|—||The Last Unicorm - Peter S. Beagle|
I've been trying to remind myself of this lately.
So d'you remember when I listed what still needed to be done on my Walda dress and under "sew bodice and skirt together" wrote "easy-peasey"? I cursed myself. I literally sewed that thing at least a dozen times before I got it to look good, including crooked, inside out, upside down, and a million different versions of just plain fugly, by which time everything was super behind. The sleeves went fairly well, and wouldn't have been that difficult, except for the fact that I was fitting and pinning them on myself without help, literally turning my head as far as I could and sticking pins into myself while I craned my gaze toward a mirror. In the end, by doing nothing in my free time but sewing for three weeks, pulling an almost all-nighter (1 1/2 hours of sleep) two days before con, and the staying up til 3 am the day before the con, I managed to get the dress done in time. And I must say I'm pretty pleased with the results, and proud of myself for what I accomplished despite all the issues and challenges that came up.
I got a lot of love, too! There's just something about Fat Walda that not even the staunchest Frey-hater can resist. No one had the slightest idea it was my first such project, and I got so many comments about how pleased people were that I was wearing PINK. (As if she'd be seen dead in anything else.) And it was so fun to wear! Super comfy, and so princess-y that I couldn't help twirling in it sometimes. My five-year-old self would be proud.
So the last couple days I've been in a Tomb Raider mood, and that got me thinking about the 2013 reboot. I enjoyed the game a lot, but something about it had always felt a little off, in particular something about Lara's characterization. It'd been bothering me since the game came out, but I only fully realized what bothered me about it a few days ago.
In her original backstory, (as described in the booklet for the very first game) Lara is the wealthy, pampered daughter of an aristocratic family. After surviving a plane crash that leaves her stranded in the Himalayas, she finds herself profoundly changed, and discovers that the danger and excitement of cheating death makes her feel more alive than anything she's ever felt. She enjoys it; enjoys it so much that in the first game's opening, after a collector tries to buy her treasure-finding services, she replies that she "only plays for sport."
In the years since, her origins have been altered and ret-conned a number of times, but all of them have contained that original core, portraying a Lara who despite whatever difficulty or pain she's put through on her adventures, still sees them as adventures; a character for whom the thrill of "tomb raiding" is such that she's going to keep coming back to it, regardless of how uncomfortable it might be at times.
This is a sentiment entirely lacking in the 2013 game. This Lara survives a series of brutal, traumatic, and increasingly horrible events, and finds herself capable of things (good and bad) she never expected. But even in her occasional moments of triumph, we never really get the feeling that she actually likes anything she's doing.
For old-school Lara jumping pits, outrunning boulders, escaping falling platforms-- basically anything that pits her against death-- that all excited her, was something she got a kick out of. But for this new Lara, that's stuff that frightens, hurts, and exhausts her; sure, it drives her, but only in the survival-sense.
Both the original and the reboot origin-stories begin with her surviving a traumatic event that leaves her too changed to go back to her former life; but in the end old Lara keeps going because she honestly loves at least part of what she's doing; reboot-Lara keeps going because it seems the only thing she can do.
So as interesting and well-acted as this new Lara is, she's missing that one aspect that-- even over several decades and multiple incarnations-- has always made Lara, Lara.
So, in the weird social arrangement of my life, there aren't a lot of people I really consider my friends, and none of the ones I do consider friends are people I actually met. They are all people brought in by my brothers, and though some I have befriended since and become close to, a lot of them are just people I end up socializing with because Anthony does, but wouldn't really choose to spend time with on my own. One of these "friends" is leaving for college in Oregon in a couple months, and we hadn't hung out together in long time, so he came to visit yesterday.
We've known him since he was fourteen or fifteen, and he's eighteen now. He's very smart, very left-brained, (and very wrapped-up in being smart and left-brained) and is one of those people who worships over-much at the altar of science. His family is well-off and he's had a very good education and (from what I know) a fairly cushy life, yet at fifteen he already had the jaded, cynical, elitist outlook of a twenty-something hipster. In fact, he kind of just is a hipster, but without the wardrobe. (Which of course, is a comparison he would loathe.)
He's very judgemental and exclusive, and the kind of person who hates a lot of things, to the point where I can only assume most of what he hates he has decided to hate, and that he enjoys hating on things. Anything too simple, or too fun, or too innocent, or too mainstream seems to offend his sensibilities, and he's likely to turn up his nose at something just because a lot other of people like it.
He likes horror, and tends to gravitate toward weird, complex, dark and usually somewhat twisted stuff, especially when it presents itself as somehow "deep" just because it's weird. (And by extension, if it's weirdness doesn't do anything for you, then you must be dum and/or shallow.) He's big into Warhammer, but supports Chaos; loves Fallout, but not only sides with Caesar's Legion, but prefers the bizarre and goofy old games to the new ones. He likes a lot of horror manga (like Spiral) likes Lovecraft (who I can't stand) is a big Homestuck fan and is super into Welcome to the Night Vale.
Hilariously, Lovecraft, Homestuck, and Night Vale are all rabidly popular, at least in the nerd crowd. (Even outside traditional nerdom, Lovecraft is still the overly-indulged mainstay of pseudo-intellectual hipsters the world over, as well as the favored child of those critic-types who want everything "gritty" and "dark"-- and thus "realistic"-- to the point where they can't enjoy anything else.) That doesn't really work well with his anti-popular thing. However, the first two at least kind of have fandom heirarchies, and judge you to see if you're a "real fan" or a "poser", and whether your interest is legitimate enough for them. He's always held himself above the majority of the Homestuck fandom (with sort-of good reason) and yesterday he claimed he's the "only one" who is actually a real fan of Night Vale. So series with heirarchy-based fandoms seem to avoid his anti-mainstream thing, which makes sense in a way, since being somehow the top tier of the cultural/intellectual heirarchy is kind of the reason he has a problem with mainstream stuff in the first place.
I don't want to be rude, or hurt his feelings, so I keep it to myself, but it's difficult to have a pleasant time hanging out with him. Not horrible or anything, just kind of awkward and more energy draining even than usual. It's just hard to feel comfortable and free to be oneself around someone who hates most of what you love, and who makes you feel as though he has already judged you and your likes as somehow less intelligent, or less legitimate, or being somehow inferior to him/his. I mean, he's never put me down to my face, or said anything demeaning to me, but the commentary he makes about things he doesn't know I love, (and even some things he does know), and other people who like those things, or who's tastes don't mesh with his make it clear that he at least thinks some of that about me, even if he doesn't express it. So in order for us to "have a good time" together, I have to keep quiet about what I like and what I feel, in order to avoid the negative judgement(and possible tension) that would result if I actually admitted my tastes or spoke my mind.
Once another "friend" claimed somewhat dimissively that I tended to like "mainstream" stuff because I watched Ouran Host Club (which is ironic since she is super into Sengoku Basura, Devil May Cry, Resident Evil, Capcom games in general, and whatever new, somewhat dark, supernatural-themed Japanese series is producing yaoi this week.) I don't mind liking mainstream stuff per say, and I'm not going to watch or not watch something because it does or doesn't up my "street cred." But the hilarious thing is how NOT mainstream my taste usually is. I've wailed before about how whatever I tend to like-- even stuff that is supposedly popular-- has no fan presence, and no merchandise, and that I never find anyone else who likes or is even aware of it. Like The Guild, Felicia Day's webshow. Super popular, right? No one I know watches it other than people I made watch it. No one! I've realized it's mostly because I like fantasy, and while nerd culture has gone fairly mainstream, it's mostly sci-fi and super heroes that are in the main, while fantasy loiters awkwardly in the background, wedged somewhere between the kiddie table and the grown-ups. (And if it should make its way to the front, it must first prove itself "adult" by grittying up, getting "dark" and producing a lot of gore, violence, and nudity.) So, supposed "nerds" flex their Star Trek muscles and call people "fake geeks" when they don't know Green Lantern's backstory, but when I try to talk about Michael Moorcock, no one has even heard of him, let alone gives a crap.
So it's kind of galling (but mostly just hilarious) to then have people look down their noses at me because I like things that they claim are too "popular", especially when they feel like it somehow makes them smarter or better than me. If I'm going to be judged for being too generic or mainstream, I'd like for once to be able to at least enjoy the benefits of liking something actually generic/mainstream. But sitting in the corner with no one knowing or caring about most of what I like, and then being given the old superiority side-eye anyway is just freaking obnoxious.
PS. I also discovered Terri Windling's blog today. Ah, what a treasure it is! It makes me proud to be a writer, and reading my mind can't help but wandering through all the wonderful hours I've spent invested in the struggles and triumphs of imaginary people, and in creating strange and fantastic worlds. I can't wait to get a better look at it in the next few days. Having things as lovely as this to look forward to are a balm to my soul.
Sewing is the worst of all at this. Finding patterns that actually fit me is pretty much impossible, and I've tried once to alter a pattern to fit me and it ended dismally. The result is that I've never sewn anything for myself before. I've also never actually sewn real clothes before. In fact, I've never even really used a pattern before, and I've certainly never drafted one myself.
So, when I decided to cosplay Fat Walda Frey/Bolton for Ice and Fire con in May, I tried pretty much everything I could to avoid having to sew a full length dress by myself. But everything from color choice to dress designs made that impossible. I looked all over etsy and ebay, but found nothing ready made. I contacted dress-makers and they were all either indisposed, or out-right refused to make anything resembling my design. I wasn't even able to find a dress that I could alter. So it became apparent I would have to do this myself after all, despite my complete lack of experience. And to top it off I had such a hard time finding fabric (even when I looked in bedsheets, curtains, and houseware fabric!) that the only thing I found that was workable was some thick pink knit.
The skirt was pretty simple, and I got that finished within a few days of washing the fabric. Every time I've machine-hemmed knit the results have been horrible, and nothing about this attempt was any different. So after hemming the whole thing on machine, I then folded the hem down, pinned everything into place again, and re-hemmed the entire skirt by hand. There is just something about me that guarantees every project, no matter how easy, will always involve copious amounts of hand-sewing for no apparent reason.
Every step I've taken with the bodice has been hesitant, mostly because I was terrified it would go wrong. I started by tracing a very rudimentary pattern from a pre-existing top I own, and made a mock-up with it out of muslin. From there I made adjustments to size and style, cutting off where it was too large or adding in sections of fabric where it was too small. I also worked at making it more balanced (such as the sleeve holes being the same size) and made changes to taste (such as seeing it on and suddenly deciding I wanted a plunging neckline). Eventually I had a sort of Frankenstein's Monster-style top cobbled together. The fit was fine, and I'd figured out the neckline, but I found that in order to fit my boobs comfortably, I wound up with inches of extra fabric at my armpits that I didn't really know what to do with. I thought through all the solutions I'd seen to that problem and finally settled on those curving side panels a lot of bodices have. My lack of familiarity with patterns and clothes sewing fixed things nicely again, since I don't even know what those are called, and so finding instructions on how to install them wasn't really an option. However, after some trial and error and a lot of thinking I was able to figure something out, and finally decided to start on it Saturday. But Saturday my period-ills became so bad that I literally spent almost the whole day in bed, so I had to delay my start til Sunday morning instead.
Anyway, I started by butchereing my Franken-top some more, then added new sides and in the end was pleased enough that I felt ready to move to the next level. So I cut out an entirely new front and sides from muslin, joined them to my old mock-up back and verified that, yes, indeed, I was certain enough that I could actually make a pattern now. So I undid all my sewing, laid the muslin pieces out, and traced them onto tissue paper. Then I took my new pattern pieces and cut out my pink fabric.
With much fear and trepidation, I assembled the final pieces, but not having a ripper, and worried that I would have to go back and change something, I sewed everything by hand. That took me quite awhile, but I finally finished late Sunday night, and was pleased as punch to see that I had succeeded in constructing something that looked dangerously like a legitimate bodice. I was so pleased in fact that I bounded out of the bathroom to show Anthony, despite the fact that I was basically wearing a crop top, and a rather skimpy one at that.
So, I've gone from never having even used a pattern, to not only having used one, but having made one (primitive though it may be) AND I've done it without any help and without a dress form. I am rightly proud of myself for having accomplished this. I'm so excited and encouraged that I've even taken the necklace I'll be wearing up a notch! I had originally planned for just a red droplet bead on a length of ribbon, but with all the charms I've been sculpting lately (and inspired oddly enough by the sadly lackluster costume Walda's got in-show) that I'm going to sculpt a little charm of the flayed man on the Bolton's sigil, and have the little drop bead dangle off the botton of it.
As for the rest of the dress, I plan to get the top machine sewed (except for collar and sleeve holes) tonight, and then I'll only have these steps remaining:
- Figure out, sew, and install sleeves (The most daunting task of the whole dress.)
- Gather skirt top (easy peasy)
- Sew skirt/bodice together (also a cinch)
- Add trim to sleeves, and collar trim/false neckline (will involve a lot of pinning and fiddling, but shouldn't be too hard.)
I feel like crap all the time lately; My period started and I can't even cross my arms without being in extreme pain. I've been nauseated almost every day for the last two weeks. I can barely summon the energy to pull myself out of bed each morning, and despite spending the day in a state of exhaustion, when I finally do get to bed I can't actually get to sleep til two, three, or even four in the morning. Even when I make up for it by sleeping late on the weekends, I still spend the whole day tired and lolling around with almost no energy to spare. I think it's a combination of hormones and stress, a killer blow if there ever was one. But it's left me with no motivation to do much of anything and is exacerbating the mental exhaustion I'm already deal with.
Since I can't do anything to solve my life problems right now and prayer isn't doing a whole lot, I've been sorely tempted lately to distract myself the best way I know how: retail therapy. But I'm too poor and too tired even for that, so I ended up finding a much more financially responsible activity to try and pull me out of the dumps instead.
I love amulets and talismans, and if I had the money or the space I'd probably own a million of them. Recently I've been thinking over what relatively simple, quick, and unique handmade items I could sell online or at conventions, and my while going through Etsy yesterday I got the idea to include talismans/amulets on the list of possible merch. Among the myriad things Brittany left or forgot when she moved was a big block of Sculpey that had been sitting in the fridge for months, so the most basic materials for talisman-making were already on hand. (Amulets are made from natural materials, so making any of those will depend on what natural items I can find or can scrounge up.)
After work last night I immediately got out the Sculpey and got started. However, after getting my work space (somewhat) clear and getting some clay softened, I was suddenly hesitant. I've been dealing with a lot of hopelessness and frustration and just general negative energy lately, and I've heard a lot about how handmade things can pick up and carry energy depending on how, and with what intent, they were made. Now, I'm not sure I believe that (and I certainly don't buy the idea that you can straight-up "charge" an item with powers or effects) but if there's any validity to it at all, I would hate to make something that would affect the future owner negatively in any way.
But I needn't have worried. I realized that it's the first time in a long time that I've sat down to make something without having to, without a strict guide to follow, or time limit to keep. Being able to just randomly potter about with some clay just because I felt like it was very calming, and I'm sure with such a peaceful creative process that if these do carry any sort of vibe with them, it will be one of pleasure and love.
I worked til fairly late last night since I knew I wouldn't be able to get to sleep anyway, and managed to get about half a dozen pieces scuplted, baked, and primed with a few coats of white paint. I'll work on painting them some more tonight, and maybe sculpt some more pendants as well.
It's good to be able to look at myself and actually like what I see. The darker color makes my hair look greasier faster, so now I don't really have a choice but to wash it every day, but it looks great in waves, and beautiful in curls, and I love having this big dark cloud around me. Plus, anything that lets me look in the mirror and see a little Katie McGrath there is a good thing. (Also, I learned recently that Katie McGrath is a natural blonde, so the beautiful dark waves I've been envying are as genuine as mine.)
However, I'm still struggling with the occasional bout of weird guilt, mostly whenever I think of my mother's reaction. I still think she won't like it. Like I think she'll kind of mourn it; that she'll be sad that I don't look really nice in aqua blue anymore (not that I can really find anything I like in that color, unfortunately.), or that I don't look like the girl and woman she raised, that I don't look like her baby, or that I've removed the only part of me that really resembles her. I'm also kind of worried she'll maybe think I changed because I didn't like myself? (Not that anyone else is going to read this, but does this make any sense? Am I making sense?)
I'm not big on artificiality or fakeness. I'd rather be ugly and actually me than be "pretty" but fake. The idea of being attractive through artifice only, and becoming not only ugly but unrecognizable once my makeup was off is not one I'm interested in. (Although I've already made multiple alterations to my body before without any guilt or unease, they've been mostly permanent ones, and not intended to "change" my appearance, but rather to add to it, so I don't feel the same about them.) I'm also not big on feeling insecure in ones appearance to the point where you are unhappy unless you change it (Even though, when push comes to shove, I am VERY insecure about my body and have myriad things about it that I want to change, though my hair wasn't one of them.) And although on the one hand it's cool that people have the power to present themselves the way they want to be seen, I don't like seeing people get so wrapped up in changing themselves that they become totally committed to fakeness, and I especially don't like seeing people change because of pressure to be a certain way.
But I have no reason to feel guilty about this, because I didn't change my hair because I didn't like the original color, or because I felt pressured to, or because I felt insecure in myself. I did it because I was bored, because I needed to shake things up, because it seemed fun, because I've always romanticized dark hair, because I thought it would look nice, and most of all because I thought it matched better with who I am and how I feel on the inside.
Because most of my life is very, very internal ("My wars are" very much "laid away in books", though not in the way the author originally intended.) and sometimes it's stifling, and I just need a way of showing and living the inside-me on the outside. Since the chances of me being able to express that externally in any way (through discussion, or through interaction) usually means someone being interested enough in me to invite that and thus is like nil, my clothes and my appearance have sort of become a means of expressing my personality and my likes and my interests externally without being dependent on someone else's interest or invitation.
I did this for me, not for someone else, and I did to express myself and have fun. And I did it to follow through on my New Year's resolutions, to try new things and to do things that make me happy rather than just what seems sensible or responsible. I just need to remind myself of this the next time I'm assaulted by random pangs of guilt.
I'm cautious almost to a fault. I don't make decisions lightly, even about simple and inconsequential issues, and I avoid doing things that that might turn out wrong or that I think I might regret, and so it's very rare for me to take any action unless I'm completely certain about my decision.
I don't reach that stage quickly or easily, and I can always tell when I have because not only does my resolve suddenly go from weak and changeable to completely solid, but I'll reach this very relaxed, unswayable calm about said decision, even if it's daunting. Even if I'm frightened, the fear doesn't impact my decision to act or loosen my confidence. I may be stressing or nervous, but at my core I'm just going "no biggie" the whole time.
(A good example is last October, when, after over two years of consideration, I decided to get my ears pierced a second time. I had liked the idea for a long time, but I had never felt "certain" about it, and so I had never actually done it. Then, suddenly I became sure that that was what I wanted, and acted almost immediately. During the procedure, I was a bit nervous that I would flinch and ruin the alignment, but I never had a moment of doubt or ever second-guessed my decision.)
If I decide to force myself into doing something before I've actually become certain I want to do it, I can usually coax myself into a false sense of surety (usually while I'm someplace where I can't take any action, like work or bed) and then upon going to the place/taking the action to actually proceed with said decision, I chicken out and end up ditching, sometimes multiple times in one attempt.
But one of my New Year's resolutions for 2014 was to "enjoy myself, whether it's sensible or not." I spent 2013 scraping and drudging and working extremely hard and being extremely disciplined and despite all my effort almost everything I did ended up a fruitless waste or blew up completely in my face. So I decided this year I was going to do what I wanted, do things that made me happy, and not give a damn. So where I would normally have waited cautiously until I felt sure about it, I decided to just go and do it and see if I liked it afterwards.
So, after spending a whole day looking at photos of Katie McGrath in Merlin, thinking about Yennefer of Vengerberg and other dark-haired ladies of fiction, and then finally of how much more Native American I would look, I managed to psyche myself up enough that I broke down and picked up some dye.
I decided to dye my hair myself despite my inexperience, partly for financial reasons, and partly because I was afraid a professional would dye it a darker color than I wanted. It took several tries to get all my hair covered the first time, and I was mildly disappointed with the results, as the scalp was dense and very dark, but the ends were still auburn. On top of that, despite smudging myself with copious amounts of vaseline I managed to gets stains all over my forehead, face, and neck.
Still saddled with the disappointment of my first treatment, out of nowhere I started to feel guilty about dying my hair. I tried to disregard it because it was ridiculous, but I couldn't get over this sort of twinge of "oh, I've ruined my hair", and "it was pretty enough before", or even "I don't usually like being 'unnatural,' why did I decide to do this?", all the way to "i'm hiding who I really am" and (most especially) "my mother will hate it. she'll mourn my old hair and then I'll feel even guiltier." But I ignored it and decidedly realistically that there was no point in trying to go back, my only choice was to salvage what I had now.
I did another treatment to touch it up about a week and a half later, and decided to color my eyebrows as well. (The latter was a great decision, which I have continued every dye job since.) This treatment resulted in something much better, and much closer to what I'd wanted.
The only problem was that as time went by, I realized the "color-safe" conditioner included with the dye actually does the reverse of what it's supposed to, and anywhere that I applied it started fading back to brown. (I don't mind a little lightness at the ends, as it helps give a more natural look, but when my scalp is black and chin-on-down is cinnamon I have a problem.) So I've stopped using it and have gone back to my regular conditioner, which has kept much truer color.
I redid the color about a week before February to correct the conditioner-induced fading. Hoping to control the color application better this time, I decided to skip the gloves and go in bare-handed. This resulted in a really nice dye job, but it turned my hands black and though after several days I was able to get most of it off, my nails are still stained even now.
I dyed it again two days ago because I had rather severe grow out by then. This time I was determined not to miss any spots and used almost the entire bottle, and even when all of my hair was covered I just slathered more on until it was soaked. I also kept it on ten minutes longer than I have previously. The result is the best dye I've had so far, and I keep looking at my hair in the mirror thinking how great it looks.
I only have two concerns right now. First is that I don't want it to get too dry or damaged, so I'm hoping to do a deep condition sometime soon. And second is that nobody but Anthony (who lives with me) and my very (location-wise) closest friends know I've dyed it. None of the rest of the family knows, not even Lenore. I haven't even breathed a word about it on Tumblr, since Lenore and my sister-in-law Mallory both follow me now. I don't think most of them will care to be honest. I know Lenore will love it, my father will probably dislike it, and I expect my mother to feel exactly the way I described earlier. I've decided to keep it to myself until the next time I see them in the flesh (which will probably be months) so we'll see how it goes then.
Thankfully I'm very pleased with my hair now, and I love how pale my skin looks, how bold my brows look, and how amazing my eyes have gotten against this darker color. Plus another of my New Year's resolutions was to "cultivate an air of mystery" and not only does this qualify as it's completely out of character and entirely new, but I think I look more dramatic and fantastical now with a head of long, massive black hair, so I'm pretty satisfied.