Middle-Child Syndrome and Gothica

by Sybelion

This is a rant about how much goth means to me, to my identity, to all of that — and why I’m so pissed about my sister not just muscling in on the game, but somehow acting as if she’s got more right to be me than I have. I’m really pissed off. I love being a gothic punk type person — now my sister and my mother are cheapening the whole deal and handing it around. I’m pissed off (can you tell?). I like reading other people’s rants... here’s one of my own.

“...at parties, you rock up in full spikes, all the black you can manage, hair to here, the sneer firmly in place — and people are like, oh my god! she’s not wearing [insert current ridiculous trend] — ostracise her immediately!”

A little background about me... I come from a family of four children. My eldest sister is to become an Anglican priest, but she wears black lipstick and deep purple velvet and corsets off-duty. My brother is to join the English Navy; he thinks he’s Churchill (whom I despise, with the fire of a thousand suns) — and it’s a pretty good match in terms of pomposity (not even a word, I know), but my brother is even less witty. He is the original Imperialist white asshole. Then there’s me — goodness knows what happened there. I am equal parts goth, punk and fashionista (favourite colours are black, white and pink. Hooray!) — I did your goth-versus-punk quiz and I am 50-50 goth/punk. This doesn’t surprise me! I suspect I have never fully specialised because the area I live in is so small and limited that the two groups are lumped together as one subset of alternative — never mind the sub-genres within each group! It’s bizarre. Sydney goths and punks I’ve met would never talk to the other but where I live there isn’t a choice. Then there’s my little sister — she’s setting about making to steal this identity I’ve fought really hard for and I’m really pissed about it.

Because it has been a hard fight. I have seen it played out in clothes, music and political ideals, which sound a little arbitrary to some, but I’m sure that you’ll all understand that outward image is a manifestation of inward expression. My older brother and sister had no fashion sense when young; they liked crappy, relatively mainstream music, and none of us had encountered politics. (Except feminism. But my mother used to be a lawyer, so that went down okay.) But then it came to me and I don’t know how I embarked on this whole jig, but somehow I got interested in wearing a dog collar and loads of eyeliner and t-shirts with provocative slogans (ah, the provocative slogan — damn I love baiting norms) and dying my hair black. I started listening to Korn and Metallica — a reasonable starting block, cut me some slack (I have since moved on — hooray!). But my parents were like, whatthefuck do we do with this subversive little demonchild? I swore, I turned vegetarian (my dad was a country boy, my brother believes it is man’s right to take the life of whomever he can manage — that went off like a frog in a sock, I can tell you), I started basically questioning things. This, to me, is the central theme of goth-punk — why do we have to dress like you? Why does this sound so crap? Why does the world have to be so full of shit? Why is the American president, and every previous American president, such an asshole? Why can’t I have a spiky black ’do three feet high for daywear? — and then we set about subverting anything we can.

I have run away from home many a time but only in a half-arsed fashion. It sure did piss my parents off though, so that was great. For me, the transition from no real identity, to self-actualisation (quasi-psychological claptrap — lovin’ it!) was represented by this shift from following mainstream trends in dress, music, thought, to the self-expression and attitude of the goth-punk world. I was fighting myself inside trying to find some sort of true self to hang on to. That’s why I’ve defended everything I’ve done and never regretted a moment of it, because it’s been a fight for my self. Parents, teachers and random norms have always like to have a go at me. I say, fuck yaaaaaaa. (And I have said so). You know the scene — at parties, you rock up in full spikes, all the black you can manage, hair to here, the sneer firmly in place — and people are like, oh my god! she’s not wearing [insert current ridiculous trend] — ostracise her immediately! Sometimes it has hurt. It really does take a while to learn that it doesn’t matter what other people think — it’s not that you shouldn’t listen to what other people say: you just shouldn’t always pay attention to it.

“Who introduced the family to goth-punk? Who introduced her to black, to the wearing of copious amounts of metal, to [good music]...”

That’s why I’m pissed about my sister. She will never ever understand how hard it was to forge out my identity from my own placid bedrock mind and from my parents’ conservative attitude — she can (I mean, she is able to) just follow in my footsteps and it won’t be such a struggle for her as it was for me (obviously I would prefer not). I even had the first boyfriend our family had ever seen! (they hated him) — I did a whole lot of teen stuff, and ended up here <looks up map, sees spot marked with a skull-and-cross-bones — "you are GOTH">. It’s been hard. I know we should share the love of goth and all the ideals it represents, but when she tells me I’m not much of an activist? Get fucked. For a start I am — in the political sense of the word, but because she’s younger than me I don’t know if she realises that you can be an activist within yourself for change and strength. Even ignoring the patent ignorance and idiocy of her use of the blanket-term "activist" (acting for what, dumbass?), this was without a doubt one of the stupidest things she’s ever said. Clearly I’m not as much of an activist as a lot of people are, like for example Nelson Mandela, or Ghandi — or a lot of people who just live — and refute the status quo in doing so — and not even as much of an activist as I would like to be, but what I certainly am, is more of an activist than my sister. That is what her statement implied — not that I was mistaken in proclamations of my own activism, which might have made sense, but that she, my nameless sister, was an activist of such a magnitude that she could criticise me for my apathy.

I won’t pretend for an instant that I’m not cold, shallow, uncaring and cynical — I am. But only to people who should know better, or have no excuse. I lambaste humanity for its carnivorous urges, but not animals, because we can make the choice and they can’t. So even though charity begins at home I am habitually rude to those I know, while I help strangers and I don’t. I would be in the wrong if she had accused me of being unkind — which I am — but she didn’t. I in fact do stand up for the rights of Middle Eastern nations not to be bombed to hell, I stand up for the rights of women, the rights of the youth, the rights of animals and children and the importance of trees and education. Honestly I don’t believe that girl thinks before she opens her mouth, sometimes. She may be an activist of sorts, but in no way more active or convinced of the worth of her cause than I. Who introduced the family to goth-punk? Who introduced her to black, to the wearing of copious amounts of metal, to Orgy, Fischerspooner (oh, okay, so they’re electroclash — but you know what I mean. Good music), Marilyn Manson, Placebo... blah blah blah. What an ass, seriously. I don’t know if she understands the predicament (by this I mean she clearly doesn’t) but this is what goth-punkness has meant to me: it is me. God, goth is all I have.

I am a middle child who does not even have true numerical "middleness" to support my behaviour. There are — people always churlishly point out — four children in my family, but I must remind you that my brother, the second eldest, is the only boy — so removed from the triad of girls. So I believe I was (am) a child suffering from the blight of middle children everywhere — a lack of a defined role in the family. That is why so many of us become highly skilled specialists in some obscure area, or musicians or artists; and why so many of us have aggressive personalities. We are trying to carve out a position for ourselves, we want independance — I for example became “the lunatic”, I believe. We will no longer be not-the-eldest or not-the-youngest — we seek to become the incredible pianist, or the clown. In families of two the youngest often copies the eldest — you’ll not find middle children doing that. Mostly we’ll find the most way-out idea or concept or behaviour to fix on, and hang on to it for dear life — for it is our identity. This is goth-punk. I need it (Stinkfist, Tool: “I don’t want it, I just need it...”)

Everyone else gets one pre-packaged: the eldest is mature, responsible, hard-done-by. The youngest is cute, precocious and picked-upon (personally I believe this to be crap — let the little shits stand up for themselves). My brother, as the only boy, was excused a lot of behaviour because “he’s my little boy”, etc, etc. He was allowed to bully us girls like shit and be so rude it was indescribable, and should have been inexcusable — but he always got away with it, because my mother, the disciplinarian, was essentially old-fashioned and believed that this male characteristic was a right. But what about us? What of the other one? People often come to us last, remember us last, notice us last, because within the family structure there is nothing, within itself, to make us remarkable. Middle-ness in itself is not enough. This is why I get out there and shock people (easy enough where I live) with yer spikes and yer super-coordination.

All’s I wanted to say is, yeah goth-punk is great, but you have to fight for it. It means something if you do. I read an essay one of you wrote about the matching-black supremacists — well I know I’m probably in danger of sounding a little like one, but I do hate the people who just get in on the act on the surface but have no idea of what it represents. (Like people who’ve never read Titus/Gormenghast — it’s an ordeal, it’s a rite of passage — on yer bike). Sure it’s a fun way to dress, act, speak, whatever — but it means something and I think you have to bloody earn it!

Sybelion is a 17-year-old goth from the Central Cost area, near Sydney, Australia. This is her first rant for the GothPunk.com(Munity).