Gretchen Rubin

A Little Happier: The Opposite of a Profound Truth Is Also True. Including in Goth.

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I love aphorisms, proverbs, koans, fables, and any kind of teaching story. And with those, I’ve collected my Secrets of Adulthood. These are the lessons I’ve learned, through time and experience, usually the hard way!

I have a huge collection of these Secrets of Adulthood—in fact, if you have any of your own favorites, please send them my way! I’m thinking of making a book of them.

One of my favorite Secrets of Adulthood is “The opposite of a profound truth is also true.

This is a mysterious and powerful aspect of the human nature. I want to accept myself, and expect more from myself. I want to think about myself so I can forget about myself. I want to use my time efficiently, and I also want to take time to wander and play.

An aspect of this Secret of Adulthood is the ancient idea that sometimes, something goes so far in one direction that it circles back on itself, in a kind of union of opposites.

Because I’ve thought a lot about this, I was struck by a particular passage from the essay “American Goth,” from the collection Take the Cannoli by American historian, social observer, and writer Sarah Vowell. In it, Vowell is describing her encounter with goth. She writes,

Goths, for those unfamiliar with this particular subculture, are the pale-faced, black-clad, vampiric types, with forlorn stares framed by raccoon eye makeup. The name derives, of course, from ‘gothic,’ a style, according to my dictionary, ‘emphasizing the grotesque, mysterious, and desolate.'

Vowell explains that she’d always admired the goths, and she went in for a private lesson in goth. Yes, she got a goth makeover led by someone with the nickname “Mary Queen of Hurts.”

And here’s the passage that I love: Vowell writes:

When I was pondering a good goth name for myself, I paged through my reference books on death and dying looking for something gruesome. Nothing felt right. Maybe it’s because I came of age in the ‘80s and I’ve seen Blue Velvet too many times, but to me, the really frightening stuff has nothing to do with ravens and rats. The truly sordid has a sunny Waspy glow. Therefore, I tell them, the most perverse name I can think of is Becky. It turns out that by saying the magic word "Becky" I have suddenly moved to the head of the class, gothwise. As Monique put it: ‘You are understanding the pink of goth. You’ve skipped a couple levels and went straight to "pink."

And in fact, Urban Dictionary's definition of "Pink Goth" is: A person who is so completely goth to the bone that they don't need to wear black.

It’s one of my favorite Secrets of Adulthood: The opposite of a profound truth is also true. In goth, and in so much else.

You can read about some of my Secrets of Adulthood here, and you can take a look at Take the Cannoli here.

Quote From the Podcast

It turns out that by saying the magic word "Becky" I have suddenly moved to the head of the class, gothwise.
Sarah Vowell

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