Goths. On the tube.
I used to think they were so wonderful. Not them- Christ, that's a bit generous - no, just the fact that they exist in such an abundance that they're ignored is what I like.
To explain, where I grew up you could get ostracised for wearing as much as a lick of liquid liner. On the weekend. At 17. Sport tinted lip balm at school and you were a fucking retard.
We went to "GOOD" schools; traditional. Totalitarian in their approach to learning.
In winter we wore waist-high brown skirts, mustard shirts, choke-hold brown ties, brown jerseys and brown blazers (the emblem, oversized probably due to their location on our left breast and therefore designed to mask even the most mammoth tit, was an embroidered red lion nestled in a crown, with a lewd tongue lolling out of its mouth. It grasped a flag pole) I would have been lynched had I admitted it, but I quite liked it. The lion and the uniform. I still have my school shoes.
Regulation hair: your natural colour, tied back in a regulation brown hair band. No errant strands hanging in your face. Clips or bobby pins need be brown, black or invisible.
Regulation tights: winter brown opaque 30 - 50 denier. Summer, your choice of white ankle socks (folded twice) or nude stockings.
Forget about make up - what are you? Hooking?
Between the lion on your breast and the nipple itself lived a hymn book. This little coaster gained you entry to assembly. It lived on your heart in a manner that mocked given that it's flimsy cover couldn't protect you from a speeding acorn much less a bullet. Without it, one of twelve or so ambitiously misguided prefects would be liable to take your name in one of their anally neat notebooks and later transfer it to the detention board. They manned every entrance of the hall, like pimply guards. Or worse, like perfect PERFECT guards. Inside the hall we would stand until our headmistress would greet and seat us.
We were ladies. Taught to speak, look and behave as such. Even when we were getting bollocked, we were "LADIES! PLEASE!" *hysteria* and the main reason we resented being addressed as such was because as ladies, we had to always represent the school, upright and honourable. That is of course, until we had to sit in the hall where there were no chairs. We presumed the lack of chairs was owing to overcrowding. Or you, know. Being cheap. Seating every girl in a ladylike manner would have required both hockey fields. Putting us on the floor also served to physically heighten the staff, who were on chairs. On the stage. Looking down at us. As if we needing to be reminded of our status.
"You may be seat-" would barely be uttered before every skirt was flying up, arses gunning for the floor. Sure, you might crack your coccyx, but getting a seat on a broken arse was ultimately better than standing, wedged in around a sea of sitting girls, incapable of finding a spare square inch, let alone the space required to accommodate your entire pubescent bum.
You weren't allowed to talk (to ask for room). A prefect would spit "sit down" through gritted teeth and then "make space for her, make SPACE" While the headmistress would pointedly look away and say "please find a spot, ladies". As if this were an exercise in simply identifying a vacant area of floor as opposed to summoning one with the power of a pleading stare. At a time when everybody is ashamed of their shape or size, this little fiasco goes a long way in confirming anybody's feelings that they are, indeed, simply too large for this earth. "I couldn't even sit down in the HALL".
In earlier days we would arrive, be seated, rise for the hymn and then be seated again, but I recall the hymn being moved to accompany our greeting to avoid the up-down saga. The teachers had to have known there were too many of us and I take this as confirmation. This was good and bad; good because it meant that if you snagged some floor, you would keep it until the end of assembly. Bad though, because on more than one occasion I rose from assembly and fell straight back to the floor, like a giant immobile clothed sack of meat having lost the feeling in one or both of my legs.
In our mid week moulds, we were so efficiently and tightly packed into a picture of decency that it was difficult for anyone to break out and be anything different on the weekends. Anyone trying too hard would come to look a dick the following Monday when they entered our great tide of normalcy. The fact that you chose to be in any way different wasn't what lynched you, it was the fact that you had to make an effort and then shelve it from Monday to Friday. And if you found the time and energy to do so after school - well, that spoke volumes about the time you took to think about your image.
If you wanted dirty greasy hair for your angry look, you had Friday afternoon to achieve it (I don't know- some people like that shit). Piercings and tattoos were difficult too.
It was hideously constrictive. Nobody ever did anything if it would put them at risk of looking stupid. This extended to sex and drugs and yet nobody was above wearing socks with active-wear sandals in the winter. What UTTER DICKHEADS. (ladies, WHY?!) Plenty of people played instruments - but nobody was in a band. We all loved fashion - but nobody would make the first move. Or if you did, you would get a bit of stick for it. (oh, that single inch of modest kitten heel, it was a no-no... until everyone got theirs. And what everyone says, goes)
Dresses were deemed too dressy.
When we would flock to the clubs, we did so in much the same fashion as we did at school; in the same colours, styles, fabrics. Some prick wears a scarf, every prick wears a scarf. Hoodies are cool? We all wear hoodies. A dress... What? Did you go into your mom's closet?! *cue laughter* If enough people wore something, it was fine. Regardless of what it was. If catheter bags were popular, you could wear one like a bum bag while the girl next to you would get rinsed for sporting a yellow skirt. "Yellow?! Oh my Go-ood, yellow. Ohmagod, Jess look at Megan's skirt, don't you LIKE it? I WANT one, let's both get one too. I'm telling my mom to get me one toDAY. After SCHOOL." from here the offender would receive such a high volume of compliments and praise, she'd be almost willing to wear a bin liner in place of it just to get the menacing thing off her body. To get everyone to stop.
You didn't dress for your shape, the weather or you know, how you wanted to; you dressed for the hive. It wasn't looking bad or stupid or too pretty. It was looking different. It was a strange environment to grow up in, mostly because any other person I know who went to such a school would rebel with her peers (camaraderie!) by fucking and snorting and drinking and doing anything they wanted just as soon as they got the chance. We were like the Hitler Youth in our single-mindedness. And gullible. I have friends who still think that one encounter with a class A will render you AN ADDICT.
I mean, we'd still do stupid shit and break the laws most teenagers piss on, but we'd do it as a unit. Like one ginormous teenager, who utterly hates part of herself but remains, unfortunately, just one big mass.
I say all this as if I weren't as much a part of the problem as any other girl. Of course I was. I too remember when Tara came to school on civvies day in midnight blue lipschtick and a shiny pencil skirt. It was more an act of bombing the harbour than pushing the boat out. Her look didn't pain me. The fact that she was willing to suffer silent abuse was what frustrated me. Like an obese person ordering 7 pizzas. She had to know what she was getting herself into.
So anyway, I saw these two goth kids on the tube. 7 years ago I would have been delighted by their fuck-everyone attitude and the fact that "everyone" has bigger fish to fry than getting upset by what people wear.
Unfortunately though all I could think was "those bat-imprinted padlocks must have come with the jacket. I wonder if when he loses one, he'll replace it with a regular old brassy number from the garden gate" and the pleasure was gone.