Ph.D. Research: Why Goths Age Happily

When Leah Bush M.A. ’16 and her bandmates arrived at an Alexandria, Va., gig on Dec. 31, 2010, they expected to be playing a standard New Year’s Eve party. Instead, they walked into a funeral—for the newly 40-year-old host’s youth, complete with a handmade coffin and eulogies.

Bush had stumbled upon the world of “elder Goths,” the focus of her master’s thesis and now the subject of her doctoral dissertation in American studies. She’s investigating whether elder Goths hold a secret—lightheartedly morbid though it may be—to aging happily.

It might stem, Bush says, from the “societal subversion” inherent in the subculture; Goths tend to have a fervor for black garb and eyeliner, and some have more than a passing interest in the occult. Those interested in the darker side of life might have more familiarity with “the frightfulness of the aging body, and subverting that,” she says.

A guitarist for the Baltimore postpunk band Skydivers, Bush sees in Goths a sense of life satisfaction that is often missing in others as they reach middle age. “They seem just content with their life,” says Bush, who is approaching 40 herself. “When I asked, ‘What do you want for the future?’ they were all kind of thinking, ‘I want more of the same thing.’”


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