Am I Goth?

Short Answer

No! I am a unique individual like everyone else! If you keep calling me gothic, I'm going to kick you in the shins with my pointy toed boots! Now leave me alone so I can listen to the Sisters of Mercy in peace.

In case you can't tell, I'm being sarcastic.

I don't call myself a Goth. I figure everyone else will do the work of coming up with ways to classify me, so why should I bother doing it to myself? I am not here to make a statement as to whether labeling and classification is necessary, or good, or bad, or what not. I am just trying to clear up misconceptions that people might have. These days, it's become a joke for me to say I'm not gothic. I'm a part of the gothic social scene; I DJed gothic music; I did a gothic zine; and I wear a lot of black. If it quacks like a Goth... well, you can guess the rest. I've resisted using the term for myself though. Does anyone care whether I call myself Goth or not, when I so obviously am that even my spit is black? Not really... I am going to explain it anyway.

Nouns and Adjectives
Let's start with the distinction I'm making between being a Goth vs. being gothic. Here's where I display my anal retentive English language fetish. I find it somewhat useful to distinguish Goth (noun) e.g. "That person is a Goth," from gothic (adjective) e.g. "That person is wearing gothic boots." I could expound on my personal guide of term usage and capitalization, but since there's no official or correct way, this is enough for now.

Madelyn wrote an email to me in February of 1998 which sums up my thoughts:

"I don't like to say 'I'm a goth' because I prefer to use adjectives rather than nouns - I prefer 'I'm gothic, I'm geeky, I'm cybernetic, I'm punk, I'm intellectual, I'm weird, I'm goofy, I'm spooky.' Because we're all multifaceted. If we're NOT, we are boring."
The aspects of me which are gothic don't necessarily exclude other qualities, tastes, and activities which decidedly aren't gothic. I'm an avid Star Trek geek, but I wouldn't call myself a Trekkie.

Humans developed language as a way to communicate their thoughts to others. English is only effective if the people using it have a uniform standard for defining the language. When I say the term "gothic," I mean to convey the idea of a subculture focused on individualism, dark aesthetics, emotion, creativity, intellectualism, etc. I would dare say this is NOT what 99% of the population thinks of when they hear the term gothic. It's probably not even what 70% of Goths think. Gothic is too ambiguous of a term to be useful for conveying my intended meaning. I choose not to use it because there is too great a chance of being misunderstood. What happens to language when terms are no longer useful? Mutation.

So after all my talk of classification and language, I'll contradict myself by saying that I like to use the term darkwaver. I have attempted over the years to put it into circulation. I like darkwaver because no one knows quite what it means. I get to explain it, create it, use it however I want. No one has any preconceived notions about this term yet. You see, Industrial music began in 1976, but "rivet head" as a term and culture didn't become identifiable until the early 1990's. When New Wave music came out, its fans were called "wavers." So why not use the term darkwavers for those who like Darkwave music?

What's darkwave music? I have defined it in "A Study of Gothic Subculture" as:

"A fairly new term that refers to a branch of gothic music that is more introspective, moody, emotional, and artistic -- less rock and roll oriented. (There is some uncertainty as to whether Darkwave music is a subdivision of Gothic or a separate sister category in itself like Industrial.) Darkwave originally was used to designate a more dark electronic sound, however it wasn't until the distribution service called darkwave was born that the term had a widely noticeable usage. Darkwave encompasses ethereal and darkambient music, and the term is usually used to refer to bands featured in the darkwave catalog..."

To me, Darkwave music also envelops the crossbreed of Gothic Industrial music. I like to define darkwaver as taking everything good about gothic and industrial culture, leaving out all the bad. I suggest everyone make up a term for themselves. Try "eggplant head" or some such. Make a web page about eggplant head culture. If that fails, just tell them you're a darkwaver. When they ask what that is, give them this URL.

updated 07.20.00

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