“Welcome to old age!” That’s what the postcard in my mailbox should have said. Instead it said “Congratulations! Here is your new A.A.R.P card”. It was the morning of my 50’th birthday, I was still in my bathrobe, and suddenly I was officially old. I wondered if the obligatory mom jeans and pastel cardigan would arrive by mail, or if I was expected to go out and buy them myself. I resigned myself to the inevitable, and then I did what I have always done when I’m feeling down, I opened my closet and pulled out my favorite dress.
My favorite dress is long and black with fluttery bell sleeves, I like to wear it over a crinoline or two with a waist cincher over it. I’m not sure if women my age are meant to dress like fat Morticia Addams, but once I put the dress on I knew immediately who I am. The gift that the gothic lifestyle has given me is the gift of identity.
I was always a spooky kid, growing up in the 1970’s I gravitated toward the dark and theatrical. Most of my childhood was spent wearing the clothes that my parents bought me at K-Mart. Jeans, t-shirts, sneakers and a denim jacket were my daily uniform, but Halloween was my salvation. Later, when I was old enough to choose my own clothes, I would save my allowance for months just to spend it all at the day-after Halloween sales stocking up on cheap fishnet stockings and black nail polish. I would have killed to have been a mall goth, but we didn’t have a mall. We had a K-Mart.
I didn’t even know goth was a thing until the 1990’s. Until then I was just a weird girl who played too much Dungeons and Dragons and liked to decorate her room with dead things. When I moved to Seattle in the early 90’s my love of roleplaying games and my love of the macabre crashed headlong into White Wolf’s Vampire the Masquerade. I joined the Camarilla LARP organization as soon as I heard about it. My membership number was 23, and my life has never been the same. I met hundreds of people via the Camarilla, many of whom are still like family to me. The Cam also introduced me to the gothic subculture, and suddenly I wasn’t the only person in the room who loved skulls, believed in ghosts, and had a closet full of improbable outfits.
Over the years I’ve seen many people leave the scene, some were just kids trying on different identities, some became disillusioned by the constant social one-upsmanship, and some just drifted into other lives. I guess you could say that I left the scene too – I seldom go to clubs any more, but I do still love dressing the part, and I still go to conventions and the occasional concert. I surprise myself daily with the realization that at the age of 51 I still wear tiaras and waist cinchers as daywear.
I always expected that one day I would wake up as a normal fully functional adult. The day my AARP card arrived in the mail was the day that I finally accepted the fact that while I might be functional and adult, I would never be normal – but then again, I never wanted to be.