Last week, I was rejected. It has happened before and it will happen again. This is a major pitfall of always trying to be brave enough for the next thing: sometimes the next thing doesn’t choose you. I’m lucky, because when I get rejected, I still get to go home to my amazing person and my adorable cat and dog, and I know I’m loved. But there’s a hole in my heart every time — a sucking absence in my self-worth that grows hungrier with every no thank you. I hear, “but you were amazing, and can we please stay in touch” as “you will never be the best one out of many.”
Luckily, I had plans with R to distress some costumes. I sent her a text.
It’s going to be cathartic to destroy fabric after this week. She wrote back right away.
That’s what’s best about the apocalypse.
The first night that I met R, Love’s best friend from their teen years, I was invited for taco night. I made bean dip, heavy with refried beans (which Love and R hate), onions (which R hates), and olives (which Love hates). They both swear to this day that it was delicious anyway. Before I went over to R (and C and E and A)’s house, I scrubbed the sides of the baking dish feverishly, thinking they’ll never approve of me if they know my baking dish has all of this baked-in kitchen grease on the handles. I found out later that R cleaned her living room with a similar paranoid fervor.
As it turns out, none of that was necessary; Love’s friends and I adored each other immediately. They’re really such impressive, smart, funny, nice people and somehow they managed to see the magic in me quickly, even though I was nervous and strange. Plus, they had probably noticed that New Girlfriend (me) was something special to Not Love Yet (Love) so maybe let’s just see how this goes. But it’s also because Love and Love’s people (our people now) are such wondrous nerds. Nerd culture is kind and welcoming, and doesn’t rush to judge (though it will eventually analyze and cite its sources).
I’ll be going to my fourth Dragon Con this fall. At the first one, I walked on a Courtland Street sidewalk with Love as they explained how it feels to be their particular type of introvert, and how that pressure falls away in this crowd. I watch strangers and loved ones in this crowded, stinky paradise every year as they let their pressures fall away so they can walk confidently in the world. It always makes me cry at least once. We’re all nervous and strange together, and it builds a sort of palpable community strength.
I want to tell you that after years of wandering in the humdrum existence of not-quite-right, I found my calling as a Nerd of The Highest Order. I want to want to wear a dragon necklace. I want to want to play dystopian Candy Land D&D — I really like the shiny dice. I want to make a joke at this point about being nerd-adjacent or a #fakenerdgirl so that you, dear reader, will know that I know. But since wonders never cease, it seems I can find a home in this community while partially involved.
Which brings us back to last weekend’s costume crafting.
I’ll be dressing as a post-apocalyptic Scarlet Witch. My pink pants distressed nicely, but my red cape needs a lot more work to look old and worn. I cut my thumb badly while slashing holes in it, and my compatriots quickly jumped up to tend my wounds and encourage me to bleed on my costume for that authentic post-apocalypse feel. I had a little emotion storm at one point because I’ve been ultra-aware of feeling fat in my costume. Last year my bulging tummy in my She-Hulk suit made me uncomfortable, so I want to feel sexy and empowered this year. I’m trying to head off my crisis of confidence at the pass so I can feel, just for a day, like a damn superhero.
We’ll wake up early to get dressed in our room, standing on towels and trash bags to cover ourselves with filth in the dawn. I’ll walk in the parade with Love, R, and 6-10 other friends dressed as post-apocalyptic superheroes, some of whom I only see on this day each year. At least once, a little boy Ironman will look up at our post-apocalyptic Ironman and squeal with glee. Afterwards, we’ll pose for a few photos and then eat submarine sandwiches, accidentally wiping the makeup dirt from our faces with our napkins. We’ll be silly and hyper and we won’t have any use for feeling self-conscious. We’ll grin at each other and recount the cute kids we saw along the route. It’s not because I will feel confident that I love these people and these strange nerdy traditions. It’s because of these people, and these strange, nerdy traditions that I will be strong enough to be confident.
This. You, friends. You’re what’s best about the apocalypse.