"Being a grown-up is highly overrated"
March 5, 2015 3:52 AM   Subscribe

Never Give Up, Never Surrender: Cosplay After 40
My name is Phaedra Cook, I am 46 years old and I’m a cosplayer. That sounds like some kind of intro to a confession at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, doesn’t it? There are certain types of people who would like me to have a sense of shame about my hobby, but that’s not going to happen.
posted by Lexica (43 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is highly relevnt to my interests.

I am a cosplayer.

I am not caucasian.

I am not stick thin, nor as (unrealistically) proportioned as some of the charcters I choose to cosplay.

I am also not very tall.

All of the above has caused me to pause, to think will I get flack or even abuse because I am not white/thin/tall/curvey/too curvey in the wrong places?

It never occurred to me to me that I might get negativity about my AGE.

::sigh::

Y'know what though. FUCK THAT NOISE.

Cosplaying brings me joy, and other people seem to enjoy it too. It's a hobby which harms no one, and I shall continue to do it, challenge myself to get better and most importantly HAVE FUN.
posted by Faintdreams at 4:02 AM on March 5, 2015 [26 favorites]


I used to get slagged for being into video games and computers. I was obsessed, it was unhealthy, blah blah. Sometimes from people who spent all their time talking about, stressing over, spending money to buy merchandising and TV watching rights from some football team or other. So fuck the begrudgers and have fun.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 4:06 AM on March 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also the sheer determination of Phaedra Cook is great. Her cosplays look impressive and her own rundown of her costuming skillset and learning curve is informative.

She started learning to sew with one of the most frustrating fabrics possible!
posted by Faintdreams at 4:09 AM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I used to get slagged for being into video games and computers. I was obsessed, it was unhealthy, blah blah.

When I was about 30, I got heavily obsessed with chess. I started playing in tournaments and studying all the time, trying to get better, trying to get a higher rating. Sometimes, in social settings, people would kind of challenge me or even subtly mock me about this, and I'd tell them: I won $900 in one of the amateur sections of a big tournament last year. And they would instantly change over to a tone of kind of solemn respect. Money! $900! No one can fuck with that - my hobby was shown to have value, after all.

That's really sad. It would be nice if people could appreciate that things that they themselves do not enjoy bring other people happiness, even if they have no chance of making money from them. Cosplay looks like great, creative fun. We'll all be dead before we know what happened to us; we ought to enjoy ourselves a little.
posted by thelonius at 4:33 AM on March 5, 2015 [18 favorites]


Aw! This is lovely!

I'm about to go to a convention in my first real cosplay (as Velma from Scooby Doo, because, y'know, why not?), and it's wonderful to see someone so awesome having so much fun.

If I could just get over my own personal "appropriate body type for the costume" issues...

or talk my husband into shaving his head so we could do a freakin' awesome Pema and Tenzin
posted by Katemonkey at 5:00 AM on March 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


Is that a...a Galaxy Quest tagline? I approve!

(I also strongly approve of Phaedra's take on life)
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 5:00 AM on March 5, 2015


Applause for Phaedra Cook -- for learning the skills she needed, for pursuing something she enjoys, for recognizing the sting of systemic shaming, and for keeping her head (and middle finger) held high anyway. Good for her. Thanks, Lexica!
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:04 AM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I completely identify with this. I am 27, and play video games, but also really love Lego. I thought I had grown out of it toward the end of high school, but later realized I was lying to myself. As an adult Lego collector there are certain people(though few) that get all judgy. I just bought the Lego Death Star. I saved up my petty spending money for some time to get it.

I have a very nice job/career that I love. A loving wife and a baby on the way. I look forward to getting to spread the joy of lego with the kiddo. We both make enough to pay our bills on time, prepare for a little Device, put money into savings, and then have money left to spend on silly fun things like Lego bricks.

If your version of fun doesn't impede you or your dependents from living, and it doesn't harm anyone, have at it.

I don't have time for judgy mcjudgersons raining on people enjoying themselves.
posted by Twain Device at 5:20 AM on March 5, 2015 [9 favorites]


I only know cosplay and conventions from the articles and photos that get posted here and elsewhere on the web, but I guess I had always assumed that there was a wide age range involved. The photos tend to focus on young and conventionally attractive women, unsurprisingly, but even in those kinds of photos the backgrounds are full of people of other ages, genders, and shapes. I'm sorry that things feel less open than I had assumed; no one should feel that kind of pressure for what should be a source of fun and enjoyment.

Her costumes look great, and I liked her plans for developing others over the next decade.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:37 AM on March 5, 2015


Fuck yeah! Dressing up in hall costumes or doing cosplay or geeking out on therpf about props or whatever you're doing to get your nerd on, keep doing it, people.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:42 AM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hear the voices venomous and thrilling
In my head they're always calling
But I wanna gotta go the way my blood beats
So I'm not fodder for their folly

posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:47 AM on March 5, 2015


As an adult Lego collector there are certain people(though few) that get all judgy.

There is a huge Lego community on Flickr sharing their creations with each other. Look for a LUG (Lego User Group) in your area. There are also Lego conventions popping up all over the US.

Feel free to PM me if you want some help finding info.

As a Lego builder, my favorite reply to judgy comments is "This is what I do instead of sitting in front of the TV". It usually makes people stop and think, because most people are guilty of doing just that, and most people who do just sit in front of the TV have nothing to show for it.

Anyone who has a creative, active hobby is doing 100% more than the people just sitting on the couch.
posted by Fleebnork at 5:51 AM on March 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


There are many thousands of older COS players, the don't like to be called COS players but nonetheless they are. They call themselves Reenactors.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 5:57 AM on March 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is that a...a Galaxy Quest tagline? I approve!

As do I. Here, a clip and save list of more for your future posting needs.

-------------- ✁ -------------------

By Grabthar's hammer, by the suns of Worvan, you shall be avenged.

See, that's your problem, Jason. You were never serious about the craft.

Whoever wrote this episode should DIE.

I see you've managed to get your shirt off.

Did I just hear that the animal turned inside out, and then it EXPLODED?

Hey guys, I just wanted you to know that, the reactors won't take it; the ship is breaking apart and all that... Just FYI

I know! You construct a weapon. Look around, can you form some sort of rudimentary lathe?

-------------- ✁ -------------------

You're welcome.
posted by eriko at 6:18 AM on March 5, 2015 [10 favorites]


Aw, I think she's gorgeous. Keep on keeping on, lady.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:19 AM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


As a Lego builder, my favorite reply to judgy comments is "This is what I do instead of sitting in front of the TV". It usually makes people stop and think, because most people are guilty of doing just that, and most people who do just sit in front of the TV have nothing to show for it.

That's exactly what I say to anyone who gets arsey/judgy when they discover I tend to play games all evening rather than watch TV. Either that or I'll gently ask them to work out how much TV they watch and then generally you'll see them have a lightbulb moment as they realise just how much of their free time they spend plastered in front of a screen as well.

My general policy on life is that ultimately as long as no one is being hurt (including yourself) and no laws are being broken, no one has the right to judge anyone else's hobbies. Life is too short (and our own periods of free time within it even more so) not to spend it doing shit you enjoy.

So good for her - and high fives to all the lego builders in this thread.
posted by garius at 6:22 AM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I didn't even start cosplaying until my late 30s. It's not something I do frequently, but I enjoy it. Cosplayers are awesome at any age.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:34 AM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, Mrs 43rdAnd9th and I don't do cosplay or anything like that, but I think this is great. As she has told me on occasions, growing older is compulsory, but growing up is not.

It always puzzles me how some folks seem unable to distinguish child-like from childish. A child-like pleasure in life is a wonderful thing to have, and shouldn't be stifled by growing up into an "adult".
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 6:49 AM on March 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


It always puzzles me how some folks seem unable to distinguish child-like from childish. A child-like pleasure in life is a wonderful thing to have, and shouldn't be stifled by growing up into an "adult".

This!

Sitting in the front seat on the top deck of a doubledecker bus, for example. I mean c'mon. Just because I'm 34 doesn't mean I don't/can't still enjoy that!

Although I'll admit I only make the "brrmmmm! look at me! I'm driving the bus!" comment in my head now rather than out loud.
posted by garius at 7:02 AM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Phaedra and I are the same age and I'm giving her a virtual high-five for doing something she loves.

I need to brag a little on my parents, too. They're both 70 and have gotten way into steampunk over the past 5 years; they collaborate on putting together fancy outfits to wear to various steampunk balls and conventions.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:23 AM on March 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


What a talented and rad babe.

This kind of reminds me of the cosplayingwhileblack tumblr which is full of incredible people in inventive and creative costumes.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:53 AM on March 5, 2015


Good on Phaedra for facing her insecurities and doing the thing she loves (like a boss).

My confusion over cosplay (and the shame she feels for it) is: how is it different than halloween, mardi gras or even a football game, other than the specificity of the genre of the costume? lots of adults of all ages, shapes, sizes, colors and configurations get dressed up in elaborate costumes for these things year in and year out and don't seem to feel shame for doing it.
posted by OHenryPacey at 8:11 AM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


As it should be.

Also, there's a platypus controlling me.

I aspire to something like this Scruffy the Janitor cosplay. Apparently he was walking around sweeping and a lot of people didn't notice.
posted by plinth at 8:46 AM on March 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


I worry less about what people my own age think of me and my hobbies and more about whether I'm seen as the weird/creepy/sad old dude by the people who are in the age group of a lot of the things I enjoy.
posted by Gev at 9:19 AM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


BuzzFeed asked some of the best cosplayers of New York Comic Con to reveal what their day jobs are to prove, once and for all, that nerds come in all shapes and sizes. teachers, consultants, RNs, accountants, data analysts, neuropsychs and doggie day care owners represent!
posted by beaning at 10:14 AM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think she's cool and looks fantastic. Just as a data point.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:23 AM on March 5, 2015


I love the diversity of her husband's photos.
posted by mikurski at 10:27 AM on March 5, 2015


I'm a longtime member of the Society for Creative Anachronism...with a mom who thinks it's stupid to get dressed up in costumes from another time period on the weekends. Her opinion has not changed much in 17 years. Once she was satisfied it was not a cult, she was still impervious to the fact that in the context of the SCA, I teach classes on historical arts, help run events, perform as a singer for and with others, and generally do positive and productive things. She's not usually a judgemental person (well, about me anyway), but has proven to be remarkably intransigent on this point, won't listen even to amusing stories about SCA events, thinks most of my friends are vapid and useless because they're in the SCA. And occasionally I absorb some of her negativity and wonder, what use IS all this stuff that I do? Am I really helping the world in any way at all?

Then I think about NASCAR, gambling, football...so many spectator sports that are the main source of fun and destination of funds in so many people's lives...and I realize that I am doing FINE, thank you very much.

Lately I've taken to looking at Mom and saying, "Aren't you lucky that I'm not a drug dealer?"
posted by gillyflower at 10:40 AM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Go older lady!

I've always been disappointed that cosplay became popular after I was really too old to respectably participate in it. I already feel out of place because I don't know any other women my age who enjoy video games as much as I do - it's definitely not a topic of conversation among mothers in my conservative city, unless we're complaining about how much our sons enjoy them.

I have received brownie points this semester for recognizing one student's Aperture Science messenger bag and letting another write a paper on Bioshock, but I would love to meet someone who could listen to me talk at length about how Bioware games are ruining my life and not wonder why the hell I had failed to mature as I should.
posted by bibliowench at 11:35 AM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Lately I've taken to looking at Mom and saying, "Aren't you lucky that I'm not a drug dealer?"

This was the same sort of thing I said to my mom about my D&D habit when I was in college.

I'm in that same mid-40s age range and I'm in awe of her cosplay. I wish I could do what she's doing, but I don't have the costuming skills or the energy. Instead I rock my age-inappropriate purple hair and get on with my bad self. She's the kind of woman I like to be friends with.
posted by immlass at 11:44 AM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm nearly 70 and I've never done any cosplay, but I'd love to be Nanny Ogg for a little while. Being Granny Weatherwax would be great, too, but I'll never be tall and skinny again.
posted by aryma at 1:40 PM on March 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


I love love love this! It honestly never occurred to me that age might be an issue (my privilege), but then I thought about the majority of conventions that I attend and you rarely seen an older person dressed up (exceptions to these have been the more specific conventions like Star Trek only etc). I hope she inspires more older men and women to cosplay, and I hope it helps others who are young and currently cosplaying to know that they don't have to stop when they hit a certain age either.
posted by liquorice at 2:52 PM on March 5, 2015


I guess it's finally happened. I remember everyone saying when you got older you'd stop caring what other people thought of you, but I didn't really believe it.

I'm starting on my Lagertha costume for RenFaire and it never occurred to me that other people would think I'm too old for this. I'm honestly more concerned with sourcing materials and creating a time travel story to explain my presence in the wrong century.

Fuck that noise and pass the chain mail.
posted by Space Kitty at 5:20 PM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


One of the most delight-inspiring cosplays I have ever seen in my life was the early-40s-ish couple I spotted at Dragoncon dressed as Joyce Summers and Rupert Giles. In their teenager outfits from the Band Candy episode. SO GREAT.
posted by nonasuch at 6:41 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


One of the heartening things about SFF fandom is that there are a number of characters played by actors (and, occasionally, actresses) that are older: Sirs Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Downey, Jr., etc. Your favorite video game might even have an older character; Mass Effect has Zaeed Massani, Urdnot Wrex, and Garrus Vakarian, who look it, and various asari, who mostly don't.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:19 PM on March 5, 2015


no laws are being broken, no one has the right to judge anyone else's hobbies

Eh, some hobbies are pretty harmless even when they do skirt the law. Like, I think it would be okay if someone were to bake and sell cakes without a restaurant license or maybe even operate a pirate radio station.

At the same time, who cares if people watch too much TV? It's not really our place to make comparisons anyways.

The point is to do what we like and piss off our parents and relatives while doing it.
posted by FJT at 8:43 PM on March 5, 2015


The 'history of cosplay' article is not only a good read in and of itself, but has a lot of links to other interesting material. Thanks a lot for posting this, Lexica.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:20 PM on March 5, 2015


At the same time, who cares if people watch too much TV? It's not really our place to make comparisons anyways.

I think it's fair to make the comparison when someone looks at my Lego Voltron and says "Wow you sure have a lot of time on your hands." I don't have any more time than the average person. I work an 8-5 job and have a 3 year old and such. I just choose to spend a little less time sitting passively.

When I say "I built this instead of sitting in front of the TV" I'm not being judgy. I watch plenty of TV myself. The comparison is just meant to make people stop and think what they could do with 5 or 10 hours a week directed toward a hobby.

The point is to do what we like and piss off our parents and relatives while doing it.

And on that point, I recently displayed some of my Lego stuff at the Brickfair convention in Birmingham, AL. My parents live in Auburn, AL and decided to drive up and surprise me. They thought they might wander in and say hello. I received a phone call from outside as they had arrived and found the admission line stretched around the convention center.

After I scrounged up some passes for them, I think they were impressed with the size and scope of the convention. I think they had it in their minds that this was some weird little closeted Lego club thing and hadn't realized the public display attracted thousands of people.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:43 AM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I got a slightly different take on this piece than some others it seems. I think it is great that this woman has found a hobby she enjoys. Her costumes are very impressive, even more so when you realize that she only took up sewing within the past couple of years (they look professional to my eyes). There is definitely a value in her message of, "Don't let age or body type get in the way of pursuing a hobby you are passionate about".

At the same time, I couldn't help but notice some of her comments which seem to contradict her message a little bit.

- "...most professional photographers didn’t have much interest in taking photos of my cosplays, and that hurt"

- "... one photographer half-heartedly snapped off a few shots and made it quite clear that he was only interested in shooting hot chicks. Most other photographers didn’t even look at me twice. I was never even up for consideration. They’re looking for young, thin women and I just don’t qualify"

I couldn't help but read those comments as, "I needed validation and nobody was interested in giving it to me". I'll admit I'm not super familiar with Comic-Con culture, but isn't the fun of cosplaying in putting together a costume you are proud of, not necessarily , "Look how many people took pictures of/noticed me"?

Those comments read to me as displaying a need for external validation which was at odds with the overall "Do what you want, who cares what anybody thinks" message.
posted by The Gooch at 8:16 AM on March 6, 2015


The comparison is just meant to make people stop and think what they could do with 5 or 10 hours a week directed toward a hobby.

Yeah, but I rather just stop comparisons from other people in the first place. Some people (for example, the aforementioned parents and relatives) will just use that sort of gentle remark to say that if you have enough time to spend with your hobby, you should start a business, find a gf/bf, have kids, etc. You said yourself you already have a kid, so maybe those remarks aren't as prominent for you. I rather just kind of say in the most polite way possible, "It's none of your business" and go on my way.
posted by FJT at 6:34 PM on March 6, 2015


I'm nearly 70 and I've never done any cosplay, but I'd love to be Nanny Ogg for a little while. Being Granny Weatherwax would be great, too, but I'll never be tall and skinny again.

Ah, but remember that PTerry said that Granny W was actually quite short, it was just that people didn't see her that way. Can't remember quite where that came from, but I think it was one of the Wee Free Men books. And anyway, Nanny Ogg seemed to have way more fun.
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 2:00 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love this! First Nishta and now Phaedra! It's like "local Twitter friends" week for me here on the Blue!
posted by uberchet at 12:50 PM on March 7, 2015




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