Celebrating Free Spirits and Sports

I live in Tampa, FL, proud home of the Tampa Bay Lightning and annual host of MetroCon. To be fair, I’ll describe both: The Lightning is a fantastic hockey team. With all due respect to my hometown Blackhawks, there’s an approachable quality to the Lightning and its fans that grabbed me by my inner fangirl when I first moved down here and held on. I have been to very few hockey games in my life, but all of them have been Lightning games. I love the crowd, the energy, and the grit of my chosen team.

MetroCon is Florida’s largest annual Anime convention. Anime enthusiasts can choose to represent their favorite characters, often creating costumes that defy gravity and require feats of engineering. It is absolutely acceptable to wear a costume that looks, to the outside world, like an overgrown cow and have said cow run and hug a cosplayer who, again to the outside world, looks like a series of strategically placed strips of duct tape. The costumes are vibrant, the people friendly, the event energetic.

I sew clothes from patterns. To an Anime enthusiast, I am probably the equivalent of a single-celled organism of creativity. They create remarkable costumes that I would argue are every bit as fantastic and elaborate as the costumes in movies. Sometimes they actually look a little better. I have seen people dressed as Loki in more Loki-esque attire than Tom Hiddleston himself. As a fan of both Hiddleston’s grin and his acting ability, this is high praise.

You can predict where I’m heading with this: culture clash. The events of the busiest day of MetroCon collided with Game 5 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. As I drove to pick up my daughter and her friends from the convention center, the only thing I was concerned about was traffic. I forgot that some sports enthusiasts, especially after a game, are a bit on the rowdy side, and inclined to judge people dressed in Anime awesomeness – shall we say, unkindly?

As people left the game and the convention center, I heard the occasional shout of “Freak!” getting tossed at the cosplayers. Where, I wondered, were the cosplayers tossing the word “Freak!” out at the sports enthusiasts? Of course that question is rhetorical. No arguments broke out that I saw, but still. Why did anyone have to judge? From an outsider’s perspective, isn’t it every bit as ridiculous to be walking around with a sponge #1 finger pointy thing or long noisemaker doohickey as it is to be dressed as the character from an Anime show?

We are allowed to choose how we represent ourselves and we are definitely allowed to choose what we will do in our free time. My beloved cosplayers are no stranger than my beloved sports enthusiasts. Just saying.

We all Need a Floofy Skirt

I am not prone to generalizations about my status as a woman. To be clear, I think living as a human person is difficult, and that only gets more burdensome as one adds cultural and gender stereotypes upon it. I am grateful to be a me-type person, with all the 500 billion flaws and one or two good qualities that go along with it. Having typed all that, I want us to spend a moment thinking about that most hyperanalyzed of all material items people have: their clothes. If one has a flair for color and pattern, an eye for detail and a manner of tying a scarf or tie just so, we call them fancy. Then we call them materialistic, vapid, shallow, gender stereotypic, what have you. We are wrong, so wrong to do this.

We reject the notion that clothes make the person even as we yank on our own version of a uniform. Love it or lump it, our clothes are a form of nonverbal communication. I don’t wear my pajamas to work unless it’s pajama day (reason #502 why teaching is awesome). I definitely don’t wear my swimsuit to a business meeting; it would too quickly dissolve into laughter and it would be difficult for me to communicate assertively while wearing brown polka dots with ruffles. Maybe that’s my failing, maybe not. In any case, clothes are not entirely unimportant. It is most important for people to wear clothing that makes them feel good. I don’t care if a girl wears more stereotypically male-type clothing, or if a boy wears more stereotypically female-type clothing. If you feel sassy and fantastic in it, then go for it — except for jammies and swimsuits. They have a clear place and it’s not the workplace. Well, unless you are a jammie and swimsuit model. I stand corrected.

Don’t worry, I have a point. In the fashion world, there exists that most magnificent of clothing items: the floofy skirt. It is twirly, spinny, sometimes sparkly, sometimes not. The point, though, is that it makes a person want to dance. Put those inhibitions down, nondancer-type people, the human body moves through space particularly well in a floofy skirt. The funny thing (to me) is that I don’t actually own one. I watch ballet, and even as I admire the athleticism, discipline, and sheer force of the moving story playing out before me, I adore the floofy skirt. Tulle was created for motion, for celebration, for bottom-shaking happiness.

I digress. Last weekend, I saw a picture of a little girl dancing in awkward little person beauty: arms akimbo, head tilted to the side, polka dot leggings, red mary janes – and a floofy skirt. The joy of the picture was that this person, even if she was a little model person, was having a blast. It reminded me of the days when I danced just because I was happy – not for the attention, not for the discipline, certainly not for the judgement, but just because it was a day and there was music and it was time to boogie. I do not own a floofy skirt, but I have a floofy skirt mindset that I won’t apologize for. My life is plenty serious, with its own share of difficulty and stress, and far, far too much worry. Sometimes it’s good just to bust out a metaphorical floofy skirt and enjoy a moment before returning to the business of the day.

My brother and I bantered on our social media site about whether everyone should have a floofy skirt; I still maintain that, yes, floofy skirts are a necessity. Perhaps not an actual floofy skirt, but some item of clothing that makes you smile, reminds you of a happy moment. Maybe it’s a jersey, maybe a pair of sneakers, maybe it’s your hideous flannel shirt from the 90s. I don’t care what it is, but I will argue to the ground that there is a piece of clothing that makes you smile. Mine is my imaginary floofy skirt. It is tulle, floor length, with layers of purple and green. In real time, I’m probably wearing my teacher uniform of a cardigan and pencil skirt, but please know that in my mind, I am wearing my floofy skirt and dancing.

The Value of 25 Years

In a little over a week, my husband and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, which seems like an eternity-ish long time until I put it into its proper perspective. I checked with my good friends at Google, and found some interesting statistics: According to an array of sources too numerous to bother citing, the average length of a marriage that ends in divorce is about eight years. That feels about like what I thought it would be, but then I wondered: what about the average length of a marriage that doesn’t end in divorce? According to a couple Google-based statisticians, this average is around 27 years; the median is around 40 years. We sometimes feel a little odd because we’ve been sharing each other’s life space for a good while, but it turns out we’re just entering the second phase of our marriage. I find that pretty cool.

I can’t really comment on the longevity of our marriage in terms of its whys and hows, but I can say with absolute certainty that he is my favorite person on the planet. Because I started with statistics, I thought it might be interesting to view what 25 years look like from our perspective. In no particular order, here’s a glimpse:

  • Two children
  • Nine different homes in four states
  • Three dogs, two cats, three frogs, four lizards, and a gecko
  • Seven long road trips (if my count is correct, we’ve been to 30 of the contiguous states in all)
  • Two health scares, both completely treatable
  • One bout with skin cancer, also completely treatable
  • One broken bone
  • Four sets of braces
  • A measure of funerals, weddings, baby showers and graduations
  • More laughter than tears
  • More trips to fast food emporiums than we should ever admit

I have no need to keep going; our marriage is ours and the list made me get all teary-eyed. After all these years together, I feel like I am just now getting to know my husband. He’s funny, wonderfully and humbly intelligent, and the only person I know who can annoy me and charm me at the same time. The fact that we met is my sister’s doing; that he’s the person I share my good news, bad news, boring news and gossip with, is all our own. I have no clue what the next 25 years of our life are going to be like, but I do know that of all the good that has come my way this far in my life, I am most grateful for the kids and him.