I was a morbid child. When my parents presented me with a coloring book and a box of crayons, I would find the black crayon and proceed to then cover every page in the book with black wax. As soon as I was allowed to choose my own clothing at the store, I created a wardrobe that was almost entirely black, with just a few hints of white and red. (And a few ridiculous neon colors. It was the late 80s and early 90s and neon suited the zeitgeist, which even as morbid a child as myself could not entirely resist.) My mother made my fanciest dresses for me. One Easter, she begged me to allow her to make me a dress that wasn’t black. I said, “Okay,” and selected a beautiful floral print. On a black background. Never let it be said that I’m unwilling to compromise.
When I went to college, I continued in this vein. (Pun intended.) I took apart my Gashlycrumb Tinies calendar and used it to wallpaper my dorm room. This frightened my roommate a little. One day, my drama classmates placed bets on whether I would wear black or red to class. I appeared wearing a red sweater and black pants.
Eventually, I became a high school teacher. Now, gothiness is a part of one’s spirit and it can be spotted by other goths, so the most astute of my students could sense the gothiness in me, even when I was in teacher drag. One student asked me if I liked “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and when I said yes, confessed that I just looked like the kind of person who did. At the next school where I taught, the resident goth student declared to his skeptical classmates that I did, indeed, have a goth soul. But the longer I taught, the less gothy I felt.
Something was off. I started wearing pastels.
What happened? Looking back on it now, I think at some point a switch went off in my head that said, “You can’t be goth. You’re a schoolteacher.” (Okay, actually, I think a friend’s ex-girlfriend said that to me, and I took it to heart more than I should have.) But this didn’t come from nowhere. It is fairly conventional wisdom. Gothiness is dramatic and has the potential to be distracting.
Now, I am a graduate student, and I am growing into my gothiness more than I ever have before. And I refuse to let it fall to the wayside once I return to the education profession and become a school librarian. I have decided that to feel right I need to feel a little bit goth, all the time. But how will I reconcile these two identities, educator and goth?