attack_laurel (attack_laurel) wrote,

So, the seekrit project of great cuteness is proceeding apace. I finished one of the bits last night, held it up to Bob, and said "Now this - this is almost fatal levels of cute".

"I'm feeling a tightness in my chest even as we speak", he replied.

He went on to explain further effects of the cute, and declared the only remedy was Jack on the rocks with water.


It is very cute. I will slay you all with it sometime in the next two weeks, I think.

I have a bunch of things on my plate - I'm trying to get my act together on shop stuff (consulting time with my computer-savvy protege is imminent), I have things to make for the Sheep and Wool Festival demo, Gardiner's stuff to arrange, a website update to make, house stuff to do, and oh, yeah, a party at the end of the month.

I will not be at MTA this weekend. I will, however, be alone all that weekend and next week as Bob will be at the house, supervising the creation of our garage. I need to get the bedroom curtains re-done before he leaves, so he doesn't have to sleep with no curtains.

That all being said, what am I doing? Writing about SCA stuff. More judging.

No, wait. This is different (but related).

Bob, at his very first event, wore an ensemble consisting of a leather jerkin, a shirt, and (I think - he might have to correct me) a pair of spandex leggings. Very Renfest, but perfectly acceptable for a first event for someone who discovered us through the Maryland Renaissance Festival, right? Well, during the event, someone walked up to him (I swear it wasn't me) and turned back the shoulder of the jerkin, said "Hmm, machine sewn", and walked away again.

His very natural reaction (WTF?) was the same as mine would have been. And yours, I imagine. In fact, pretty much anyone who experienced the same thing would have a negative reaction of some sort, ranging from Bob's (a mild WTF? and a funny story later) to foaming offense and a vow to never play SCA again. I saw something similar (but worse) happen about five years later, with another new Rennie type - she turned up in her Renfest gear, which was sort of barbarian-ish, but it was her first event. She was snarked so hard by the "ladies" (and I use that term very loosely) that she never came back.

That's the bad kind of judging - it has nothing but malice at heart. Don't do it (and please don't come to me and boast of what you did to get rid of that awful person - I will not give you the approval you so clearly crave) (not that any of my delightful readers would ever do such a thing). Keep the snark for the locked lists. No, you don't have to pretend you never do it (most of us, including me, do it at some time or another), but don't do it where the person will hear - it's mean and unworthy.

Obviously, that's an easy one - Don't Be A Dick is my rule for all things (like all rules, it can be broken, but you'd better have a damned good reason). The harder one is when someone really wants to help, but help has not been requested. I have been guilty of this myself - when I was younger, if I heard someone snarking on someone else, I would then try to "help" the person being snarked on. Sadly, this was sometimes not out of an altruistic desire to see them escape from the snark, but because I had the mistaken idea that if I fixed the object of the snark, the snarkees would like me for it. I was a problem solver!

In my naivete, I had not realized that the snark does not welcome problem-solving - the snark is a way to feel superior. I bumped my nose into that a few times (I'm a slow learner), and finally realized I was causing more pain than progress (see: Slow Learner. My face is next to the definition in the dictionary) , and stopped.  These days, I will only offer advice if it is very clearly requested, and even then, I will question you closely to see what kind of feedback you really need from me.  I am very skittish about saying the wrong thing, because I know how much it hurts.  

(I will be honest if you want me to - but you had better be serious about it.  I will respect your wishes and refrain from soft soap if you want, but brace yourself.  Alternatively, you may be so good, I have nothing bad to say.) 

Now, don't get me wrong - snark has its place. It is a useful venting tool for saying what you cannot in person, especially when it is deserved (and sometimes?  Yes, yes it is).  Some people pull the snark hard down upon themselves (mostly on e-bay, I'm not sure why), and hey, if you're going to be an idiot, there will be consequences.  Snark is nature's way of saying:


And serves a valuable purpose in that it means I don't just kill people who achieve truly monumental levels of stupidity.

 What I don't like is the snark that attacks new people and creates an artificial hierarchy of "worth".  If a person is too insecure to appreciate that everyone was new once, then they need to get over themselves, not make the newbie feel bad for being less than perfect.  They're really not doing it to offend anyone, and they'll pick the right stuff up as they go along.  Jump on them from the outset, and you may have just created another "authenticity isn't fun!" advocate, and who can blame them?  Authenticity isn't fun when you're being beaten over the head with how much you fail at it.  

On the other hand, if the person is twenty years in, still wearing two bath towels pinned at the shoulders, and telling everyone "if they'd had it, they'd have used it"? Oh, be my guest. But be discreet.  There's no point in being a bitch.

A reminder (yes, you've seen these pictures before, most of you, but it bears repeating); you never know how someone will turn out:   


The first one is me in 1988 at my third event, the second is me at Henricus in 2004(?-ish). When I started, no-one thought I would turn out the way I have, least of all me. I liked princess dresses, and the Renaissance Festival, and just wanted to dress up and look pretty.

I've had a lot of "help" along the way - some well-meaning, some just mean. I can say from experience that unsolicited advice always hurts, and rarely (actually, pretty much never) helps.  Even if you try to help with the best, most unselfish intentions in the world, the person may not be in a space where they can hear what you have to say.  Unless someone specifically says "Tell me what you think I can improve on this outfit", hold your tongue. 

No, "how do I look?" is not an invitation to detail the flaws in an outfit. Nor is "hi, how are you?". I have seen too many people utterly crushed when some "well-meaning" (we'll give them some benefit of the doubt, but only a little) busybody bustles up to them and starts telling them that their outfit is all wrong, and they need to do this, this, and especially this to fix it.

Think of it this way - if you see a person in the street in a colour that doesn't suit them, do you walk up and tell them they look bad, and they'd look much better in green? You'd deserve a punch in the nose for being so rude.

(If you think this is an acceptable thing to do, leave this journal. I do not want to know you.)

It is just as rude to walk up to a stranger at an event and start critiquing their costuming efforts. It's almost as bad to do it to a friend, but at least the friend has the option of poisoning your drink at feast later. The stranger may be completely new, or not ready to make something else yet. Or they may have no spare time, no money, no resources, and did their best while managing three kids and a sick cat. The point is, you do not know. Making assumptions makes an ass out of you and Umptions, and Umptions resents your effrontery (as do I, and the person you're so hell-bent on "helping").

What I know is that you can permanently put someone off the SCA by doing so. I'm stubborn, and have a driving (some would say pathological) need to prove people wrong, but other, more tender, people will choose to leave permanently. I liked the "barbarian" girl - and the guys were all very disappointed when she never returned (she was very nicely shaped). The satisfaction gained from a cold-shoulder snarking of someone "not good enough" was simply not worth the cost of a member who might have been great.

I swear to you by all that I hold sacred (Cadbury's Creme Eggs and the 21st Amendment), it doesn't help. While it may be annoying to wait, you have to hold off until the person you're itching to improve wants to improve, and comes to ask you. For all you know, they may not want your advice; they may have someone else in mind that they would like to ask. People who want to improve will let you know. Don't go hog wild at the first sign of interest, either; let them lead you at their speed. Like seedlings, beginning students need tender care at first. When they are a little more sure of themselves they can handle more stern treatment, but at the beginning, they bruise easily.

(I'm making them sound like tomatoes. Not quite the analogy I intended, but it will do. Fragile, thin-skinned, and easily harmed beyond repair.)

Enthusiasm for teaching is a good thing, but like all good things, it can be taken too far. Run a newcomer too hard, too fast, and you'll drive them away. Be gentle.

I have made these mistakes; I am not some perfect being passing judgement on the masses, I am telling you this from direct experience of being on both sides of the coin. I still burn with shame at my tactlessness, even though I know I mostly meant to do good. I cannot be grateful to the people who felt the burning need to slam me, but I can say that the experience spurred my work to greater heights, if only to prove them all wrong (and, you know, pass them all by so I could grind their skulls into dust under my feet).

Let us distill this overly wordy post down to one pure sentence, full of laurelly goodness.

Do not ever, under any circumstances, offer a critique if someone has not specifically asked you for one, other than "You look nice".

If you've ever wondered why I don't walk around offering my opinion on all and sundry, and avoid going up to people and telling them how they fail at costuming and life, now you know. I get my snark worked out in private where no-one will get hurt.

Besides, I have Attack Laurels to do my work for me.
Tags: judging, projects, sca
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