Role Playing at the Ren Faire

Parenthood is 90% participating in activities you don't have any interest in. Sometimes, I find myself having to feign enthusiasm for things that I actively avoided going to pre-kids, such as birthday parties and school. This past weekend, I found myself at a place that would've inspired a dark depression in me before becoming a mom: The Renaissance Pleasure Faire. Obviously, I didn't do it for me. I did it for the kids; no activity is more family-friendly than one that requires us to walk around in a dusty field along with adults who drench conversations in fake British accents and sexual innuendos while wearing costumes. I find it absolutely vital that my kids watch grown ass people bite the heads off fake rats, rub each other's boobs, and drink tanker after tanker of beer. Surprisingly, my kids loved it. 


.While there were a lot of kid-friendly activities (like tedious crafts and rides consisting of kids floating around in balls in a kiddy pool filled with the dirtiest water they could find), there was little to distract me from my woes. While I felt embarrassed for a minute that we weren't wearing costumes, I quickly remembered who I was and how little I enjoyed dressing up; maybe my lack of proper attire would send a clear message that I had no interest in whatever this festival had to offer. As soon as we walked in, though, I realized that the Ren Faire requires a lot of audience participation regardless of what you're wearing. They'll overlook the fact that you're from the future and drag you kicking and screaming back in time 400 years. They pretend to be confounded by whatever futuristic gadget you happen to be holding. ("What dost thou hold in thine hand? Why dost it illuminate so? A cell phone you say! How delightfully perculiar.") Walking through the festival is like sitting in the front row at a well-lit regional playhouse that's massacring Shakespeare. For me, I died on the inside while I looked on with a smile so plastic and frozen that my cheeks get cramps. I'm so unfamiliar with this world that it took me a good hour to realize that everyone wasn't Irish. 

When I wasn't being forced to participate, I was watching other adults wander through the land of make-believe. I felt like a voyeur as I overheard complete strangers greet each other with a civil nod and a "M'lady" or a "M'lord," ignoring the thumping hip-hop playing softly in the distance from the KIIS FM booth stationed at the entrance. Many of the interactions were sexually charged, and I kept having visuals of ripped bodices littering the fairgrounds in the Ren Faire-after-dark experience (assuming there is one). I avoided all eye contact as I walked through the festival.

As I watched a birds-of-prey demonstration, the handler asked, "What comes out at night?" Assuming he was alluding to the Whodini song from 1984, I responded, "The Freaks." I wasn't loud, but I was within earshot of some serious festival attendees. As soon as I said it, I realized that the other attendees might be so committed to Renaissance living that they had never heard music that didn't include lyre's, bagpipes, and hurdy-gurdies. What was merely a callback to a 1980's song could easily be misconstrued by a Luddite who has avoided hearing any pre-recorded music. (Just an FYI, the actual answer was "owls). I honestly thought the answer was "freaks," but I immediately began to regret my decision.

My face grew red, and I looked around nervously to see whether anyone thought I was calling those in attendance "freaks. Would people perceive my mockery of the festival as a hatred of nerds? This notion stressed me out more than having to make eye contact with role-playing adults because that wasn't what I meant. My extreme dislike had nothing to do with the enthusiastic embracing of renaissance culture. I have a deep reverence for people who show excitement. And I really do enjoy the profound appreciation of all things Renaissance related. No, my extreme discomfort was all about me being an unimaginative adult who struggles her way through even basic games of make-believe with my kids. I don't feel like digging deep and conjuring up a joy with strangers that I can barely give life to when playing with my favorite people in the world. I just wish I could get over myself enough to just immerse myself in the Ren Faire experience, but my anxiety gets in the way. 

After six hours of pretending to love being dragged into role-playing scenarios, I was ready for bed despite the sun being hours away from setting. As we left in the late afternoon, Darla asked me if I had fun. I smiled even bigger for her and said, "I had the best time. I love the Ren Faire." I realized at that moment that I was capable of something that I previously thought impossible; I was able to play the role of a mom who had the time of her life despite feeling so uncomfortable she wanted to cry. Yea, mine self art capable of being a fine lady though I be a witch in real life.