Dark Dreams: A Teen Goth Grows Up

Life as a teen goth was dark. How dark, you ask?
Approximately this dark:


Yes. That dark. Damn I miss those boots.

When I was a teen I felt completely awkward and alone (shocking news). I was uncomfortable in the skin that contained me, uncomfortable in town that kept me, and angry. I was angry at everyone and everything – everything that I felt kept me from living the glamorous life I was supposed to be living somewhere far, far away from Princeton, Ontario. I found a hero in Marilyn Manson and groomed myself into a picture-perfect teen goth: no eyebrows (I drew them on, which was a drag at pool parties), hair jet black or white blonde, black eyeliner, red lips, rings on every finger and as much Tripp and Lip Service clothing as my part-time serving job would afford me. This makeup was a mask and this clothing was my armor. I was ready to do battle against the world. I was convinced I was superior to my peers – the ones clad in their coordinating Campus Crew hooded sweatshirts and asking if they could draw on my eyebrows for me in English class. My diary pages were full of aggressive rants – “how could she not know what the Pentagon is?” No one understood anything, not in high school, and I was bursting at my jet-black seams to escape to the life I knew was waiting for me on the other side of 18.

I don’t want to be here anymore. I need to leave, but I can’t and that’s the most frustrating thing. I hate being 15. I want to be 19, 20, just not 15. I need so much more than this. I need to get out there and live. I need to meet Twiggy [Ramirez, Manson’s lead guitarist] and Manson, but every time I get like this the facts are too blatantly clear. It’s not going to happen – I know it. But I want it so bad.” – January 2002

I moved to Toronto at 17, the moment I was done my final grade 12 exams, and forced my way into adulthood with fierce determination. I became a regular at the Rock and Roll bar of the time, I drank almost every night, I went to rock shows, I spent money on drugs instead of groceries and I made the decision to drop out of college as I lay in bed beside a Canadian frontman I’d dreamed of marrying since I was ten years old (I later discovered that the wife he told me he didn’t have was pregnant… via the radio). Yes, my new grown up life was really glamorous – sex, drugs, rock’n’roll – check, check and check, but in the wise words of Sheryl Crow, I had to ask myself “if it makes you happy, why the hell are you so sad?” I cleaned up my act in a lot of ways (drugs and I were not meant to be, thank goodness), but I’ve been hired, fired, picked up, let down, loved and left. I’m still not living that perfect life I pictured in those tortured days of youth, and the idea of what that life should look like has undergone a million and one makeovers over the years. I’m still a drama queen and like to stomp my feet when I don’t get my way, but every now and again (and, in fact, quite often), I am reminded that I have somehow managed to wind up on a pretty magical journey, full of great adventures.

It’s June 2013. I’m 26 now and in an homage to my teen goth days I’m clad in a flowing black maxi-dress, sandals covered in gun-metal buckles and far more makeup than I would normally wear these days. I’m sitting in Buffalo, New York on a tour bus. Twiggy Ramirez sits across from me. He’s doing an incredibly good Sylvester Stallone impression and we’re all laughing. I did not wait by a backstage door or claw my way through mass of screaming fans to get here (though I am covered in metallic silver confetti which I’m shedding all over the carpeted floors). I am a guest. I smile to myself, thinking of the 15 year old girl who cried to her diary about how she’d never get her wish.

The moral of the story? Dream big and don’t settle. You will fuck up, you will fall down, but life can be extraordinary if you let it. These cliches don’t just apply to the honor students and the star football players. Even teen goth dreams come true.

Allison Dunnings is a singer/songwriter, dreamweaver and storyteller with penchant for beards and bad decisions. You can hear her music here, read her fledgling blog here and tweet her here: @AllisonDunnings.