Ok. I know it’s been a while since my last post, and while I’d love to talk about something light and funny and punny, I’m going to talk about the latest con I’ve been to.
Normally I try to keep things positive and focus on improving myself and sharing things I’ve learned. This is not going to be one of those posts. It’s going to be full of hard truths about body image and cosplay. It’s going to cover the inadequate feelings that we cosplayers can experience when we aren’t happy with ourselves.
It’s not pretty, but sometimes we need to acknowledge the truths we don’t like, so we can work on fixing them.
Colossal Con has a whole bunch of things that are awesome. It’s easy to meet photographers due to the high ratio of photographers to cosplayers. There’s a water park. Swim up hot tub bar. Fields to shoot in, an arcade with a looooot of games, huge-ass drinks and a petting zoo.
It’s also filled with hot people in tiny bikini-sized costumes.
That’s kind of the problem at Colossal. It’s not the con’s fault, or the attractive peoples’ either. But when you’re not a size 6 or smaller and you have a hard enough time talking yourself into wearing a bathing suit in public, colossal con can become a whole other beast.
I’ve talked about my issues with body image before, and while I’ve resolved to improve my health and shape… I haven’t. Some reasons are acts-of-god (sprained ankle, various injuries) some are lack of motivation (that’s all me), but the end result is that I’m still squishier than I want to be.
I’m already aware of that, sometimes painfully so, in my day-to-day life. When I went to Colossal this year, I knew that I’d be dealing with that self-consciousness all weekend. I just thought that… maybe I’d be better able to handle it than I was.
Sure, being accidentally poisoned with gluten by Kalahari the restaurant on Thursday night only made that worse with the moodiness and puffiness… but the glutens can only take so much of the blame. (‘I made sure it’s the gluten free bun’ they said. ‘I checked with the kitchen’, they said. They were incorrect, but only realised that after I’d finished eating. GREAT JOB DUDES.)
One of my issues with regards to my body image is that I think I’m still in my old body. The one that was still able to be athletic without breaking. The one that could eat food. The one that didn’t store everything as fat, even if all I eat is lettuce. On a good day, I’ll even feel like my old self with energy to match.
This one. If you see it, let me know.
Then I walk by a mirror, and stop because there’s a stranger there.
Worse still is looking at pictures, seeing all the friends I’ve gotten to know… and then seeing a pale, sickly, squishy person where I’d stood, smiling at the camera. It’s rough and even though I’m a feminist and all about loving yourself as you are, I wish I could brush that level of dissonance off. But I can’t. I’m human. I’m a flawed human in a lot of ways, just as most of us are.
Those are the moments that bring my mood and confidence crashing down, and I get the feeling I’m not the only one who runs into these feelings.
Colossal has a huge (dare I say… colossal?) opportunity to be fun. There’s so much to do, but I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t drawbacks to going.
I talked about the cosfame game, and how it’s a myth. I stand by what I said, but want to re-iterate the following point: Photographers like to work with certain types of people. Maybe a photographer is aware of this and focuses on expanding their portfolio with different ethnicities or shapes, and maybe they aren’t. That’s up to them.
This is not a slight on anyone I know. I love the photographers that I’ve met through colossal. They’re funny and caring and it’s great to hang out with them. But I’m not going to pretend that I’d be on their list to shoot unless I’ve got a show-stopping costume on. It’s a concept that can be hard for some people to understand. They’ve always been photogenic, or relatively fit. I’m not saying that they are jerks or aren’t compassionate, but they may not have the frame of experience to understand where people like I are coming from when dealing with body image issues.
It took me a long time to even start liking this picture.
In such a heavily media-saturated culture, both Cosplay specific and otherwise, I will bet that 99.99% of people are unhappy with some aspect of how they look. The internet, with all its trolls, only aggravates the problem. Still, an observer only has to watch the con for a short while before recognizing who will draw many photographers for shoots, and who won’t.
Again, photographer friends, please don’t take any offense. I know why this happens (easier to beautify, personal aesthetics, etc) and I’m not blaming anyone. Just mulling over my observations from this Colossal and many other conventions.
Body image can be a difficult issue to talk about in this community, often met with awkward silence, or reassurances like ‘I’m sure that’s not what it is, they’re just busy’. But, you know, I’m pretty good at pattern recognition. So, let’s not pretend that body image issues aren’t related to being able to work with photographers or have opportunities open for you. They are.
I’ve seen firsthand the kind brush off when someone who’s a little too big, a little too not-attractive-enough, broaches the topic of working with a photographer who is established enough to choose who they work with. Even though the photographer does it in a polite way, there’s only so many times a person can get the gentle ‘no thanks’ before we get discouraged.
Let’s be real: cosplay is an aesthetic hobby. We like making beautiful things we can wear, we put on makeup to make ourselves match the character, and wear support garments to try to emulate the character’s shape. Cosplay can make us feel amazing, but the other edge of that sword is that we can also feel inadequate when we don’t measure up to those around us. To pretend otherwise would be untruthful.
Many of my friends in cosplay are petite, and I’m of a more… Amazonian stature. By default, I feel awkward and huge from time to time (like buying twice as much fabric as they would need to for a jacket or dress). Add onto that bikinis, and living in the same villa as many more petite and fit cosplayers and bam: Walrus!Calamity.
Yes, I am tall. It is a thing.
Even if I managed to get fitter and lose 20 lbs by next year, I’d still feel like the ugly duck (because lord knows I’m no duckling at that con) at Colossal. I will never be a size 3. I don’t want to be a size 3. I want to be healthy, and strong. Even when I was at my goal fitness level, I would get pangs of inadequacy when shopping with smaller friends. It’s a fact of life that will always be there for me. I don’t like how I look. Every now and then the experiences build up and I’m left staring at the squishy stranger in my mirror, hating her.
Is hating my body Healthy? Good lord no. I know it’s not. I’m working on it though. I’ve had a complicated relationship with the meatsuit I live in. It’s tried to kill me; I shoved ink into it after I survived. It complains when the weather changes; I shove ibuprofen into it to make the pain less. It’s puffy and pasty and frustrating; I try to eat better and be more active.
I have valid reasons to not like my body, but until I can become a cyborg, I’m stuck with it. And it’s only going to keep breaking down the older I get, so, I’ve got to learn how to stop hating it and how to make the best of it.
Part of this is recognizing that I need to be aware of how events and environments affect me. It can be difficult to recognize when it would be better for me to say ‘no’ to going to a con… but I think that’s where I’m at for Colossal.
It’s fun, it’s exciting… but it’s not worth the self-hatred that I’ll be dealing with for the next month.
I didn’t write this to discourage anyone from going to Colossal. It’s a great party, but I just don’t think it’s for me, as I am, right now.
And that’s my problem, not Colossal con’s. But it’s one I’m working on.
Normal Service of punny and informative posts will resume later this week.