I don’t exactly know how other people who struggle with weight deal with feeling like you stick out. I’ve always been tall and once I gained weight, I became more self conscious about standing out from the crowd. I don’t usually dress up in costumes, I wear simple, boring tee-shirts. Rarely do I wear bright colors. I used to have my hair really long which did make me stick out, but also provided away to hide my face. I don’t feel comfortable standing up in front of people. I get nervous, talk too fast, and inevitably trip over my own words. Standard stuff I think really.
So today I did something really, really out of my comfort zone. I participated in the 2014 DragonCon Parade. I was with the group representing skeptics. I only decided to go to DragonCon at the end of July, and I didn’t even know about the parade when I decided to go. I was nudged to do the parade by my friend Barbara. One of the reasons I wanted to go to DragonCon was to do something different. Well, doing the parade in public is definitely something different. Originally I volunteered to wear the Yeti costume that was so infamously known for being a challenge due to heat. Well, that costume fell through, so the day before the parade I agreed to be the “Educated Monkey”.
Many years ago when I first started out working in internet advertising, I wrote a big chunk of the software that powered Treeloot, a game where we gave money away if you could click on the right pixel. Monkeys were our mascots and for advertising we created the infamous “Punch the Monkey” banner. It seems appropriate, then, for me to stick with the monkey theme and be the “Educated Monkey”.
I wore a rubber mask with hair, a cap pinned to it, and a blue graduation gown. I also wore something else related to graduating, some sort of fabric around my neck. Shortly before the parade, a group of people dressed as the Planet of the Apes wanted to get a picture with me, so I obliged. Then the parade started. My biggest concern was how hot it would get. I found the costume itself not too hot, but my breath was very warm and stayed inside the mask with me, making me sweat. Once I sweat, the mask would move and obscure my vision. I could see well enough to walk and see the tens of thousands of people watching the parade. However, my peripheral vision was bad, and I had look around quite often to make sure I didn’t walk into the people next to me.
I could also here people say stuff about the monkey costume, all of it good, but when I would go look to see who, i could never find them. About halfway through the parade I could sense I was getting a little dehydrated, and from then on I just focused on pacing myself and staying well. I kept waving my sign around, I would walk backwards a little to look at as many people in the crowd as I could. The crowd was big. I hear, 50,60, even 80 thousand people see the parade. I have never done anything remotely this public or large. Maybe it was because of the limited field of vision or the feeling of being comfortable because almost everyone else around you is also dressed up, I didn’t find it that scary or intimidating. I enjoyed the experience because I was getting the message of education out, and the costume was well received.
This was absolutely the most un-Shane thing I have ever done. The night before, when I thought I would be the most nervous I really wasn’t. I was nervous that I would oversleep and be late, but I wasn’t nervous about doing the parade itself. As I lay in bed last night at 11 pm on a Friday night, I thought to myself, barring the unexpected, I will be laying in bed or at a party the next night. The hour or two spent doing the parade will have passed with nothing bad happening. There was no reason to be nervous about being in front of that many people, or worry what people might think of the costume. With that line of thinking, I’d conquered most of my fear of being in public.
So in summation, I’m glad I did it. I felt more like a part of the skeptic community than ever before. I hope I really did help out the parade and I like that I made even more friends in the skeptic community. More about DragonCon later, but I had to get this out now. :)