I can’t think of one outfit I’m ashamed of or embarrassed by. I guess some people look back at old photos with a “what was I thinking?!!?!” attitude and some goth and alternative types are a bit embarrassed by their more “normal” pictures, but I don’t feel that way at all.
I, like most people, was really insecure about my looks when I was younger. I worried a lot that I wasn’t thin enough, not cool enough, didn’t fit in, didn’t stand out, whatever. I grew up before digital cameras so I don’t have a ton of pictures of those days, but when I look back now I wonder what I was so insecure about. I would still wear some of those outfits.
Since I don’t have any shame shots to post, I thought I’d show you
what I looked like before I got so old and fat. Again, I came up before digital cameras, so these are pictures of actual photos I keep in a box in my basement. Apologies for the quality; these were the best I could do.
When I was a little kid, Satan was everywhere. Back in the ’80s, religious Americans saw Evil everywhere. Hidden messages on heavy metal albums led kids to Satanism. Dungeons & Dragons led kids to Satanism. Everyone had a friend-of-a-friend haunted by a ouija board. According to many conservatives, Satanic cults were everywhere preying on children, tearing apart the very fabric of society. And that’s just scratching the surface of ’80s paranoia. I haven’t even mentioned the Cold War or the many stories (many untrue) about razor blades and poison hidden in Halloween treats. It was a wild time.
Compared to a lot of middle Americans my parents were pretty sensible. My dad was a huge Tolkien fan so he rightly saw D&D as harmless fantasy instead of a portal to Satan, and while our parents didn’t like most of our music and fashion choices they didn’t put a lot of limits on us. They were (and still are) devoutly religious, though, and they more or less believed in a real Satanic force that could haunt and possess people. “Personal experiences” of possession and haunting floated around our congregation.*
No wonder I turned out the way I did–I grew up in a world full of demons and ghosts and monsters. I was always fascinated but I didn’t always love them. For a long time I was terrified. If those things were real, they were more powerful than I could imagine and I would be at their mercy. It was only near the end of high school, once I was pretty sure Satan wasn’t hiding in my closet, that I let myself really explore the world of horror.
All that demon fear gave me a late start on the road to where I am today, but it also gave me a deeper and different knowledge of darkness and a better understanding of those who fear it. I may not have been goth from the cradle, but I grew up in a gothic world.
*I grew up Mormon. Not mainstream Christian, but Christian enough to fear Satan. Mormons don’t practice exorcism in any official way, but they would perform special prayers to bless and heal you if you were afflicted by Satan. I’m sure this still happens occasionally in the church but possession stories became more rare once the ’80s panics died down.