When I am at festivals, one of the most common questions that I receive is from incredulous individuals who are shaking their heads and slightly bugging their eyes, asking "How did you even get into this?" My prompt and frank answer never deviates from the truth. "I started out as a dork in high school, and I never stopped." The response usually elicits a polite laugh. Friends, it's all true. When I talk about wearing renaissance bodices to school with vigor and pride, I'm not embellishing the past to make it more rosy. Below, I have shared some person pages, RIGHT out of my own scrap-book, done by me when I was 17 years old. Now, for some good hearty "origin stories".
When we went on band trips or really ANY kind of trip that took us away from our high school and to places where there were high school boys that DIDN'T know how the social map of our school was laid out, it always went the same. We would try desperately to flirt with boys and make them fall so madly in love with us that they would be forced to ask for our email addresses and/or phone numbers. (good night! You kids in the golden age of facebook have it SOOO easy! You just need a name, and then you can spy on this person, figure out all of their deepest personal thoughts and feelings, find every girl they ever dated ever, and also how they feel about every single thing that happens including their burrito at lunch having not enough hot sauce. ) Anyhow, generally, we would stumble upon two lonely boys, one of them being the better looking-more-talking and more attracted to Brenda. I always got the less desirable sidekick. And by "got" I mean that I extracted perhaps 1.79 furtive glances from him until he gave up and switched to just looking at Brenda and the Cool Boy. By the way, if you ask Brenda about all of this, she will deny all of it. She is lying.
Below, you can see the page from my scrapbook! Our sophomore year of high school, the band got to take a trip to Dallas, Texas. When I found out that we were going to get to attend a Medieval Times dinner, where we would watch jousting, eat turkey legs with our hands, and yell "Huzzah", my excitement was nearly all-consuming. I knew immediately that I had to sew the most beautiful gowns ever for me and Brenda, and here we are, in our 16-year-old glory.
Holycrapholycrapholycrap. This was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, up to that point! There we were, at a castle *Squeeeeee* dressed up in fabulous dresses (my band teacher was, I believe, simultaneously slightly embarrassed, impressed, amused.) and, not to be a jerk or anything, but we were dressed WAY better than the wenches, who were in very sad royal blue peasant blouses, black cotton broadcloth skirts, and little flower hair wreaths. Seriously, ladies? I still think they should have all gone on strike until they got to wear some decent corsets. You're flipping BAR WENCHES! It's one of the rites of passage!!!!
The show was AMAZING, and there was even one point where the handsome knight that "won" the tournament circled the edge of the arena to find a lucky lady to whom he could gallantly bestow a red rose! In a very rare moment of sweet justice (take THAT Brenda, who always gets the hot guys AND their awkward sidekicks!)the knight raised his head, peering into the crowd of restless peasants, scanning them keenly until his eyes found ME *gasp* at which point he smiled salaciously, raised his gauntlet-clad hand, and sent the pure red rose sailing in an arc (at which point, time stood still, the music stopped, the crowds faded away, and there was only me, my head tilted at an elegant angle, my burgundy home-made bodice tight around my gasping bosom, and my eyelashes fluttering) at which point the rose landed into my eager hands, and the crowd erupted into frantic cheering, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. There I stood, triumphant and breathtaking, a warm pillar of light ascending down on me and my metal plate of greasy turkey leg bones. These perfect moments in time are so rare that you have to cherish them for the rest of eternity, especially when you're having a particularly bad day, working as a lowly waitress at a Ruby Tuesday in Joplin, Missouri, bent over on your hands and knees, scraping up the chicken nugget crumbs from the previous table of 2 adults, 5 kids, and a $1.75 tip. At those points, you can reflect back upon that one shining moment, when you were the princess....the belle of the ball....the lady of the hour.
To be fair, it might not have been quite that dramatic. I'll tell you what WAS dramatic-the event that occurred shortly thereafter. My camera had run out of batteries and film (yeah, that's right, FOOLs! I didn't have a magical camera on my phone where I could take never ending piles of pictures of myself and my plate at dinner! This is back in the STONE ages!) and we were left only with Brenda's little disposable camera. We knew we only had one picture left, and we were absolutely, giddily desperate to get a picture of us and the beautiful queen from the dinner! She had on a marvelous dress, and was CLEARLY the celebrity of the evening with her flowing gown, heaving renaissance bosom, and period head-dress!(I know, I know. In reality, she was probably some 27-year old under-grad student working at Applebees and playing the queen on the weekends, after which she would yank off the dress and go and get hammered at a karaoke bar, wailing out a painful rendition of " Torn" by Natalie Imbruglia.)
The rest of the kids had shuffled away to the bus, but we pleaded with our band teacher to let us just take a few more minutes and try to find the queen! Seeing us with our big eyes and flowing lace-up gowns, he probably had a momentary lapse of judgement and just urged us to hurry up! We turned and ran, looking frantically and desperately around the whole castle, only to see every single cast member EXCEPT for the regal queen! We realized that were were pushing our luck, and hung our heads in defeat as me made our way back to the yellow bus of failure parked behind the castle. At that point in time, the clouds parted, and a shaft of golden sunlight shown from the heavens, directing itself ever toward the center of a courtyard, surrounded by an iron gate with bars through which the onlooker could glimpse a momentary view of what it must be like to be ROYAL! (in all reality, this was most likely just the area behind the castle where the knights would escape to for a quick smoke in between jousts.).
There, framed by the vertical prison of black iron railing, was the queen!!! She was standing regally next to a man with a sizeable mustache, a Hawaiian shirt, and khaki shorts. She was laughing a beautiful bell-tone tinkling laugh and paused as she beheld something that, no doubt, was slightly alarming.
To our surprise, the queen and the random mustache guy actually smiled and came over and opened the gate. They must have heard our uttered cries of "picture" and "queen" and "pretty" in the jumble of all of our other garbled teenage jargon. I finally extruded a sentence that made sense. "Can we PLEASE get a picture?" At that point in time, something strange happened that I didn't even think about until much later. The random guy smiled smugly, bowing his head slightly, and the queen stepped AWAY. Um....Okay. We frantically thrust Brenda's little $9.97 windup Kodak disposable camera at the mustache guy. He hesitantly took it, a look of confusion and embarassment under his mustache, and Brenda and I thrust ourselves over to each side of the queen, where we grinned triumphantly. The mustache guy mustered just enough concern to hold the camera to his eye, snap a shot, and then hastily thrust it back into Brenda's hands, at which point in time we fled from the courtyard, bursting with joy and practically skipping with elation.
We reached the bus, climbed the stairs, made our way through the narrow, cramped aisle, avoiding all of the lethal glares being beamed at us from the 30 fellow impatient band-mates, and collapsed into our stiff little cramped seat. All of the sudden, Brenda froze, as if made of the same unyielding vinyl rocks as those dang bus seats are. Her eyes went wide and she said, "Oh my HELL, my mom is going to KILL ME!" I sat there, puzzled, unable to figure out anything that was going on. She said, "Michelle! That was Geraldo Rivera!!! The man in the mustache! My mom watches his show all the time! We handed the camera to HIM to take a picture of US and the QUEEN!"
Stay tuned for Part 2 of My Beginnings as a Renaissance Nerd in Dallas, Texas. Part 2 will have vomit, rainbow colored bras, and large gorillas. No Joke.