Growing Up Goth

The Count: The following was generously submitted to us by a listener of Cemetery Confessions, and I am proud to share her story with you as well.

When I was five years old, I developed an obsession with cemeteries. I'm not sure what it was about them. Maybe it was seeing the different types of gravestones; maybe it was the shock of trying to find someone who was younger than me who had passed away. I don't know for sure. I just remember whenever the weekend would arrive my Dad would ask me what I wanted to do for fun and I would tell him to take me to the local cemetery. I didn't find out until I was older that the cemetery we would visit was one my dad knew well. His dad (my grandfather) used to be a mortician and owned his own funeral home for that cemetery!

That same year I went on my first airplane ride to Boston. I can remember screaming and throwing a tantrum because I was too scared to get on the plane. I also remember the highlight of my trip being a visit to a cemetery to see the grave of Mother Goose. I remember when I got back I excitedly told all the kids at school I saw the grave of Mother Goose. Now that I think about it, I'm sure that's not something an elementary school kid would want to hear.

Then around 1st grade, Super Mario was very popular. I found myself drawn to Mario's enemy Bowser instead of the hero. Something about the dark aesthetics I felt myself drawn to. I remember my friend in class would pretend to be Bowser and I would be his loyal henchman and at recess, we would chase the kids around the playground while laughing evilly whether they wanted us to or not.

I remember in elementary school loving Halloween. I even found an old picture of a young me kissing a jack-o-lantern on our porch because I loved it so much. I genuinely felt sad when we had to throw it out. One year just after Halloween, I snuck some of the Halloween decorations to my bedroom before they could be packed away. I hung up a glow-in-the-dark skeleton on my door that I named Fred (drop dead fred reference I'm guessing) that I would talk to and I strung up some jack-o-lantern lights that glowed when you plugged them in.

In 1991, the movie the Addams Family was released and that movie left a huge impression on me. When I saw that movie, I felt bells go off inside my head. This was a family that I wished so badly to be a part of. I loved everything about them! Their house, their dark sense of humor, they had their own cemetery, and I loved Thing. At the time I had wanted to make a remote control hand so I could have a pet Thing but I never made it because I didn't have a clue how to.

2 years later the movie Nightmare Before Christmas was released which I loved. My mom thought it was creepy and wasn't a fan of claymation. I was intrigued with the idea of living in a town where everyday was Halloween. That same year the Goosebumps books were released and I made great efforts to buy and collect every single book that came out. I developed a special interest in werewolves and would set aside all the werewolf books in one place so I could reread them over and over again.

A year later  in 1994 the video game Killer Instinct for the Super Nintendo came out and when you bought the game it was bundled with the soundtrack. My favorite character was the werewolf character, Sabrewulf. I found his theme on the soundtrack which was a very dramatic and gothic classical song complete with howling and bells. I can remember going in my bedroom, making it as dark as a could, and just sitting in the darkness listening to this song. I would get goosebumps and enjoy the moment.

In 1995, something would happen that would have a deep psychological effect on me. I experienced the first death in the family. My grandfather on my mom's side whom I loved very much died of a stroke on Halloween. I found out the news after I came back from trick-or- treating. I was devastated and gave in to my childhood fantasies that my grandfather would haunt me. (which he never did :P) At the funeral, I felt anxiety for the first time in a cemetery and didn't want to be there. I hated seeing everyone in my family broken up and just wanted to go home.

I started to develop of fear of death and cemeteries after that and tried to push away the darkness that I had come to love growing up. I started to have trouble sleeping at night to the point my mom though a medicine to help me sleep would help. Then at 13, my mom thought I was suffering from depression and dragged me to doctors that I would refuse to talk to because I felt like I didn't have any issues and needed to be there. I was put on Prozac anyway and another medicine called Buspar because of social anxiety I would get in public and at school. I was also given a medicine called Restperdal (misspelled) to help me sleep at night. I started to gain a lot of weight and stopped hanging out with the neighborhood kids and felt terrible, like something was wrong with me. I stayed inside when I got home from school and played video games until bedtime.

At 14, I almost committed suicide, which I blame as a side effect from the Prozac I was on at the time. It was a bad day and I had thought of slitting my wrist but I remember struggling with these feelings deciding or not if they were real. I took a knife and held it against my wrist for several minutes and I just remember crying thinking I didn't want to die. I finally put the knife away and went to my room where I cried and thought about what I almost did. I never told my mom about it until years later because I was afraid she would commit me to a mental hospital.

Thinking back at that moment I'm glad I was smart enough to not go through with it and in a way I'm grateful that it took looking at death to snap me back to reality and force me to realize what I wanted in life. I wanted to be that unique and happy person I was before my life seemed to crumble before my eyes, before all the medicines and my grandfather's passing.

Now that I was in high school, my mom became less controlling of what I was wearing and I felt myself drawn to wearing dark colors, especially black. If it bothered my mom, I never really heard it from her the time. I do remember my grandmother on my dad's side commenting that she always sees me in dark colors and would like it if I wore brighter colors. I loved my grandmother. She used to feed the crows dried up bread every morning and sometimes she's let me do it when I'd visit her house. Her living room would be filled with all sorts of things she collected when she traveled all over the world with my grandfather.

My love of werewolves came back in high school and I collected more werewolf stuff then I did before. I stupidly kept all the werewolf stuff I had in a bag and one day my mom got fed up with my obsession and went in my room and took the bag away and I never saw it again. I was hurt and felt like a piece of me had been taken away.

In high school I knew what goth was if I saw it but didn't know anything about it. My aunt, who was really just a close family friend, had a daughter who was goth and I remember thinking how cool she looked but at the time I never asked her any questions about it.

In 2003, I moved from California to Texas. That was tough moving to a state that was so different and I hated that I didn't have a choice in the matter either. It took a long time before I learned to like my house and we had a pool and I had my own game room so that was awesome.

Over the next few years I continued to wear dark clothing and found myself drawn back to dark aesthetics more so in video games then actual home decorating. Then in 2008, I was watching South Park and an episode that would later become my favorite came on involving a group of goth kids who were having problems with vampire kids at their school. (I love the goth kids so much!) At the end of the episode the goth kids were trying to explain to their school what being goth was all about, which I was smart enough to know that anything portrayed in South Park is very stereotyped and I knew it couldn't be the whole truth of what being goth.

I finally decided, thanks to the internet, that I would finally start researching what goth was all about. For anyone that has tried to google and research what goth is, it's a pain in the ass! Everyone's opinion is so varied that to a person who doesn't know much about it can get very overwhelmed.  It took me a long time on and off to look for common answers. I watched a ton of youtube videos, I read comments, I looked at pictures. Some people said goth was just a fashion thing, some said goth was just a music scene and that's it, some said it was a lifestyle, some said it was all three. It was very frustrating and I concluded after doing my research that I believed it could be fashion, music, and a lifestyle and agreed with a video that someone by the name of Nephilim made about what he believed goth represented.

I can remember while doing research that I was very surprised at how many pictures goths took in cemeteries and had picnics in them. In a memory I had almost forgotten about, it made me think back to when my dad and I would get In-And-Out burgers and eat across from the cemetery so I could look out at it while I was eating. It hadn't dawned on me to picnic in a cemetery. The more I researched the more I started to feel like maybe this is what I had been searching for, a group of people not unlike the Addams family that enjoyed the darker side of life, had an appreciation of cemeteries and dark aesthetics, dark senses of humor, a proper elegance of the old Victorian times, a middle-finger attitude to what mainstream society wants, and a sense of wanting to be a community, a family.

I also have done some reflecting on my phobia of cemeteries and I realized the reason I started to fear them was because someone I loved and cared for at the time of the first family death was now buried in a cemetery. It was no longer a special and fun place but instead a constant reminder that someone I loved was now buried in one. Looking at pictures of goths enjoying themselves in cemeteries made me want to work on my phobia and now I can say that after two years I've managed to not get the anxiety I used to get stepping foot in a cemetery. At times I feel like my younger self again and I look forward to contributing to the community that helped me realize who I am.

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The Count

I have been a part of the goth subculture since I was 16. I am the owner and creator of The Requiem Podcast which has been around since early 2008 and also podcast award nominee Cemetery Confessions. I am also known as DJ Count. I am married, and a father to a beautiful baby bat named Link.