With the festival season coming up, I've been thinking A LOT about how to improve the experience of coming in and buying a corset directly from me, the maker. I've been listening to countless audiobooks and podcasts while I furiously shove fabric into the sewing machine and try to beat my record time (this is a game I play to make sure that I'm able to produce large quantities of lovely corsets. I time myself on each piece, seeing how fast I can produce it while still keeping all of the quality present. )
Recently, I remembered a very significant incident that occurred this year at a festival. I was standing there, wishing Oklahoma would decide that humidity was NOT part of its soul, when a lady walked in, head bent down, not making eye contact. I walked over and asked her if she was interested in playing dress-up with me, and she gestured vaguely at one of the corsets that she was interested in. I grabbed her size, cut a ribbon and came over to lace her body. The second I got close and wrapped the corset around her, this unyielding stream of emotion came cascading forth. She started telling me about how she hadn't tried something like this on for years because she had spent so many years as a "fat-$%&" because her ex had stolen their daughter away from her and all she could do was sit on the couch and watch TV and eat to numb the pain. She pressed on with intimate details of abusive things her ex had told her, how she ended up losing the weight but still hating herself, how she was getting regular threatening texts from her ex's girlfriend, and how much she wanted that B- to $%$&^*^&. The woman divulged exact wording from these vile texts, what actions she planned to take, and information about how she and her current boyfriend were going to bring them down.
All of this came out while I was lacing the woman up. I was shocked into silence, which is a pretty great feat, and I numbly gestured toward the mirror in the booth so she could see herself. She gave it a quick, cursory glance, adjusted her breasts around, looked again, and then unlaced the corset and walked out. Phew! I felt like I had been hit with a sledgehammer of emotional angst, suffering, negativity, and regret. I was extraordinarily grateful that it was the end of the day, because I was feeling so desolate that I could hardly go on. Thoughts were racing around in my head like mosquitoes on a muggy Oklahoma night. "Who WAS this lady and WHY THE DEVIL would she unload her life's story onto me?" "Who shares that much with a complete stranger? I'm not some understanding bar-tender!" After the depression, I felt really frustrated and bewildered.
Luckily, I talked to my friend Tony that night, who is beyond intelligent and the most perceptive human being I've ever encountered. I related the tale of the woman who let her mouth run like a wild horse, and he turned to me, looked me in the eye, and said, "Michelle, there are a lot of broken, lonely people out there who are just dying for some human connection. The second you touched her and got into her personal space, she probably just came apart and latched onto the first person who would listen." This stopped me in my tracks, and later became sort of a turning point for me. It made me consider how much we can touch the people around us, and how important it is to put positive energy out into a world that is so chocked full of negativity and sorrow. I was suddenly MORE than some dork dressed up in steampunk/renaissance wear playing dress-up all day with patrons. I could actually use my position to help people!
So, that is my goal for this year. If you come into my booth, I want to make a connection with you and make you have this wonderful, positive experience that sets the tone for the event. I would love to create a MEMORY with you, create friendships with you, and build trust. I DID have a customer who was very upset at me this year because she said she came up to the booth wanting to talk and I ignored her. Ooooh, I agonize over this on a regular basis! The fact that there was even ONE woman out there that came away from me feeling dejected just makes me panic! I know I'm human and I really do have some pretty crappy days at festivals, but I can be BETTER. Please, OH, please, if you attend a festival that I'm at, come and talk to me. I'm not scary at all, I promise. I know that we have LOTS of times when our booth is so packed that there's no way you could even squeeze in, but just wait a few minutes, and give it another shot!
I'm so excited to meet more of you this year at my events, and I hope that if any of you are "lonely" or "broken", you will come to me! I will put my arms around you (while putting a corset onto your body) and we'll heal together.