The Fairie Files: Being a Village Member

18 06 2018

I read an article that went viral several months back, about a young man who had decided to basically stock his school locker with a few different types of feminine hygiene products for his female friends.  This kid was awesome, don’t get me wrong.  Every person should do this. Let’s normalize the heck out out of the fact that 50% of the planet has uncontrollable bleeding from an area we’d rather not discuss culturally for 15-20% (or more if they have menorrhagia or PCOS) of their lives until they’re 50.

The fact that that kid’s actions went viral made me think about our culture and ways to insert normalcy about periods into conversations. It made me think about what kind of village I wish to help create. And really, my day job as a glass artist involves a village, even if it’s a make-believe one…

Recently at Faire, there was an awesome mom shopping with her two kids, one of whom looked on the brink of needing the talk about periods, and the second who was a boy in his mid-teens.  They had interacted enough that I knew she was a pretty chill mom who was trying to raise good kids. The son wanted a glass rock (the type that I sell for 25 cents) and mom told him that he had basically spent his money already.  They were polite enough and mom was engaged enough with other products that I suspected she was going to buy something anyway. Courtesy doesn’t cost much, and it felt like a perfect teaching moment… worth the cost of giving away a small rock from my viewpoint.

So I said to the young man (who had verbally indicated he wanted it to give to his girlfriend) that he could have the rock, and with my blessing on two conditions and the second one might make him a bit mortified.  He agreed to my terms.  “First,” I said, “You’ve got to agree to good behavior all day.” He nodded. “And secondly,” I said, “You have to acquaint yourself with what sort of feminine hygiene products your girlfriend uses every month, buy a package, and always keep one in your backpack for her if she needs it.”

To his immense credit, he didn’t blush or squirm. Just avoided eye contact and mumbled, “okay.” Mom jumped in – did I mention I liked this woman? – and added, “And doing that will help you become the kind of man that people want to marry.”

I don’t know if that teenage kid will remember this conversation 20 years from now or not when he’s talking to his son about girls, but I hope he does. Can you imagine a world where every man is supportive enough that carrying such items out of courtesy became the norm? Yeah. Here’s hoping.


An Elephant Named Thor

4 02 2018

I read everything.  No, really… everything. Luckily I’m a fast reader, (an article that suggests a 43 minute read takes me 10, for example) but my average day contains 2 hours of an audiobook (which is still reading, yo, and I explain my position here), and about an hour of reading Every Interesting Thing that anyone posts a link to on Facebook or Twitter.  I fall down rabbit holes. I am “aggressively inquisitive”. I’ve read about Satanists, been on the Daily Stormer’s site before it was taken down, and have probably read more of the Washington Post and the NY Times than 80% of the country.

A year ago I fell down one such rabbit hole and discovered much to my dismay that a design I make as one of my “standard-ish” offerings was tangentially linked to… Neo-Nazis.  I shelved the design temporarily and asked smart people what they thought.  I ruminated.  I gently redirected people inquiring about the lack of it in my booth that I just hadn’t made any recently, and offered them a way to special order a piece if they really needed that design in their life.  I don’t feel, however, that I can shelve it permanently yet, for a couple of reasons.  First, because my client base is filled with people who love Norse and Celtic stuff, and second, every symbol I tend to make is culturally appropriated from somewhere and somewhen.  So it’s likely that some symbol used by one group is, at some point, used by some other group that is viewed as bad.  Case in point, Pagans use a pentacle.  Satanists do too, only they show it upside down… and the number of Pagan friends who do not wear their religious tokens in public spaces is high because they get accused of being Satanists.

However, unfortunately, there was a very heated incident within a medieval recreation group I belong to recently, involving the attempted reclaiming of an ancient Norse symbol called a fylfot. We know it more modernly as a swastika.  And the consensus there was that the most recent affiliation of the fylfot (Hitler) is universally tied to the genocide of multiple groups of people, and therefore, cannot be reclaimed within this lifetime, or possibly this century, or heck, maybe a few centuries.  Which means we need to discuss the elephant in the room named Mjölnir, aka “Thor’s Hammer”. I’m no Neo-Nazi, and although I googled it to heck and back, I found only passing reference linking the Thor’s Hammer to white supremacists.  However, with hate crimes spiking since the end of 2016, I need to hold myself to a higher standard.  I think we all do.

And since I work at Renaissance Festivals, where there is a very high proportion of Weird People,  (I mean, I give people directions to people asking to “ride an elephant” or “pet a unicorn” and neither example is euphemistic or hyperbolic) it’s not a far leap to assume that white supremacists potentially view a make-believe world peopled mostly by Caucasian folks touting a medieval and European based Disneyland for adults as a “fun place to hang out”.

Context is important, and as white chick who has (at the moment) a haircut best defined as “military short”, with lots of Celtic and Norse stuff in my booth, and not knowing whom I’m selling to… I wish to be crystal clear in my intent.  I’m planning to make a few Thor’s Hammers for this year’s crop of stained glass. However, each Thor’s Hammer will be tagged with a note saying that I’m concerned about this symbol’s recent (albeit tangential) link to white supremacy, and as such, 20% of the sticker price of any Thor’s Hammer sold in my booth will be donated to a charity that spits in the face of the Neo-Nazi movement, such as the United Negro College Fund, or the Anti-Defamation League.

I’m not sure that this is the best decision. Maybe shelving the design permanently is, but the pragmatic part of me that knows that each design I put forth reaches a further audience, and there is hardly a design that exists that isn’t viewed respectfully by one group and spit on by another… so if I shelve one… where does that end?  I look at it this way – if I’ve misjudged the situation, I imagine someone will be along shortly to let me know… And if I haven’t misjudged, maybe this will inspire people to be more transparent about their intent in murkily lit gray areas.

Me, Too

16 10 2017

Endemic refers to the constant presence of a disease or infectious agent in a population within a geographic area. Hyperendemic refers to persistent, high levels of disease occurrence. Next is epidemic, which, if you google it, you’ll find that refers to an increase of a thing – disease, condition, etc. -and that it’s actually not a fixed percentage.  And a pandemic is an epidemic that has reached several countries or continents.

Semantics really.  And I guess whether you want to call sexual harassment and assault an endemic (because it’s consistently happened to a certain percentage of people) or a hyperendemic, (because the percentage of people affected is considered persistent and high level) or an epidemic (because you believe it wasn’t so prevalent 50 years ago, and we are just now hitting an all time high within our population), or a pandemic (because, hey, this shit happens to a high percentage of the population on every fucking continent), it matters not a whit to me… so long as we can agree that there’s a problem.  And after hearing several friends who have responded in total shock of seeing their feeds explode with “Me, too”, well, that just illustrates that neat little bullet point statistics don’t always do much to combat an issue.

How many of you can rattle off that 1 in every 3 or 4 women has been assaulted, or that 1 in 6 is likely to have been raped? But like every other problem in the universe, if it hasn’t happened anecdotally (that is, to ourselves or someone we know) then unfortunately human nature helps us to diminish it, or worse, to dismiss it all together.

I spent a 24 hour period attempting to track my Facebook friends (all 1260-something of them) who responded “Me, too” as a way to shine a light onto how prevalent the problem is, especially with the media showering us all with yet another powerful man being investigated for his years of assaults against women.   There were 164 of them in 24 hours.  Lemme say that again for the people in the back.  In a 24 hour period on Facebook, I watched 164 people I actually know come forward and say that they have been sexually assaulted or harassed in their lifetime. That’s 13% of my Facebook friends, and if 13% of the people I personally know doesn’t sound like enough, let me put that a different way.  The US population is 325,000,000. 13% of the US population is roughly 42 million people. Or 5.5 million more people than the entire population of Canada. In the USA alone, we have sexually assaulted the equivalent of the entire population of Canada and then some.

1262 Facebook friends.  24 hours. 164 people echoing “Me, too.” 144 women, 2 people who don’t fit into a gender binary, and 18 men.  Each and every one of them someone I have met.  Me. My mom. Her friends. My entire inner circle of female friends.  Friends with doctorate level degrees. Friends with no degree at all.  And that number does not include at least a few people who didn’t post “Me, too”, with whom I am close enough to personally to know  that they had a front row seat to this shit.  But they didn’t speak up (and it is absolutely not in their job description to do so), so I left them out of my count. However, they raise an important point: the “missing” folks show that not only is this issue still underreported as a whole, but that elements of society still view it as the victim’s job to speak out, and then, often dismisses them (or worse) when they do speak up. THINK ABOUT THAT FOR A MINUTE. WE CAN’T COUNT EVERYBODY YET BECAUSE THERE IS STILL SUCH A FUCKING STIGMA OF FEAR AND SOCIETAL RETRIBUTION ABOUT IT THAT NOT EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT IT… EVEN NOW.

So where do we go from here?  Honestly, I have no idea.  I know this much to be true:  Not everyone survives it.  And those who do walk away with dents and scratches and hurts that go deep into your brain and make you wonder about who you are, and if you “deserved” it.  Because that’s the dark side of human ego (unless you’re a sociopath) – that the shadow puppet nightmares that peek out of the shadowy corners of our brains are typically created by real monsters and assholes and traumatic experiences from things that actually go bump in the night.

I can tell you this though… there is a pattern.  Every person whose name I came across had a “tell”.  And that “tell” is that they (all 164 names) are interesting people, many of them strong, many of them unerringly magnetic to others. Why? Dunno. But my hunch is that whatever cracks that shit leaves in you acts like a beacon, because surviving it means that your flame still burns, and it draws others in like moths to a flame.  So, my dear flames, talk to the moths you gather.  Find amongst you the other “Me, too’s” in this world, by shining your light onto this issue, again, and again, and again, until everyone can crawl out from the corners and talk about it.  #TeamHuman means ALL OF US.

Secondly, a guy named Darwin had a theory about “survival of the fittest.” You (and the “you” here is directed towards monstrous people who require the axis of power tilted their way, because that’s what rape and assault are they are assertions of power…) do you want rape and assault to be the normative pandemic of our time?  Go ahead.  Keep those stats high, because what you are doing is making a fucking army of strong people who’ve survived to burn brighter than we ever did before. Survival of the fucking fittest, and we are legion.


The Fairie-y Files: Fly Your Flag High

13 09 2017

For those of you who tune in on my personal Facebook page, the news that I had to replace a tatty flag that got eaten by some relative of Mickey Mouse during the off season isn’t news.  And over on eBay, the choice of flags is definitely limited in scope, so since I have drawn rainbows since I could hold a crayon and use EveryColorOfTheRainbow wherever I could meant that the rainbow flag was a good visual for my booth personally with regard to my art.  It also describes a portion of the weirdo, eclectic tribe that calls me “friend”, and hearing stories of what they’ve faced just to exist? I knew it was absolutely the right call.  I also knew it was also going to turn a few heads.

So because I don’t run the booth much of the time, and the booth contains another artist’s work in addition to my own, I talked to both my head minion there and the artist about my flag purchase.  We decided as a trio that even though it may result in ugly words or deeds being thrown our way (my nightmare scenario has broken glass from some asshat showering the floor), we decided that representation in this case mattered more than what might happen.

The loveliest story of the week happened because of our decision.

The booth is a rectangle with a long side cut off (the whole of which is our entrance), and at one end, there is a checkout stand area that feels more intimate than the open booth.  I was standing behind the checkout stand when these two 60-something dudes in sunglasses and both with salt-and-pepper hair walk casually up.

Very quietly, one leaned in and said, “We like your flag.”

I smiled and leaned towards them, “Have you seen my work? ALL THE COLORS! But it wasn’t a solo decision.  There’s another artist’s work here too, and she and the gent who run it for me agreed with me that it was worth the risk of possibly having some intolerant hater smash all the glass to bits. So there we are.”

The man who spoke gave me a half smile that he knew exactly how the world hates on people who are different, and said very quietly, “Thank you for your bravery.”

I replied, “A good friend of mine, well, she dates girls you see, so the choice was inevitable, really.”

At this point the second man leaned in, tipped his head towards the first man and said shyly, “We got married two years ago.”

It is possible to have tears well your eyes with sadness at two people who cannot just shout to the world that they are married, and joy at their happiness in each other.

I smiled, and replied while wiping my eyes, “Then clearly, I am not the brave one here. I hung up a flag. You live it everyday… Oh, congratulations!! May I give you both a hug? That’s fabulous!”

And I do. And we hug our joy and our grief into each other.  And they go on their way…

And I go back to selling my art, makeup slightly awry, but lightened in spirit.


The Faire-y Files: Please Don’t Hump My Leg

29 08 2017

This isn’t a happy one guys, so if your intent is feel-good, snarf-coffee-out-of-your-nose endeavor, your journey will likely end in fail.  My day job (for those new to the ranks) includes tales from my job as a full time glass artist who sells her work at Renaissance Faires in multiple states.  

I don’t make shit from my job up.  And although I’m hesitant to describe this particular “Faire-y Tale” in detail, I think we as a society have a real problem with consent, bodily autonomy, and believing people when they say “the actions of this or that person really freaked me out.” I am lucky in my tribe of people, that they not only took me seriously when I said, “Hey… so this happened and I’m still grossed out… can I get your thoughts?”  And their reply to a man was, “What. The. Fuck.” In fact, all 4 men in my tribe that I told had that reaction and that (their collective reaction) plus the fact that I’m still thinking about it two days later probably indicates that it is A Thing. 

My writing about it is not only for cathartic purposes, but in the hopes that this in of itself is a teaching moment not just for the person who did it (although whether he will read it or not I have no idea) but for people who may be on “the fence” about what constitutes acceptable behavior between two individuals.
I don’t like feeling socially forced into giving people hugs.  It’s something my mom can attest to (Hi Mom). But it’s an accepted way of how a person (especially when one works at Faires) is greeted by people that one hasn’t seen in a year.  I’m not thrilled by it, but it’s part of the shit sandwich I’ve decided to eat as my meal ticket in this lifetime.

I granted a hug to a requesting (older white male) party, he made some comment (I couldn’t even tell you what it was, probably something about looking nice, since that’s the usual run-of-the-mill-compliment I get at Faire) and then proceeded to thrust his pelvis against my leg three or four times. Jokingly. Of course. Because leg humping is always acceptable followed by the siren song of “I was just kidding” when I called him out on it.

I stepped back, and said, “Hey.  See this line I just drew?  You just totally crossed it.”

“I was just kidding.”

“Not funny. Because halfway attractive women don’t already face tons of unsolicited comments and actions, or things done to them or aimed at them without their consent on a daily basis.”

“Geez. Ok… I’m sorry.”

And then he cuts his eyes to my booth helper (my age, female) for her reaction.

“Not okay.” she says.

“I’ll probably never get a hug again.” (And I have no idea at this point whether his tone was sincere or still “joking” because I was in fight or flight mode and I had picked the former.  I’m not a stupid college kid anymore, when the latter was the default. SJW? You bet your fucking panties I am, and I will take it as a freaking compliment if it means one more person never gets thrown into a situation where they must decide “fight or flight” because their bodily autonomy is suddenly run over by somebody else’s “joke”.

Arms crossed, voice sounding like a frozen tundra that leaves no person alive, “No. You won’t get a hug again. Ever.”

My body, my effing rules, pal.  I hope the day comes when I can just relay funny shit on here, and not repeatedly climb on my soapbox, beating my SJW drum in the hopes of waking one more convert to the tribe of “Consent.” Unfortunately, that day isn’t today.

On Being an Empath

5 06 2017

Being an empath means calling someone because a little voice told you to pick up the phone and reach out, and when the person answers in tears on the other end, listening to whatever shitbomb the universe has handed them that day, and never once questioning why you walked away from cooking breakfast to make a phone call that seemed suddenly urgent.

Being an empath means that the tug at your belly button telling you to GET ON THE ROAD because you JUST WANT TO GET HOME feels “normal-ish but with weirdly urgent overtones” until you pass a girl being dragged out of a smashed car on the highway and realize after you’re home and safe that the tug at your tummy and perhaps the reason you got a burger to go instead of sitting and eating may have been the girl on the side of the road, and not so much the wish to be driving home.

Being an empath means that you freak out for no reason suddenly envisioning yourself in a car wreck, only to have someone dear to you call, interrupt your panicked vision, and tell you that they’ve just been in a car wreck, and could you please come pick them up because the car is totaled.

Being an empath means that after the shock wears off, and the tears have dried, you find yourself wondering why you picked the red skirt to wear today. Was it chance or did you know that a random stranger’s blood would be drying on the hem by nightfall?

Being an empath means that “processing” the inexplicable is a no man’s land oscillating between disbelief at the sheer number of coincidences resulting in your well timed appearance in the exact place where you’re needed, and acceptance that “that’s just how this weird quirk called empathy works”…  and that logic, the most honed and well loved tool in your personal toolbox has no place here.

Being an empath means that you’re up too late, wishing the girl in the wreck you stopped at tonight had been coherent enough to tell you her last name, so that you could check on her tomorrow, and knowing already that it will be months before she can hold her toddler again.

Being an empath means feeling it in your core when the world is hurting, and having no ability to fix it beyond accepting the job at hand, knowing that it’s a mindfuck of a job, and doing it anyway.

Being an empath means being tired beyond belief, but too hyped to sleep, and so vomiting words onto the internet seems like a temporary balm, because you know that the job will never be done, the universe will keep putting you in places you’re needed, but that tonight’s chapter of “empathy in action” was shitty and took a toll.

Being an empath sucks. But it’s part of me, and I don’t know any other me to be.

I’ll raise you a Vintage Fridge and Some Canned Goat

25 05 2017

An artist friend of mine died unexpectedly last week.  (I’m sorry Theddy, this is the best I can do in terms of a eulogy, and likely only to be read my my 15 or so faithful followers. But I wanted to tell your story, even if the audience is limited.)

Theddy was made for a world that doesn’t yet exist.  He talked loudly, and could read my face like a book, so he’d often use words that would make me turn red and try to disappear inside the nearest wall (and I can throw down the word “fuck” with the best of them.) He often wore ridiculously resplendent clothing, or t-shirts that you couldn’t believe someone had actually had the balls to make, and he made weird and fabulous art that not everyone understood or liked.  He was truly incomparable (and I know what that word means)… But the best part about him (and many of the other full time artists I know) are their weird and irreverent stories about how they perceive life, and how life perceives them back.

Everyone feels at some point or another that they really don’t fit into the fabric of normalcy. But what if not fitting is a weird sort of gift, bestowed upon those in whom the fairies believe? Be it gods, (I mean, “God-touched” used to be an expression for those that didn’t quite fit, and if I’ve ever met a collective of humans that fit that description, artists would certainly be amongst them…) be it the laws of attraction, or be it just that you entertain the Muses in their ethereal plane, the admission price to such a whimsical place is socially high. But oh, the stories.

The weird, the sublime, the stories that start with, “so there I was…” and all you, the listener can do is to hold on with all your might and suspend your disbelief. Artists don’t just create art, we create experiences. And our stories form a unique body of work, that, even more than our art, is ephemeral and fleeting.

Theddy factors into my story, and I into his.  He’s part of why I’m here, making art, and why I’m going to tell you a story about a vintage fridge and some canned goat.

A few weeks before he died, he mentioned that one of his favorite pieces was still the blue lantern I made, several years back when I was less than an amateur pebblestar (pebblestar being the prerequisite for becoming a rockstar, and a phrase my friend Marrus, also an amazing artist, coined.)

I don’t know how often other artists are approached to “trade” but, it’s a regular occurrence around my place. If you’ve been to my house, you probably know that unless the trade involves a rare book on weird subject matter, funny socks, or food, I’m unlikely to say, “sure.” I formed the habit of really only trading for base level Maslow’s hierarchy stuff, and after a lot of years of “nope”, there’s not a lot in life I covet enough to trade for.

Theddy’s offer to trade came at a time when he knew our cupboards were pretty lean looking, and some church group or whatnot that donated a ton of food to a local food bank that he was a recipient of, so everyone on that food bank’s list got a few extra bags that year. It was all filled with chili and canned vegetables that gave him digestive trouble. And then someone else had gifted him with canned goat or something. Which he just was NOT going to eat. So we traded: his goat and chili and crappy canned veggies for a lantern.

It got us through the winter. I don’t know what the lantern brought him other than “pretty”, but seeing as how he mentioned it every time he saw me, and we thanked him for the food that kept our cupboards looking respectable and our tummies full… It was a trade made in heaven, as we both thought that we had gotten the better end of the deal.

That same winter, I acquired a vintage fridge. This dude down the street had opened a “vintage” shop that was 90% garage-sale junk with only a few standout pieces. He wanted a stained glass sign for his business. I wanted his 1950’s era fridge. We had one (circa 1970’s) in our apartment, but I was spending 10-12 hours a day, 5 days a week at my studio, and while a fridge wasn’t strictly necessary, it felt like a decision that bumped me up a notch in Mr Maslow’s chart of self-sufficiency. So we traded.

It was an incredible feeling, trading my (often perceived by society as useless much of the time) art for actual tangible items that made me able to feel like I was providing in the most visceral way possible for myself and my little family at the time. Canned goat and a fridge to put the leftovers in.

There has never been any trade so powerful as those two trades. And yeah, I’m thinking about both a lot today, because today I nicked a wire in my ancient fridge going through the motions of defrosting it. It’s ok. I learned what the wire is for. I had several people express concern for my methodology (chisel and hammer to knock the ice off.) I had someone send me a link on where to recycle it.

But ya see, that fridge and I have been through a lot together. Two years ago, while defrosting it, I fumbled the heat gun i was using, and the damn thing nearly left a scar worthy of it’s own story on my face. (Hence the acrobatics with a hammer and chisel.) And I keep it (the fridge, not the heat gun or the scar) because while I no longer have Theddy’s cans of goat and chili in my cupboard, it’s a reminder that I don’t have to keep up with the Jones’, a reminder to stay quirky, (I mean, who else trades stained glass for a 1950’s fridge) and be true to my skills and myself and my art. I may have killed it with my badly aimed chisel today, but if so, it’s just proof to me that my fridge’s destiny and my friend Theddy were tied up in some epic story that I only ever caught snippets of.

I hope whomever inherits Theddy’s lantern hears this story, and takes up his torch, both literally and figuratively. The world needs more tale-tellers, light-bearers, illuminators, artists and quirky-as-fuck folk, if only to remind people that it is possible to trade art for useful and interesting things like vintage fridges and canned goat.

Blessed are the god-touched, for they have the best tales. And on that note, remind me to tell you about the time a cop saw me in my Ren Faire garb and inquired if I was Amish…