Several years ago I lived with a group of fantastic dudes in a house in the Berkeley hills. I lived upstairs with Drew, Andrew, and Julien, and in our basement for part of the year lived Will. It was one of the most formative of my adult years, and not merely because of the character built by being able to see my breath indoors, by the raccoons running wild throughout the house, a leak that took over a year to patch, and having no idea what we were doing and using dangerous tools to learn how. We spent long hours talking, joking, sharing ideas and media, learning, playing, working. It wasn’t perfect but it was unique and amazing and it was something I’ll never forget.
One of my great life lessons that year was catalyzed by my introduction to LARPing. If you are not familiar with the concept of LARPing, this image might help:
LARP stands for Live-Action Role Playing, a form of role-playing that came about in the late 1970s; it involves participants physically acting out their characters rather than simply talking about them. Essentially – and with a vast amount of variations, rules, and communities – it’s D&D done live. But it’s by no means limited to Dungeons & Dragons, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter; there is Victorian-style LARPing, World War II LARPing, and zombie apocalypse LARPing. And much more.
At that time, when I first heard of it, I’m a little ashamed to say I mocked the practice. It struck me as silly, as an odd use of time, and as ridiculous. But Drew, ever the most tolerant, accepting, an open person I know and will ever know, didn’t mock it. He rarely mocks anything, unless it’s something done by douchebags for the express purpose of being mean, and even then he can sometimes find positive intent or some sort of value in it. And then I’m like, come on, man, those guys are just being big douchebags.* He argued that LARPing was every bit as valid as any other pastime, like sports or books or movies or blowing bubbles or cup-stacking or underwater basket weaving. And wouldn’t you know it, but he was right.
*ET was on TV awhile ago, and I was surprised to see little Elliot call his brother a douchebag. I say surprised because I wasn’t aware the term (used as an insult) was that old – the film was made in 1982. After a little bit of research, it turns out I was in fact spectacularly off on my conception of when the insult originated – apparently it came into being as early as 1963, and according to the OED, by 1967 meant “an unattractive co-ed. By extension, any individual whom the speaker desires to deprecate.” Who knew?
This type of thing comes up a lot in the planning stages of a wedding; that is, what is “valid” and how do we determine that? Is it “OK” to do something a little wacky at a wedding, defying tradition and perhaps raising an eyebrow or two? People do really weird things at their weddings, as I posted about briefly a few weeks ago. They dress up like Shrek, they get married in a cave or in Barnes & Noble, they get married naked [NSFW!], and they do it Star Wars-style. Heck, there are even Google results for “LARP wedding,” which of course is not surprising.
Jessica and I really, really want to have a great wedding. Well hey, of course we do. So does everyone. But seriously, we want our friends and family to have a blast. We want the food to be awesome. We want the music to be dance-tastic. We want people to say, “holy shit, that wedding was ACES.” We want the event to reflect who we are as people and as a couple, and we don’t want to cave to the whims and pressures of standard/traditional stuff that we don’t like. It’s not that we don’t want anything traditional about the wedding – I’m sure we’ll end up with all sorts of the stuff – it’s just that there are things that make us happy, that we love, that we are passionate about, and those are things we want to try to incorporate into our Big Day.
So like, what’s the point? The point is that people have the fantastic capacity to learn how to be happy. We are a mind-blowingly creative species, and with every generation we come up with new and beautiful ways of bringing ourselves joy. For some reason, and I can’t really pinpoint why, my newfound awareness of LARPing those years ago was a strange sort of slap in the face in that regard – what these folks do out in the woods, wielding swords and speaking all funny, which at first seemed so silly, helped me realize that one of the most important things about how we choose to spend our time has to do with the joy it brings us. And whatever way we are able to do that should be celebrated and embraced. And I hope Jessica and I can harness that and inject it into our wedding.