heaven knows I’m (not so) miserable now

27 Oct

—apologies – I think my footnotes are actually longer than the actual post here. Sometimes that just happens.—

Despite my being occasionally morose and having a penchant for wearing a whole lot of black, I was never part of the ‘goth’ subculture* (though I have been known to appreciate the sillouette created by a well-worn corset). As such, I can’t directly identify with several paragraphs in this post from Scalzi regarding a couple of studies he recently encountered. That said, there’s a lot there I can relate to.

The thrust of the studies is that 1) Gen-X folks are largely pretty happy, balanced, well-rounded people without a lot of drama, and 2) that in terms of subcultures, aging goth kids are still pretty committed to the ideas of their youthful subculture than their non-gothy peers.

While I was never a goth, I was always part (even though I spent many years trying to hide it behind a wall of hair and denim) of the “geek” subculture, which as anyone of my age cohort is acutely aware, was just as ostracized and bullied as much as goths were (or would have been if there were any goth kids in my high school – anything more exotic than top 40 and metal didn’t make it past the cultural filters). Beyond the trappings, there’s a lot of affinity between the two, really – both subcultures really celebrate intellectualism, knowledge, and the accumulation thereof (albeit about often different things); things that, in general, help people develop deeper relationships with like-minded individuals, and generally equip them to be more effective learners and processors of ideas, which makes for both interesting conversation and job skills.

Commenter “midnightblooms” captures this idea pretty well:

This makes absolute sense to me. Geeks and nerds and goths were (are) some of the smartest, curious, and most intelligent people I’ve ever known. We read and question and think. We were largely ostracized by mainstream folks when we were kids, which 1) helped up understand ourselves and others better, and 2) made us seek out similar minds and hearts and form long-lasting relationships. We know how precious those relationships are. These traits don’t fade with age, rather they encompass every aspect of our lives and keep us young because we never stop reading, questioning, or thinking.

I think the key bits there are “understanding ourselve and others better” and “never stop reading, questioning, and thinking.” Those things, along with our lack of particular interest in conforming to others expectations (unless those others are people whose ideas we’ve tested and respect) is why we’re tending, as we approach middle age, to have generally stable lives and relationships, typified by reasonable career success (or at least satisfaction) and much lower rates of divorce**, ***. As Scalzi theorizes, some of this could have to do with the fact that since we were old enough to internalize it, the message from our elders was that we were told that we’re “being told you’re recession-era slackers who will never do better than your parents, then your expectations, shall we say, are sufficiently dampened. Everything looks good after that nonsense.”

Never doubt the power of lowered expectations.

Yeah, we appear to be cynical and morose sometimes, but overall, I think we’ve managed to come out okay, and grow gracefully into our irony.


* – for example, the first two “gothy” bands that pop into my head are The Smiths and the Cure, neither of which a full-blooded Goth would even consider relevant. Further, I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally listened to an entire record from the former from start to finish (though I can occasionally find an appropriate song title), and the first example of the latter’s output I can come up with is the often perky “Friday I’m In Love”.

** – In a totally unrelated discussion, Amanda Marcotte makes an interesting point that marriage isn’t a universal good for all people, and divorce isn’t always inherently bad – sometimes it’s the best option for people – not all relationships work out, and people change; because a relationship ends doesn’t mean that it wasn’t good and valuable while it lasted. It’s a lesson we all learn if we live long enough. I agree wholeheartedly with Amanda’s point, though, I’ll stand by the fact that a big reason so many Gen-Xers aren’t getting divorced as much has a lot to do that they don’t rush into marriage; indeed there’s a lot of consideration involved, and some, rightly, don’t choose marriage at all. Those that do, however, seem to choose spouses with whom they have a greater long-term compatibility with, largely due to much consideration before making the final decision to commit in a legal sense.

*** – Not that I feel I can put all my eggs in the generational cohort bucket. Personally, I tend to mostly fall into the “classic” definition of a Gen-xer, though so many folks I grew up with, particularly those who never spent much time thinking about things and never really explored the world beyond their small town bubble, simply don’t. Based on evidence bubbling up through my social network feeds, they’re largely perpetuating the cycle of broken relationships and poor choices their parents made and continue to make. Hell, some of them made enough bad choices early that their kids are keeping the cycle going for a further generation. Kind of sad, but continues to validate my decision to leave.


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