All you goth and alternative lovers out there, have you ever been told you’re “trying too hard”? I’ve been asked that a few times over the years, and it recently came up again. On Facebook, that bastion of meaningful conversation. To be fair, the conversation wasn’t totally useless. But there were the comments I’ve heard time and time again: “those people think fashion is a substitute for personality,” “they’re trying too hard to be different,” “they talk about individuality but they all look the same as each other.”
Back in my babybat days I took this stuff seriously. I worried that I was just trading in one conformity for another, I worried that I was trying too hard to be unique, I worried I wasn’t deep enough or cool enough to pull off alternative fashion. Like you have to earn the right to have purple hair or black jeans. The older I get, though, the less I worry about any of that and the more confident I get that I like what I like and there’s nothing wrong with that.
I made peace with the fact that we all strike our own balance between fitting in and standing out. I accepted the fact that by mainstream standards goths aren’t that cool anyway, so not being “cool enough to be a real goth” is the stupidest thing I could possibly worry about. I realized I was never trying at all to be unique, I just was a little different from most people I knew. Even when I tried to look like everyone else and act like everyone else in this super conservative Trump state, people could sense there was something different. And not one of my friends or neighbors was surprised when I went back to black.* The only one my “normal” act was fooling was me.
Funny thing is, the older I get the more I realize how much effort it takes to look exactly like everyone else. Constant diets and hair and manicures and makeup and shopping and microblading and cosmetic surgery all too look exactly like everyone else. I’ve always had “normal” friends who spent an hour or more curling their hair and putting on their “no makeup” makeup, who agonized over which color of boring sweater and skinny jeans to buy. (Or, now that I’m a suburban housewife, which expensive yoga pants to pretend you work out in.)
I spend a lot less time and money on my nuclear red hair and color coordinated (black and red) outfits. I spend a lot less effort just being myself than they spend being “normal,” and I seem a lot happier doing it. I’m amazed that I ever believed for one second that I was the one trying too hard.
If “normal” is who you are then do it. Love it and be happy. I have an evil twin (not literally, but we share our first name and a whole lot else) who looks like a stereotypical suburban mom. Why? Because she’s too busy being an awesome jazz musician to worry about what she’s wearing. There’s nothing wrong with that if that’s who you are. But putting yourself through the wringer just to fit in with a bunch of other superficial, insecure barbie dolls? If you’re doing that, please don’t tell me I’m trying too hard. I’m just trying to be happy with who I am, and you can never try too hard at that. **
*Not one was surprised, but a whole lot of them vaguely disapproved and/or pray for my soul to this day. So it goes, so it goes.
**This rant has been mostly fueled by my kids’ fall school break and a tad too much vodka and coke. I promise, though, that I think the same things when I’m stone cold sober. In fact, I think the same things better and more clearly when I’m sober, I’m just usually too busy to write them down. 🙂