Getting dressed to go out is a ritual, a donning of armor. When you're in your finest, you stand a little straighter, raise your chin a little higher. You look good, you look yourself, and you know it.

You listen to music while you're getting ready, of course, it gets you in the mood. Most people would think it's depressing, but it fills you with joy and wistful longing as you sing:

Don't you worry
They won't find my body

I want you to know
I've found peace in another world
Don't keep digging
I want you to lean back
Away from the place
Where my ashes are buried...

You walk through the streets of your city, smelling hot metal and car exhaust and cheap Chinese food, and people you pass part around you like water, a tall, imposing figure in elegant black, either sharp like a Matrix hero or flowingly dramatic as a dead poet. They are the mundanes, the normals. They cannot even imagine the excesses you enjoy on a nightly basis -- drink, sex, intellect, conversation, whatever your drug of choice may be. They are a little afraid of you, and you smile and speak with consummate politeness to them even as they edge away from you, loving the effect you have.

Oh, yes, anything for effect. It's what you're best at. It's what you live for. You dress like this for a reason. You love attention, you love drama and pathos and playing part of a story.

And that's when you turn down an anonymous blind alley and find an unmarked door set into a wall. You can hear the thud of industrial bass through the building wall as you open the door and enter the club. You smile at the bouncer, who welcomes you and waves you past the line of supplicants. They all know you here; you're a respected regular, a member of the Scene, bright and sharp yet kind and friendly, always knowing just what to say and what to do, dancing on the knife-edge of etiquette and contempt.

And you walk into the great underground expanse of the place, you see the beautiful people dancing and talking and laughing, each playing their roles, each an otherworldly creature. You feel the eyes of girls and boys upon you, and you smile faintly, knowing you can take your pick... and do not choose to. A table of friends waves you over, and after getting a drink from the bar, you sit, and talk philosophy, or clothes, or books, or whatever strikes your fancy. And you dance, you dance until you can't move any more, weaving to melody in graceful tai chi motions rather than pumping to rhythm. You kiss the DJ through the razorwire and circuitry and go back and drink some more and chat up the pretty thing with huge dark eyes and long midnight hair, sweet and damsel-like in her corset and flowing skirt.

And when you go home, late that night, alone or in company, you know that you have lived the life less ordinary, and seen the secret places, and done the forbidden things. The mundanes, the norms, they will never know what it is to be part of an imaginary aristocracy: unacknowledged lords and ladies of the night, to be sure, but lords and ladies all the same.

You live for beauty. You are beauty, and pride, and power. And you love it, and that's why you do it again the next night. This is what it is to be a goth.