TL; DR: Waxing philosophical on the many lives we live as cosplayers and how many of us meet time and time again.
A few months ago, I met a group of awesome cosplayers dressed as Asari from Mass Effect at Dragon*Con. I was dressed as a casual Scott Ryder (from ME: Andromeda, for those keeping track at home) at the time, so our group kept to the same general theme. We hung out, bonded, and had some great conversations over the course of a frantic few days. As we parted ways, we exchanged cards and contact info, and headed back to the real world with work, family, and the everyday tedium that comes with it.
When I got around to going through business cards and checking out their pages though, I made an amusing discovery. It turned out one cosplayer and I had already met that spring, while at Star Wars Celebration in Orlando. While standing in line with other cosplayers to go up on the main live stage as background players, I started chatting with someone dressed as Dutchess Satine, as I thought her costume looked fantastic. We made small talk, verbally exchanged page info, and only saw one another in passing after that. Who knew we would cross paths again?
The discovery had me thinking about the roles we play as cosplayers. We play new characters, new people with every cosplay, many times making us unrecognizable. Masks, armor, colorful makeup, prosthetics, and layers of fabric turn us into completely different people. Whether Pathfinder Ryder and an Afterlife dancer or Jedi turned Alliance Commander and Mandalorian royalty, we sometimes meet the same people for the first time over and over.
But that’s part of what makes cosplay so amazing. It made me wonder how many other people I’ve met before. How many lives we get to live for a short time when we step into these characters. Whether from the same shared universe or crossing between totally different genres, it’s a wonderful community… and smaller than it seems sometimes. Our mutual appreciation of skills and shared fandoms help build friendships that may never have happened without cosplay. I know I’ve become far more outgoing, accepting, and creative, through cosplaying, and without it I never would have met Jae at cosplay speed dating.
I’ve had friends and family roll their eyes before in reference to cosplay and cons. They see it as silly escapism, leaving reality for a weekend. I won’t deny it can be escapist, and some cons (like Dragon*Con) more than others, but getting away is a good thing. Vacations are normal, and I doubt anyone sees a resort in Cancun as representative of everyday life. Escapism is healthy, as is meeting new people and getting new points of view. Sometimes it’s only through stepping outside of the "normal" for a few days that you discover more about yourself and grow.
So, I’m glad I discovered cosplay. I’m excited for the skills I’ve learned, the places I’ve been, and more than anything, the people I’ve met – especially Jae. It makes me excited for all the adventures that lay ahead.