Once upon a time, we did not have access to expensive black clothing, black eye-makeup, black hair dye, and ankh necklaces. We did not have access to the goth subculture. Hell, we didn't even have access to the term "goth".

There were those of us who desperately sought out horror movies to watch, either the new ones in the theaters or the old ones on the Late Late Show. We devoured horror novels, old and new. Bela Lugosi and Arthur Machen were as familiar to us as Freddy Krueger and Stephen King were to our classmates. We sat in front of mirrors, bemoaning our lack of fangs and claws and pitying ourselves for being so dully and unrelentingly human. We sat up late on nights of the full moon and stared at the sky, wishing for other lives and other worlds. We planned intricate Halloween costumes that were doomed from the start by the laws of physics and a lack of artistic talent. We sat in the dark, thinking how much more comfortable things were this way...

And no one suspected. We did not have access to expensive black clothing, black eye-makeup, black hair dye, ankh necklaces, or the goth subculture. All anyone knew about goths is that the history teacher said they sacked Rome. We were stealth goths, driving to school in yellow Chevys, listening to pop radio 'cause there wasn't anything else, occasionally writing a book report about H. P. Lovecraft or J. Sheridan LeFanu.

We may have missed out on the goth community, but we got some things that these new kids have missed. Nowadays, I see goth kiddies buying Nancy Collins and Anne Rice books like they're the Holy Writ, but they never realize the creepy power that lies in turn-of-the-century ghost stories. I see them bopping along to Type O Negative and Marilyn Manson and wonder whether they realize how much darkness there is just under the surface of the Stones, Blue Oyster Cult, Howlin' Wolf, or J. S. Bach. I see them checking out the latest teen slasher video, and wonder if they realize what they're missing when they pass up the original versions of "Cat People" or "The Haunting".

Nowadays, I can't walk through a shopping mall without having goth kiddies glower at me like I'm the enemy -- like they are the final arbiters of gothness, like they can recognize my mundanity because of the car I drive and the clothes I wear. So be it. I leave the Jocks in Black to their illusions, go home, watch my video of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari"...

...and laugh all night long.

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