Showing the World Who You Are: Cosplay Identities

Cosplay daughter went to school today rocking her Hogwarts House Colors. And with a wand.

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Wearing also, a vial of wolfsbane. We all remember what a dangerous zoo high school could be.

 

She’s very proud of having been sorted into Ravenclaw by the official sorting hat on the Pottermore website.

Ravenclaw-Traits-ravenclaw-38754843-1149-694

….for the record, I was surprisingly sorted into Gryffindor.  I was dead certain that I’d be Ravenclaw myself. Huh.

But it does make my McConagall cosplay make more sense:

mcgonagall

Me and a small 8-year-old cosplay daughter at the release party for the Deathly Hallows. May have actually been her first official cosplay: Hermione, of course.  Fuzzy photo, but note time turner! She won the children’s division- first place.

That my daughter and I were sorted into different houses surprises me not a bit.  She has my blond hair….and that’s about it. We are very different on the inside, in talents, personality and approach to the world.

What we look like on the outside (similar, like mother and daughter) isn’t truly indicative of who we are on the inside.

In my beauty class at the university, we are winding up a unit on beauty and identity- how outward appearances signal inner worth and identity.  We talk about the French philosopher Paul Valery’s theory of three bodies, where the second body (your outer appearance) is a reflection of the first body (who you are inside). As Nancy Etcoff says, we all seek to show the world who we really are, by what we look like- AND wde all strive for an outer appearance that shows the world what we’d like to be.

This seems particularly true to me in the world of cosplay.  Cosplay is the practice of choosing the identity that you’d like to have, or wish you had, or feel you DO have, and showing it more specifically to the world.

Few people to cosplay the characters that no one likes- the mean ones or the stupid ones.

Cosplay daughter recently attended a convention (Naka-Kon) in her Yang cosplay, and went to a RWBY  meet-up.

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She’s the Yang in the aviator sunglasses, front and center

I love the story this photo tells about cosplay choices.

There are six Yangs (one of them gender-bent) and six Rubys (two of them gender-bent), four blakes (one gender-bent) but only two Weiss cosplayers.

Why only two Weiss?

Because no body likes her. She’s the spoiled, bitchy character from RWBY. The mean girl.

We choose to cosplay characters we admire, both because they are like what we feel like inside, and represent elements of who we’d like to be.

I love how the cosplay community recognizes that this might mean that you want to crossplay a character whose biological gender is different than yours, like, say cosplay daughter does when she cosplays 2-D from the Gorillaz (a new cosplay)

Gorillaz Naka kon

Lounging, with melodica, on the right

and it’s also a great choice to gender-bend your cosplay, take the inspiration of the character, his/her strengths, style, power and value, and make a version of it that fits your own biological gender. (I love the guy rocking the ruby-red hat as Ruby in the above photo).

We all make choices about how our appearance communicates our identity to the world.

Cosplay widens the possibilities for people- male, female, young, old, etc. in what they can show.

Today, my daughter went to school with a wand and house tie that she’s proud to know represents intuition, originality, wit, eloquence, intelligence, and all the other traits listed above in the Ravenclaw image.

How wonderful is it that she has that chance? That she’s empowered by both the great literary work of Rowling AND the cosplay community to confidently claim these traits as part of the identity she feels and the self she shows the world.

What else could a Mom ask for?

Writing this, I am actually even more determined to do a cosplay that I’ve been talking about for years- a weary, bad-ass Mom who will do anything to keep fighting both intractable bureaucracy and the monsters who threaten her girl.

I really need to cosplay Ripley. That’s how I feel on the inside. Time to show you all.

ripley-and-newt

 

 

 

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How to Get a Portal Gun Through Airport Security: Pax South 2016

It’s time for cosplay daughter to start looking at colleges.

Obviously, she wants to attend one where she work on coding, game design, art and costume design, so off to liberal arts places we go!

First stop was Trinity University in San Antonio Texas- a lovely school with a kick-ass costume shop.

As far as I was concerned, our trip to San Antonio was about checking out the college. For cosplay daughter? It was about PAX SOUTH.

pax south

Pax is a set of five super-humongous gaming conventions that started out as industry events, and are now pilgrimage points for the serious gamers and related fandoms. So of course we coordinated the trip to Trinity with the convention. I’m that kind of cosplay Mom.

She was pretty excited when the passes came.

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And of COURSE, she would have to cosplay at this convention, and cosplay an appropriate video game character.

she decided to go with Chell, from Portal 2- an early favorite. The object of the game is to solve a maze by shooting blue and orange “portals” through and around and between walls to escape.  To do this, Chell uses a fancy gun:

portal-2-chell

While also evading evil robots.

 

Cosplay daughter has been cosplaying Chell for some time, and wanted to take that cosplay to Pax.

Kira Chell

But…..this meant that we needed to get her new Portal Gun safely through airport security, in one piece, and without any of us getting arrested.

Which of course would be an adventure.

It’s not a thing you can pack in your checked bag. It’s got delicate little feet and feelers.

So we carried it on.

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Very early morning flight, with portal device, combat boots and thankfully supportive cosplay stepdad.

Here we go.

The first rule is: in an airport, it’s not a portal GUN. It’s a PORTAL DEVICE.

This is important if you want to make it to the convention without being hustled off to a back room and strip-searched.

Doesn’t mean, though that security (and others) will not still be interested.  She got to explain what “that thing” was to various TSA officers, (one of whom couldn’t wait to watch the face of the lady running the x-ray machine when it went through).

tsa

But, even once we got past security, the questions continued.

As a note, if you are sitting in an airport waiting lounge like this:

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Two things will happen:

  1. LOTS of people are going to ask you: “what IS that thing!?!?” and of course, you can tell them, but it won’t help the majority of them.  They have no idea what you’re talking about. We started saying it was a toy, or prop. Most walked away with puzzled expressions.
  2. You will find all the nerds and gamers in the airport, most of whom are going to the same convention as you.  They will say “nice portal gun” and you will shush them hurriedly:  “DEVICE! it’s a portal DEVICE!”

In the end, the DEVICE made it to the convention safely.

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She was a big hit:

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And made a bunch of new friends.

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oh, and yeah, really liked the university too.

Yang Xiao Long on the Sulaco- Arkansas Anime Festival T-Minus 19 Days

Ok, folks, here we go- New cosplay project!

Armed with a NEW, heavy duty sewing machine,

Yay! Currently brainstorming names for her. I'm thinking maybe Sulaco.

Yay! Currently brainstorming names for her. I’m thinking maybe Sulaco.

and we’re ready to take on a new Cosplay for our next convention:  The Arkansas Anime Festival (A2F).

Cosplay daughter realizes that much of her cosplay is gaming-based, which is fine, but she wanted an Anime costume for A2F.  She’s been wanting to try for Yang cosplay for a while, and we’re going to go for it:

IMG_2454

Once again, this is a cosplay from a show (RWBY) that I don’t know, but apparently she’s not only smart, and funny (apparently spouting bad puns like weapons)…..

Yang pun

…..but has awesome fighting skills:  super strength in her punch, which is linked to the gauntlets that also fire bullets.  When she’s really angry, her hair also flames, and she can take down a whole building with her fists.  She’s a huntress, fighting monsters.

I understand why daughter (newly training in Kenpo) loves this character.

rwby___yang___mystic_arte_by_iceninjax77-d6mql5m

So here we go.  Armed with a modest budget, we hit JoAnn fabrics yesterday, and then, of course, the thrift stores.  Can we make this cosplay for less than $100? Let’s find out.

(Looking at the cosplay.com website for advice yesterday, I saw that one of the member’s mottos was “Nothing is impossible, but some things are very expensive.” So. Very. True.

It’s easy to drop hundreds of dollars on one of these projects in small pieces. We have to avoid that this time- I have to save for us to go to Pax South in January)

Cosplay daughter is an inveterate internet and thrift shopper, though.

We found second hand boots that would work, and by last evening, she had altered them, made the scarves to go on top and the sock/sleeve for her left leg.

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Here working, while watching RWBY for inspiration. That’s Yang on the screen.

The boots and scarves.

The boots and scarves.

Today we start tackling the jacket- T Minus 19 days and still under budget.

Wish us luck!

Cat Cosplay: Feline Fine….

So the other day, a friend posted this photo to my Facebook timeline:

sailor mewn

Anime fans will quickly recognize this character as “Sailor Mewn”- feline Sailor Moon.

My cats may never forgive her.

It turns out that there is a whole, glorious world of CAT COSPLAY!

How fun is that?

Well, fun for the humans, anyway. (Though I have to say that Sailor Mewn, there, doesn’t look upset.)

We have the two cats: one princess and one street urchin with PTSD.

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Cosplay daughter with both kitties. The calico, Abby, and her royal highness, Princess Fluffbucket (aka Pearl).

Cosplay daughter has been dressing them up for years- the princess even once won a pet costume contest for Halloween- (I think because she was the only cat entered).

Turns out that clothes from

Turns out that clothes from “Build-a-Bear” fit the cats perfectly.

Until this, though, I don’t know that she had considered actual cosplay for the kitties.

I hadn’t either.

I sure am NOW!

To be fair, our street urchin, Abby, doesn’t really need an actual costume to cosplay.  If she weren’t afraid of EVERYTHING (humans walking into a room, humans walking out of a room, saran wrap, the washing machine, etc.)  Abby would be a perfect Mochi for our Hiro and Aunt Cass cosplay:

“BIG HERO 6” ©2014 Disney. All Rights Reserved. Well, not PERFECT- she’s clearly not fat enough. But we never let body shape deter us in our cosplay choices. This is a body-shaming free zone!

Abby would never make it through a convention, though.  As esposo (recently upgraded from novio!) has observed, Abby is sure that EVERYTHING means that the apocalypse is upon us.

That leaves Princess Pearl, Empress of Everything.

I’m thinking Elsa:

perruque-elsa-frozen

 

Light fur, big blue eyes. Fabulous, high-maintenance, feline-in-charge.

Stay tuned. There may be Elsa cat cosplay!

Update: Cosplay daughter says that while she is totally on board for Cat Cosplay, there is NO WAY she’s dressing Pearl up as a “overrated Drury Princess.” (not a Frozen fan- though I think that’s from the ubiquity of the franchise more than anything else.)

we’ll see. Daughter suggests perhaps Cinderella…..

My OCs are Showing- Fan Fiction and Original Character Shaming: Fandom’s Social Imaginary

So as I wonder “what on earth have I done” in taking on two simultaneous book contracts in my day job, the cosplay life around here goes on. Cosplay daughter has started a costuming internship, we have two upcoming conventions, and once again, the arts and crafts room has exploded. Stern words have been shared about limiting the flotsam to that room.

In and around this frenzy, I have recently learned about “OC shaming” and have come to realize that, once again, I am not nearly cool enough for the fandoms.

An “OC” is an original character, one that fans conceive of and develop through their love of the source material.  This is often found fan fiction- I believe that the deeply troubling Fifty Shades of Grey characters are OCs of the Twilight series.

I learned this lesson, because cosplay daughter and cosplay best friend are huge fans of the show Red vs. Blue:

a production of the company

a production of the company “Rooster Teeth”, hence the logo.

The show is a send-up of first person shooter games like Halo or Mass Effect and is relentlessly silly. Also, from my outside perspective, impossible to follow. But I’m not a gamer. Or 16 years old.

The girls are such fans, that they have developed, and enjoy sharing with each other, two original characters in that universe. These characters have names, elaborate backstories and their own plot lines.

As I heard about a new story that the girls were spinning for their characters, I was impressed at the detail and creativity, and suggested that they share it with the world as fan fiction. (So proud of myself for knowing what fan fiction is!)

However, what I didn’t know was that original characters are so disdained in the fandoms, that there is a whole world of making fun of both the characters and the people who invent them: OC shaming.  Cosplay daughter explained it to me this way:

-“Oh….your character is BEST FRIENDS with (insert name of famous character from the canon)…..Riiiigggghhhhtttt.”

This is so pervasive that on Tumblr (where the fandoms seem to live) the artists themselves have started a “OC shaming” tag that is similar to the dog or cat shaming:

OC shaming

An example from the Tumblr page of artist and cosplayer sawsbuckgo

So.

I’m not sure what I think about this.

Generally, I have found the cosplay, art and fandom communities to be welcoming and supportive of difference and creativity.

So why would those same communities enforce strict adherence to “canons” and both shame and promote self-shaming of the fans?  What’s wrong with people taking some ownership of the universe(s) that they love?

I’m not sure. I suspect that part of it is that same fervent love of the canonical text/image/storyline.  Fans can be deeply protective of what they love so much.  And in the extreme, these are the same people who will tell others that they can’t cosplay a character of a different ethnicity, body shape or gender.  Those fans only want to see, in person, the same thing that they see on the page or screen.

I can remember feeling like that as a young fan.  I really, really loved Star Wars. And I really, really didn’t like the novels written about it.  It took the characters places that I hadn’t imagined them going or thinking things that I didn’t want them to think. I still don’t like Star Wars, Star Trek or Torchwood novels.

Hans and Leia

sorry. Not the best photo, but trust me. They were SO FUN.

But I did LOVE the gender-bent Hans and Leia at Cosplacon this year.

So why?

I think some of it has to do with the shared social imaginary. (Apologies here for geeking out PhD-style)

According to philosophers and other scholars, communities collectively construct a shared “imaginary”- an imagined set of values, laws, symbols and practices.  Members of the community then abide by and work within the space of those imagined parameters to function as citizens.

In the United States, one could argue, part of our social imaginary is the deeply held value of the right to free expression. And we (as a group) get very angry, defensive and accusatory of members of our community who challenge that value. (Hence the recent backlash against “political correctness.”

I wonder, if similarly, creating a new character violates the shared imaginary in a way that crossplay or creative versions of canonical characters doesn’t.  For example, do the fandoms accept Steampunk Darth Vader because he is a version of a part of our social imaginary already?

??????????

Not the one I saw at cosplacon, but impressive.

And then do we refuse to accept brand-new additions because we didn’t arrive at them collectively?

Maybe.

What I know is that most of my characters when I cosplay are OCs.  I have a steampunk pirate/smuggler who I based on members of my own family history, and an elf from the Tolkein Simarillion whose name I can never remember at conventions. (I admit. I picked a cool elf name from the text, because she loved trees. I love trees too).

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For the record: Melian.

And I enjoy cosplaying both, and probably get away with it because I’m not encroaching on anyone’s beloved canon.

But I suspect that if I tried to insert my original character into a beloved fandom, say……Firefly

My smuggler, Amelia Elizabeth Hawkhurst Avery, and Captain Mal. I was excited. Amelia and I are both Browncoats.

My smuggler, Amelia Elizabeth Hawkhurst Avery, and Captain Mal. I was excited. Amelia and I are both Browncoats.

That’s where I’d start to get shamed.

So as much as Amelia Elizabeth loved meeting Cap, I’ll keep them separate for now.

and continue being thankful for my daughter’s guidance into the world of the pop culture imaginary.

The “Artistic Temperament” : Dispatches from Cosplacon Part I

Hello, and greetings from Cosplacon in Jefferson City!

One whole big hotel of cosplayers wearing everything from papier-mache anime heads to ghostbuster uniforms (complete with unlicensed nuclear accelerators). This is cosplay daughter’s favorite convention because it’s all about the cosplay. 🙂

The creativity and artistry on display here is amazing (photos soon, I promise!) and that has me thinking this morning about a subject that has occupied my attention of late- “the artistic temprament.”

I’m not an artist myself. I would never claim that title. This modest experiment in creative nonfiction (and the occasional steampunk hat) are but small forays into that landscape.  I’m at best a technician and wordsmith.

I know this, because I recognize a true artist in my daughter, and her best friend.

I also recognize it in the amazing folks I’ve met in and through this cosplay adventure, like my friend Sarah in the UK, who built/sewed/fabricated this Rocket Racoon FROM SCRATCH.

Sarah as Rocket

I also see it in the amazing creativity on display, the shipping and combinations on view at a convention like this: Hello Kitty Darth Vaders.  Master Chief as Master Chef.

I am amazed and impressed by these artists.

But as a Mom (which is a key element of this particular blog) I also see the struggles and challenges of being a member of that tribe.

I’ve written before about cosplay daughter’s strict attention and near-obsession with detail.  She sees minute differences and shadings that I simply don’t. She finds variations of color and configuration that I can’t even perceive to be ESSENTIAL to her design.  And sometimes, when she can’t realize her vision, she just simply refuses to go on.

(Remember those long fall boots? My first blog post? They’re sill in pieces in the garage.  Every once in a while she mentions them, but hasn’t returned to try and make them work.)

I saw that kind of thing again over the last couple of weeks with another artist (who needn’t be identified by name here, it’s not important) a costume and clothing designer.  She had invited me, cosplay daughter and cosplay best friend to model in a fashion show here at cosplacon. The theme was to be the ball scene in Labyrinth.

Labrynth

I was going to get to wear a BALL GOWN AND CREEPY MASK. Made by a REAL COSTUME DESIGNER. I was STOKED. The girls were too. How fabulous!

But then- attention to and control of detail. Costume designer communicates that she will need all three of us to commit to showing up for hair/make-up, rehearsals and photos at 11:30, for a 5:00 show that lasts until 6.  And during that time we are sequestered so as to not ruin the moment when we appear.

Wow. Ok, that’s a deal breaker for the girls, who aren’t excited enough to give 7 hours of their convention day to realize the vision and promote the business of someone else.  It’s a bit much to ask.

But I’m still in! (*chanting*)  Ball gown! Ball gown!

and then, just a few days before the convention, the designer reveals that she is simply not happy with the level of detail and scheduling notes that she’s getting from the convention (which like most of these events is volunteer run by young people with day jobs).  She won’t compromise her vision or risk the time and control she needs to make her art happen.

So she pulls out and refuses to participate. Rats.

As the girls would say: “sad face.”

sad face

So- was this a bit self-important and divaesque? Maybe. The convention organizers apparently thought so.

But here’s my observation- this is the kind of attitude and approach that makes the art fabulous to begin with. That attention to detail and confidence to demand that it be right or not happen at all is what can give us great works.

But it’s also hard and challenging- for the artist and for the fans/supporters.  I really was looking forward to that fashion show. I have also spent hundreds of dollars on a pair of boots that are still in pieces in my garage.

Both things are frustrating.

and the artists themselves- when they disappear in Salingeresque fashion, can lose business, or fans and then no one gets to see or appreciate their work.

There’s lots of definitions out on in the internet of the “artistic temperament”- everything from medical dictionary references to mood swings and blasts of creative energy; to centuries-old meditations on originality and self-involved self expression.

But I’m not sure any of these are really important or really capture my new experiences of being a artist groupie.

I do, however, often think of  Deborah Harkness’ amazing All Souls trilogy in which all artists (from playwright Kit Marlowe to mathematician and astronomer Thomas Harriot)  are actually daemons- brilliant, magical, vague, fickle, creative and destructive all at once.

Do I think my artist friends and family are daemons?

Of course not.

Do I think those artistic folks that surround me have abilities that seem otherworldly in their magic and inscrutability?

Yes. 

And how wonderful, challenging, rewarding and frustrating is it that I get to travel alongside of them?

more from Cosplacon later! I promise!

Hamada Family Reunion: Supersuits, Inflatable Robots and Happy Bakers

Wow! Too long since I’ve written a post!

First the end of the university’s academic year, then the run-up to the convention meant that I couldn’t find the time  to play in the cosplaymom sandbox.

But now, here we are at the Arkansas Anime Festival (A2F)  for the costume competition, to run some panels and for general fun, merriment and binging on pocky.

I had a cosplay parenting panel, and cosplay daughter participated in a Pan-Disney panel  that included a diverse array of characters, from Belle to Peter Pan to Hiro and Tadashi.  It was a great opportunity for a Hamada “family reunion”

Cosplay daughter, had coplayed Hiro Hamada before as “casual Hiro”

Casual Hiro

IMG_1530

That’s the previous A2F. Now, however, after 6 months of construction, painting, hot glue burns and exacto knife cuts, cosplay daughter was ready to show off the Hiro supersuit….

Hiro supersuit

Kira Hiro supersuit

I’m very proud of this look- she made this entirely herself from scratch, with no help from me.  She used EVA foam mats from Lowe’s (the kind you use to put on the floor of a play area or work area), the heat gun that novio gave her for Christmas, and at least three different kinds of adhesive/glue.

 (This is where I still have value. In the shopping. As bankroll…)

I loved how proud she was of it, and enjoyed how many small people wanted their photo with her this weekend.  The young ‘uns knew EXACTLY who she was and truly appreciated it!)

But I also love this cosplay because it let me participate. As HIro’s Aunt Cass;

Aunt Cass

It was PERFECT because I could be effervescently enthusiastic, and she didn’t have to fake her exasperation!

Cass and Hiro 1

Cass and Hiro 2

and then as a bonus,  at cosplay daughter’s Disney panel, the rest of the family was there…

Hiro’s brother Tadashi…

Hamada family

and even Baymax!

Baymax cropped

Cosplay daughter won the Judge’s Choice award, I got to play with worbla in the cosplay-playroom and I met some great other cosplay parents/uncles/grandparents….as well as Obi-Wan Obama (more about that in another post.)

One summer convention down! Now on to Cosplacon in June!

Lovin’ (Not Hatin’) the Hidden Instagram Trove

So I recently wrote a post all about how I, Cosplay Mom, needed to learn to take better photos of Cosplay daughter.

Now I think that’s incorrect. I just need to let her take photos of herself.

I see pretty frequent, critical, dismissive and condescending diatribes against girls who post  photos on Instagram. And a lot of these criticisms have to do with the fact that viewers are apparently unhappy that the photos of the women are not what they “really look like.”

instagram hate

But my reaction is….. AND?

So….viewers don’t like that there are photos on the internet that represent only part of the story? Or just one moment in time?

Are they aware of how photography works?

If there are photos of Baltimore after the riots, should we complain that “Baltimore doesn’t REALLY look like that?”  When we look at wedding photos, should we complain to the happy couple, “well, of course you don’t REALLY look like that”?

It’s such a strange criticism. What person EVER looks like a photo taken of them all the time?

As a gender scholar, it makes me wonder if there is not some expectation that women will be inanimate dolls, or at least David Lee Roth’s “Perfect woman”

and it makes me think, again, of this great Cracked article  about how modern men are trained to hate women- a piece that seems more true to me all the time.

But back to cosplay daughter’s photos on Instagram.

Now I knew she had an Instagram account. It’s not like she kept it a secret.

Once again, I am a bad Mom for not having checked it out sooner- but my failure isn’t as a Mom generally, it’s really more of a cosplay parent fail.

In my defense, though, I’m OLD.  I sometimes have a hard time keeping up with all the web presence: I know she has abandoned Facebook, and I’m following her on Tumblr, but I hadn’t made it over to Instagram yet.

So I did this week and….WOW.

Not bad wow, no inappropriate nonsense, just wow, I can’t believe I hadn’t seen these photos yet!

Great pictures and views of cosplays that I HADN’T EVEN SEEN.

Turns out she takes photos of herself, and even photos of “costests” before leaving her room.

(When I expressed shock: “Geez, Mom, I posted them on Instagram” *teenage eye roll*)

So- does she look like this all the time?

Of. course. not.

Is this a great look at her artistic skill, costuming and cosmetics ability?

Clearly. Yessir.

And I love it!

So without further ado, some of my favorites.

First, Elizabeth and L (who I’ve seen before):

Elizabeth 1Elizabeth 2Elizabeth 4

L

But wait! There’s more! If you’re playing along at home, you’ll know she’s a newly minted Browncoat.  Here’s her “costest” of Kaylee Frye from Firefly

Kaylee

and……Faun makeup. Don’t know that this is a character. Seems to have been more of an experiment with cosmetics

Faun 2Faun 1

and finally, a series of what she terms “Girly Anime”

Girly animeGirly anime 2

More power to cosplay daughter- and to all the young ladies (and men) exploring identity creatively and positively.

By cosplaymom

Penguins Think I’m Cool: Success Through Showing Up

When I was 16 years old, I barely spoke to my mother. Despite her love and earnest efforts, I had no time and even less patience for her.  So I was very prepared to have my beautiful, opinionated daughter cut me out as she grew up.
Then we found cosplay.
If you read the blog, you know that my daughter is a gamer and an artist. Talented- with a sometimes maddening attention to detail.
She’s got gaming and cosplay friends on three continents and a very popular Tumblr.
I’m none of that.  I’m a middle-aged, scholarly nerd. 
But I was a Girl Scout, and I can sew- and I had the good timing and good fortune to see how important a new hobby was to my daughter, and then find a way to participate in it.
Now I’m a cosplay assistant, sherpa and bankroll.  We go to thrift shops, hardware stores and conventions together.  We learn to use new tools and take on scary sewing projects- like pleats, together.  Sure, she still ditches me at conferences, but I stay quietly in the background, on call, and write about the experience.
And when she shows my blog to other cosplayers (fairies, butlers and penguins), amazingly, they tell her that her Mom is ok.
At our last convention, Kawa Kon 2015, she was apparently chatting with a Nagisa cosplayer who liked cosplaymom.com.
“Mom,” she told me later, “Penguins think you’re cool.”
penguins
I have to say that this is one of the best compliments I’ve ever received.  For all that it means.
That I get to participate.
That my daughter lets me in.
I really don’t want this post to seem a brag- I don’t mean it to be. I am hoping more for a mediation on seizing the moment, selfishly, to have time with my daughter before she grows up.
More than once, I’ve had a young cosplayer wistfully say to me something like “I wish MY Mom would dress up and come to conventions with me….”
and I sympathize. Both with the young cosplayers- and with their parents. 
It’s expensive, it’s time consuming and it can be hard to play in a world that is so far out of the experience of us older folks.  I spend money on materials and registrations instead of books for myself, and I plan our vacations around cosplay events.
All so I can spend a great deal of time confused at those conventions.
So I get it. I totally understand why there are less parents at these things.
It doesn’t help that nerddom, cosplay and science fiction conventions have such a collectively held (Big Bang Theory– type) stereotype of low social skills and, well, weirdness.
big-bang-theory-cosplay-640x360
But really, buying equipment, driving to events, wearing “team” apparel and cheering hard for cosplay daughter and cosplay best friend isn’t really any different than being a soccer Mom or Dad.  It’s just less of the social norm.
I don’t really understand soccer either. But if that was her joy and what gave her confidence, I’d learn.
No, I’m really not cool- but I show up.
And to gloss Woody Allen, I think some serious amount of parenting, and life, is about showing up.
I
By cosplaymom

Life Must be Lived as (Cos)play

We should live out our lives playing at certain pastimes”

Plato’s Laws, book 7, paragraph 803e. 

Life. My daughter’s life as a high school student looking toward university. My life as a professional and a Mom.

IS HARD.

Complicated. Complex.  Confusing.

And I spend a lot of time wondering, where is our energy best spent. Cleaning the house? Losing weight? Beating my head against bureaucratic walls at work?

And shouldn’t I volunteer more? and get cosplay daughter self-defense lessons? Make her study geometry more? Maybe with a tutor? Shouldn’t I go get a part-time job to save more for university? For retirement?

Maybe. Probably. But she and I can only do so much, worry so much and try our best before it’s time to do something else.

Like make foam armor in the garage.

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As modern women, my daughter and I are confronted with an ocean of competing priorities and causes, chores and requirements.  And we do our very best to meet them. We keep the house tidy(ish), care for our friends and family and do our work.

But beyond that, I firmly believe that WE NEED TO PLAY.

and play and cosplay together.

For a type-A college professor with a highly developed, old-school Protestant work ethic, this can be a harder thing to get my head around. Especially in a culture that increasingly demands that I make my house, my body and my wardrobe more and more perfecter and fabulous all the time.

Lose weight now!

Plant the perfect garden!

Clean better and faster!

Etc. etc. etc.  Don’t even get me started on the articles on what clothing I am no longer allowed to wear because I am over 40.

Some of that advice is probably good for somebody somewhere, but I’ve made a decision.

I DON’T CARE.

I’ll take the happy, creative, supportive forums of a cosplay site or guild any time over the scoldy internet and media lifestyle shamefest.

The cosplay community encourages us. It lets my daughter and I “play at the certain pastime” of costuming- talking about shows and books, trouble-shooting ideas and challenges and then going off to weekend-long party/conventions together.

It’s a break from geometry and university administration, it’s a breath and a laugh.  It’s a topic of conversation for car rides and weeknight suppers (my teenager TALKS to me!) and a sense of accomplishment in an otherwise sad and defeating world.

I believe that Cosplay daughter and I should live out our lives reading, discovering, costuming and cosplaying. For sure.

But also: riding carousels, visiting the zoo and jumping on trampolines with friends.

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I hope you all do too.

(or find those certain pastimes that let you PLAY.)

By cosplaymom