Thursday, February 6, 2014

Growing Up in a Sceneless Small Town

The lovely lade who runs Les Fleurs Noires and Spooky University posted a video about goth scenes (or the lack thereof) on her YouTube a while back. I’ve been sitting on the topic for a while, and thought I should put in my two cents.

I grew up in a similarly small town in Minnesota (south rather than north). As much as I love my town, there weren’t exactly all that many people who were into subcultures of any sort. The closest thing we had to a scene when I was in high school was one lunch table filled with alternative folks. It was a crazy mishmash of protohipsters, Japanophiles, punk-ish folks, babybats, gamer geeks, and socially awkward spooky kids. There was no scene, really; there was just a small group of people who inhabited different subcultures who came together out of mutual strangeness and out of a need to find community in a social bubble that considered us the other.

When I went away to college, I was just barely 18 and ended up at a small Midwestern private college in small town Iowa. While it wasn’t exactly a haven for subculture, there were a few folks who embraced weirdness in a subcultural direction. One professor was a self-confessed goth. One of my good friends wore stompy boots and coveted Moitie dresses. Another friend spiked his hair, dyed it pink, and wore a Russian greatcoat. Still another friend listened to a good deal of heavy metal and industrial. But, while there wasn’t really a scene to speak of, we weren’t othered like my friends from high school. We wandered fluidly through our weirdness and found friends who accepted us as we were. Really, I miss my college friends terribly because they were some of the strangest, most accepting people I have ever known.

Now that I’m back in the area where I grew up after some time in the Twin Cities, I’m really beginning to realize just how tiny the presence of subculture is. There are apparently a few Lolitas in the next town over, but I have not met them yet. I haven’t seen a single black-clad soul. There have been no frills. I saw one gentleman who was either cosplaying or LARPing and I very nearly shouted out after him about how much I liked his armor. One of my younger friends let out a squee when she realized that I knew what Lolita was and could direct her to websites to learn more.

Honestly, it feels lonely. I miss having friends nearby who understand the chaos that is subculture.

However, through all of this, I'm glad that I’ve not been limited to a single scene. I have been allowed to play as much as I like. I haven’t faced cries of “this is not goth!” or “why are you listening to metal when you’re a Lolita?” I’ve been allowed to dabble in whatever styles I please, and be whatever person I want to be.

So, yes, It has been lonely and strange, but the lack of subculture does come with the occasional bright spot. And who knows? I might find a spooky or frilly underbelly to this area yet.


  1. I hear you; I've always lived in a small town and always felt the lack of a "group" I could belong to - I didn't even hang up with the few alternatives I know because sometimes having the same taste in music and/or clothes doesn't mean people are automatically going to get along well.
    It's true that I didn't have to stick strictly to a subculture's rules, which is good, but it's also true that I've never had anyone with whom to talk about the things I liked, or who came shopping with me, or to whom I could ask outfit advice… I don't know, it has always felt kind of lonely.

    1. It is lonely. I mean, there's always the internet, but that type of connection just isn't quite the same.