Self-Discovery Saturday: “Guyliner.”

Friday I was ringing a customer’s sale through my register when she tried paying me a compliment. She said she liked my “guyliner.” She then asked if my eyeliner had something to do with any particular favorite musicians. In a way, yes, as the Goth subculture is based around the fandom of the music (although I still say that I’m still too new to consider myself a Goth just yet). But that’s not the sole reason I wear black eyeliner.

What I got hung up on more so was the term “guyliner.” I don’t need to justify my make-up just because I’m male. I don’t wear eyeliner so that I’m a guy wearing eyeliner and that’s unusual or shocking. I wear it because I want to. I started wearing it out of curiosity and then decided that I like how it looks on me. When done right—and that isn’t always, considering that I have to take off my glasses in order to apply it—it gives me a darker, more intimidating look. At the very least it’s a little more theatrical than a normal, humdrum look like so many people around here have.

I don’t need to write a blog post to justify what I’m doing. But it’s annoying that I have to put up with people focusing on the fact that while they say that they like my cosmetics, they like it that I’m a guy wearing it. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve had to put up with telling me that they like my nail polish, only to then tell me that they wish more men would wear it. They can’t focus on the fact that my nail polish is black, and that if they looked they would see that I’m wearing all (or mostly) black, and that might indicate something else?

At the same time, I know that people are trying to compliment me. I tried to respond politely, which I would anyway because I’m non-confrontational but also because I don’t want to be an unappreciative asshole. The woman the other day complimenting me on my “guyliner” said some other things in the conversation that led me to believe that she was even trying to flirt with me, although I probably didn’t respond well. She looked disappointed when she left that the conversation didn’t go much further. (Of course, as regular readers may know there are other reasons why I might disappoint her in that regard, but that would lead to another blog post entirely.)

I’m not going to turn this into some sort advice column that tells you “When giving a compliment about their appearance….” I can’t speak for everybody. Perhaps some men do wear make-up because they want to shock people. Besides, I know that this blog isn’t widely read. I doubt whatever message I have would trickle out to the general public’s discourse. This is just something that I’m going to have to get used to. I just wonder what that woman would call it if I was wearing my lipstick that day.

By the way, I know that I’m labeling this blog post “Self-Discover Saturday” and it’s Sunday morning. I was out shopping all day yesterday and when I finally got around to being able to write the blog post last night, I lost my Internet connection for some reason. I opted not to even write a draft on my WordPress editor as it looked like I wouldn’t be able to save my progress. I was so tired I didn’t think about writing the post in Notepad and then just pasting it later. That’s probably for the best as I would have been too tired to write a blog post anyway. I’m still planning on writing a Sunday List later today.


Self-Discovery Saturday: Having a “Non-Goth” day.

Today I’m heading up to Portland. One of my favorite bands, a Talking Heads cover band called Start Making Sense is playing there again this evening. I figured I would make a day of it. I may not have a lot of money at the moment as I just paid rent (somewhat on time for once) but I might get my holiday shopping started. That’s not to mention my usual road trip diversions and thrift shop hunting on the way.

So why does this fall under the “self-discovery” category that I set up on this blog? I could resort to “Well, it’s my blog damn it and I can call it what I want.” But there is something relevant about today’s plans to the ongoing theme I’ve been working with here. Despite all of the changes that I’ve been making in my life as I’m trying to better understand myself, it’s worth noting that there are still many aspects to me that haven’t changed. I’m still a big Talking Heads fan. I still love Portland. I still enjoy all the little diversions that are available to me on the way up.

Still, what does that have to do with anything? One of the running themes with this whole self-discovery thing is that I’ve been exploring the more Gothic side of my personality and tastes. There’s nothing particularly Goth about my plans for today. But Goths can do non-Goth things, right? (And yes, I’m aware that according to some, calling oneself a Goth is a non-Goth thing. I’m using the excuse that I’m still new.) But I’ve marked today for a “non-Goth” day in which I don’t even bother trying to look the part or listen to the music for the entire trip.

I’m not going to dress to the nines, even if I could with what little appropriate clothing I have. I’m still developing my wardrobe, but it’s also close to laundry day. Aside from that, one of the first stops I’m going to make before I head north is the town dump. I don’t want to wear anything that might get ruined. I hope to not spill anything on myself, but it’s best to be prepared. If I don’t, great, then I’ll just head back up the coast. If I do, then I can come back home and change and not worry about what I might have gotten dirty. So I’m going to throw on a pair of old jeans and a t-shirt, possibly my David Byrne t-shirt (if it still fits me—I haven’t gained weight but it shrank a lot more than I expected in the wash).

For another thing, I haven’t shaved in a few days and I’m not going to today. The store where I work has a special higher employee discount day on Monday, so I plan on picking up razors then. In the meantime, I’m a little scruffy. I still haven’t been able to get over my hang-up about dressing up while not clean-shaven, Goth or not.

Finally, I want to be comfortable as I’m going to be in a car for a long time and then walking around for a while when I’m not driving. I also don’t want to get any good shirts wrinkled in the process. If I was going straight up to Portland to go to a club that would be one thing, but I’m not even going straight to that city first thing.

Once I got this in my head I realized that I haven’t been listening to the majority of my music collection lately. It’s time to revisit some old friends. That’s not to say that when I’m sifting through CDs at thrift shops I won’t be looking for some The Cure or Bauhaus discs to complete my collection but on the way I’ll throw my iPod onto a mix. There is a new episode of a Goth podcast that I listen to that just dropped today, so I can’t escape that world.

But all of this got me thinking that if I truly adopt the Gothic lifestyle for myself, I’ll still probably need a “Non-Goth Day” now and then to clean the pallet. Again, that’s not to say that I won’t be able to enjoy listening to Talking Heads while I’m putting on my eyeliner in the morning. I’m just going to have some days when I’m “bumming it” and not putting on the eyeliner at all, like today.

Self-discovery Saturday: Leaving myself alone.

I recently had a couple of experiences with acquaintances of mine that got me thinking about the nature of my social activity. A couple of weeks ago I hung with a friend for dinner and a movie. When I dropped her off at her boyfriend’s apartment she said she would let me initiate contact because she didn’t want to bug me. This was after having a conversation another day in which I said that my base living situation is solitude. I treasure my friends but I can’t spend all of my time with them. Yet I didn’t think this meant that I wanted to be left alone all of the time, either.

Last night I went to downtown Portsmouth for dinner. Right before I went into the restaurant I ran into a woman who works as a barista at the coffee shop next door. We got to know each other on a friendly level although we’ve never hung out or anything. She seemed to be going somewhere with somebody else. But we stopped to say hi, and she wanted to show off a piercing she just got a few moments prior. She concluded the conversation with something along the lines of “We’ll stop bugging you” but not in a mean way. It could have just been a quirky way of saying goodbye. But it got me thinking about how I come across to people in regards to social interaction.

I know I’m socially awkward. I make it a point not to care, and I’ve mentioned this once or twice to people before. But I believe this comes from lack of experience rather than the other way around—in other words, I’m not a loner because I’m awkward, but I’m awkward because I’m a loner and don’t get the practice. I’m not seeking the practice, either. It’s just a statement. Nevertheless, I sometimes wonder if I come across as rude because I’m quiet and I clearly had plans to be doing something else than talking to somebody. I may have been caught off guard but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want their company. I just wasn’t expecting it.

I make an effort to be nice to people, but is it coming across when I want to be left alone, and is it that often? For that matter, is that really a bad thing? I’m not saying that I don’t like the person or their company generally, but I have to be in the mood, especially if I didn’t already have plans, no matter how trivial… it’s not that I’m mean. I try to be accommodating. I think that comes across, so I’m not worried about losing friendships. But I sometimes get the feeling that people think we all have to be outgoing to each other at all times in order to maintain friendships.

I’m not turning over a new leaf. I don’t feel the desire anymore to try to be more sociable with people. That doesn’t mean I’m becoming a hermit. It does mean that I’m accepting that I’m mostly a loner and I can only hope that friends get this. So far, I don’t have to worry.

Now, we’ll see how this plays out when I finally go to Goth clubs. At least I’ll be able to dig the music.

Self-Discovery Saturday (belated): Thinking for one’s self (when crossing the street as well).

I started writing this blog post yesterday but I didn’t get to finish it on time. I’ll publish it this morning instead. I’m still going to try to come up with a Sunday List for later today.

I went to return some items to the library yesterday. I had to park across the street. That intersection is often busy, especially around lunch time with the nearby restaurants, not to mention one of the gates to the naval shipyard is right there. Therefore I sometimes wait for the signals in order to cross. There was a woman with two small children waiting on the other side of the intersection so I had assumed they already pressed the control for the signal. Instead they crossed when there was a lull in traffic. I’m not proud of this but it caused me to walk as well because I didn’t want to look lame, still waiting. As I passed the family I heard the woman say “We’ll think for ourselves” in terms of crossing without the signal.

First of all, I find it amusing that she told the children that they would think for themselves by her making the decision for them. I wonder if she was even aware of the irony at play there. But I started thinking of the whole attitude about thinking for one’s self when crossing only when there’s a signal. I admit that I let her decision to cross influence mine, but I also often use the signals at that intersection. It’s not so much that I cross when the signals tell me to, but I cross when they indicate that the overall mechanism told the cars to stop. I use the crosswalk signals as a tool for my own safety.

I also freely admit that I jaywalk all the time, especially in the neighboring city of Portsmouth. As long as there’s no cars coming, I just go. The cops around here don’t care. I’ve heard that this is an East Coast thing, while out West jaywalking is more frowned upon. I can only go by hearsay on that matter, but I have noticed that when I’ve been in Seattle visiting friends people around there do seem to have a stick up their ass when it comes to this. I chalk it up to the possibility that they focus more on prevention whereas we focus more on liability around here. But that’s a cause for further study at another time… and by somebody more qualified than me.

I could go on a whole diatribe about whether or not people truly think for themselves, ever, to begin with. I could go all the way to the debate between free will versus determinism, or I could go with a discussion about groupthink or trying to conform with society. But I want to take this to a more personal level. What does it mean for me, personally, to think for myself? This is where this falls under the “self-discovery” category that I’ve dedicated primarily to Saturdays.

I decided, or discovered, that I most likely am a Goth, and I need to explore this avenue for myself. By doing so, I’ve started researching all the aspects of Goth subculture, especially the music. I haven’t fully developed my look yet, primarily because of cost reasons but also because I’m not sure what I want to do for it. But I’m taking a slow approach to make sure that I’m doing it right. At the same time, however, I’m looking elsewhere for input on what is and isn’t Goth, what a Goth should or shouldn’t look like. It’s a subculture that shares an aesthetic taste but also promotes individuality. There’s a fine line there for me in terms of trying to think for myself while also fitting in to the group. Should I fit into the group, it should be because who I am naturally fits that group’s criteria. I shouldn’t conform my views and taste just so I can fit into that group. That may be why it took me so long to realize that I may be Goth, and why it’s taking me so long to make sure that such a lifestyle is right for me.

Coming to terms with my asexuality also helped me start thinking more for myself. I freed my mind of trying to conform to a sexual identity that I didn’t have. For decades I felt like a failure because I couldn’t follow through with any heterosexual relationships. Once the weight has lifted from my shoulders, however, I no longer feel pressured to go out with somebody else on a Saturday night, or try to meet somebody while I’m out on a Saturday night, or to even go out on a Saturday night in the first place if I don’t feel like it. I can now pursue my own interests without thinking about what other people (primarily, dates or potential dates) might think about me. I know, I should have thought that way anyway. But my mind was so clouded with all sorts of thoughts that I never really got around to that until just recently.

I found the woman’s attitude yesterday annoying and contradictory. At the same time, however, I think that she did have her heart in the right place. I don’t know her or how she well she lives that position of thinking for herself on a daily basis. But whether or not the thought sticks with the kids, she certainly gave me something to think about.

By the way, I’m not going to write a book review tomorrow. I said I went to the library but only to return some items. I had other things than reading a new book that I wanted to catch up on this weekend. I may write a review of some other new thing that I watched yesterday, but I haven’t decided yet.


Self-discovery Saturday: I started reading “The Vampire Chronicles.”

Today I started reading Interview With a Vampire by Anne Rice. It’s taken me a long time to get around to this one. Honestly, before recently I never had any inclination to read this or any other books from The Vampire Chronicles. I used to have some weird bias against successful vampire book series, thinking that they were all targeted towards preteens or something.

But as I’ve been on this quest of self-discovery over the past few months and decided to (eventually) become more engaged in the Gothic community, I needed to know what I was talking about. It’s not that I wanted to read Rice’s books because I thought that would make me more Goth. But I did want to have some understanding of what everybody else was talking about. What could it hurt to read the books, then?

Aside from my misunderstanding of the type of books they are I also hesitated to read anything by Rice in general. I knew that she became very religious at one point and wrote books along those lines. I didn’t really know the history of her beliefs but for a long time that was enough to not want to read anything by her. I’m not proud of this, as it shouldn’t matter what the author’s beliefs are if her books aren’t preaching to me… although I should say that I didn’t know if they were going to be preachy or not. Then again, that’s not my fault for not doing my research.

When I checked out a book the other day for Monday’s book review I also picked up a volume which contained Interview With a Vampire, The Vampire Lestat and The Queen of the Damned. I knew that was a lot in one go but I have a few weeks to return it. I read the other book this morning, rather quickly. In the middle of the afternoon I got started on Interview. I then got hooked. I now see what the hoopla is all about.

I won’t bother with a review. But I was surprised by how good the book is so far. I didn’t read the whole thing in one go as I had other things to do today. But I just took the book to a coffee shop in Portsmouth and got up to page 70. (I know, I’m a wild party animal when I go out on a Saturday night.) I plan on reading more before lights out tonight. I doubt I’ll get to it all in one sitting but I’m sure I’ll finish Interview before the weekend is over.

So, does reading it make me feel any more Goth? Like I said, that wasn’t the point. But I’m discovering that there are a lot of books, movies and especially music that I didn’t know I would like as much before I started embracing the subculture revolving around these things. Now I have to keep working on my look and then work up the confidence to go to a Goth club. I’m a bit older than the usual baby bat but hopefully I won’t get chased away right off. At least, if I don’t share all of the knowledge I’m developing a passion for the Gothic work. I just need to adapt the lifestyle more.

Self-discovery Saturday #3: I’m holding back on alcohol for a while. Yes, again.

So I told myself that I wasn’t going to drink again. But I’m not making that announcement with this blog post. I’ve done that before. I’ve since grown to hate how melodramatic that post was. And besides, I don’t have any moral problems with drinking, nor do I think that I have any major psychological issues concerning it—at least none that I worry about. I just don’t want to feel sick anymore.

At the same time, I’m open to alcohol in the future. The only drink that doesn’t seem to affect me like the others is sparkling wine. I don’t know what it is about it but for some reason I can drink an entire bottle of Asti in an evening to no ill effect. It also doesn’t make me very drunk, either. I just get the nice, warm feeling that I get after one beer. (Or one serving of anything else. I just don’t like hard liquor nor am I particularly a big fan of other kinds of wine—I guess I can’t make a good stereotypical Romantic Goth.)

I want to try giving alcohol up for a month, but not starting from last weekend. Halloween is coming up, which is one of my most important holidays. It helps me get in the mood if I’m trying to do something spooky or watch an old horror film. Then there’s my birthday at the end of December, so I’ll probably have a glass or two of something then. But other than that I’m going to try to see how much I’m able to avoid drinking between now and then.

It’s been easy to not drink, as it’s only been less than a week so far. Besides, aside from a few nights in my life where I got carried away I didn’t drink that much. But I have felt some cravings over the past week. Could I have been feeling withdrawals? Is it too early to tell anyway? It could also be that I just need to hold off a while before drinking again, and maybe I won’t be so susceptible to getting sick after a few beers. Then again, maybe it is time to give it up for good, save for special occasions. It’s not like I need it in my life anymore.

I really didn’t want to turn this into a post about discovering that I had an alcohol problem and I decided to kick the habit. But I have been getting sick from it for a long time before I decided to stop. It took the overnight puking to push me over that edge. We’ll see how I fare after the bottle of wine on Halloween. Will I get sick? Will drinking it cause me to start drinking more regularly again? If either case is true, then it will be time to stop. I can enjoy life with it but I can enjoy life without it. It may take some doing to figure out how, but I’m sure it can be done. After all, I went for twenty-four years before I had my first drop, and I did have that period of over a year that I gave it up. I had my fun but it could just be time to move on.

Self-discover #2: I no longer call myself a metalhead.

Friday night I went to the Rock and Shock Festival at the Worcester Palladium in order to see Sabaton, Dope, Demolition Hammer, Kataklysm, Carach Angren and Huntress (I missed the first band to go on the main stage, left before Trivium and totally skipped the second stage bands). Overall it was a pretty good mix of different styles of metal. I wouldn’t say that each band was the best example of their genre but I felt like I got a good taste of everything. Which is why this was probably good for my last metal concert… at least with any regularity, and very possibly at the Palladium.

I don’t like to use the phrase “it was just a phase” to describe the ten years that I was really into metal. Rather, I think of it as a stage of my development as a person. One could argue that it went on too long or that maybe it went to far. But I’m not going to think about it that way. I probably spent too much money on CDs, but that’s okay. If I really want to get picky I can always sell a bunch to a local music shop. But I don’t really want to. It’s not that I like the music any less. I just don’t love it anymore.

The point is that I’m not longer identifying as a “metalhead” like I used to. Truthfully, I never felt like I fit in anyway. Setting aside the themes of misogyny, racism and general right-wing ideology that—while this may not be true for the metal culture in general—come across as prevalent, at least in terms of the impression I get. I’m just not that aggressive a person. I have no interest in a band’s desire to kick my ass, as they so often say.

Something interesting happened during Kataklysm’s set. The singer introduced one of their songs with something along the lines of “If you’re a metalhead, wherever you go you’re a black sheep.” Standing back in the elevated portion of the main hall I could see the crowd on the floor in front of the sage all headbanging and jumping in unison at the direction of the music. The thought occurred to me that even a black sheep is still a sheep.

Am I putting down anybody who does take part in these activities and call themselves a metalhead? Absolutely not—or at least, I’m not trying to. I get it. For crying out loud, love the music that you love and behave how you see fit to express that love. I’m just trying to point out how this isn’t for me anymore.

It could be that I’m just reading too much into my misplaced status as a metalhead. When it comes down to it I just to have the passion for the music anymore. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of good stuff coming from the metal world. I’m still a fan of Moonspell, Behemoth, Ihsahn (and related) and a lot of black metal bands. Celtic Frost’s swansong Monotheist is one of my favorite albums of all time, not just in metal. But metal is now just another genre of music that I pick and chose from, depending on the artist. I no longer wish to go to a CD shop and buy metal albums simply because they’re metal albums.

So, am I replacing this with anything? Anybody who has been following my blog recently may be aware that I’m embracing my more Gothic side in fuller capacity than in the past. I’ve always had that part of me but always pushed it back. But the music finally one me over and in this period of self-discovery that I’m going through, I realized that it’s time I start getting more involved in Goth subculture. I already have Shadows of Immurement, which came about because I found a lot of Goth rock and the like helped me through a rough period of my life. It’s time to embrace my inner Goth. Or something like that.

Oh, and why am I not bothering with the Palladium anymore? I still have a list to write for today. Maybe I’ll list my reasons there as a sort of follow-up to this post.

So what’s with this “self-discovery” series? Well, for one thing I needed a topic to write about on Saturdays—yeah, I know, this one’s a day late, whatever—to replace the “Nerdy Saturday” theme I had for a while. I figured that this period of “finding myself” would provide at least a short series of blog posts while I find something more permanent. But that doesn’t really answer where this is all coming from.

About a month and a half ago an event happened in my life that caused me to re-examine a lot of things about myself. I can’t go into details as they involve another person, but I will say that I had a very stressful week as a result of it and by the end of that week I finally came to terms that I’m asexual. I have been living a lie to myself for the bulk of my adult life so far that I’m a heterosexual male and always setting myself up for failure… in other words, going on a date with a woman but not following through with anything romantic.

This rattled a few things loose in my head and I started questioning other aspects of my identity. So far, the two big things have related to my being asexual and a Goth (at least, in transition to becoming one). There’s a lot of letting go of the past, hence donating a lot of my stuff to thrift stores. Who knows what else is coming? I don’t want to force the pace. But so far I feel a lot more comfortable with who I am than I have been in a long time.