Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thnks Fr The Mmrs

I've been thinking a lot about my past recently. A couple of things have brought this turn of thought around - the end of the year always involves at least a little soul searching and taking stock for me. It doesn't help that my birthday is in early January, so the whole Christmas/New Year period has a real turn of the page feel for me, which naturally involves re-reading the page before I turn it. I also went to a FANTASTIC concert by Fall Out Boy the other night, which brought back a ton of memories of being twenty something, furious with everything, and firmly believing more eyeliner was ALWAYS better.

I went to the concert by myself, which was a little odd because I don't go out on the town without Mr. Reluctant Femme that often these days. I used to travel to parties, clubs, and concerts by myself all the time, so being on the train alone, in an outfit that my 20 year old self would have LOVED, to see a band that are the very definition of teenage angst really got me thinking. I found myself wondering what that angry little girl would think of my life as it is now. Would she be happy? Would she be proud? Or would she be disappointed?

I've been thinking about it for almost a week now, and I don't have anything like an answer. Perhaps there isn't an answer, really. There are so many ways my life could have gone from there - so many conversations I could have had or skipped, so many decisions I could have made differently. Or maybe I was always going to end up here, now, exactly how I am. Just like the great Captain Janeway, pondering the ramifications of theoretical consequences of altering time gives me a headache.

I'm on the far right - my cohorts shall remain nameless.

But I can't help but look at pictures like this one and miss the life I had. Parts of it anyway. The Goth scene in Sydney was the first place I ever really felt like I was part of a community, and a lot of how I feel about communities in general is a direct result of my experiences with this one.

I came to the Big City (ie Sydney) from a very small town, and a very tiny social circle. I was lucky enough to meet a few people almost immediately that I really clicked with, but for the first couple of years in Sydney my social circle remained relatively small. I had one or two friends from Rocky Horror, one or two from my brief stint at Uni, and three or four from the first group I'd met on arriving in the city. I didn't really do acquaintances - I've always been an all or nothing sort of person, and those first few years of independence this tendency flourished. If you were my friend, we were the BEST of friends. If you weren't, you were essentially a stranger. I didn't have any interest in a social circle any bigger than the one I had, because I threw myself into my friendships so intensely that the idea of having more of them was utterly overwhelming.

I don't remember who it was that took me to my first Goth club. Lord knows I wouldn't have gone alone, so I would guess that it must have been one of my friends who talked me into it. However it happened, I went along to a regular club night called Ritual once, and pretty much ended up going there every Friday for the next couple of years. It ran pretty much the same playlist every week, and there was almost always exactly the same people there (There's a reason it was called Ritual - let it never be said Goths don't have a sense of humour) but that was part of what I loved about it. Every week felt like a continuation of the last, and so showing up at the club gave me a sense of revisiting an awesome party that had been continuing in my absence. 

In the Goth community, for the first time I started making, and keeping, acquaintances. A friend would introduce me to a friend, who would introduce me to their boyfriend, their sister, their housemate, and on and on until every time I walked into a club it would take me half an hour (at least) to say hello to everyone I knew. And leaving? Lord, that could take over an hour. I still had my little inner circle - that never changed. But suddenly there were all these...other people. And to be honest, I didn't really know what to do with it all. Because I used to be (and still am) ridiculously serious, all these acquaintances brought with them an enormous sense of responsibility. I felt bad if I hadn't seen Blah or Whatsername for a little while, or if I couldn't remember who they were dating right now. I felt bad when people moved and I didn't realise, or when they changed jobs and I didn't know. I thought it was my responsibility to keep up with these things, in return for all these acquaintances being so kind as to take me into their community. I felt like I owed them all so much, that whether I wanted to go out or not on any given night, I needed to at least "make an appearance." I felt like staying home was letting people down - which comes across as super arrogant now, but it wasn't out of any feeling that I was so great I would ruin everyone's night if I wasn't there. It was because I felt like I owed them, owed the community, to participate as much as I possibly could.

The Fashionate Traveller and a friend at a club night many moons ago. I used to see these two around all the time
and desperately wished I would ever be so well dressed as them.

At the particular point in time that I was part of the Goth community in Sydney, it was a very close, caring group of people for the most part. Because we all went to the same club/s, at the same time every week, we all knew each other by sight at the very least. It was the same bouncer every week, and he was more of a friend who happened to have a security license than a bouncer per se. It sounds corny, and maybe I'm looking back with rose coloured glasses, but I remember us all taking care of each other so much. Maybe it was just me and my friends, I don't know. But I do remember very clearly the amount of times I would be stuck outside the club for hours making sure some poor girl didn't swallow her tongue because she'd taken too much of something, or the times my housemates and I would scoop up anyone who looked like they couldn't make it home and deposit them on our couch to sleep it off. There was one notable morning when I'd rescued the younger brother of an ex of mine who's drink had been spiked, and he was pretty freaked out to find himself at my house the next day with no memory of what he might have done to get there. My friends and I took in strays of both the human and animal variety ridiculously often, and had a hardline socialist approach to paying for beer, entry fee, taxi money, whatever was needed. There were a couple of times this backfired, but it never stopped us the next time someone needed just one more dollar for a pack of cigarettes, or ten dollars to get home. And the support wasn't just financial - the amount of time I must have spent sitting in an alley outside the club, or in a dark back corner with someone I barely knew while they cried their heart out is just staggering to me now. But it's what we did, you know? It was just how we were. 

My relationship with the Goth community wasn't all obligations though, of course. I got so much out of it, so much more than I could ever hope to put into a single post. Hell, I've been trying to write a book about it for ten years and it's still not enough. The sheer joy I got from dressed up and going out dancing with people who I felt liked me for exactly who I was is just inexpressible. I could dress like a freak, dance like a freak, and fuck like a freak and no one told me off or tut-tutted at me. If anything, I was one of the more restrained members of the community, and that realisation opened up my world so much. Unlike any other group of people I'd hung out with, I felt like I belonged with the Goths, like I didn't have to try quite so hard to be one of them. They liked the same kind of music, the same kind of clothes, even kept the same hours I preferred. Everywhere else I always felt like I was struggling to be included, with with the Goth community it felt somehow easier.

It would be a great big lie to make out that I was nice to everyone all the time, and we were one big happy family who always got along. The truth is that there was ALWAYS some drama going on. Someone I wasn't talking to, or that someone else has asked me not to talk to for really convoluted reasons. Some nickname my friends and I had pinned on someone because we thought it was hilarious. Someone we would tell everyone to avoid, and someone else that was our new favourite person. My friends and I were sometimes horribly cruel, both to people who did and didn't deserve it. But even the negative sides were exciting - the drama, the fights, the cattiness, the breakups and makeups were all exhilarating, simply because I'd never been in a social circle large enough to support that kind of thing before. It was all so much larger than life as I'd known it before, and I couldn't get enough of it.

Looking back with the delightful clarity you only get with hindsight, I can see now that I was never particularly well suited to such a social lifestyle emotionally.  I had to retreat from my increasing social obligations due to being totally overwhelmed more than once. At first it was only for a couple of days, then I would be back up and out and about again. Then I would need to take a week or so here and there. Then I had a nasty breakup with someone I'd brought into the community when we started dating, and he started spreading wildly untruthful gossip about it. I learned very quickly, and very painfully, that acquaintances cannot always be relied upon in the way I had always relied on my friends. My friends stuck with me, but after a couple of failed attempts to laugh it off and prove him wrong by not retreating, I fled the community to let it all die down.

After a couple of months, it did all die down, because if there's anything more boring than the truth it's old gossip. I started seeing a guy who was Someone in the Goth community - not a universally liked Someone, but Someone all the same - and he convinced me to dive back into the community again. This time, I was determined to go back and guard myself much better. My partner at the time had been in the community for a long time - possibly since I was in about primary school. But that's another story. I thought I could learn from him, how to work it, how to schmooze, how to hustle and gain the elusive and mysterious high level popularity I'd never quite managed. I worked hard at re-integrating myself into the scene - I went to all the parties, chatted to everyone who would stand still for a minute, and met a lot of new awesome people. I got closer to some people who had been circling around the periphery of my social circle for years, while others drifted away. Some people still believed the gossip my ex had spread about me, others just didn't go out as much as they used to. Some people were just...gone. They slipped quietly out of my life, and I wouldn't know where to even start finding them again now. But it didn't matter at the time, because I was filling the gaps with more new and exciting people every time I went out.

Obviously, since I'm not still a dedicated club kid, something changed. In fact, a lot of things changed over time, and bit by bit my life went off in another direction. I broke up with the guy who was Someone, and a lot of my interest in being at the top of the popularity pile died with that relationship. The next guy I started seeing was big into clubbing as well though, so we still went out very regularly. I was just spending my time with people a little bit lower on the popularity totem pole,  and to be honest I was a lot happier for it. I lost a lot of clubbing acquaintances, but went to a lot more house parties and made a few more friends. Going clubbing didn't seem like my only option on a Saturday night anymore. Then the two regular clubs I'd been going to the whole time both shut down. A replacement sprung up for one of them, but every time I went the crowd seemed to be getting younger and more unfamiliar. My clubbing friends got real grown up jobs, and so did I. My partner and I moved out of our crazy Goth share house, and at that point more or less moved out of the community. When my partner decided he wanted to move states to study, I decided to go with him, because I didn't feel obligated to stay - my friends understood why I wanted to go, and the community I'd felt so strongly about felt so distant, so irrelevant I didn't think anything of leaving it behind.

The years in between that move and now have been lonley - sometimes excruciatingly so. I've always had friends, to a greater or lesser degree. I'm lucky enough to have one or two friends who just don't seem to ever get tired of me no matter what, and I've had various people wander in and out of my friend zone over the years. But I've never felt a sense of community since I left the Goth scene - that is, until I started blogging at the end of last year.

Tomorrow: How are Goths like Bloggers? Have I actually learned anything from all this reminiscing? Stay tuned!


  1. I loved reading this - it's so similar to my own experiences in various cities in the UK. The fact that I could transplant my goth self so easily from the town where I grew up to the city where I went to university was brilliant, because once you found the right bars and clubs, you knew there was a whole group of people that you definitely had things in common with. My best friend of over 20 years was a glittery stranger with massive hair on the number 9 bus back then and to her I was 'that girl with the Christian Death jacket'. It identified us as different but part of the same thing. No, not everyone got on but there was a definite sense of unity.
    Most of the places we used to go have burned down now and glittery eyeshadow is starting to show up my wrinkles but despite having to be grown up and corporate, those days have left me with a haughty sneer when I need it and the feeling that red lipstick and spikey heels will make me invincible.

  2. Awwww you look like a bit of a cutie in that old picture....I bet that is like the ultimate insult to a Goth, but so be it.

  3. I remember those strange little moments in time & entire nights just spent chatting with people or the front of clubs. It was a lot of fun & helped me learn how to interact with people a lot better (though I'm still not sure I've got the complete hang of being human). But yes, thanks for your friendship during that period & if you ever do want to catch up, we should (not that we don't say this every time)

    Plus, Vortex had consistently pretty damn good music


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