Single White Nerd: Adventures in the Labyrinth
Last night, I visited a land of faeries and elves. Goblins and tiki gods. Steampunk Batman was there. So was Cinderella. It was weird. It was exhilarating. It was like a Renaissance Faire on steroids hopped up on speed. It was. . .The Labyrinth of Jareth.The adventure began as many do. With pain.
A couple weeks ago, I found myself lying on a pilates reformer being pulled and stretched in an effort to alleviate sciatic pain that made it difficult to walk without whining. My friend Jen, the certified puller and pusher, made small talk to pass the time and distract me from the excruciating daggers slicing through my leg as she leaned against it.
“You should volunteer at the Labyrinth of Jareth this month.” She twisted my ankle.
“OWWW. Stop. Ow! The what?”
“Labyrinth of Jareth. Like the movie. There’s a 4 to 1 ratio of women to men. Lots of breasts. You’ll love it. But you’ll need a costume and a mask.” She attempted to break my leg off at the knee.
“Stop, stop. Ow. Ok. Yes. I’ll volunteer.”
As soon as I agreed, Jen released my leg and I stood. The pain had disappeared. I took it as a sign and immediately signed up to volunteer at this mysterious Labrynth party. I figured that, even if it was lame, I could totally laugh at the costume dorks. It certainly couldn’t be any worse than my ill-fated trip to the California Cougar Convention. Within 24 hours, I had officially been assigned to the Merchandise booth. “Remember to come in costume,” the email I received said, “And a mask. And have fun!”
I’ve never been much for costumes. Honestly, I hate them. Despite being a fantasy dork growing up, I never even played dress up as a kid. Never really played D&D or got into its live action corollary, LARPing. So when it came to putting a costume together for this masquerade ball costume party thing, I didn’t even know where to begin. Eventually, I contacted a friend of a friend who had been described as “crazy, but amazing with costumes.” The day before the Big Event, the costume maven–a tall, shockingly attractive platinum blond who moved at 60 miles per hour even when standing still–and I visited a costume shop. Within 20 minutes, I had a shirt, vest, top-hat, mask and pants. That night, I sliced the pants and, using a skin tearing combination of tape, safety pins and thread, made myself an outfit that I was moderately proud of. . .sort of a hybrid of a hobbit and a hobo. Hobo Hobbit. With a mask. And orange socks.
Yesterday, I arrived at the event, costume in hand, ready to sell trinkets, t-shirts, CDs and whatever else there was to sell.
Within seconds of walking in, I realized that my costume was woefully inadequate. A pathetic shadow of a costume. Clearly, I was an impostor in the land of magical costume people. The thing was. . .no one seemed to care. Everyone I met as we set up for the event was just so. . .nice. And excited. I found my natural cynicism waning under the onslaught of acceptance and good cheer.
The final blow to my cynical core came at the hands of a wee faerie girl. Maybe 5 feet tall with long brown hair, she flitted to the merchandise table, one of her wings flapping crazily behind her. “Kind sir,” she said, “my wing is broken.”
“Yeah, I see that.”
“I was trying to escape from a tree. They eat faeries, you know.”
“I did not know that.”
“They do.” She wiggled her wing mournfully.
“Let me see that,” I said. She shrugged out of her wings (of course they weren’t real, people. She was just wearing wings.)
Within moments, I had safety pinned her wing back together. I presented them to her and she lit up. Literally. She started to glow. “Thank you, kind sir. That was very gentlemanly.” She curtsied, all faerie like, and flitted off. I think she may have actually made a “wooosh” noise as she scampered away.
How could anyone maintain a crustified veneer of cynical remove in the face of such innocence and joy? I mean, I had just fixed a faerie’s wings! A cute faerie! And she had smiled at me! This was the best party ever!
The night wore on. 80s music pumped through the ballroom. People poured into the building. Goblins and elves chased each other through the crowd as an Australian band with a didgeridoo performed. There were sword fights and stilt-walkers. Groups spontaneously burst into oddly ritualistic dances. Before I knew it, it was 1:30 AM.
I found myself in the bathroom. And it was there that the joy of the event crystalized for me. While standing at a urinal, I looked around. On one side of me, Steampunk Batman was struggling with his utility belt while the devil happily peed next to him. On the other side, a Roman Centurion wearing a kilt relieved himself. Steampunk Batman looked over at the kilt-wearer. “That’s cheating,” he said, “A kilt, I mean.” The four of us then laughed, blatantly ignoring the Male Law of The Loo (i.e. guys don’t make chit chat, much less laugh, when making man-water). In the interest of full disclosure, we were all probably fairly drunk. But still. Four guys. Dressed in costumes. Peeing together and laughing.
Doesn’t get much better than that, friends. Oh, and Jen was right: there were breasts. Lots of them. Thing is that I was having so much fun looking at costumes, pondering the practicality of the utilikilt, and enjoying the world that these ridiculously creative, possibly insane people had created that I didn’t really pay them much attention. Weird.