December 15, 2010

Ask a Metalhead: Dealing with Controlling Parents

Ask a Metalhead, Tr00 Metal Life

Dear Steff Metal

Please help me! I have a super corny mom and a somewhat relaxed dad and i’m trying to plan out my sweet 16. I think my mom has always pictured me in a pink dress (not happening) with a white cake (I gave in to that) and everyone dressed nicely in suits and dresses (sooooo not happening) and we’d all be in a huge ball room listening to a light lot of music.

However I’m not exactly the whole ditsy pretty-in-pink kind of teen, I’m more of the metal-head thrashtastic area. She’s turning down the elegant things I suggested for plain boring things just because my elegance involves skulls and deep colors. I’m trying for a median but she’s not making this easy. She says i’m going for a “Halloween” style, and I admit I am, but at least I’m trying to at least find a median. She isn’t even trying!

What can I do?


Ah parents. The bane of every teenage metalhead’s existance.

I’ve never had any trouble planning my own parties, even as a teenager (my folks are pretty cool, and my mum used to stay up with us till all hours of the morning drawing rude pictures in Pictionary) but through my Gothic Wedding Planner website, I’ve met tons of ladies who’ve experienced parental outcry when trying to plan an alternative wedding.

Unfortunately, if your mum is paying for this party (and it sounds like a rather extravagant party, what with the suits and ties and all) then she technically gets the last word on the details. It’s that old “my house, my rules” deal, which is super annoying because at 16 it’s not as if you can say “Fine, I’ll buy my own house, then!”

However, a sixteenth birthday is very special, and you’re clearly trying really hard to respect your mum’s feelings while throwing the party you want to throw, so I might be able to offer a little bit of help.

arsenic fashions

Elegant gothic attire, from Arsenic Fashions

The first thing to do is to figure out why your mum feels so strongly about her vision for your party. Surely, with you as her daughter, she would know you’re not into these sorts of things?

Most parents don’t make these crazy, annoying decisions to be malicious. Usually, they have our best interests at heart, although sometimes we can’t quite understand why. Without knowing you or your mum, I can only hazard a guess that her birthday party ideas come from one of three places.

  1. She worries that you’ll look back on the party in a few years and consider it tacky. She thinks having a more “normal”, classic party will be more timeless – because no one ever grows out of “classic” taste.
  2. She has a lot of parents, relatives or her own friends coming to this party: people she’s trying to impress with her good taste and hostess skills. I know that in some social circles, these parties are more about the parents than the kids. She’s worried your choice of theme will reflect badly on her.
  3. She believes some of the things you’re interested in (metal music, skulls, black clothing, maybe other interests like paganism or playing guitar) are not healthy. Or maybe she doesn’t mind you being interested in them, but thinks the other parents will object to their kids going to such a party, and then it will be HER fault and she’ll look like the mum of Satan. Many parents have strong religious, cultural or social reasons for disapproving of subcultures, especially ones that embrace supposed “dark” themes, like metal.

Now, it could be one of these, or a combination of all of them. It could also be that she’s a complete crazy person, but normally, it’s one of the above.

What you have to do is show her you’e mature enough to take over the planning of the party, and that it won’t a) destroy you as a person, b) turn into an embarrassing drunken rage, or c) make you or her into a Satanist.

This is going to require a lot of talking, and absolutely no yelling or arguing. First, I would try to get your dad on your side. I would approach him and tell him all about your ideas. Let him see how much you’re enjoying planning your party together with your mum and how much fun you think it will be and how nice it is for the two of you to spend time together. Then say it’s a bummer your your mom doesn’t want to use any of your ideas, and you’re worried your birthday party won’t end up being as fun as you hoped. Don’t call your mom names or be whiny, and he’ll feel more sympathetic to your cause.

Then, maybe you should talk to them together. Sit down after dinner and tell them you’d like to discuss your birthday party. Start by saying you’re really excited about it and you think they’re the awesomest parents in the world for hosting it for you. Then say you really want to have a party that you and your friends will enjoy and will remember for the rest of your life. Say you’d like to remember your party as being like your personality – unique, artistic, and fun.

Someones, people just can’t imagine what you’re talking about when you say “elegant gothic”. You have to show them. Maybe this is your mom’s concern – she just doesn’t understand what you mean when you say “elegant with skulls”. Prepare a “birthday collage” (decorating magazines call them “mood boards”) in advance. Collect pictures of décor, food, clothing and cakes from gothic / heavy metal style parties. Choose elegant details that really appeal to you. Looking for “gothic wedding” or “Halloween wedding” can help, as the deaor is often very elegant and classy. Show this to your mum so she can see how dark party themes can be made elegant. Point out details you particularly like, and suggest ways you might be able to incorporate that into the party.


Decor ideas from an elegant gothic wedding

Say “When you dismiss my ideas without considering them, I feel as though what I want isn’t important. I would love to be able to work on some of these ideas together with you.” Say “I know my taste may seem a little crazy, but I promise I’m not a Satanist or running away to join a metal band or anything. I’m just a normal teen with weird interests, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.”

Ask “Is there a reason having a white cake and a black-tie dress code are important to you? Most of my friends don’t even own suits and formal dresses. We’d have much more fun in our normal clothes. If I knew there was a reason you felt so strongly about this, I’m sure we could come to a compromise.”


Gothic table decor

Say “I don’t want a party that looks like everyone else’s party. I think if you and me put our heads together we could come up with something really creative.”

Prepare some bargaining chips: decide beforehand on three things you absolutely want – ie. control of the music, no dress code, and skull cupcakes. Then add some more ideas which you can give up (like your white cake). If you get them, that’s great, but if you don’t

The important thing is not to get angry, raise your voice, or start blaming her. Once you do these things, it’s all over – she’s the parent and you’re the teen and your job is to do what she says. But if you talk to her like an adult, she’ll have to treat you like one … at least, that’s the theory.

I hope some of this helps you talk your mum around to your ideas (which sound awesome, by the way, and not so overly “out there”). I’m sure with a little convincing, your mum will understand this party is the perfect opportunity for you to show off your creativity, and she’ll back off and let you do your thing.

Readers, any other advice to add?


4 Comments on “Ask a Metalhead: Dealing with Controlling Parents

January 23, 2011 at 12:20 pm

technically my mom wasn’t paying it was my dad. and the medium that was decided was alice in the land of hearts which is a messed up bizzaro version of the classic tale. instead of falling down a rabbit hole she gets sucked in and it gets turned into a big mess. there’s a manga out about it. unfortunatly my party had a ton load of pastel colors and my moms reasons for not liking my choices was because she hates her little girl in dark colors, but my dad came to the rescue and helped me out by paying for it instead of her. thnks for the help steff, now i know what to do for my godkid’s birthdays.

January 27, 2011 at 1:39 am

@Vi – I’m sorry it didn’t quite work out the way you wanted. Take some solace in the fact it won’t be too many more years away till you can do whatever you want on your birthday. Happy birthday, by the way!

Louise Curtis
December 22, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Have two parties. One for family, one for friends (with some overlap of close friends and relaxed family). I did that every year from about 16. At my 21st, I had three parties.

Louise Curtis

Emily Bleak
December 15, 2010 at 8:31 am

I’m with you when you say to let Mom handle it as she’s the one paying, but bargain for one big thing that doesn’t affect anyone else – Mommy dearest can pick the food and decor, but you get to wear (and ostensibly pay for) whatever you want, for instance. Your ancient great aunt ain’t going to want to write you that fat graduation/birthday check if she has to listen to Iron Maiden all evening. (This is why I let my mom put up white tents and baby-blue hydrangeas at my graduation party – I was just getting wasted on champers with my friends anyway, it was 90% for my relatives.)

Offbeat Bride has been my go-to for creative party ideas, maybe pore over that with her and see if there’s anything that appeals?

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