Saturday, July 31, 2004

Renaissance, pt. 2 (The Mark)

Once, they called me a princess and stuffed me into a tree trunk. Another time, they blindfolded me on-stage, and promised to reveal my life's True Love. (It turned out to be my friend Tim, who gallantly fought the urge to squirm as they forced his hand into mine.)

It's not that I'm wary of Renaissance Faires or their promise of "audience participation." When plucked from the comfortable anonymity of the crowd, the only way to preserve one's cool is to surrender it. You have a choice: laugh at yourself or disappoint the audience. Whether asked to sing, wave a torch, or fake-tumble off a building, I've learned to ignore inhibitions and embrace whatever bizarre situation into which I've been tossed. But I can't help but wonder why I'm tossed there so often.

I've now been to a Ren Faire three times in my entire life. Three. I don't wear the Renaissance garb. (Don't have nearly enough breast flesh for it, although friends assure me that the corsets can work miracles.) I don't buy garlands or amulets or any other attention-getting accessory. And yet Ren Faire performers in search of "volunteers" have been drawn to me like mosquitoes to blood.

Still, it had been almost a decade since my last Ren Faire, so I was hopeful that the curse was lifted. I sat feeling comfortably middle-aged in the company of my comfortably middle-aged friends. Never mind that those friends were in adolescent swoon over the charms of a certain Renaissance performer, whose show they had already seen three times this season. They also had once spotted him in the unglamorous confines of the Rust Belt Mall, but not had the courage to approach him. ("He must get so tired of that.") His real name, they told me with some reverence, was Karl.

Having heard so much about Karl's beauty, I was a little startled to find that Karl was a late-forty-ish man with long hair to his waist. (Ick. But my friends pronounced him sexy, despite the increasing grays.) I was even more startled when, halfway through his act, Karl leapt over the first few rows, pecked my hand, and then dipped me into a kiss.

Okay. A very surprising, very sweet, and very nice kiss.

My friends (one of them my former student) declared me lucky. They told me they hoped I was flattered. I lied that I couldn’t be (for I kind of was), because Karl gave multiple daily performances and would surely be kissing other women at 3 and 5 o’clock that day. Having seen the show thrice before (see how I pick up the Ren lingo?), Antonia swore that Karl always stopped with the hand-kiss. The lip-kiss and dip were new, she insisted.

Maybe. Maybe not. But I’ll confess that I thought about it for the rest of that day. My streak as a Renaissance Faire "volunteer" remains unbroken, although my role was mostly passive for this one. I felt stupid about it, but I replayed in my head the strange experience of being suddenly so close to the salt-and-pepper whiskers of a stranger, albeit one with lovely blue eyes. It was a false intimacy, of course, but it felt nice. And for the very first time since I’ve been married, I felt a tiny pang of loss in the vow of monogamy. And a tiny pang of thrill for having, just fleetingly, circumvented that vow without any real transgression.

God bless you, Ren Faire curse.


At 4:20 PM, Blogger Benedict said...



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