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

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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

Cosplay Heritage- Heroine on the Half Shell

Over the weekend, cosplay daughter and I went to my parents house for Easter dinner.

There was lamb, and nice red wine, and fun table top gaming (of the creative kind- my father invented his own)

And, as discussions at family gatherings often do, the conversation turned to those not with us, including my excellent Grandma, who not only waited tables and was an expert fisherperson, but also drove demolition derby cars.

(She was also postmistresses of her small Ohio town. I will never be as cool as my Grandma).

Happy thoughts led my Mom to dig out old family photos- I’m sure you all know the kind- loose in one big box in the bottom of her closet.

And there were treasures in that box- my Mom’s WWII ration card, a rare good photo of my Dad, and……

THIS.

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My Mom as Raphael: Highly skilled in ninjutsu, Olympic-level agility, speed, and strength; Mastery of kobudo, Master of stealth, Chi Gong Master of twin offensive/defensive sai

This, friends, is my mother in COSPLAY.

who knew?

The occassion? a party for her preschool class of 3 year olds.  For the occasion she not only made her own TMNT costume, but, as you can see from the (lamentably) fuzzy image- she ROCKED IT.

She is most definitely not just wearing that costume, she’s cosplaying in it.

This photo, circa 1980, made cosplay daughter and I very happy.  Proof of our cosplay DNA!

We are proud to induct my Mom in as “Cosplay Grandma”

Now. Maybe we can get her to break this back out for our next convention in May?????

By cosplaymom

Well She DOES Like Firefly……Yes, I’m a Bad Nerd Mom.

So, friends, today I come before you with a confession:

I am a BAD nerd Mom.

Yeah, sure, I cosplay, I listen to Nightvale, and commiserate when BioShock Infinite ends sadly.

ending 2

But…… (Deep Breath)….

Cosplay daughter has never seen Star Wars. (Or Raiders of the Lost Ark)

HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? you ask. As well you might.

Because, friends, as a true old-school nerd I own the Star Wars boxed set (Episodes IV, V and VI, obviously) Heck, I can QUOTE the entirety of episodes IV-VI.

But I can’t get the girl to sit down and watch.

This is partly my fault- I didn’t start when she was tiny.  I didn’t start her early enough to not object.

But now she’s a teenager and far to independent and teenaged to be forced.

But I believe there’s hope.  A NEW Hope…..

a new hope

a very nerdy joke. This post truly reveals my nerd cred.

Because there’s Firefly.

I loves it.

and I was positive that SHE would love it.  So I nagged and cajoled her, about a year ago, and succeeded in getting her to sit down and watch…. about ten minutes of the pilot.

Wash-dinosaurs

…and we will call this land…..THIS LAND!

But that’s it.

Oh Well.

I tell myself that gaming, cosplaying nerds can live long and happy, healthy lives with nothing but Anime and Groot to quote for fun.

groot

though it’s true that Groot’s lines are somewhat limited….

I was resigned.

Then, a positive sign!  She went away for the weekend to visit grandparents and came back….HAVING WATCHED THE ENTIRE RUN OF FIREFLY.

Now, of course, she’s the biggest Browncoat ever. She’s working through the stages of grief at the cancellation, cutting her apples in half and drawing Kaylee.

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I predict Kaylee cosplays in the very near future.

What changed? Who knows? I guess I just can’t push her.

So don’t call DFS quite yet about my nerdmom neglect.

I’m hoping that in a few months she’ll be drawing something else…..

leia

though knowing her, we’ll just as likely be sewing Jedi robes and looking lightsaber tutorials.

(Can’t wait!)

By cosplaymom

Problematic Genitalia: The Unknown World of Cosplay Superhero Naughty Parts

NOTE: as you might imagine a post titled “problematic genitalia” would, this post contains a whole bunch of correct terms and euphemisms for the male and female reproductive organs.  It’s also full of nerdy scholarly musings. You can decide which is scarier.

A couple of months ago, another member of my Costuming Guild   posted a friendly suggested link on cosplay cleavage, with the note that it might be of use to the ladies of the group who were wanting to cosplay superheroes.

cosplay cleavage 1

Now, like a good feminist, gender-scholar mother, I got all hot and bothered and posted a passive-agressively snide comment in reply-  hoping to see a tutorial on how to make men’s genitalia look bigger for cosplay.

And that’s when I learned something fascinating.  Guys cosplaying superheroes actually have the OPPOSITE problem.

They have to minimize, reduce and hide all of their business.

The gentleman who runs the guild is a Batman cosplayer  who pointed out that this is the challenge for men.  I had no idea. 

However, any amount of time investigating the subject in online tutorials and message boards reveals a significant amount of angst, anxiety and outright disgust about the visibility of men’s reproductive organs as part of a superhero cosplay.

For example, a favorite site of mine: www.cosplay.com.  Has a new thread in a discussion forum, titled “How to Hide Your Junk in Spandex.” in which the user posts:

looking for advice on how to hide my “Junk” when wearing spiderman suit. Ive seen lots of pictures of guys in superhero spandex, and there is that crotch “thumb”. (and it looks ridiculous).

Luckily for the cosplayer in question, the internet is also full of instructional descriptions, videos and pictoral representations on how to “tuck and tape.”

Fascinating. (she said, raising a Vulcan eyebrow)

But WHY?

Isn’t it interesting that women are coached and expected to play up their private parts, and men have been trained to hide theirs? That men themselves see the VPL (visible penis line) as “ridiculous?”

Turns out that even in major films, there is a great deal of effort that goes into hiding superhero packages.  This article details how Superman was digitally altered in post-production, and the new Spiderman necessitated a “new ‘high tech’ designed costume. A source on the set stated, “One whole day was devoted to make sure there was nothing inappropriate showing in the crotch area of the suit.”

Maybe this is the answer? Men’s genitalia are “inappropriate” for public view, while women’s breasts are fair game for everyone to look at?

Gender scholars will say that the latter is old, and well-trod territory. That women’s bodies have been viewed (and are viewed as public property and since forever.  Through the multiplication of images of idealized female bodies in the media, women even learn to see themselves through the eyes of others.   (That’s  just one link, there’s a whole literature on this for anyone who is interested.)

male gaze

This study at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln confirmed that men’s visual focus is mainly on the sexual body parts, whereas women generally focus on faces. Surprising…..not at all.

So men, and the media, enjoy looking at breasts. Women learn to conform by making theirs more visible. Ok.

But this isn’t helping me with the issue of hiding male penises.  Superheroes are by definition, powerful and strong- almost hyper-masculine in their violence and contribution to the phenomenon of progressive muscularity.

muscularity superheroes

Social psychology researchers used these images in a study on men’s identification with superheroes. It’s also worthwhile to compare the image of Adam West as Batman with that of Christian Bale in the same role.

But if you search for advice on hiding male genitalia, two kinds of returns come up- superheroes and crossdressing (men dressing as women.)  Surely the penis is the most masculine of male body parts- since only men have them. Hence the desire to hide the part if dressing as a woman.  What’s the link, though, to superheroes?

Much of my thinking on this wonders if the disconnect is a product of specifically U.S., puritanical hang-ups about sex and our easy acceptance of violence.

We don’t seem to care how much violence we surround ourselves with in film (this study found that the amount of gun violence in films rated PG-13 has tripled since 1985), but we would prefer that our kids not even think about sex. (E.g. abstinence-only sex education)

But perhaps more on point is this study that found that in the period from 1950-2006, the roles of men and women in action films were increasingly polarized:

“women are typically portrayed in a sexualized manner. Despite the emergence of violent female action characters in more recent films (e.g., Lara Croft), violent portrayals in movies are overwhelmingly by male characters.”

So maybe that’s it. Women, show your breasts, men, show your muscles.

As a Mom and a human, I don’t think I care for either of those messages- for girls or for boys growing up.

And in the world of superheroes, it makes one speculate about what each character’s “super-powers” really are.

Will Work for Pie: The Need for Photography Lessons

I really need to learn how to take photos.

The internet- Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and the like, is filled with amazing, professional-quality photos of folks in their cosplay:

Maleficient

Like this. It even has an EFFECT. Sigh.

Cosplay daughter works so very hard on her work, and loves to share her work. (She’s the only reason I know that Tumblr and Instagram are things.) And I’d like to be able to help. I’m very proud of her.

Unfortunately, I have a small, weak camera and no particular training or skill in taking photographs. Most turn out fuzzy or boring.  A quick look at the photo gallery on the home page of the site will reveal my best efforts, and the paltry nature thereof.

At some point, I will spring for professional photos of her favorite cosplays- I suspect she’ll want them for a portfolio as she’s applying to college. For now, though, we are constrained by our budget.

I think I’ve seen panels listed before at conventions on how to take better photos, and I should really attend. In the meantime, I’m going to fall back on trial and error- and the help of friends, once again.  I took photos, but she was concerned that she couldn’t see what she looked like. Fortunately, Novio was over and offered to hold both a large mirror behind me so she could check her posture and hair and also provide some ideas.

For this service, he negotiated a deal I could live with: pie.  All-he-could-eat pie.

pie

The blueberry was a bigger hit than the pumpkin…

A fair price, and within our budget.

I think we did better- you can be the judge. Cosplay daughter will now go off to photoshop them to her satisfaction, but I think we’re making progress!

I just need more practice, a better camera and lots of pie to keep the crew happy.

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Elizabeth apparently smacks the protagonist repeatedly with a book in-game. I love and teach literature myself, but rarely use it as a weapon….

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2014-04-01 22.07.53

By cosplaymom

“Dick Cheney Always Wins” or “You Can’t Give Her THAT!”: Cards Against Humanity at Kawa Kon

Other Cosplay Moms and I discuss the challenges of being a middle-aged lady in a youth-dominated hobby.

What to cosplay? How much to hover and how much freedom to give the cosplay children? Can I possibly stay up late enough for a rave that starts at 11pm?

But at Kawa Kon this past weekend I discovered a new challenge: playing raunchy card games with slightly embarrassed college guys.

nervous guy cards

I was wandering about at the con, in cosplay, chatting with cosplay Moms and Dads, and sat down at a table for a fun talk with a Cosplay Grandma.  (Go grandma!)

As we talked, an amiable bunch of early twentysomethings sat down at the other end of the table and began playing a game.

Now, table top gaming, and spontaneous break-outs of card games are a convention staple- I recognize Magic the Gathering and Pokemon, but I didn’t recognize this game.  So I was nosy and half-paid attention to how it was played.

I gathered that it was much like “Apples to Apples”

apples to apples

In that game, a category like “risky” is read by one person and then all the other players choose people/places/things named on the cards in their hand to try and be the one who picks the card that is most “risky”.  (It’s a tough call with the cards above. I think I’d go with the Bates Motel)

So when I was done chatting with Cosplay grandma, I innocently asked these guys, “so is that game like Apples to Apples?”

Yes…..they allowed. “But 18+.” Got it.

But then they surprised me by saying, “You should play!” and then dealed me in.

Ok. I’m a college professor. Little shocks me.  I’m game and hard to offend with off-color humor or sexual innuendo.

Good thing.

sexual innuendo

These young men were playing a game called “Cards Against Humanity”- a game whose tagline is “A party game for horrible people”

Cards against humanity

It’s a lot like Apples to Apples, except you get situations like: “Instead of coal, Santa Claus is now giving naughty children……” and everyone chooses the funniest answer. Like the squirt gun of cat pee pictured above.

Of course, many of the answer cards are not very subtle dirty humor- and I was playing with a table full of college guys.

(For the record, I had, and played one card that was “Harry Potter Erotica.” Still trying to get my head around that one.)

Like all con-goers I’ve ever met, they were friendly and welcoming, even to a Mom-

until it came time to play and they realized what they’d done. 

That example above is the first situation card I read.  One of the young men across the table (The Scout Legion member) thought he had the PERFECT answer. He was excited. I could see it- and then I saw his face change.

He showed his choice to the guy next to him.

“You can’t give her THAT!” the horrified compatriot exclaimed……and they struggled with the perfection of the answer and the inappropriateness of giving it to a lady their Mom’s age.

I will never know what he decided to do for sure, but I’m here to tell you, some of those guys gave me definitely R to NC17-rated suggestions for what Santa is giving to the naughty children.

I went with “Dick Cheney” as my chosen answer however, because that seems like a particularly appropriate gift for very bad children.

and, as one young man to my right noted, “Dick Cheney always wins.”

IMG_1721

I’m grateful to the intrepid band of young men whose natural inclination was to go against ageism or sexism to naturally include me without a second thought.

What a great time.

Thanks for letting me play, guys!

By cosplaymom

Nazgûl Do Get Hugs: Why It’s Ok to be a Member of the Nerd Tribe

New city, new convention, new adventure!

Cosplay daughter, cosplay BF, novio and I are in St. Louis, Missouri for Kawa Kon: a convention with an impressive array of Scout Legion Members, Master Chiefs dressed as Master Chefs and multiple Boba Fetts. (Or would it be Bobas Fett?)

There’s also an amazing group of Nazgûl, complete with a Sauron wearing his crown.

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This is not the best photo of the group, but they wouldn’t stand STILL. Novio, bless him, shot it out the hotel window.

Watching a photo shoot of these Ring Wraiths (above), Novio was disturbed to see folks glomping them. “Nazgûl don’t get hugs!” he said, with an air of one who REALLY read the Tolkien books.

(This is a key reason why we keep him around.  He may eschew most outward participation in the fandoms, but he’s a good, old-school nerd like us).

Moments like the hugging of the Nazgûl remind me why I love conventions. Spontaneous expressions of affection and approval from others abound.  This is the tribe. The nerd tribe, and they are a welcoming bunch.

We arrived late last night and the girls immediately took off to acquire as many new friends as possible- as L and Tintin

L and Tintin

They hadn’t gotten five steps on to the convention floor before they were greeted with YES! YES! YES!

(that’s all. No content to the message, except generalized enthusiastic approval and immediate positive attention from other convention goers)

How often do teenagers get that from peers? How often do any of us get that from anyone else?

I would love it if, in my life or hobbies, strangers would leap to express such affirmation and joy.  And I would like very much to have the lack of self-consciousness to do that for others.

This all reminds me once again of the great speech that Star Trek alum Wil Wheaton gave some years ago at a convention: about “Why It’s Awesome to Be a Nerd.” In it, he is responding to a Mom’s question on behalf of her infant daughter about why it’s ok for Mom or her to show that enthusiasm.

In the speech, Wheaton says that “the defining characteristic of us (nerds) is that we love things….we all love different things. But we love them so much that we travel thousands of miles, we come from all over the world so we can be around the people who love the things we love. That’s what’s awesome about being a nerd.”

He tells the baby for posterity to “find the things you love and love them as much as you can.

I couldn’t agree more.

It might be cool to be disdainful and cold. To dismiss and disparage and not grab on to anything. But that’s not what I want for cosplay daughter.

I want her to love the things she loves as much as she can.

Even if that thing is creepy fantastical ghouls like Nazgûl. 

Glomp ’em. Glomp ’em all.

By cosplaymom