touching

For years the troupe has teased me about my “freak magnet” to be fair, playing with swords and fire isn’t going to generally attract the median of American society.  I’ve worked retail, foodservice and in non-profits and it’s safe to say, I’ve dealt with a lot of people.  For those of you entering Renfaire world, or just want to laugh along at home-here are my thoughts on patron interaction.

 

You approach them. I tend to be low-key, our hams are all “HEY YOU! YOU WITH THE FACE!” it’s important to know your own limits. I talk to people with an object of interest in my hand or I note them looking at something.  These conversations are easy, there is give or take, the patron indicates they are done, you wish them a good day. Life is easier for me with extroverts in the troupe.

But that’s not what usually happens and we all know it.

Unhappy patrons who approach you. In most cases these days it’s not about us, it’s about the bathrooms or the food or the weather or whatever.  I listen, I do an analysis in my head-is it something I can actually help with like leading someone to the first aid station or giving them water?  At my day job I have the three-minute rule-if it’s not something I can fix or find a solution for in less than 3-5 minutes I kick it up to a higher authority. If you don’t know who the higher authority is then ask the folks at the front gate. For some reason, faire organizers care a lot about where the money is and how it’s handled, if you don’t find them, you can find someone who does know where they are or can take a complaint.  Sometimes people just want to be heard-these people don’t want a solution. If you are three minutes in and it’s clear that you are just a recipient of ranting. Make a show of noting it (and sometimes I do) and let that faucet run out. Then disengage and away you go.  As a wise person once told me

“You are not the jackass whisperer”

The Yakker: this is similar to the complainer but no malice is intended. They just want to talk about “bastard swords” or “greatswords” or the katana in their collection.  I freely admit that we specialize in 1300-1600s and only Europe and let it go.  I have amazing fantasies about swimming in Maldives or playing with penguins in the Antarctic. One former troupe member said he could tell the moment I checked out, but he’s one of very few.  Sometimes I literally can’t “be” there for a conversation .That’s when someone has to override my careful study and research with the material I love and I’m done. There will be a moment or two on teeth on lip and my right temple twitching, but eventually…penguins.  And I admit I am a ninja when it comes to scraping off some of these folks on other troupe members. We know when it happens and there will be consequences at dinner but sometimes, you have to do you.

The Sealion: People have written articles about this so I direct you to that. http://simplikation.com/why-sealioning-is-bad/

Flirting-OMG such a minefield.  Chances are you’ve been checked out before you’ve sent out your own feelers. If you feel uncomfortable make it clear. If they won’t stop it’s a security issue.  Otherwise, Godspeed. The renfaire is the place where there is someone for everyone and I’m sure someone has written extensively about it. I am not a good person to advise you but if you are looking for action, check for foxtails.  If you are looking for kinky action, look for floggers (little leather whips worn at the belt) and there’s a whole feather in the cap language from the SCA and I have no idea how it all works. And remember, costuming is NOT CONSENT.

Establishing dominance.  No, they don’t get to touch you, they can say anything they want-whatever. I have been told so many annoying/judgmental things and challenged so many times it’s ridiculous. If they act like a fifth-grader treat them like a fifth grader. I usually say “whatever, you win” It’s not what people are looking for but it’s an end to the discussion. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes which leads me to:

“Rennier-than-thou” a contest that makes me vomit a bit into my mouth.  A noted curator and I were discussing the moron-laden in-fighting in academia and non-profits and he said.
“The fighting is so intense because the winnings are so meaningless”
so if someone tells you that you are enjoying/doing/participating in renfaires wrongly, ask yourself why they needed to do that and then reassure yourself that you don’t need to join that club. Sure there are renfaire-specific things but you’ll pick them up as you go and they aren’t even universal. People make honest mistakes and good people will forgive them.

Gatekeeping: I’ve written about it here. (https://phoenixswords.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/its-a-big-sword-rainbow-lets-share-it/)

 

And Stalkers. I’ve already written about it here.(https://phoenixswords.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/on-stalkers-predators-and-boundaries-at-the-faire/)

 

The crazy and the drunk.  Even the swordmasters in treatises have the rule “Don’t engage the crazy.”  If you are security, I’m sorry that’s in your job description and I wish you well.  Some of our troupe members are nice people and will talk these people down.  You are not obligated to do that. If you want to help, find security.  You shouldn’t take the chance these people escalate into something more dangerous.  I freely admit that I will do my best imitation of the X-man, Nightcrawler and *BAMF*-I’ve teleported out of there. But as I said in the first paragraph, I’m a magnet and a catalyst so the best thing I can do is not be there.

Here are some of the things I’ve enjoyed in my interactions
I learned something! We’ve had dojo masters from Japan talk about swords, special forces guys show us interesting holds and had five-year olds show off their katas. That’s cool 🙂

A good laugh and made a human connection-even as an introvert I’ve made so many good friends. The inner circle gets added to my personal facebook and we visit one another. I wouldn’t have that without faires.

People watching, it never gets old for me. And yeah, the entertainers are entertained by the visitors as much as the reverse.  We have a show in which we are understaffed, we basically make the audience do improvisation for us. It’s a fun show and everyone is a volunteer. The participants genuinely make the show.

We’ve taught people things. Sometimes it’s about swords. Sometimes it’s training an audience that it’s okay to laugh and clap and what cues they can look for to do it.  Other times it’s that there is not that big a gap between what we can do and what they can eventually do.