My beloved and dark-tinged friends, I hesitated to write this column, lest it be construed as a poison pen letter. However, I remembered that I began this column that I may do good, and I find it necessary to activate the ethos I have accrued in the goth community.
Online goths are busy goths, and many of them have riveting self-portraits and elaborate hairstyles based on the prisons of ancient Egypt. Still, I feel depressed (not in the good way) when I encounter tutorials on making goth office supplies. I read an instructional post on making a goth day planner recently—the author advocated buying die-cut skeletons in the Halloween section of scrapbooking stores–and I thought “How have we come to this? Where did we lose our way?”
The secret the goth day planner industry doesn’t want you to know is this: You can put all the bat stickers and black washi tape you want on a day planner, but that doesn’t make it goth.
We goths do not plan our days. Our days are planned by the conjunction of planets, the lines on our palms, the lineage of viruses burning in our veins even as our spirit yearns to return to its true and endless form. Our days are planned by the strangers with whom we collide like two neutron stars, forming a black hole, void of all sound and light.
Some people want you to believe that your goth identity is in your pencil box, that endless trips to Michael’s and Staples will make you goth. But it doesn’t matter how many black ribbons you glue-gun to your discount card. It matters that you are at Staples instead of lying on a purple velvet fainting couch.
I realize that my futuristic stance on this may be unwelcome among some goths. May I tell you a story? There was a period in my life when I told the time by the shadows on my father’s headstone. I knew what shadows meant on every letter of the epitaph, every point in the arc on the top of the stone. That was how I passed my days, standing in the cemetery that was my garden of goodbyes, watching time pass even as my own beating heart pulsed within me. When shadows on your father’s headstone plan your days, my friends, you quickly learned that a day is nothing to be planned. At least, not by you. Because we can never really know, and if we are alive, we should celebrate it with misery and despair.
I don’t begrudge you your flowing pens and alabaster white Liquid Paper. I myself have office supplies that mean a great deal to me. Once, spelunking in Romania, I was doing research on how the subduction zones of the Carpathians influenced sonar in local bat populations. The bats screeched at one another and at me, into my voice-activated recorder. I stood there, torn between the paranoia brought on by such incessant shrieking and my work as a scientist, and all there was to do was to take in the velocity of their song. When I had collected enough samples from this particular cave on this particular day, I turned to exit the cave and descend the mountain. As I did so, something caught my eye. I took it from the ground and saw that it was a blue-black pen, and I tested it on my hand to be sure of its functionality. This is how a goth should find their pens. Maybe in your case, it’s beneath a dusty dresser where you crawl to have a tryst, or it falls from a bartender’s corset as she collects your empty absinthe glass.
The point is that being goth is not a choice, and neither is how you plan your days. One day, planned or not, your body will spiral into dust, into its own black hole. Will you leave behind a record of how you foressaw your days, neatly rendered on black cardstock and covered in skeleton stickers? Or will your legacy be a room of velvet gowns, each of which you wore while the world rushed at you like the wind and took your breath away?