is growing up. As I discussed in my reflection on Goblet of Fire, I’ve rethought my position about it only ushering in a more adult quality at the end. So I don’t think that Order of the Phoenix is the first grown-up book in the series, per se. But there is a marked difference between it and the previous books. It’s different on a basic level (more literary writing) and on a superficical level (more polished illustrations), as well as in the complexity of the narrative.

A lot of this complexity comes from J. K.’s expanding of the amount of Hogwarts we get to see. Previously, the series has focused on the Golden Trio, and interlopers haven’t been welcome or had much staying power (see Ron’s reaction to Viktor Krum). But Order of the Phoenix ushers in more active roles for Neville and Ginny, making them feel like real people for the first time, as well as introduces Luna Lovegood, who is such a good character that I forgot that she’s present for less than half of the series. Through Dumbledore’s Army, Harry starts viewing people beyond his small circle as fully human, whereas in the past he has relied on quick judgments and stereotypical thinking to inform the way he treats most people. By the end of Order of the Phoenix, he’s even perceiving “Loony” Lovegood as a full person, which is major character growth for Harry. 

Beyond other witches and wizards, though, readers also learn more about the magical beings characterized as “creatures.” I had forgotten what a huge theme speciesism is in this book. We get three non-human characters in Grawp, Firenze, and Kreacher, and see the ways their lives have been impacted by humans. And through these characters, readers begin to be critical of the wizarding world, not just of the Death Eaters, people we have been told are bad all along, but of the “good” people we’ve been rooting for from the first page, who nonetheless uphold oppressive systems. 

Order of the Phoenix pulls back the mask on the Wizarding world in a lot of ways, and that, more than anything, is what I think makes this book different. Readers are encouraged to think critically not only about race (human/non-human), but also about the decisions adults make. Harry learns that James and Sirius, whom he has idolized, in fact treated Snape cruelly, and he has to come to terms with what this means about their character. He and his classmates deal with a corrupt government that suppresses information and delivers them into the hands of Umbridge, one of the most reprehensible characters in the history of literature. And he has to deal with Dumbledore’s decision to withhold the full truth from him, and with the aftermath of that decision.

When I read Order of the Phoenix the first time, I was most impacted by Umbridge’s sadism and by Sirius’s death, but this time, I thought a lot more about the fact that this is the first time when Harry frequently has no trusted adult to turn to, and when even the adults he trusts sometimes make huge mistakes. I remember times when I was around Harry’s age when I realized, as well, that grown-ups fuck things up sometimes, that they elect terrible leaders and make bad decisions and treat kids in dehumanizing ways. It’s a big revelation that really destablizes your view of the world. It’s one of the big things that makes you start to grow up.

And onward, to Half-Blood Prince!

The Big Harry Potter Reread: GOBLET OF FIRE

So, Im’m probably the only person in the world who still hasn’t read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I bought it on release day, and it’s sitting in my bedroom, beckoning… But I refuse to let myself read it until I finish a complete reread of the Harry Potter series.

I grappled a bit with this decision. The fact is, I can’t polish off a Harry Potter book in a day anymore, because I’m not a child. I have to do things like take care of my pets and go to work and interact with people. So, a big reread is, for me, a considerable investment of time.

I started last year, rereading Sorcerer’s Stone for what was something like the eleventh time, and I continued in early 2016 with Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban. They were more or less as I remembered them, which was no surprise, because the material is careworn through years of revisiting. 

But with Goblet of Fire, things change. Now that I’ve finished rereading it, for what I think is the second time but is certainly not more than the third, I realize how much changes in 13 years. Holy shit, does a lot change. 

I have often said that Goblet of Fire is my least favorite Harry Potter book, giving it the tongue-in-cheek description of “the one with all the sports.” Quidditch has always been my least favorite aspect of the series (not its design, but the fact that I knew I would have to endure at least one sports chapter per book), and although there is absolutely zero Quidditch in Goblet of Fire, I still remembered it as a series of sporting events capped off my death.

I’m just going to say it: Tween me was an idiot. 

For one thing, Goblet of Fire is the tipping point where the series stops being juvenile fiction as we know it and veers into darker and more adult territory, but that doesn’t happen right at the end as I (mis)remembered. It happens from the first chapter! Remember terrifying homunculus Voldemort hanging out with Peter Pettigrew and Nagini and murdering people? 

And what about the anti-Muggle hate crime at the Quidditch World Cup? Somehow, as a child I absorbed that as little more than good-natured ribbing, nothing significantly worse than Malfoy’s schoolboy taunting of Harry in the Hogwarts halls. As an adult, that scene impacted me in a much more visceral way. 

This time, I was also able to understand and appreciate the significance of the Triwizard Tournament returning and being held at Hogwarts. Foreign witches and wizards coming together, in a school controlled by the only truly powerful wizard who knows that Voldemort is on the rise and has plans to stop him? Talk about a brilliant bit of maneuvering from Dumbledore!

When I read these books, as they came out, my enjoyment came primarily from the escapism of returning to Hogwarts and visiting a strange and wonderful fantasy world. I’m certainly not belittling that; Harry Potter was a major source of wonder and comfort for me when I was younger, and continues to be a fandom that inspires me. But reading the books as an adult, I find that much of what I enjoy the most has little to do with what is happening explicitly, but with all that is implied to be happening off the page. Writing the books in third person limited focusing on Harry results in such a narrow perspective, because Harry’s understanding of the world is limited by the fact that he is a kid. For all that’s happening behind the scenes, and for the way it expands the Wizarding world, Goblet of Fire is now one of my favorite Harry Potter books.

I think a lot of the problem with my memory of Goblet of Fire is that my memories weren’t really coming from the book, but from the movie, which I’ve seen far more than two or three times. Perhaps nowhere else in the series is it more evident that the movies fall dreadfully short than with Goblet of Fire. And it’s more than just missing details, which is understandable with adaptations. It’s the omitting or changing of major plot points, especially in regards to house elves. No S.P.E.W., which helps flesh out both the Wizarding world in general and Hermione’s characterization in particular. Dobby giving Harry the crucial gillyweed becomes Neville doing the same. So frustrating.

I suspect that I will have many more of these moments as I continue the reread. I’ve only read Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, and Deathly Hallows once each, back when they were released. I know that I’ve forgotten or misinterpreted so much of what happens in those last three books, and I know that my reading of Cursed Child will be all the richer and more satisfying for my having taken the time to go back and reacquaint myself with my favorite series.

Rereading NEVERWHERE by Neil Gaiman

My favorite smell is the scent of paper and glue and years found nestled between the pages of my copy of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I don’t recall if it’s the first Neil Gaiman book that I ever read, but it is the first Neil Gaiman book that I ever bought. I debated about buying it for a few weeks, because I was fourteen or so, and allowance money was precious, so I had to be sure that I really wanted to spend it on this book. In the meantime, I visited it, reread the title and scrutinized the cover, and looked at the author photo on the back…

(I looked at that author photo a lot. I mean:

Do you blame me?)

Eventually, I bought it and took it home and read it, and everything changed. It was the first kiss in the love affair of finding my favorite author. That’s a powerful thing, from which there is no turning back. After that, it’s all lustily devouring everything by that author you can find, eagerly awaiting their next release, and eventually settling down into comfortable years of dedicated reading.

Recently I found myself less capable of dealing with life than I normally am, and to help me cope, I decided to reread Neverwhere. It just felt right.

After all, Neverwhere is the story of an ordinary man, Richard Mayhew, who slips through the cracks of the real world and finds a fantastical other world beneath London. When the real world feels to terrible to reckon, it makes sense to turn to stories of other worlds.

But Neverwhere is not a tale of happy escapism. Richard finds his way into London Below when he rescues a young woman bleeding on the sidewalk. This young woman, Door, is in terrible danger. Her entire family has been murdered, and the people who killed them are intent on doing the same to her. When she goes on her way, Richard expects his life to return to normal. But he finds that his coworkers and fiancee don’t know him anymore, and his landlord rents out his apartment with his belongings still in it… He has no choice but to follow Door, join her on a quest to solve her family’s murders, and attempt to get his life back.

On the way, he encounters numerous strange, dangerous, wondrous, and filthy people and things in the sewers and tube stations beneath London, and he completes arduous tasks and feats of daring beyond his previous imaginings, and he succeeds on his quest… More or less.

When I read Neverwhere as a young teenager, I was quite taken with the idea that magical other places could exist parallel to the locations I knew so well and took for granted. I was in many ways an unhappy adolescent, aware of being different from my classmates in rural Middle Tennessee and filled with a desire to find my place and my people. I would happily have disappeared into an alternate dimension; as it was, my only option was to wait for college and to hope that things would get better. (They did.)

Revisiting Neverwhere as an adult, I still saw all the things that appealed to my younger self. However, adult me was more able to appreciate the novel as a work of art, to see how clever Neil was to make the central player in his weird cast of characters someone so very normal. I was more able to smile at the humor and to see the Douglas Adams-esque moments that imbue much of Neil’s writing with a knowing lightheartedness. And I got to enjoy the feeling of rereading material that has not been fresh to me in a long time, that lovely and hard-to-describe feeling of instantly remembering in great detail things that you have forgotten, a feeling that momentarily makes the old new again.

I also had to smile when I saw the one quote that I chose to underline, when I first read the book all those years ago:

“I thought I wanted this,” said Richard. “I thought I wanted a nice, normal life. I mean, maybe I am crazy. I mean, maybe. But if this is all there is, then I don’t want to be sane. You know?”

Because that line said to teenage me that there were other people who understood my dissatisfaction with the world, who had perhaps been where I was and who had come through and who achieved something greater than the mundane existence that I saw so many adults around me living, an existence that I did not want for myself. That line was a great motivator and a great comfort as I set about figuring out who I was and what I wanted out of my life for the first time.

In short, rereading Neverwhere was a deeply pleasurable experience. If you haven’t read it, you’re in for a lovely first reading experience. And if you have read and loved it, but it’s been a few years (or more), I suggest that you go back and revisit it soon. It holds up so well, and retains all the magic you remember.