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April 7, 2008 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Confessions of a Teenage Goth

Ambling down Cuba or Manners Mall, I’m often struck by the number of baby bats – lil’ goth kids – scattered around the pavement, and turn to reminisce about when I too was a baby bat, way back at the start of the millennium. Though much of that time is obscured by cheap vodka and angst, there’s something striking enough about the tribulations of a teenage goth to warrant a tale or two.


Disclaimer: Real goths, like the Sisters of Mercy’s Andrew Eldrich, always insist that they are not goths. I use the term in hindsight because that’s what we were called for wearing trench coats or dog collars or other paraphernalia. Sometimes ‘freak’, a name I always preferred, but mostly ‘goth’. It’s a catch-all term used by non-strangely dressed people to describe strangely-dressed people, and since us strangely-dressed people are all strange in different ways, there’s no such thing as a definition of goth.

Nevertheless, some definitions are better than others, and I’m particularly fond of the one on

You simply can’t maintain a room full of despairing people dressed in black for very long without someone starting a chain of laughter. Once you realise you’ve gone over the top, there’s nothing left to do but laugh. It’s a self-deflating culture that delights in self-parody and in ridiculing itself. To put it plainly: it’s fun.

What’s missing from the common gloomy-goth stereotype is the humour we can find in death. And therein lies its attraction: we realise that death is inevitable, that the process of rotting away while exuding the vile gasses of decay is just as natural as eating, fucking or shitting. Therefore we may as well laugh at death just as we laugh at fart jokes. Because it is intensely fascinating that people are so afraid of dying that they make up stories about the afterlife, we took amusement in pretending to talk to Satan and holding black masses with vodka and coke in place of blood. We would hang around in graveyards smoking pot until we got vibes from the corpses, then cover ourselves in the fluoro from glow-sticks and run about going “wooooo” pretending to be ghosts.

So an awareness of death was part of it. Another reason for dressing funny was to freak people out. Besides being grossed out by death, most people have all these strange prejudices, for example against boys wearing their favourite little stripey dress, smeared lipstick and combat boots ensemble. And since these prejudices are silly, it was fun to shove them in everyone’s faces by wearing my pink fishnets and leather skirts to class (I understand that many of you will have been unable to do this, as your high schools put you in itchy grey woollen shorts the whole way through. Sucks for you).

Another motivation for many romantic goths – the ones who prettify themselves with intricately arranged lacy corsets over a vampiric pallor – is the sheer aesthetic of their lives. Years ago there was a popular website called Goth Hunting which stated that people should hunt, capture and domesticate goths because they are pretty, but that hunters should avoid the messy goths who follow Marilyn Manson and shave their eyebrows. I was always proudly messy (all the better for irritating people), but the fact is romantic goths are far prettier, provided they pull it off.

Well, I’ve given you a bunch of reasons for wearing funny clothes rather than a definition of goth, and that’s as it should be. Before we move on to the stories, I’ll leave you with one last definition, paraphrased from Coronation Street’s delightful baby bat, Craig Harris:

Craig: “Goth is like… it’s like the world is burning down around you and you’re dancing in its ashes.”

Craig’s father: “Stop being such a twat.”

Craig: “Umpf! You just don’t understand me! I’m going to my room to listen to Cradle of Filth.” [slams door]


When I mentioned our baby bat days to D (an old buddy from school), he noted that “we didn’t really get into situations because we were goths, we got into situations because we were teenagers.” The only time he could recall “where we got into mischief because we were wearing funny clothes was when we went to the Monaco domain and B’s car (a blue Beetle with Misery Machine painted on its window) got bottled and I got into a fight.” Actually, D demanded that we give him the machete we kept under the seat so he could do some real damage, which was when we drove off and left him there. As he recalls of the hours following that: “then I went to a party with some of the guys from the domain and I puked on their kitchen table while they were sitting around it. There you go, thanks guys.”

Getting shit for being dressed funny is probably the definitive baby bat experience. Fortunately, the only people who actually wanted to deck us for being fags were the gangstas, and they all drop out at the end of fifth form – so by the time we got to the end of high school we were fairly safe. In fact, we often encouraged people to give us shit for the way we looked, because it proved that we were better than them and fed our misanthropy. Hence the old saying – emos hate themselves; goths hate everyone. Emos want to kill themselves; goths want to kill everyone.

My favourite memory of getting shit for dressing funny was during a debate between my school and the all-girls college. I had made some argument about depression, and one of their debaters tried to discredit it by saying that the guy on Home and Away with black nail polish was suicidal, and since I was wearing black nail polish (actually, it was black with sparkles – see below), I could not be trusted on the matter. I believe their use of this argument contributed significantly to our victory.

Despite growing up in Nelson, which lacks a university and has almost no residents between the ages of 18 and 30 (and thus has a pretty lacklustre youth culture), we were lucky enough to be brought under the wings of the last batch of Nelson goths before us, who were somewhere in their early twenties when we were sixteen. They taught us how to find psychedelic substances and let our band play support for theirs. One of them drew me a delightful picture of a choirboy (see below). One night, when me and B wanted to go to the Intergalactic Ball in our dresses and furs, two of our older buddies (who at the time dressed like scary fucking industrialised zombies) accompanied us and stared down anyone who gave us shit.

To celebrate being fabulous baby bats, my buddies and I organised fortnightly poetry readings at our well-regarded state school. Now, there are two forms of poetry produced by strangely dressed teenagers: the incoherent druggedout rambles genre, and the ‘I cut my wrists because you are beautiful’ genre. We mostly opted for the former, and referred to the composers of the latter as ‘pussy goths.’ Back then, emo was a form of whiny-voiced skater punk.

You will by now have detected a distressing tendency towards misanthropy in my tales. And I must admit that, all throughout our teenage goth days, we were pretty disdainful of normal folk. I have since come to realise that there are no really normal people, only people who hide the bits of themselves that are fucked up, so they are still interesting underneath. However, I must also admit that it was fun to think everyone else was beneath me. Call it the vampire complex, or a result of reading too much Nietzsche. Whatever the cause, it brings me on to one of my favourite tales: the school shooting incident.

Back in 2000, my friend B managed to convince some impressionable younger girls that he ate cats. Later that year he and D were having a taunting match with a gangsta computer nerd. Marilyn Manson had scheduled his album Holy Wood to be released on the day of the US Presidential elections, so B and D kept telling this gansta nerd to “watch out for 23 October.” Unfortunately the girls who believed B ate a cat overheard and, since this was only a year after Columbine, they presumed that B and D were going to shoot people on 23 October. Fifty pupils stayed home from school that day, and the principal told B and D not to show up because it would frighten others. So they went fishing instead. A couple of years ago we met some kids from our old school who still remembered this incident, but it had changed. The story now went that we had brought guns to school, and when the principal told us we weren’t allowed to shoot people we said that we were fascists and therefore he had to let us shoot people because it was part of our religious beliefs. I prefer this version of events to the actual facts of the matter.

While my friends never really intended to shoot anyone, we did have a bit of a Columbine fetish. Conversations about the crimes of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold would descend into a singalong of that old jingle, “feeling fine / dancing the Columbine / looking good / and I knew that I would.” While I’ve always felt that killing people and blaming it on the fact that you were bullied is a lame way to deal with your problems (I prefer caffeine and THC thank you very much), I have always had good reason to thank the Columbine killers. Before 20 April 1999, we were “those little poofs with the black nail polish.” After that date, we were “those little poofs who might bloody well kill me,” and I believe this reduced the amount of strife we were given. Furthermore, while we never took our misanthropy to the Trenchcoat Mafia’s extremes (probably because we were having enough fun as it was taking drugs in graveyards), we could at least identify with that misanthropy. Eric Harris left behind a website listing things he loved and things he hated, and while his hatreds are pretty intense, some of them are also pretty sane:


—RACISM!… don’t let me catch you making fun of someone just because they are a different color because I will come in and break your fucking legs with a plastic spoon, I don’t care how long it takes. and thats both legs mind you.

As you can see, he’s a psycho, but he’s right to be pissed off that some people are stupid enough to be racist. His reaction was to despair and to demonstrate this despair through destruction. I like to think that the truly gothic way is to say fuck it, people are stupid, but at least I have my good shiraz and my wine glass in the shape of a dragon. Because dragons are awesome.


About the Author ()

Tristan Egarr edited in 2008. He threw a chair once.

Comments (2)

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  1. bisky risness says:

    wicked read

    i to reminisce of drugs in graveyards, and i guess i dressed funny.

  2. sally says:


    my sister is a new claimed goth in nelson and getting into all the shit you described all the time haha

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