Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Your daughter or mine?

I’m heating meatballs in the oven, going for a makeshift dinner of sorts, my husband and son are at baseball, the baby is temporarily sleeping and my 7 year-old daughter hits me with:

“Mom, do you think I’m Goth?”

Another dinner-time-universally-important question and my husband is not in the room. Dammit.

Many years of counseling and teacher-training come back to me as I quickly self-talk myself into remaining calm and showing no strong emotion that she could possibly attach to the word “Goth” as positive or negative, therefore eliminating any chance of her trying to use my emotional response to this word against me in a few years. It was difficult.

“What do you mean by ‘Goth’?” I ask noncommittally.
“It’s where a person dresses all in black and stuff,” she replies. “I like to wear all black.”
“Who told you about this?”
“My friend in school. She said I’m like so Goth because I like to wear black.”

Now I know this friend she mentions and I really like her. She came to my daughter’s birthday party this year and she is a nice girl. As far as I know she is the oldest kid (maybe an only child) and although she is extremely precocious, I’m curious where she learned about what Goth means. I’ve seen both her parents. They are Asian and don’t have a penchant for black.

I know it’s a simple harmless question. I get that she has no real understanding of what Goth means in all its stereotypic labels, mannerisms and attitudes. She might just as well have said, “Mom, do you think I’m a hooker?” or perhaps “Do you think I’m a stoner?” and she would probably know as much about these two things as she knows about being Goth. That one is a fisherwoman and the other a person who throws rocks.

But the Goth question stops my heart a bit. I spent three years teaching Junior High English and I can tell you, it scared the hell out of me. Not that the students were threatening. Not that I couldn’t control them in my class. But the thought that someday my kids would be sitting in rooms similar to these, surrounded by yahoos similar to the ones I taught, scared me to the very marrow of my existence. And that’s not even taking into account what kids will be like in 6-8 years. Hang on while I swill my wine…

The ironic thing about all this is that my husband and I have joked about this very thing.
“Why is she wearing all black today?” my husband asked at one point.
“I don’t know. She often wears all one color. Some days it just happens to be black,” I reply. Then my daughter tramps through the room exclaiming, “I just love black! I love to wear black. It’s my favorite color.”
My husband and I eye each other. We gulp. We act nonplussed. As she walks away my husband says to me, “Do you think she’s Goth?”
“Not if I can help it,” I retort.

I’m one of those people who hope to instill in my children the knowledge that you can’t judge a book by its cover. That you don’t label and discriminate based on the superficiality of looks. I know. I was one of those teens who prided herself on looking different (not Goth however) and never, never, never desired to fit the mold. (Damn the rogue genes.) But it’s a different matter when your little 7 year old daughter is using the word Goth and all you can envision is body piercings, hair dye and spiked dog collars. Suddenly your chubby handed little girl who loves to play homeless and run in the dirt barefoot, is a teen slamming doors and stealing your black eye liner.

I finally gather myself and say (again without emotion) “No, I don’t think you’re Goth. Being Goth is more than just wearing black. It’s more about how they act and the things they believe in and the negative things they do in their spare time.” Yes I know, I stacked the deck. I stereotyped. I’m sure there are probably many many Goth teens out there who volunteer at the local animal shelter, donate their time to Big Brothers Big Sisters and who attend daily Mass. (I have never seen any of them, but I’m sure they are out there.)

“Oh, you mean like ding-dong-ditch?” she asked me.

Ding-Dong-Ditch? I think. Is that as bad as it gets in her imagination? Maybe I don’t have anything to worry about after all…

“Yes, exactly,” I say.


brandie said...

lol. Who knows what excitement the future holds for us! At the very least, there will be a lot of door slamming, sobbing and "Mu-THERS!"

Lizzie said...

Yikes. I have yet to see a truly "goth" kid this year... Hopefully it's not cool anymore.

Rachel said...

If it's not Goth,it will be something else. And then you have the Look-perfect-get-straight-A's types that are drug addicts. Anyone up for moving to the forest and raising our children in a cave?

brandie said...

Sign me up for cave dwelling (as long as there are no boundary-less neighbors inhabiting the cave next door).

Anonymous said...

What in the heck is Ding-Dong-Ditch? Sounds naughty. I think a commune is the way yo go!

Anonymous said...

What in the heck is Ding-Dong-Ditch? Sounds naughty. I think a commune is the way yo go!

Lizzie said...

I'm up for a cave if it gets me away from the people who like to bump there music at 5am

Rachel said...

Ding dong ditch is when you ring the doorbell on someone's house and then run away when they answer. It went by a totally different (and very un-pc) name when I was growing up! Isn't that naughty? Tee-hee-hee-hee?

Megan said...

I am finally caught up on your blog! Yea! This one was funny- I can't really relate as my daughter only wears pink and I believe that is associated more with princesses than with Goth. Who knows- maybe public school will turn her towards the dark side. We will see starting Aug. 4. :)