Sometimes I want to quit this hobby.
It’s usually for selfish, petty reasons: for all I swear that I didn’t see the trash compactors and cars in Newport, spinning wheels, cast iron, and candelabra in dining flies made me nuts at Bennington. Why the difference? In Newport, the modern things were all backdrop and unchangeable. At Bennington, reenactors had choices.
Why would someone else’s cast-iron kitchen make me want to pack up my sticks and go home? Maybe because I’ve been very tired this summer. But more honestly, I have a streak of self-righteous grade-grubber: “I work hard at this, why can’t you?” was surely my internal whine as I surveyed the mess area at Bennington.
My emotional immaturity aside, I think that same “I get this, why can’t you?” is felt by a lot of reenactors/interpreters when they stand in their well-researched, hand-sewn, and agonized-over clothes in a Spartan camp watching the public interact with sofa-print-gown- or baggy-breeches-wearing cooks bent over cast iron in camps littered with slat-back chairs, folding tables, and candlesticks.
We feel unappreciated. We feel like no one recognizes our hard work. We are not getting the grade we deserve.
We need to get over it.
Don’t abandon the authenticity: abandon the attitude. Abandon the eye-rolling, the snubbing, the sneers, and the turning away.
Comparison is the enemy of contentment. Even when you think you’re better.
Stop playing the “I’m more authentic than you” game. It sucks. It makes people want to quit this hobby. It makes people want to skip events.
You want to have events where only people who meet your personal authenticity standards can play? Knock yourself out. Keep it private. In privacy, be as catty as you like with people who enjoy it, but keep it in the real world and not online. Online, it comes off as passive-aggressive cowardice.
Not everyone wants to play the same game. But no matter what the game is, it’s never fun to be the butt of meanness, and it’s not really fun to be mean—plus, it’s bad for your health, bad for the hobby, bad for the people around you.
We’re visual creatures: we can over-focus on what we see. We focus on the clothing being worn instead of the person inside those clothes. But really, it is the person who is important.
Individual choices don’t always affect a group. When choices do affect a group—cars in camp past stated removal times, weapons and fire safety violations—then I think anyone can and should speak up. But violations of published and easily accessible standards should be pointed out to event organizers, and not handled at the individual level. When there are no published and readily accessible shared standards, there’s nothing to enforce. So consider stepping down from the fashion police and enjoying yourself instead. I’ve been to very few events without redeeming factors.
All that iron at Bennington? Forgotten when I focused on what I was doing: cooking something new in camp, and forgotten even more when I shared the pudding and compote with my friends.
That’s why I don’t quit this hobby: it allows me to share amazing experiences with my friends, I learn new things all the time, and I get far outside my petty worries.