It amuses to me how many people confuse safety with convenience and say, “Hang the accuracy; I want to be convenient!” They glorify the use of modern spectacles and eyewear (“I just can’t see otherwise, and I can’t wear contacts!”) , alibi the use of sneakers and Harley boots (“I’m not able to stand or walk around otherwise, and besides nobody does accurate footwear!”), scoff at required research (“That’s just not fun; don’t be so anal!”) and obliviously and openly use modern electronics and talk about that episode of “American Idol” they Tivo’d instead of anything remotely period during public hours (or do not have public hours and instead want a big fancy-dress LARP). Then, as if to further justify their approach, they defend their actions and choices with the ferocity of a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar: “That takes away from any fun I’d have and is just not convenient!”
Well guess what. Having un-sharp weapons on the field is safety; using modern wheelchairs or crutches to get onto site is safety; not using poisonous cosmetics is safety. Using something that makes you feel more comfortable with no provenance, no likelihood of existing in period is not a safety; that is the supreme god of people who feel no compunction about doing frivolous living history. A matter of convenience! They even avoid things that were essential to the era—and even more essential to understanding it–as being not merely inconvenient but disruptive. Myself, I find having an Authenticity Officer is safe and reassuring; a lot of people find—or would find if the concept even occurred to them—it is inconvenient. It’s a threat to the laissez-faire sense of Fun that they want to engender and to enjoy.
Are their ultimate goals to attract as many members as possible and rake in more and more money? At an early meeting, we decided on “quality, not quantity.” They may have five hundred people out there in bluejeans, Air Jordans and hurriedly stitched T-tunic made out of polyester; we may have five who look not merely Good but Superlative. That is where I’m coming from, and that is what is important to me. It would be nice to have hundreds of well-dressed participants in a period-looking environment, but those numbers are nothing to me compared to the time that a spectator who says, “Wow, even your shoes look accurate!” (yes, they do so notice!) Nothing is more fun that doing the research required to make something that is accurate and not just fabricate something that will look similar to something seen in a fantasy film.
What is my point? I guess it’s that good, serious living history is fun. The research is fun. The presentation is fun. And the practice is fun. It will probably never ever be convenient!