In which I vow to move into the light...
What Katie did with Katie Byrne
MY two pals and I decided to do a James Joyce on Friday night, by walking all over Dublin city, repairing into bars and nightclubs that we'd never visited before.
Our last stop of the night was into our friend's house. She promptly burst out laughing when she saw the three of us squashed onto her two-person couch.
"The three witches!" she squealed. (We weren't in costume.) We looked at each other and then back at ourselves. Sure enough, we were all dressed head-to toe in black. Jet black trousers and leggings; onyx silk and chiffon dresses. Black shoes. Black handbags.
We all have long black hair, our eyes were heavily kohled and our faces were preternaturally pale -- the winter bite in the air didn't help.
Even my underwear was black -- obviously I can't speak for all of us on this one.
We were indeed a cloud of darkness. Her boyfriend, who was laughing along with her now, busied himself by doing an impression of us cackling over a cauldron. She later took a photo and what I saw were three women who looked quite frightening. She was right. We did look like three witches and I don't say that lightly.
If you were being generous you might call us goths. "We kind of look like The Corrs," I offered in a desperate bid to save our dignity and change the subject. We didn't look remotely like The Corrs.
"More like Shakespears Sister," our friend shrieked. "I'd say all the men thought you were casting spells on them!" We had come armed with stories about the half-witted chat-ups we had received earlier that evening. Now I had a new respect for these men.
How open-minded they were to see three witches in a nightclub and think 'why not?' They were not just risking rejection, but sacrificial ritual.
These men were tremendously brave . . . or else just really, really stupid, as we had earlier concluded.
But this isn't the point. The point is that we had no idea how we appeared to others. We were blissfully unaware that we looked like cult members. It's as though we were, in fact, under the spell.
How did this happen? At no point in my life have I produced a picture of Siouxsie Sioux at the hairdressers or saved up for a pair of fetish boots. This identity crept up on me. It happened unwittingly.
It's at this point that I should admit to having been described as a goth before, much to my horror. "You're not a goth -- you're goth-y," said a friend, as if the addition of a 'y' softened the insult.
I have nothing against goths. It's just that I have nothing in common with them. This is not the image I want to project.
We all try on different identities throughout the years. Our 'looks' reflect our personalities -- only I have no interest in heavy metal (well, most of it), self-mutilation or the macabre. I like sunlight. There's been a big misunderstanding.
I could understand if this wardrobe overhaul dovetailed with a hobby, like when, at age 11, I bought my first Bob Marley tape and decided to get my hair braided with red, yellow and green beads. You'd be right in thinking they are the colours of the Rastafarian movement. At the time it was an act of solidarity. In retrospect, it was an act of imbecility.
Or when I thought I was 'well hard' for about three weeks when I was 16. While I didn't buy a sovereign ring, I did invest in a shiny tracksuit and a tub of peroxide so that I could dye my fringe blonde. It went orange and my mother went ballistic. I was a hipster for about six months in my early 20s. I used to lie in bed at night thinking about what style curveballs I was going to throw at the weekend.
Frankly it was exhausting. The sad truth is that you don't just end up wearing a vintage tea dress/ironic statement tee/men's tails jacket without investing time and energy into creating the 'look'. Too much time.
Perhaps in revolt, I've been wearing what I would consider to be a uniform of sorts since. And it's 90pc black. This means I can spend as little time as possible getting dressed.
I don't embrace darkness as a mood. Ironically, dressing in all-black lifts my mood as it means I never have to deal with wardrobe meltdowns. It is merely a coincidence that I own a black top hat, have forsaken fake tan and occasionally like to wear purple lipstick. Yes, The Cure are one of my favourite bands -- but aren't they everyone's?
This is a case of mistaken identity. I feel like emailing people I've met over the past few months to set the record straight.
"You might have got the impression that I was a goth when we met. This is a common mistake that people make. Just to let you know, I'm not into wiccan ceremonies, BDSM, vampires, or any of that shit. And worry not, I won't be asking for a vial of your blood to wear around my neck! LOL, ROFL, etc. I'm normal. Honestly."
Why did nobody alert me to this? Or did they? My sister often takes out her bronzer compact and dusts me down before we go out. My mother implored me to get my hair lightened when it was blue-black. All the signs were there.
What's interesting about sub-cultures is that rarely do people align themselves with them, even if they don all the regulation attire. I have a friend who wears organic hemp trousers and alpaca wool sweaters, but don't dare call him a hippie. I have a friend who wears National Health glasses and sports a geometric hairdo, but he is "so not a hipster".
So I'm changing my look and leaving the movement I didn't even know I was part of. To paraphrase Louis in Interview with the Vampire: "And then I said farewell to darkness and set out to become what I became."
And yes, I have read it . . . but I'm so not a goth.