Imagine a place where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts. In this place, you can dress however you want. You can wear a fake mustache, you can don a bunny suit–hell, you could wear a Bart Simpson mask and fake an American accent if you so chose.
Here is a place where the things you care about are actually a big deal. Here, you have to wait in a three hour line to sit in a sweaty room full of people just to hear the melodious sounds of Chris Evans talking about the tiny muscle on a specific part of his bicep, and how much time he spent beefing it up. Here is where books turn to movies, where movies turn to video games, where video games turn to real life–the fictional worlds in which you spend your free time spring into action before your very eyes. No one can tell you to calm down, that these are the things that don’t matter, that you’ve gone a little overboard with your wardrobe. No one can say jack shit, because they’re sitting in the exact same lines and dressed exactly as elaborately as you are.
This is (an admittedly idealized) comic-con. Wouldn’t it be nice if every day were like this? Every time I attend a convention, I come home thinking about how nice it was that my whole day was about nerdy things, and that the next day is going to be more of the same. I think about this a lot, especially when I haven’t been to a convention in a while and I miss the warm afterglow in which it inevitably leaves me.
I realized recently that that afterglow has a lot to do with the acceptance one may find at a place such as comic-con–a level of acceptance not typically found in our regular lives. And I wondered why this acceptance is such an exclusive thing.
My regular job is working at a shoe store, and our clientele is mostly teenagers and young adults. The other day, three kids rolled up in full out regalia. One was in a fez, a bow tie, and a tweed jacket. Another was in what looked like an anime costume, complete with wig–though admittedly I didn’t recognize the specific character she was dressed as if she was in a costume at all. Finally, there was a gent dressed head to toe in typical black and dark blue “goth” gear, wielding one of the prettiest fans I have ever seen . My first thought, rather embarassingly, was that these kids were fucking weird and should stop taking up space in my store.
Then I stopped for a second and glanced at my reflection in the mirror. I was wearing a Harry Potter shirt. I had matched combat boots with my jeans. My hair was in pigtail buns I learned about from Sailor Moon. I considered for a moment that convention afterglow, and how much I’d been missing it lately. I didn’t hate these kids–I was mildly jealous that they had no qualms walking around on a random Wednesday in September as though it were something to be celebrated.
This was weeks ago, and it has honestly taken me this long to think about this article, and whether or not I wanted to share it, because quite frankly I’m ashamed of my initial reaction. My secondary reaction, after staring into that mirror, was to walk around the counter and treat the kids like any other customers. The guy with the fan, when welcomed to the store, bowed and made a huge gesture as he said “Why THANK you”. I gave them a tour of the store, and finished it off with “by the way, love the fez. Fezzes are cool.” The girl in tweed smiled, straightened her bow tie, and responded: “as are bow ties.” I couldn’t hold back a smile of my own.
This is the kind of stuff that happens at comic-con all the time. It happens in panels, on the show floor, even in line waiting for the bathroom. It should happen everywhere, all the time. We should be embracing our fellow nerds, or geeks, or dweebs or whatever, no matter where we are, no matter what the time of year. I wish I hadn’t had to think twice about it… and I’m hoping that I’ll be quicker to the draw next time. I’m encouraging the rest of you to do the same. Let your freak flag fly, even if you’re the only flagpole around.