It’s a Nerd World, After All

I sort of have a problem.

With my leg.

It’s a benign tumor on my lower right tibia, and it has a grand old time being a total pain in the… uh… leg.

Anyways.

I picture it kind of like an egg that’s squished between my tibia and my fibula, rubbing and scratching and throwing a little hissy-fit because it does not like being confined by unnecessary things like bones. Like, I’m pretty sure if this tumor-thing was a sim, its five personality traits would be Loner, Over Emotional, Couch Potato, Schmoozer, and Neurotic. And if they ever make an “inconvenient timing” trait, it’d be that too.

I know there’s not really ever a good time for something like this to happen. It’s not like I can look down at my leg in frustration and go, “um. Dude. It’s not your weekend”, and it’ll squeak out a little sorry and retreat peacefully. And that’s another thing about this tumor- it doesn’t care if I’ve been binge-watching anime for (several) hours, or if I’ve shuffled around IKEA for (several) hours; it’s just generally unhappy. Obviously it hurts more when I do physical activity… but I really can’t do much to prevent any pain. It’s not like I have some secret storage tank that I can fill up with all those days I turn on Heroes of Cosplay and style my wig for (several) hours.

But when a doctor from Sick Kids tells you about this thing that’s growing like a tribe of Tribbles on your leg less than three weeks away from Fan Expo… that’s, ah, yeah.

Pretty bad timing.

If you’ve never been to Fan Expo, or any other con… it’s sorta hard to describe. Like, picture a bat-ton of people, put them in a warehouse, fill it with celebrities and awesome merchandise, and add in a few thousand people dressed up as fictional characters. It’s crowded (you can’t point in a direction without stabbing some cosplayer’s third eye), it’s stressful (I learned the hard way last year to let your face paint dry before you hit the con floor), and sometimes you feel like maybe the world is caving in on itself (i.e. when all you want to do is get to this super-important panel but suddenly this huge mass of stormtroopers are literally clogging the entire hallway). It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.

As stressful as cons are, I’ve also had some of the best weekends of my life there. Everybody in line for Maile Flanagan’s autograph? They sobbed when Jiraiya died, too. The person sitting next to you in that Learn to Speak Klingon seminar? You can bet they’ve watched All Good Things more than you have (maybe). Everybody is a geek.

Which means that cons and cosplay go together perfectly. It’s guaranteed your outfit is seen by tons of fans (whether they totally blow up your fangirl-scale and ask for a picture or not), (voice) actors/writers/directors of the show, and sometimes even professional cosplayers.

There are people out there who will try to tell you what you can and cannot cosplay.

Those people are what I call idiots (I’m kidding. Sort of).

Anybody can cosplay as anything.

Ever.

That’s what cosplay is. Waking up in the morning, putting on a costume you’ve slaved over, and trying on somebody’s skin for a few hours. Going to a convention and saying, “I love this character and it doesn’t matter right now that I’m a different gender, or race, or body type- because I’m a nerd and I’m not afraid to say it.” Last year I cosplayed as Rin from Naruto, and it didn’t bother me one bit that I’m not an eighty-seven-pound, four-foot-six Japanese girl with giant eyes and a nose that could fit under my thumb. Because you know what? Not many people are.

I’ve known that pretty much all along, but when the question arose that I might need a wheelchair for Fan Expo…

It’s not that I was trying to be some macho-man or anything. I agreed with my parents completely- nine hours of walking on concrete floors would be painful enough, minus the extra pressure of this tumor. It’s just that… well, my character, Tobi from Naruto… he isn’t in a wheelchair. After everything I’d done to make my cosplay as accurate to the anime as possible, here I was about to bring everything down with a stupid hunk of metal and padding. That I mostly didn’t need. Well, kind of didn’t need… and people are always talking about equity and equality and all that stuff, right? They wouldn’t be doing that if other people actually treated them like normal people… would they?

It’s needless to say that I expected to have maybe one or two people comment on my outfit. Pictures were out of the question- what were they going to do, kneel on the floor and rest an awkward arm around my blocky wheelchair? Just thinking about trying to pose with somebody was cringe-worthy…

Yet there I was. Nine o’clock Saturday morning, decked out in full Tobi cosplay, my dad wheeling me downtown Toronto. At first, it was sort of how I expected it to be- people gave me weird looks, but nothing more than that. We were walking (rolling? Wheeling? What do I call it??) down the sidewalk when a bunch of construction workers stopped dead in their tracks at the sight of me.

“Wow…” the guy in front breathed, his eyes wide, “Cool costume, dude!”

Which naturally caused a ripple of laughter through the group. I gave a little nervous laugh myself, shocked that random strangers (who probably weren’t even in the fandom!) had complimented my outfit.

I was even more shocked when it happened again. And again. And again. And then somebody asked for my picture. And it wasn’t awkward in the slightest. It was like, “can I take a picture with/of you?” and I’d say yes and they’d bend down like they’d done it a thousand times. I swear, they were more comfortable with the wheelchair thing than I was. Then there was this little kid who said he told me my cosplay was “really amazing”. It was like the wheelchair didn’t even exist. And Riddle, one of the main people on Heroes of Cosplay (aka my favourite non-anime TV show), even said we should hang out next time I cosplay!!! Like, somebody pass me a paper bag; this girl’s about to hyperventilate.

Rolling out of Fan Expo at the end of the day, my lap filled with autographs and posters and one very adorable Naruto: Sage Mode plushie, I have to admit that I way underestimated the Fan Expo community. The voice actors, the writers, the cosplayers, the fans, and all the wonderful people I shared an elevator with- I want to apologize. You are so much more awesome than I could ever think.

Thank you for proving me wrong.

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