I Was 'Strange And Unusual' In The '80s, And Not Much Has Changed

by Toshia Humphries
Originally Published: 

While most kids in the ’80s were happy sporting bright colors, penny loafers, pastel pink or cardigans, I—a self-professed goth girl—wanted to shroud myself in black. Fascinated with Bela Lugosi and Peter Murphy, I steered clear of bubble-gum pop and the cheerleading squad. Strangely deep, emotional and unusually introverted, I required music with more substance and quiet spaces in which to listen to it in solitude, away from the puzzled stares of my peers.

Twenty-five years or more have passed, and I’m still strange and unusual. Not much has changed, aside from me now being adult and, therefore, in charge of buying my own clothes. As such, and unapologetically, I proudly wear all black and continue to swoon over vampires as I once did in high school. In fact, not long ago, I raved over Twilight along with a million teens, until I saw the movies. It was nearly offensive. Preppy vampires? The mental images I had conjured from the books consisted of a Lost Boys cast—not Sixteen Candles.

Speaking of ’80s movies and unchanged feelings, there are a few infamous scenes which continue to upset me–like those in The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink. If you were a dark wave kid in the ’80s, I don’t need to explain. But for those of you who rooted for the wrong team, I’ll spell it out: Claire turned Allison—a perfectly introverted, black-laden wallflower—into the girl next door, and Andie chose Blane over Duckie. That fact still produces an involuntary head shake. I’ll never let that go.

In fact, the origin of that undying resentment is partially to blame for my missing RSVP to the countless ’80s theme parties. I know traditional ’80s tribute events are filled with bright colors, banana clips, blue eye shadow and songs like “Safety Dance.” It’s nothing like my ’80s experience, and much like the parties people threw in the ’80s, I still don’t wish to attend.

It isn’t that I don’t want to reminisce. I do that, daily, while staring at the framed poster of The Cure on my wall. It’s just awkward for everyone. Even the DJ feels it when I approach to make a song request by The Sisters of Mercy, a band not likely listed on his ’80s Dance Party compilation. Even if he has access to the kind of songs I liked, he fears a catastrophic crowd response equivalent only to that which might follow the live spectacle of Debbie Gibson covering This Corrosion.

With regard to music, I still giggle when people try to relate to me by claiming to like The Cure. Though their effort and knowledge of “that one song” is cute, I’m never convinced, unless I witness them singing “Torture” on karaoke night instead of “Friday I’m in Love.” Until that point, it’s still as laughable to me as it was back then, as is the way some people still insist it’s Susie and the Banshees.

It’s not that I haven’t moved on or that I’m stuck in the past. For me, the ’80s gothic era was a feeling–not merely a decade–and it’s simply never left me. Clearly, I’m not the only one who still carries a torch for everything dark and mysterious. Otherwise, there’d be no interesting roles for Winona Ryder, Helena Bonham Carter or Johnny Depp, the latter whom will forever be emblazoned on my brain as no one other than Edward Scissorhands.

In truth and accordingly, I suppose I owe this self-extended ’80s gothic period to Tim Burton, my John Hughes. Without him and Hot Topic, I might feel as alone and unappreciated as Lydia Deets herself. Thankfully, he’s successfully proven I’m not so unique. It appears there are a number of people in this world just like me—all grown up, but somehow fundamentally unchanged—crawling out of the woodworked coffin to see his latest dark masterpiece.

Secretly, I delight in the belief that his films are a cinematic celebration of someone like me; they are the medium for an undead era known as the ’80s, aka the strange and unusual feeling, continuously and appropriately haunting me and possessing my wardrobe to this day. Personally, I hope it never goes away.

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