I nervously lace up the boot on my right leg—an uncomfortable angle when you have five-inch platforms on the bottom and the bed is too short. But I get it done. Now to do the other boot. My roommate gives me an incredulous look, somewhere between understanding and “Do you know what you’ve gotten yourself into?” The other boot takes a little more time, because the angle is even more awkward than the first one, but I’m going to make it happen. I stand up, and I’m definitely five inches taller than I was, almost clocking seven feet. It’s nice up here, but no time for dilly-dallying; I’m not done yet.
I sit back down and the roomie helps me with my wig, which is so hairy that I need help to keep it out of my eyes. Luckily, she thinks ahead on costuming things and has come prepared with bobby pins. Seriously, there’s so much hair. I haven’t felt this much hair on my head since my 20s, and that’s almost a distant memory. We get the hair in place, but there’s a pair of goggles that I don’t actually want to wear over my eyes (since I have to keep my glasses on part of the time to see) but definitely need to be on my head. We get the great idea to have the goggles help keep the hair out of my eyes and pin the goggles instead. It works. I’m almost ready to leave the hotel room and enter the world of CONvervence in my first-ever cosplay.
I grab my six-foot sandworm, strap it over my back, and step into the hallway. We’re on the sixth floor, and it’s peak elevator time. I usually take the stairs, but not being used to the platform boots, we decide that I should wait for the elevator. As I’m waiting, a family comes up; I dwarf them, and it’s a fun feeling just standing there talking. I’ve lowered my voice and given it a little growl. I’ve always overthought that when watching others cosplay: do you try to stay in character, or do you just be yourself with a costume on? I’ve only ever dealt with costumes when I’m onstage—and when you’re onstage in a theater production, you’re on, but otherwise you’re just hanging out backstage as yourself in costume. I don’t know what to say because of this quandary, and the fun feeling slowly evaporates; I feel like an idiot. Luckily the elevator arrives and I’m able to get on (ducking my head of course).
As I leave the elevator on the second floor, I bump a couple people with my sandworm’s tail and realize I have to keep in mind that my body is now deeper than it usually is because of this giant prop. I start giving my turns a little wider of a berth. The first physical obstacle in front of me is the escalator; I look down the whole time and get one foot on, and then as the escalator whisks me away—do they usually go this fast?—I’m able to get my other foot situated. As soon as I step off the escalator I’m greeted by two friends who happen to be walking by. Actually, “greeted” is a little tame: there’s high-pitched squealing and a quick photo opportunity. The pair of them are doing a Jurassic Park cosplay, and they’re off to get their T-rexes, so they have to rush.
Now comes the moment of no turning back: the DoubleTree’s Garden Court, where the cosplayers come to congregate. I need to do a quick walkthrough because I’m scheduled to host a party room for the next four hours. The little kids are absolutely loving me. (I’m tempted to pick one of them up and throw them on my shoulder, but it seems a little odd, and I’m also carrying the sandworm.) Strangers wanting to get their picture taken with me is a bit of a rush, a little like a drug high—a quick boost and then it fades quickly. But there’s no time to dwell on the fading glow, since I have a room party to get ready.
Why did I pick now to do my first ever cosplay? Well, last year I hosted a Prince tribute party room because I love his music and it felt like the right thing to do. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own and got some friends involved who agreed to help me (thank you for amazing friends). Well, one friend truly went above and beyond the call of duty and showed up one night dressed as Prince from Purple Rain—he had done a whole costume for me. The happy tears in my eyes hopefully spoke volumes to him, and so this year when he helped come up with the “earworm” theme for our party room, I wanted to try and pay him back a little. With the 2017 CONvergence theme focusing on space operas, we aimed our party room towards the planet Arrakis and sandworms. With there being a lot of worms in space, we thought earworms would be a great party theme: deck the room out like Dune and play songs that would get stuck in your head. With that in mind, about six months before the convention I contacted a friend who makes costumes and asked for her help. I wanted to mash up Hagrid, a character I felt I could pull off, with Frank Herbert’s opus. She excitedly agreed, and over the next couple months we talked and she started building.
I learned a few things over the course of the night. First, don’t agree to stand up and host a party in five-inch platform boots if you’re not used to them (my feet were still sore a week later). Also, give your head break-in time for a wig, for the same reason (after about an hour my skull felt like it was being constricted, and an hour after that my head sort of went numb). I previously had a nebulous respect for what people, especially women, go through for fashion, but this gave me a real-world experience and newfound respect for the process. In addition to the wig, I also had to wear a fake beard and mustache—80 percent of the time I have facial hair, but due to a show I’m currently in, I had to shave it off. I missed my real beard. It might not have been as long as the fake one, but without Spirit Gluing it down, it cause a few problems with talking.
Despite the discomfort, one experience in particular made it all worthwhile. A friend of mine knew I was going to be dressing up, but didn’t know as who, and Hagrid is one of her favorite characters. When she saw me, she was on the verge of tears of joy—similar to how I felt about my friend’s costume a year ago. If I can give that much joy to one person, it’s worth it.
Will I do it again? We’ll see. I still have a hard time reconciling the character versus me, and it felt a little weird walking around hoping people would want to take pictures of me. I’ve been going to conventions for 10 years, and it hasn’t been my thing before. I enjoy seeing the costumes, and if I don’t know what they’re from striking up conversations; there’s nothing better than a geek convention to find new things to take interest in (one of my favorite things is keeping a list of the things that get recommended to me). Cosplay is a unique art for sure. I respect the folks who do it. It gives a creative outlet, and allows folks to show a love for something, but I still haven’t decided if it’s my bag or not. Oh well—I have a year to decide. In the meantime, give joy where you can.