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February 19, 2013

Cosplay and Real Life
Elizabeth O'Malley

"What are you making?"

I get asked this question sometimes when I'm buying fabric. When it's near Halloween, it's easy to say it's for a costume. But what about the other eleven months of the year? Usually, I say it's for a dress. Because that's easier than saying that I'm a cosplayer and having to deal with the follow up.

You see it on the faces of people who find themselves near convention centers during an anime con. You see them point at the "freaks" and whisper about them. About how we're "weird" and "losers" and should get back to our parents' basements. It's easy to know that a friend won't think of you differently when you tell them about your hobby. No true friend would do that, and if they do they're not really your friend (cliche, but true). But what about acquaintances, networking contacts, clients, and distant relatives?

I know, I know, I could face it like the adult I am and just tell people what I do. But think about it - when you're outside the amazing world that is conventions and costumes, it's not the easiest thing in the world to explain to people that I like to dress up like comic book and cartoon characters. Even reading that last sentence sounds silly.

Most people I know and interact with on a regular basis don't know what I do for a hobby. I have a specific filter set up on my Facebook account so only certain people can see when I post about conventions or cosplay. Outside of my convention friends, I'd say that maybe 10% of my friends know that I do this, and that's only because they're into nerdy things like Doctor Who or Star Wars and its easy to explain to them. As for the other 90%, I know that none of them will think less of me if I told them. My coworkers know, but I work at a company with a lot of nerdy people so it was easy to bring up. My husband's coworkers don't know and almost all of his friends don't know.

I was at a party several months ago, and my friend who was hosting introduced me to someone who does costuming for theater group he is in. My friend doesn't know that I do costumes, and all I wanted to do was talk about costuming with his friend. But I was too nervous to bring it up. I was afraid that she would turn her nose up at me about it, although I doubt she would have.

Why should I be apprehensive about this? I mean, look at some of the stuff I've created. I look at what my skills used to be, and what they are now, and I'm proud of myself for what I am able to do. There has yet to be a time where I tell someone I know what I do and they think less of me. And at the same time, whenever I show them what I have created, they are always impressed at my skills. But then I think back to the looks and sneers I've gotten from strangers while attending conventions. The people who lean out their window and yell "freaks" while con attendees are hanging around outside. The hotel employees who treat you like one of the herd and can't wait till you leave.

Then I remind myself that those jerks are the minority. I've had many awesome conversations with people who are genuinely curious about the conventions. I was surprised once when the shuttle driver I had from BWI to my hotel at Otakon was a big Bleach fan. I've seen hotel staff members dress up while conventions were in town.

Will I answering people truthfully when they ask me what I'm making when I'm at the cutting counter? Or when people I just met ask me what I like to do for fun? Probably not. But will I start being more honest with people I do know that I go to conventions and do cosplay? Maybe. I might start with getting rid of my "Geek-Friendly" Facebook filter and posting some pictures of me.



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