Saturday, August 1, 2009

Surviving an Anime Convention

Or, "Who are these people & why are they wearing tails?!"

As many of you know, I attended both Connecticon & Otakon this summer, for the first time in many years. I've been attending conventions since I was 12 years old, but I took two years off to deal with money, etc., so it was interesting to go back - while it was still familiar (still knew the BCC like the back of my hand, I'm proud to say!),it took me a while to get re-acclimated with the scene & remember that here it is completely normal to see people being tackled from nine yards simply for love of the character they're portraying, or a boombox &impromptu rave in the middle of the hallway, complete with men in tight pleather pants bootydancing &grinding with themselves (ohh-ohh-oh-oh). I made note of these feelings, these things that had once been accepted with mildly benign interest and now where enough to make me stop dead and stare in a mixture of curiosity&horror, &have compiled them into a list for my fellow lolis who may be finding themselves in this situation soon. First, a list for first-time congoers, lolita or not.

General Convention Conventions:

(for a vocabulary list, see below)

  • Accept. You are going to find yourself in an incredibly strange atmosphere, incomparable to anything that I personally have had the joy of experiencing, &I mean that sincerely. Some of the things in this list you will find odd or concerning, but remember that the people who are doing them are just that - people, who are different from you but still worth observing & getting to know.
  • Personal space does not exist. Or rather, most people at anime conventions are very physical, loving people who will hug or glomp you without warning or asking, and that's the less-threatening side side. Mostly before my lolita days, I've had skirts pulled up, been groped, kissed at random, and tackled outside of benign glomping, all on multiple occasions.
  • Do know that you don't need to tolerate this. If someone is making you uncomfortable, it is perfectly normal to tell them so & remove yourself from the situation. These people don't mean you any harm; they're just trying to have fun, &many of them don't realize that con-culture is very different & overwhelming to those who are unused to it.
  • Rooming: Six people in a room with two double beds is not odd. In fact, if sharing a room with people one doesn't know well (which one should really never do in the first place), one should not expect a bed. Bring blankets/a sleeping bag &expect a spot on the floor. Most likely you will not need them, but it isn't unheard of. I've been in rooms with two people in each bed (or more), three on the floor, one in the closet, &one in the bathtub& this is really not even the worst I've heard about. Be forewarned.
  • The lines are long. If you're going to a large convention, pre-register, as most conventions now offer Thursday night pre-reg pick-up from 4 or 5 to 9 or 10, depending on the convention center's hours. Take advantage of this - at Otakon, this line as I observed it (I was sitting next to it the whole time having a picnic & wearing a big black bat mask - don't ask) was maybe around... upwards of 1000, I'd imagine though I'm horrible at estimates, over the course those five hours - this is much better than the 7,000+++ you'll be faced with in your pre-reg line on Friday, &that's not even taking into consideration at-con registration. Also, it's cheaper. Personally, though, as I didn't decide to attend early enough to pre-reg, I was in the registration line. My friends &I slept on the sidewalk, in line, all night, because it was better to wait in the cool Baltimore summer night than the unbearable heat of the day. I recommend this, but only if you are in a group of close friends.
  • That being said, con-goers look out for each other. I can't tell you how many times I've seen crying girls comforted by people they've never met before, valuable items turned into lost & found instead of kept, &spots held in line. This is not necessarily the rule, but nor is it the exception - I've been harassed &rescued, both by people I didn't know, more times than I can count at anime conventions, so while of course there are skeevy people there, there are good ones too.
  • Be one of the good ones. If someone comes up to you looking panic &talking like you're old friends, play along: they're most likely looking for a way out of an uncomfortable situation. Go along with it, so long as it doesn't endanger you. This is something I saw employed a lot by my cosplay friends, especially those in scanty outfits being pursued by obliviousmen behaving inappropriately. Be a friend &help them out. I've never had a bad experience doing so.
  • Go to the Artist's Alley! The people who have booths here are some of the most interesting people at conventions, &they're more than willing to start a conversation with you about their art or the convention or usually pretty much anything. It's also great to support your local market, &there are lots of one-of-a-kind treasures waiting for you here. Some of my favorite lolita pieces are from the Artist's Alley.
  • Go to the big events. The masquerade, opening/closing ceremonies, anything that's highly publicized is probably really good. If you're not into anime you may not get all the jokes, but the writers of these events usually take non-anime-watchers into account while writing their scripts.
  • People-watch. Mingle. Talk to anyone who seems interesting. They almost always are, &this is how I met some of my oldest &closest friends. These past two conventions this has included two people from my state at Otakon in Baltimore, one of whom goes to my future school!; most of the New York City lolitas, a group of steampunk pirates; several future higher-ups of any convention that's anything; and a multitude of high-profile cosplayers, lolitas, &artists.
  • Be nice to emplyees, both of the convention & the establishments. Convention staffers are just following the rules &trying to get other people to do the same, & this can be very difficult & mentally taxing on them, so listen, be nice, &try to help them do their jobs. Also, when dealing with employees of the various establishments you will frequent, remember that this is probably one of the most difficult weekends of the year for them. Be very polite in dealings with front desk & the concierge, &remember to tip housekeeping& bellhops, especially those who do a good job.

&now, an annotated vocabulary list:

  1. glomp. To hug with enthusiasm, occassionally with a running start - if someone asks you if they can do this, use discretion with your answer, though oftentimes they won't.
  2. Yaoi- a genre of anime that favors relationships, usually explicit, between two men. The counter part of this is
  3. Yuri, which is the same between women. I mention this because, though signs have been outlawed in many conventions these days, it used to be common to see signs along the lines of "Will yuri for pocky!" Which leads us to
  4. Pocky: a very popular snack among congoers, pocky is a Japanese treat comprised of a biscuit covered in different flavored chocolates - pretty yummy, &if someone offers it to you do give it a try (so long as, of course, the normal standards for taking candy from a stranger apply - make sure you watch them unwrap it. I'm saying, you never know)!
  5. Also, add to this list any internet memes or 4chan jokes that are en vogue at the time of the convention, including but not limited to "Fuck I lost the game", "OVER 9000!!!!", "The cake is a lie" &most of Encyclopedia Dramatica.

As for lolita-specific tips, Victoria Suzanne has made a wonderful post about this at Lolita Charm that covers most of the basics. If I realize that I have anything to add to this, I'll probably just do it in comments on the post itself.

(note to the intersted: is the hiatus over? I will have to get back to you on that, honestly, as it mainly depends on whether or not I have free wireless at the hotel in San Francisco, where I will be from August 11-17th forthe BABY opening - I'll keep you posted! un til then, please keep answering the poll to the right!)

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