Thursday, January 21, 2010

I Look Like a Dominatrix, but I Only Play One on TV

One of the most outward manifestations of the turmoil in my teenage years was my appearance. Sarcastic by nature, I fell into the sangfroid of Gothness very easily. While my mother would've quickly proscribed any attempts at black lipstick, I managed more subtle variations, including an opalescent purple shade more than reminiscent of a really good bruise. My nails were long, filed to a sharp oval, and painted the most outrageous colors I could get away with from Sunday until Friday afternoon, when it was removed for marching band performances. I wore so much eyeliner that I probably looked like a raccoon. Every iota of black that I could sneak into my wardrobe was welcome, although my mother strategically began limiting my access to black clothing because she purchased all of it. Being truly Goth (and strangely modest), this did not involve cleavage or, on most occasions, too much leg.

As college loomed, the summer I spent at what I'll call Southern Regional University revealed that I would probably be thought of as an immature freak if I showed up for my freshman year "in character". In the second semester of my senior year, I began letting my hair grow out, hoping that it would be one length by the time I shipped out. I transitioned my appearance from hardline Goth girl to normal middle class college kid so effectively that friends I made at State Flagship U. didn't really believe me until I trotted out pictures. What I lost in the process, though, was the grittiness that got me through high school and the tangible expression of my inner demons, who didn't take well to being bottled up like that.

I moved through college, into grad school, and eventually into professional life as a librarian and professor. During my first two academic library positions, I ran through a lot of pantyhose, pencil skirts, silk blouses, and practical flat shoes. When I arrived at my current job, luckily, we deal with a student population that's scared off by personnel who are too 'done'; I wear a lot of khaki skirts and dressier trouser jeans. Yesterday, I had to teach, so I donned a wool pencil skirt, tights, a black turtleneck, and a pair of Keen flats with a slightly industrial feel. Gratifying though it was to hear about how nice I looked, this is not permanent. Today I'm back in the trouser jeans.

So what's a Goth chick to do? A few weeks ago, my midlife crisis sneaked up and kicked me hard in the rear end. In the midst of heavy retrospection and introspection, I began to realize that I had the urge to drift back to my roots. These days, my Gothness only comes out of the closet a couple of times a year: Halloween, and an annual charity masquerade. It's liberating to be able to 'wear her' again, but why can't I still keep that version of me when I'm not suited up in full regalia? She's a lot more self-assured than my workaday librarian persona...she is the one forged in adversity, and the One Who Survived. Granted, I'm still dry to a fault and sarcastic in the extreme. I just miss her 'can do, forget you' attitude.

1 comment:

sarah said...

Oooh, I have felt your pain. I've always been a t-shirt and jeans, grungy kind of girl, but when I opened that shop on Main St. I felt like I had to dress the part. The monogrammed silver dripped from neck and fingers, and I wore turtlenecks and button down shirts. I loathed it and you can look back at the pictures and clearly see how awkward I felt. When I closed the store, I celebrated by immediately getting my nose pierced.

Anyway, you're creative... I'm sure you can find a way to let your bad ass Goth goddess shine through.