I’ve recently found myself immersed in the odd world that is anime. I’ve taken a second job selling t-shirts at anime conventions to make some extra cash and travel around a bit.
Anime is not a topic I know a thing about, but my job is to sell t-shirts, so it hasn’t been an issue. However the people who go to these conventions have an obsession that runs deep. They tend to be a nerdy bunch, but there is something endearing about the fact that this seems to be the time that they can come out of their shells, all united and surrounded by people who understand their common albeit odd interest. That is of course with the exception of the one person who doesn’t know a thing: me.
No matter how different the anime world seems to be sometimes, I’ve also never minded being in a situation where I’m the odd man out. I am who I am, no matter what the circumstances, but to be in the thick of these conventions is fascinating to me.
People spend hours on their costumes (most of which I have no idea who they are with the occasional exception of a Link from Legend of Zelda walking across the floor), creating intricate details to emulate their favorite characters.
It’s a group of people who tend to be more reserved, but because they are around like minded people, they tend to open up a bit more, which I think is definitely a positive.
I do love running my mouth, so while I stood there selling t-shirts and striking up conversations with strangers (who are more than happy to tell you about their costumes if you want to know about them), I thought there was something wonderful about this normally reserved group of people all bonding and being in a common space.
But there’s always something that manages to throw me off in these situations. Because, as I’ve said before, I can’t act like something I’m not, and I’m fairly quick to react.
For example a girl came up to the booth at my most recent convention in San Jose and said to my coworker, “You know who you should cosplay as?” and pulled up a picture of a guy who was ruggedly handsome looking. I told him he should just take it as a compliment and run.
The girl looked at me and said, “I know exactly who you look like too!”
I almost said, “I know, I know. Jen Page,” thinking I was glad that I had refreshed my memory and looked up the name of the woman that a man had told me I looked like in a bar when I first moved here so that I could be a conversational wizard on at least one occasion.
The girl flipped her phone around and showed me what looked the most man-ish woman I’ve ever seen. I wish I had heard the name, but I blacked out in horror that I’m sure was also shown on my face when she flipped the screen around, wondering at what point I had last looked in the mirror that day if this was what I reminded her of.
I blinked and looked up sadly after the girl walked away. I thought to myself, “that’s the meanest thing anyone’s ever said to me, and a woman I used to work with once told me I reminded her of Ann Coulter.”
Who knew that an anime convention would be a place I would get shaken to my core.
I went use the bathroom the night after the exhibition hall closed only to find that they were having a black and white ball, everyone getting out of their costumes and into their black tie attire to have a proper fancy night out.
I figured it made sense. If this was the main interest a person had, what better place to meet their soul mate than an anime convention ball. I looked in the mirror at all of the girls primping and fixing their makeup as I wiped the eyeliner out from under my eyes that I’d sweat off during the course of the day, sporting yoga pants and tennis shoes in the sea of dresses.
These girls were talking to one another about how magical this whole experience was. I wondered to myself what I was missing with this whole world they were in. Could I even think of something comparable that would bring me that much joy?
At that moment, a girl walked in almost in tears, talking on the phone and running into a stall.
“No, you don’t understand! They randomly paired us up and I got matched with a boy in a dress who is not only a better dancer than me but is prettier as well!”
I wanted to tell her that there will always be boys who are prettier than you and who are better dancers so she should take it in stride and maybe pick up a new dance step or two from him while she had his attention.
I laughed to myself and walked out of the bathroom and out of the world that I wasn’t a part of, thinking maybe even if you’re surrounded by people who all have the same mindset as you, life doesn’t always pan out the way you plan it.