by Ian Selzer
There is a sliver of immaturity in all of us. You can disregard the previous comment, or conform with it, but when it comes to humans, our childhoods have perhaps the largest influence on who we are today. The retention of childlike behaviors may be all but apparent unless they are pointed out to us. Fresh into the world, without any responsibilities or exposure, we likely spent most of our time engaging in fun, self proclaimed activities, what one might call “hobbies.” Hobbies, even into adulthood, may still take on these childlike characteristics. We are often times secluded about our interests, for reasons that may be well defined or quite vague. Someone may be embarrassed about a collection if it deals with something childlike, and some hobbies may make us feel inadequate. I too harbor an interest that some may (and often do) find childlike. I like making costumes.
I do everything from sewing, to metal working, to electrical work, to painting. Many of the costumes I make are directly influenced by video games, movies, and pop culture around me. I love bringing these things to life. When I’m working on a costume, I can bring a character to life and walk around in their shoes. Many consider this childlike, but it’s all about having fun. Some of my more recent costumes have been the following; sheet metal armor from Doom the game. The chest piece and helmet can deflect small caliber bullets, the helmet had a working visor heads up display, a built in gas mask, a voice modulator, and built in headphones with an iPod dock. For Winter Carnival at Boston Mills, I sewed a Scorpion costume from Mortal Kombat, and thankfully it was all snowboard compatible. The previous year at the same winter carnival, I came dressed as a Droog from A Clockwork Orange. My most recent costume however was one that I just finished and wore in a parade. That is the Marvel character, Deadpool.
The important thing to understand about my hobby is how it helps me escape. When I make a costume, I am given the opportunity to take on that person’s character and play around with their personality. It can be a monumentally fun time for me and everyone else around me (especially if they are dressed up too). It enables crazy scenarios to occur like characters from different series or franchises talking or dancing with each other. It enables me to see things in real life that are so spectacular I would not ever think it possible. It may be childlike, yes, but I am willing to accept that. Perhaps a Freudian glitch in my brain is causing me to do this. Maybe I still have childlike envy for the characters I most fondly respect, and I just want to be like them, however if the by-product of that envy yields fruitful character creation, then I will let it be.
Similarly, one of the best benefits of character creation is the skills I learn from it. I have picked up so many sewing, stitching, welding, and all around building tips over the ages of doing this. It’s easy to see the graduation of my skills in the quality of the costumes I create, with each being more sustained than the last. The biggest flaw with my hobby however is the time consumption. As I age into adulthood, I’m finding that there is less and less time for play like this as priorities and work consume me. It’s a sad truth, but as previously stated, we always find time for hobbies somehow, and I’m determined not to lose this drive.
When Halloween is on its way I hit crunch time. This seems to be the time of year that people are the most accepting of my odd hobby because of the upcoming holiday on their minds. It would not be to anyone’s surprise that Halloween is my favorite holiday. Aside from the fact that I love candy, seeing little kids communing as their own characters for the night is fantastic. I still trick or treat, and I honestly think I will still when I’m forty. I suppose people are just going to have to deal with it. Unfortunately, it’s acts like this that get the most ridicule. Little old ladies think I’m a lazy teen doing this just to get free candy, when actually I kind of just like running around as a super hero for the night. I’m not sure if the latter is much better, but at least it’s something I love.
Needless to say, discussing my hobby with individuals always gets mixed results. There is a selection of people in the world that can understand what my motives are and relate to them. They are often the ones who love the idea and want me to make them something. Usually older individuals have a different outlook. When most of my older family members hear that I’m still making costumes they think there is something wrong with me. I notice this odd feeling when I tell them that can be easily drawn from their face and tone. They can’t connect with the culture or the characters that I’m making, so rather than seeing that I’m being Deadpool—an insane mercenary with skin cancer, voices in his head, and a healing factor given to him from tests by the Canadian government—they see something more like Superman, a big strong guy in spandex that saves the day. So from that I am ultimately associated with a childlike stigma, and they just end up feeling bad for me due to my “problem.” This ridicule appears to come more often when people are not able to see the end results. When my ideas are just pieces of paper and sketches it is easy for someone to write off my schematics as far-fetched. So enthralling it is then, that I almost always make those a reality and when that same person sees the real thing before their eyes they are usually not just impressed, but stunned.
Much ridicule has come from the instruments I have used as well. Very recently my grandmother taught me how to use the sewing machine so I no longer had to hand stitch. To make a long story short, I learned very fast and did a stellar job gaining the knowledge of how to use it. My grandpa’s response to this was that I was going to make a great housewife some day. Although I was offended at first I soon realized that if I were to live in his time, men never did such things unless they were weird. Now I can understand why he thinks the way he does and I’m not mad at him for it, I just don’t want him to die thinking I am more screwed up than I actually am.
When I am working on a costume I usually get inspired by associations of the character that wears it. I might watch a movie about that character, or listen to theme music, or play a game. The point is that I enter a different world when I’m working on a costume. I enter that character’s world, and that’s all I worry about. When I am in costume my only concern is acting like the character. This creates a barrier I feel, that exists between reality, and what I want to be reality. The two worlds often accent each other and can cause some pretty tremendous emotions. Dwelling in the boring real world often gets me thinking of how amazing and spectacular a fantasy world might be, but in contrast, being in that fantasy world, when I have to return to reality I am reminded of how truly dull and boring it can be.
Unfortunately, a hobby as childish as this does not have high hopes of maintaining in the adult world, and that is why it remains as a hobby of course. Yes, there are certain professions in movies and theater that could employ this, but I am a practical person, and I know I have much better odds of success in another field. It’s hard to tell early on if a the lack of practicality and clashing worlds schema will be the death of my costume creation, but I hope that my firm foothold will assure that I always set time aside to do it, and refrain from getting flustered. I think that the benefits, skills, and praise that I gain from it greatly outweigh the time consumption and occasional ridicule. It is my hope then that I will continue with this hobby through my adulthood because it’s what I love. If I have to lose this to grow up, then I don’t want to grow up.