Individualists in Uniform

by Mel George

I put down the shopping bags which were cutting into my hands for a few minutes, and as I looked up, my eyes fell upon a goth. Under the thick, black makeup she couldn't have been more than fifteen; those people who assume that teenagers always “loiter” would have said she was loitering outside the McDonald's, shrouded in black, staring at the ground in a fairly melancholy fashion. For some reason, today, I seized the opportunity to ask. I wandered over and excused myself politely before saying, “Don't take this the wrong way, I'm just curious – your clothes, the whole 'goth' thing – why do you do it?" She peered at me strangely through her long, black fringe and muttered, “I do it cos I want to be different, not the same as everybody else." We got no further though, as her friends appeared and they mooched off together in a huddle of long, black apparel and mysterious jewelery, all dressed exactly the same.


Mel George, author of Distance, lives in Oxford partly because it is one of the strangest places on Earth. She would like to hear from you at The Pygmy Giant if you are British and like writing things.


Bob Jacobs said...

Reminds me of the scene in Monty Python's Life of Brian where Brian is addressing the multitude and says something along the lines of, "You don't need to follow me. You don't need to follow anyone. You're all individuals." And a little voice pops up from the crowd and says, "I'm not".

Nice 6S, Mel.

Madam Z said...

So funny! So sad! So true!

gregory pleshaw said...

Whatever. people pick subcultures all the time whether they admit it or not. At least she knew she wanted to be different from a guy like me, in a standard uniform of khakis and Oxford shirt. Goths are adorable, you know and really *quite* out of place to the regular populace. Pretending someone is *not different* because other people are also dressed like them is just such condescending bullshit. She does it, probably, because it lets her fit in with people she likes. What's wrong with that?

ionplayer said...

Everyone wants to belong. Everyone wants to be different. Everyone wants to "fit in" and "stand out" at the same time.

I liked it, though I disagree that they dress exactly the same.

Jp said...

Good six, Mel.

I guess a large part of the human experience is identifying, and a large part of how we identify with others is how we exclude people. You can't have a group unless someone doesn't belong. Countercultures are frequently just people saying "I don't belong to the mainstream culture," identifying with those who feel the same way, and excluding the rest of us.

What's tricky, of course, is self-awareness. I knew a lot of people who were self-proclaimed goths or punks who shared the sentiment of the girl in this story without ever getting the irony. But I did know a couple of punks who got it. Those guys were way cooler than I am.

Ian said...

"You can't have a group unless someone doesn't belong." Well said! Thanks for reminding me of the "No Homers" club.

Quin said...

ah, i remember my son's time in that group, with his king tut makeup and pink spots in his jet black curly hair.

why all black? i asked. easy to always be able to find something to match. was his answer.

made sense.

this was great fun. thanks.

Mel said...

:o) I like your son's sense of humour about the whole thing.
I am only observing what I see and hear, dear readers, and will leave you to make up your own opinions. But self-aware goths must be pretty cool, as JP says.

bob clay said...

"Why all black ?"

Well you can wear it longer ... (until the smell gives you away).