Apr. 24th, 2012

wendyzski: (Default)

Someone posted on one of my Steampunk communities today.  He is undergoing cancer treatment and has a tube in his throat which prevents him wearing a regular necktie.  He was looking for a source for soft cravats, several of which were posted. 

My response, though, was "I would totally collaborate on making something that actually incorporates and shows off the tube, because it's proof of how badass you are!"

I posted a reference to it on my wall, and quite a few people agreed with me, for one reason or another.  So I started thinking about why that was my immediate response.

 For me, it's kind of like those women who get beautiful tattoos that incorporate their mastectomy scars, or losing your hair from chemo and getting your scalp tattooed.  It's taking something negative and making it into a badge of honor.  I believe that you shouldn't always hide what you've been through - though I do understand that sometimes it's nice to put on a wig and just feel "normal" and not have "cancer survivor" painted on your head for all the world to see.  That would be a much-needed break.  But I also think that it's important both to yourself and to other people to be honest about what is happening and if possible to embrace that. 

If I lost a limb I would use a regular prosthetic of course, but I would also want to do faire with something like a hook or a peg-leg and TELL people about it.  Especially kids.  Because that way it becomes not something scary or weird or to be shunned - it's just something that people deal with, and that they have always dealt with it, and isn't it much nicer that we now have wheelchairs and custom-fit prosthesis and buildings that have ramps... Because those kids are then less likely to park in a handicap space, or ignore someone who needs a seat or the bus, or say cruel things about people who use the carts at WalMart.

I admit, I also like rattling people's cages, and it would be unexpected.  People get complacent, and sometimes they need to get a bit of a smack in their preconceptions. a "That's a cool appliance"  b "It's not an appliance.:   a "Oh"....  And you know what, A might feel uncomfy, but they're much less likely to make an assumption about someone based on the way they look.  That's a good thing for BOTH A and B.

Shit happens.  You can pretend it didn't happen, or you can deal with it and make morbid jokes.  Someone posted "Laughter will keep you off the roof - with or without the rifle" and she's not wrong.  When I spent half a season at KCRF on crutches, I realized fairly quickly that no amount of burlap was going to hide the fact that they were big honking aluminum crutches and I needed them to get around.  So I chose to decorate then with brightly colored ribbons and bells, and hung my chalkboard around my neck with snide comments written on it.  You know what?  NO ONE said a word about them.  They laughed, gave me thumbs-up, or rueful grins of agreement.  Because shit happens, and you deal. 

Years ago at Marcon, I saw an older woman who built her Hoveround into some kind of cool SF looking tank out of mostly cardboard and hot glue.  It looked amazing, partly because it had a clear dome that opened up and she was wearing a crash helmet - but partly because of her attitude about it.  She had the most manically gleeful expression on her face when she "floored it" down the hallway!

One of my favorite steampunk "costumes" is the Steampunk Wheelchair that Noelle made first for Windycon a few years ago and has updated several times.  It's awesome - most of the mods are from a $5 secondhand ceiling fan.  It's got lights, and a working smokestack, and it was her first real con costume (she's a model-painter).  You bet I figured out a way that she could show it off and compete in the Masquerade with version 1.0.  She's gotten well-enough known for it that you can probably find her on Google without much effort, and I'm cheering all the way. 

You can mope around and pretend things didn't happen, and there is certainly a time for that old Egyptian river.  But I also think that it's healthy to make your pain into art.  Make people laugh.  Make them stare.  Make them think.  Make them question.


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