Confessions of a Self-Conscious Cosplayer

I have a confession to make: I lie to my boyfriend on an almost daily basis.

It’s actually funny because on our first date he jokingly asked me if I was a compulsive liar (he’s got a real way with the ladies, clearly), and I denied it. Because I’m not a compulsive liar. I tell him the truth about every single thing in my life and my world, except for one area: I lie to him about why I’ve started to work out more and eat healthier. Here are some of the lies I have fed him:

“I want to see if regular exercise will make it easier to keep my depression in remission.”

“I want to get fit so that I can keep up with you when we go hiking.”

“I think eating fewer processed foods will help with my anemia/ allergies/ mood swings.”

“I don’t want to be a burden on my family when I’m older, so I need to take care of myself now.”

“I want to be able to have sex in X position without risking life and limb.”

Technically, all of these are true. Research shows that regular exercise does help with the management of depression. I do want to be able to keep up with him when we go hiking or do other physical activities together (ie. more flexibility during sex). Since I have started eating better, I have had fewer allergic reactions to my cat, my iron levels are up, and I have had fewer bouts of inexplicably becoming a creature somewhat resembling a large, furless gremlin in both demeanor and vocal expression. So, in all technicalities, when I recite these “truths” to my boyfriend, I AM telling the truth.

It’s just not the main truth. Mental health, physical health, sexual health, none of those are the REAL reason why I have been forcing myself to go jog on the big stationary hamster wheel that we call a “track” 4 times a week (which I hate!), or why I have been limiting my carb intake in favor of increasing my veggie and protein consumption. Nope. If I were to tell my boyfriend the full truth as to why I am suddenly interested in getting into shape, it would sound like this:

“Well, I want to cosplay as Zoya from Trine when we go to PAX East next year, and I want to look hot doing it.”

(Which could also be said as:)

“Tifa [from Final Fantasy VII] does not have this!” *grabbing my muffin top*

(Or)

“Does this sailor scout uniform make my ass look big?”

Basically, when I wear a cosplay outfit, I want to make sure that when people stop and do a double take, it’s because the costume is cool and I look good in it. Good as in not just “nice”, but as in “hot” and “sexy.”

You have probably suspected that this want comes from low self-esteem. If you have, you are correct. If not, you have entirely missed the point. Please try again.

Clearly the cosplay community consists of much more enlightened beings than I, because general consensus is that when you cosplay, the emphasis is supposed to be on your expression of your fandom of whatever you’re cosplaying. How skinny you are, or how big your boobs look, or how well you fit into society’s definition of beauty, none of that is important. When cosplaying, you are supposed to feel empowered and confident.

You know what makes me feel empowered and confident? Attention. Attention in the form of being featured on people’s Instagrams, Tumblrs, and the photo feeds for those big convention. And it seems to me that most of those women on there not only have awesome costumes, but are also at least somewhat thin, busty, and nice to look at. It probably sounds shallow, but I want to be like those women, and have the body that goes along with the confidence of the character they’re cosplaying.

Maybe I’m missing the point. Maybe I’m lacking confidence in myself and that’s why people don’t photograph me. Maybe my emphasis should be on my costume instead of my body. Maybe instead of lying to my boyfriend about why I want to lose weight,  I should be having a dialogue with him, and with others, that examines the social norms which exist around me, acknowledges the gender expectations depicted by the media, and questions how and why they impact subcultures the way they do.

Okay, those really aren’t “maybes”. Those are all facts, and they all deserve their own time and posts examining them. I will write those posts for Soapbox for Nerds, and they will be more thoughtful and insightful than this one. But I don’t have time for that right now. I need to get ready to meet a friend at the track for our run. Because as much as I hate running and watching what I eat, I know that the first time I have to hand my purse to a friend so that someone can pose with me dressed as Zoya in those short shorts and long jacket, I will feel proud of myself for getting into shape.

Oh, hey, another half-truth to tell my boyfriend: “I think working out will help me feel proud of myself.”

As a child, Diana had few friends, and so created her own in her head. When she was 7, this was cute. Now that she’s 27 and is still talking to them, we’re starting to get a little worried. When she’s not debating life decisions with her “advisors,” she spends her time sewing costumes, dating a game designer, and finding new geekdoms to love and new ways to talk about them.

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