You’ve probably seen a few posts on Facebook or Instagram talking about “squads” and “the fam” and it’s almost beautiful to me, this sense of solidarity en masse in the individual centered culture of America (vs. community centered). However, this is nothing new to goth and hell, our association within terms like family, tribe, or coven can be quite the thing to behold.
Are you going to be unnecessarily critical, Zakkarrii?
Is it a day that ends in y?
What’s the big deal, it’s just about close friends being cute?
If you live like a superficial bitch, you will die like a superficial bitch. Harsh, I know, but the significance of group associations is sometimes a lesson learned too late.
Two things we know: goths are typically the outsiders to mainstream culture (although, in recent times, it seems we’ll just let anybody in…) and it is a label you choose for yourself. There’s a lot of power in choice, and there is a lot of power in being ostracized from people because black is your happy color.
So, already in having a general group to associate with can be…well, comforting really. We make things for other goths, shop at their stores, go to their events; if you have any sense of community, this one is a lot of fun to participate in (hint, hint, there’s more to life than building a follower count) But sometimes, we want more.
And this is where the elitists come in and ruin it for everyone, right?
Nope. There’s a difference between someone appointing themselves the goth police, and people being drawn to some people and not others. It’s naive to think you’re going to be friends with and develop this strong sense of kinship with the entire goth community. I’ve met people who think they will…We do not have to like you just because you showed up. The truth is, goth or not, we like some people more than others for a whole list of reasons, including but not limited to, proximity, availability, similarity in other groups (wealth, preferences with food…). The few of the few who meet our own personal standard of excellence we call family, tribe, coven.
Even then, we can’t ignore the motivations of a group. Some are focused heavily on business or businesses and that’s why you don’t “fit in” there. Others are tied together by something other than goth, like going to the same high school. Furthermore what you see is not always what you get, as the most lovely looking poster children for anything really, have sometimes turned out to be the most dishonest and morally devoid people you’ll ever meet. Besides…what are your own motivations for associating with them?
Why those words?
I can’t speak for everyone, but for me it’s because of symbolism and the general desired level of intimacy. I like my goth family, because it implies comfort, security, and support. That’s what it is important to me. I see a lot of people use tribe, especially in their late 20s-30s, though I never do, and coven is self explanatory isn’t it?
So why are group associations important?
Let’s say you are invited to a nice party and you bring along your friend who drinks way too much and likes to be an asshole. They’re your best friend right? It’s not that serious, it’s just a party. So you both go and your friend does what they do best and burns your reputation to the ground. “Wait, what I didn’t do anything.” Going by how you don’t seem particularly surprised to see this bullshit, in fact, even smiled at their ridiculousness over your beer, it’s happened before and you’re fine with it. You will be judged for that much. Most of the time people won’t even tell you about these decisions, you’ll just be invited out less and spoken to less until any connection you had to those people gradually fades away into nothingness.
And that’s people being polite. Unless of course, you try and hold yourself to a standard that is on par with the social group you are trying to fit in with and then demonstrate or acquire whatever traits or skills they believe to be valuable for the group. So you don’t have to meet this one true idea of goth, it’s finding a group that reflects those interests.
There’s also people putting their own reputation on the line when they invite you out or get you a job or introduce you to other people. You know that’s like one of the most valuable things someone can give you right? Besides their word, it’s like the knife you could stab them with when you mess up. I just…it’s one of the most frustrating things to see when people are lazy about it, have you no integrity?!
And this relates to goth…
With respect to the spirit of individualism that goth culture upholds, not every group is a perfect fit for everyone. Some groups have power because you give them that power. This submission to their standards is a part of the entry fee for many social structures. Also, it’s weird to see a group subtly exclude someone while simultaneously talking about how there are no rules and how accepting we are. We do have a list of rules about the kinds of goth expression we readily accept personally and socially, even if they don’t apply to outward appearances. For example, the first part of my own personal criteria for The Family: must have a strong work ethic and be viciously creative. If people who do not meet this want to sit with me, I’ll let them know there’s no room. I have no patience for hanger ons, fulfilling some sort of grandiose fantasy of the luxe life without actually putting in a fraction of the work necessary to build that for themselves.
What really inspired this is listening to people sort of build this illusion of “oh but they should like me because that’s a nice thing to do”. If you want to be accepted into a certain family, tribe, coven, whatever either assimilate to their standards, find a new group, or make them want you. The most glorious things that inspire us require some work in some aspect. Are you aspiring or inspiring?
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Until next time,
Don’t be hungry for life. Be ravenous.
Zakkarrii Edison Daniels