There comes a point in life when simple innocence evolves into purposeful ignorance. When we are young and naive, it’s not uncommon to hurt the feelings of others either by simple omission or by learned behavior. Due to social cues and our parent’s reactions as well as the empathy we require, our attitude changes. For most people, anyway. We become aware that the simple saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’ is not only untrue, but cruel.
I attended DragonCon this past weekend. If you haven’t been it’s a little hard to explain, but it’s basically a place where people go to meet the celebs of their favorite shows, and where people dress up to have fun. My husband and I have been for several years in a row. I have to admit the first time I went I was a little shocked by all the cosplay. Why would adults want to dress up in costume? Why would people be so excited about sci-fi shows and comics?
A simple why is that DragonCon is a place of acceptance. Cosplay is a chance to be someone other than who you are, or in some cases to maybe be your true self for a little while. I grew up in a pretty conservative family. You were who you were. People didn’t look much deeper. I wouldn’t say they didn’t care, but for the most part people were genuinely happy to believe only in the surface facts. I was a nerdy kid, read too much, awkward socially, and didn’t know much other than what I grew up with. When I was an adult, a part of me ached to reach out to others from different cultures and different backgrounds, so that’s what I did. It wasn’t a popular thing to do. Why is this girl from South Georgia running all over Europe by herself? What does she hope to find in Africa? I guess I hoped to find myself.
And I did. I found parts of myself in London, in a village in Africa, in a hostel in Ireland…there were parts of me that finally made sense. I could be funny, I could be fun, I could be someone, anyone else. So I get it. I get the draw of cosplay. It’s expressing a different part of yourself that other people can’t see everyday. It’s finding that extraordinary part of yourself that highlights something different about you. None of us are any one thing. I’m a mother, but I’m not only a mother. I’m a health care worker, but I’m not only that either. I’m a woman, but that isn’t my only definition. Searching for yourself is a complicated thing. Some days I still don’t know who I am. Some days I’m a romance writer, some days I’m a mama cleaning up poop. It’s all a part of me. Putting those parts together is what fascinates me.
I guess that’s why I like to create characters so much. Characters should have flaws and have real, honest to goodness problems. Even in romance, there’s a place for characters who struggle with the everyday. There’s a place for characters who fight internal anxiety, or maybe don’t want to be a superhero. There’s a place for the girl hiding in the corner just hoping to be heard. There’s a place for the guy who loves sci-fi and doesn’t have a six pack. Isn’t it amazing that by writing these people’s stories we get to make them the hero? We get to give them the ending they may not get in real life.
So, I guess what I’m saying is that if you’re unsure of yourself, if you’re searching for a place to belong, create your own place. Create your own world where you fit in.
“She was beautiful. Not despite her so-called flaws but because of them-those scrapes and life experiences that made her body like no other woman’s. The beauty that wasn’t ephemeral or society-dictated but the real beauty that cut across generations, across all cultures, from the beginning of humankind.” Ray Smith, The Magnolia That Bloomed Unseen