Monday, October 30, 2006

Dressing Up

Dressing up always took on a slightly different meaning in my family. My father and uncle run a business that sells supplies to pre-civil war U.S. history re-enactors and reproduction muzzleloaders. It made for unique childhood and I had a blast.

I often accompanied my father to various historical re-enactments and they always held one or two each year at their store location. At these events, I was generally dressed up like “Little House on the Prairie” with my calico dresses and bonnets. The tennis shoes peaking out from beneath my hem ruined the overall aesthetics, but they were much more comfortable than the flat soled buckle shoes of the era. I made my way through crowds of customers and tourists with the agility of youth and I was totally unaware that I made people look twice. What was an Asian girl doing here?

As I got older, I became more conscious of the stares and the whispers. By the time I was eight or nine, I had a much better grasp on race and I also understood that people had specific ideas about who belongs where. Minorities just didn’t play a romantic part in U.S. history - not generally roles that people relish playing outside the movie industry. So, here I was, totally bucking the traditions by dressing the way I wanted to. After all, re-enacting is about pretending that you are someone else. I could do that just as well as anyone.

Someone asked me once if I was pretending to be White because I didn’t like being different. I wasn’t. If I was trying to pretend that I wasn’t different, the last thing I would have done was dress up in funny clothes and bring it to everyone’s attention over and over again. It was rather annoying that because I enjoyed something in which most minorities didn’t participate, people automatically assumed that I was trying to be White. To the contrary, by doing this – I was being me.

My family’s business was an important part of shaping who I am today. It taught me to love history and to respect the retail business. I learned that being different did not mean that I was any less a part of the family. It never occurred to any member of my family not to include me in everything that they did (including re-enacting). I learned to do what I wanted to do and not to let societal norms keep me from going my own path.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you posted this, Mo. There's no one way to find your way in the world, and I applaud you for claiming your right to do what you wanted.