What Do You See?

This morning, a lovely friend shared an image on his social media:

I remember being a very small child and seeing what would have been an Original Punk on the High Street. My parents pulled me away, saying that I shouldn’t go near Those People.

This must’ve been the 70s. And fair enough, some punks were… well… a bit mad.

But since then, I’ve often been the weirdo on the High Street. Whether it be a teenage goth in full drag (stopped traffic), or in my wedding dress (stopped pedestrians), or in robes and cloak for a Handfasting (both).

This taught me a few things.

1. Learn to dodge people who stop to stare right in your path.

2. Have a smile on. Because it confuses people.

3. Be aware that if you dress differently to ‘the Norm’, be prepared for people to react.

I’ve had car-horn beeps and cheers, children gently stroking the velvet of my cloak, and any number of questions or catcalls.

But you know what? It is always an adventure.

When people approach to ask something, they are both curious and brave. It takes guts to go up to the Strange Person and speak to them. After all, who knows what might happen?

I do wonder if people would believe some of the questions they ask, but it’s to be expected. Eddie Izzard has quipped about people staring at him:

‘Man in a dress!’

No frame of reference… oh god, what do I do…

That kind of sums it up.

In recent years, however, I’ve seen that bravery grow. I’ve never had insults thrown; the worst was ‘what are you supposed to be?’

I’ve been asked if I live in a commune, Hobbiton, if I always dress like this, Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings quotes (usually spells, oddly).

I keep smiling. I stop and try to answer. I’ve a number of retorts to familiar questions, but keep it lightly humorous. Then, when people see that I’m an Actual Person and not about to bite their head off, we can engage in conversation.

If it’s younger people, I always have time to chat, to let them touch my cloak or staff (or tattoos), and generally to teach them that It Is OK.

This is about respect, in both approach and response. It’s about engaging at a level that encourages understanding. It’s about inspiring, showing people that there is magic in the world, even if it turns out to be a normal(ish) human being underneath.

This is about walking the talk. Not showing off, but being who you are in that moment, and reacting well when people engage with that image.

I often wonder what people see when they look at me, all dressed up. Do they then go home and say to someone else ‘Ooh, I met a real Druid today!’

What do I want them to then hold in that image of me? ‘I met a real Druid and…’

Ideally, that I was friendly and nice, not stuck-up or daft! That this is real, not just for show.

I have so much respect for those who go out into the world showing their plumage. Be it punks, goths, pagans, drag Kings and Queens…

It takes bravery to do that, too.

What image do we present to the world, in both outerwear and engagement? Are we staying in ‘protective’ mode today, or dressing up? And when people approach to ask – with genuine respect and desire to know – what do we say?

I’ve been mulling over what to wear to Witchfest this weekend. Do I glam up or stay everyday? I usually like to give talks in my civvies, because my Druidry isn’t actually dependent on outfit.

But perhaps a little bravery is required this time…

8 Comments »

  1. Blodeuwedd said

    I am a Saxon/Viking re-enactor and have occasionally been in an ‘out of context/place wearing Viking clothes. Generally people go to great lengths (once even walking into a lamp post) rather than ‘see’ me. A local TV company, about 20 years ago, did a documentary on us which involved a friend of mine standing in full warrior clothing in a shopping mall for an hour. They speeded up the footage…nobody looked at him.

    I have never felt entirely comfortable with robes, for a number of reasons, but I think I might be getting ready to ‘go there’!

    • druidcat said

      Hubby does full-contact medieval fighting – I know what you mean! But once one person stops to chat, others do, I find. Or you see people wishing they could…

      I’ve been known to run down the road to tell reenactors how awesome they look. Because that effort deserves it! 😊❤️

      • Blodeuwedd said

        Some of the costumes are awesome. I don’t do much of it now, due to the 3 jobs and a PhD, but I do miss it. The full contact medieval combat is awesome!!!

      • druidcat said

        Look back through this blog for my posts from Battle of the Nations in Serbia last Spring. Mad fun 😊

  2. Iona said

    I get stared at or whispered about- it’s usually my hair that interests people!
    I just smile and say hello!
    I too was fascinated with mods, punks and rockers over the years growing up also!

  3. Wrycrow said

    I’ve spent a good amount of my life hiding my Pagan-ness and my Queer-ness and my Goth-ness in a “normal” costume because of my utter fear of judgement and probably a heap of internalised shame too. Perhaps this post is the gentle nudge I need to stop doing that, and have the courage to be “out”. Thank you for writing it, and for your bravery in being yourself.

  4. Martin said

    Go as maleficent that’ll put the cat amongst the pigeons!

  5. Marg bradley said

    I,m now eighty years young so I am aware of If not now, WHEN?x

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