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40 T/D/Y #31: (Goth) Dancing

Starting around the time I was in college, maybe once or twice a year I would go down to Boston with a few friends to go dancing out at the clubs. We went a few times to the clubs on Landsdowne Street next to Fenway Park—Axis, Avalon, Venus de Milo. But as the years went on, most of the time we went to ManRay, the goth club in Central Square, Cambridge.

I was never part of the goth scene. I only learned about it during college when I got into alternative/underground rock; I was too young (and effectively sheltered) to have known about the original goth scene in the early ‘80s. On the other hand, I did learn about it before Hot Topic stores and teenage mall goths became common, but still I didn’t really know anyone in Nashua who was actively part of the goth subculture. Not that that mattered, because there seemed to be a certain amount of dressing up and wearing makeup involved, which didn’t appeal to me. I also strongly sympathized with the associated outsider/outcast/punk mentality, but didn’t really feel a need to make a stand on that.

However, I did appreciate gothic fashion in general, even if I didn’t feel it was for me, and I had no problem with the basic rule of goth clubwear: dress in black and you’ll be fine. I always had a pair of black jeans, several black shirts or t-shirts, and black boots; for several years I also wore all-black Converse All-Stars sneakers. I was never anything to look at but at least I was able to blend in appropriately. And in my experience that was enough: I wasn’t there to impress people, to hit on women, not even to try making new friends, I was just there to enjoy the music and the dancing.

Throughout of the ‘90s when we did go to ManRay, we would go on Saturday nights, which featured ‘80s underground rock and new wave, and was generally the most accessible night at the club. Starting in 2001, Jay had some friends at his new job who liked to go to “Hell Night,” the third Friday of the month, and we tagged along. Fridays were the fetish-themed nights at ManRay, which meant lots of people in PVC and more outlandish (and skimpy) outfits, but Hell Night despite its name was actually the least extreme, it was just the basic goth night, with music ranging from gothic to industrial to techno. Sure there were a few people dressed in ways we didn’t care for, such as the hefty dude in nothing but a g-string and chaps, but though we may have found him decidedly unappealing, he wasn’t actually bothering us and we didn’t bother him. And people like him were more than balanced out by people such as the hot redheaded woman who likewise wore little but strategically-placed straps and a pair of angel wings. And again, we were there just to have a good time dancing, which we did.

We enjoyed that first Hell Night enough that we started going each month regardless of whether Jay’s work friends could make it. I don’t recall whether we actually made it every single month that year, but we did go to more than half I’d say, and we always had a good time. Once we arrived early enough to claim a couch for some hanging out while the club was filling, and a friendly woman struck up a bit of conversation with us and gave us strawberries from the table of food that was always set up for the event. Once or twice I had to politely turn down a guy asking me if I wanted to dance. Often we recognized the same hot women from previous times, but we never tried chatting them up. Always, the music was good and the dancing was fun.

The last time I went to Hell Night was by myself. Jay had some reason he couldn’t or didn’t want to go that month, and I decided I still wanted to have fun dancing and wanted to see if it was something I could go do by myself. So I went and I did have fun, but it was slightly less fun for not being shared with friends, and though I was confident enough to not care what others thought and just go enjoy dancing, I wasn’t confident enough to try talking to strangers. None of that would’ve stopped me from continuing to go to Hell Night, of course; rather, moving to Seattle did.


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