Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Coming Out

I’m reading Mark Shanks’ dissertation called: Very Civil Wars: Reenactors, Academics, and the Performance of the Past. In the beginning of chapter two Dr. Shanks remarks on the ubiquity of Civil War reenacting and how all he has to do is mention Civil War reenacting and he gets an understanding response from most people. This brought to mind for me all the times I’ve had conversations where I have explained that I spend my weekends dressing up and living as if in another timeperiod. In most cases, I’m still waiting for the understanding.

This could be because I reenact some fairly obscure times. I do not do Civil War, or even Revolutionary War so most Americans are less familiar with the history of the times I reenact. Also there are fewer of us reenacting non-American history in the United states, and those of us who do are spread out in times ranging from the iron age to the present. Those times when I get a glimmer of recognition it is often because the person I am talking to has a relative that goes to Renaissance Faires, or once saw a RevWar group participating in a town parade. I’m not sure I have actually encountered on the street a random person who also does this sort of thing. Sure, I meet tons of them at LH events and online in LH spaces, but the closest I’ve gotten in real life was a few emails exchanged with the fencing coach at the college where I work who used to be in the SCA.

At least now all the folks I work with know that when they ask me if I have weekend plans they probably involve making a 16th century meal or attending an 18th century dance. They are no longer surprised, even if they still do not understand. The times I find much more awkward are when I need to explain to folks who I do not see on a regular basis. I recently had my yearly checkup and I know I explained my hobbies to my doctor last year, but she only sees my once a year so I had to sit there in the cold paper gown and again go over the costuming, the demonstrations, the locations where events are held, and the frequency with which I do this sort of thing.  Times like that it almost feels like coming out, but instead of just being gay I’m coming out as only interested in an obscure gender that most people have never heard of.

Hi my name is Alena and I participate in an esoteric hobby commonly called reenacting, but I don’t do any of the things you think I do.

In fact, I don’t even consider myself just a hobbyist. But that is a tale for another time.

1 comment:

  1. And of course, it's culturally variable, since when you say 'Civil War' it takes a little while for me to shift my brain from the 17th to the 19th century!