February 26, 2016 by DeLa Doll
Cosplay is mostly fun and games for me, but I’d be a fool to deny that things can get often get unnecessarily competitive, whether I like it or not. Add petty competition to the mix of an already strained friendship, and you get a severing of ties more dramatic than the finest of Shakesperian tragedies. It sounds like the dumbest, pettiest fucking thing ever for a 10 year friendship to crumble to pieces over, but it was my reality. Cosplay was the catalyst for my already withering and stressful friendship with a person I’ll refer to as “Tisha.”
Tisha was actually the one who encouraged me to get into cosplay, but she mostly did it for her own sake; she had lofty dreams of cosfame, and wanted a wing-woman to carry her bags. Unfortunately, her dreams did not go as planned. I’ve always been into crafting and costuming, so it didn’t take much for her to convince me to jump into the cosplay waters with her. What waited within those waters was jealousy, resentment, copy-cat styled bizarro fuckery, and ultimately the beginning of the end.
In the Beginning
I’d known and been friends with Tisha for nearly 10 years. In the 10 years that I knew her, she failed to mature like the rest of our old gang. Our other friends had gone on to slough off the embarrassing filth of naive teenaged youth, but Tisha had not changed much since the first day I met her. This started to be a hell of a problem. Failing to progress past the age of 13 means you deal with emotions like someone who isn’t properly equipped to handle things as an adult…but thinks they are. Do you remember being 13? I’m willing to bet you weren’t the most rational or agreeable person; I know I fucking wasn’t. At 23, Tisha was still literally shrieking at the site of color pink as though it were Satan’s crusty puckered glory hole (we were both tomboys in our younger years), writing bad erotic yaoi fanfic (there’s good fanfic out there, but she is definitely not writing it 😕), and struggling to do even the most basic tasks without assistance because she didn’t feel a need to even try. This led to a dependency on her part, which started to weigh heavily on me; I was already the mother of a toddler, and soon I felt like I had adopted the world’s most naive teenager when it came to Tisha. Cosplay really magnified this dependency and emotional immaturity: Her jealousy, her expectancy for me to do her makeup for her, be her cameraman, and dedicate more time to her cosplay and cosfame endeavors than my own augmented the living shit out of her issues. Tisha wanted cosplay to her thing. In her eyes, I (a young black single mother who lives with her parents) had it all, while she (a childless white woman with her own apartment) paled in comparison. Despite me looking significantly worse on paper in the eyes of general society (and fuck society, for that matter; I’m fucking fantastic), in Tisha’s eyes, I was everything. She admired me to the point of envying even the less glamorous aspects of my life. She admired my fashion sense. My hair. The fact that I am often cat-called and pursued by strange men (which is gross. I wouldn’t wish street harassment on anyone). She didn’t feel she could have those things, and so cosplay would be her realm, and I would be her faithful shadow. Unfortunately, our first and last con together was a sign of things to come.
The First (and Last) Con
She was in a bad mood the morning of the con. Her car had been towed earlier over some bullshit, and we missed some of the morning panels getting it back from the world’s seediest fucking tow yard. In her rage, she decided to make my GPS her punching bag, irrationally claiming that it was giving us the wrong directions to the venue because it turns out that a lot of the stretches of highway in Orlando all kinda fucking look the same. Despite my telling her that things were fine, she took an exit to turn around, which cost us even more time because we ended up going back the exact same route the GPS was directing us along in the first place. It was stressful and unpleasant being around her, but I hoped that once we got to the con, it’d be better. This was my first con, and I was determined to have a good time.
At the con, she continually asked me to take pictures of her, so I did. I’d also cut and styled her wig, done her makeup, and took pictures of her at my friend’s apartment before the con. I didn’t mind taking more, but I was beginning to feel more like a personal assistant than a friend. And since I didn’t have any pictures of me in my own cosplay yet, I took some selfies as we sat against a wall, chowing down on overpriced con food (I quickly learned to bring my own food or just hit up the nearest McDonald’s. Anything is cheaper and tastier than typical con food!). I eventually asked Tisha if she’d snap a pic or two of me, and in response she lazily held my phone, took two sideways, blurry pics, and declared that I had to make everything about me, and that it was her turn for pictures now. I didn’t mention anything about the fact that that was, ya know, fucking bullshit. I just wanted to get her calm and start having fun. So I took even more pictures of her in her cosplay. Then we walked around and she’d point out people she knew, but she wouldn’t want talk to them. I thought that was weird; one of the most appealing things about cons for me was the potential for socialization. Instead, she wanted me to follow her around to all the panels she wanted to attend (that I wasn’t interested in), stand in line for an autograph with a voice actor I didn’t give a damn about, and basically be her sidekick. When I saw the length of the autograph line, I bailed. I was wasting my first con experience doing things someone else wanted to do, and I wasn’t even having fun. I told Tisha that I was gonna go explore, and that’s what I did. I had a few people stop me and ask for my picture or go “Nice Marceline!” and it felt really good. When Tisha caught up with me, she was annoyed that I’d left her, but was nice enough to ask what I’d been up to. In my excitement, I foolishly told her about the maybe 5 people, out of hundreds of attendees, who openly recognized my cosplay and asked for pictures. Not even a significant number, but it irritated Tisha. Her face fell and she said “Well nobody’s been asking for my picture” with wide eyes as though she truly couldn’t understand. She followed up with “Nobody even notices that I’m Levi.” Her reaction to my tiny bit of happiness was disheartening, so I didn’t bring it up anymore. When I changed into my holiday Tira outfit that night, her quiet-but obvious- discontent only grew with each person who asked to take my picture. I tried not to seem as flattered as I was. If I did, she would voice put downs about her own cosplay. I’d counter with positivity, but I don’t think it ever really got through to her. Tisha just didn’t like it when I got excited over people asking to take my picture, because nobody had asked for hers. She didn’t like people complimenting my cosplays, because nobody had complimented hers. I wasn’t allowed to openly express my happiness and surprise at receiving positive attention over cosplay because she felt I was stealing something that rightfully belonged to her, and that put her in a sour mood. Cosplay doesn’t belong to anybody, but she didn’t get the memo. Still, we mostly had a good time. However, it would be our first and last con together as friends, despite the plans we’d made for more. We actually may have hit one more con together, if not for the photoshoot fiasco.
The Aforementioned Photoshoot Fiasco
The shoot itself was mostly fine. It was a free shoot hosted by a local cosplay group. Tisha drove my daughter and I, as I had gotten in a car accident and was temporarily without a vehicle earlier that month. I began to feel sick about half an hour in and wanted to go, but Tisha was determined to socialize. I didn’t want to rain on her parade, so I withdrew, opting to sit most of the event out while Tisha and the others continued to do their thing. I even apologized for having withdrawn, although the truth was that I had been coming down with a shitty cold, and was just feeling out of it, quickly becoming physically and socially exhausted.
When we got the pictures from the shoot back, we each posted them to Tumblr. Tisha posted shots of her cosplay to her cosplay blog, and I posted mine to my own blog. A short while later, my phone was all abuzz with notifications: my cosplay pics had gone viral. I was completely caught off guard. I’d read horror stories about black cosplayers being harassed and heckled at cons, and had seen some horribly racist memes featuring black cosplayers, so I was just hoping to avoid negative attention at best. Positive reactions were the last things I expected, and yet I could not revel in this sweet surprise for long, as my friend was clearly unhappy. When I excitedly broke the news to her, she quickly went into self-deprecation mode, saying that maybe she should just stop cosplaying. I told her that was nonsense. A little later, we went wig shopping, and as I was still on a high from my unexpected tiny bit of Internet love, I couldn’t help checking my phone to read the nice comments and tags people were adding to my pictures. Tisha noticed this and quickly whipped out her phone, refreshing her own post on frustration as the number of notes remained stagnant; she commented that she couldn’t understand why my post would “get notes” when her pictures didn’t. She wanted to see mine, so I handed her my phone. She carefully scrolled through the list of those who had liked and reblogged my pictures, a look of irritation and scrutiny distorting her features. Her behavior was bizarre and upsetting; I didn’t like being made to feel guilty over something as silly as internet validation, (though I do admit that it does feel good when it comes along 😆🙆🏾). She asked if I’d checked the tags to see if they were “good things” that people were saying about me, implying that maybe my pictures were only circulating because people were saying negative things. I didn’t like the way she said it, as though she kind of hoped that there was some mistake and there was no way people would find me and my dorky Saya cosplay worthy of any sort of admiration. It was awkward, and I felt bad for having shared my happy, if mostly meaningless, bit of news with her. This continued to be the case whenever I received positive attention for my cosplays.
Eventually, Tisha’s jealousy turned into resentment and an even deeper dependency. She’d ask for my advice, despite us both being newcomers, and then lash out at me for giving it. It didn’t feel like she was having fun, though she’d put up a front online and say she was having a blast, loving cosplay purely for its own sake, anot caring about attention. Meanwhile, she’d bemoan her failure to achieve the cosfamous status that she so desperately craved behind closed doors.
World’s Shittiest Craft Party
Sometime after the Tumblr and photoshoot fiasco, Tisha threw a “cosplay making party”…in which she had everyone else work on her cosplay and did little in the way of making or partying. It was supposed to be a group of us helping each other out, but it turned into everyone mostly working on her stuff in addition to their own while she took pictures and played at being a model. One friend made the gaunlets, another sewed the top and skirt, I styled the wig. She mostly just took pictures (and then took credit for creating the things other people made on Tumblr). When she finally decided to pitch in, it was to glue fabric to a belt with a hot glue gun. She plugged it in, squeezed the trigger, and immediately cursed in frustration, claiming this was proof that crafting and following tutorials wasn’t her thing (she made this claim a lot when she’d ask me to do something for her and I’d link her to a tutorial or guide). She didn’t realize you had to wait for it to heat up first. Once the mechanics of the glue gun were explained, she complained about how hard it was to glue fabric a belt the entire time, while her friend sewed the top and bottom of her cosplay. When the belt was adequately covered, I suggested she use an old jar lid for the buckle, since it was the same size and shape that she needed. She went off about how she didn’t wanna use “some random fucking shit” in her cosplay because she wanted to be seen as a professional and be taken seriously as a cosplayer. I was getting fucking tired of hearing that, and sick of her snapping at me over suggestions and help that she demanded in the first place. When she posted about how the cosplay in question was her “first cosplay [she] made [her]self,” I pointed out to her that she basically got away with having a free cosplay commission done, and that she hasn’t even bothered to credit anyone in her posts. She went back and added a thank you at the end, but it felt insincere. I tried to talk to her about she’d been acting. I told her that I thought she wanted to get into cosplay for fun, but all she did was put herself down and complain, so it didn’t feel like fun at all. I told her that she was my friend, practically my sister, and that I didn’t mind helping but that I didn’t even get to work on my own shit because I was busy tending to her. I pointed out that most cosplayers either made their own stuff or put in the money to buy it. I said that if she wasn’t willing to do either, and wasn’t even having fun, maybe she should find a new hobby. This was said in a soft, even tone. No malicious intent. Just one concerned friend to another. She seemed to get it at the time, but she was quickly back up to her old ways, and it was driving me fucking bonkers. She’d started making plans for the both of us at local events without even consulting me first, and didn’t understand why I was upset. She’d make it a habit to ask me to take pictures and record videos of her in her cosplay whenever she came over. Sometimes she’d disappear into her room and come back out in one of her cosplay wigs out of blue. She’d send me pictures of other cosplayers and literally say “Do my makeup like this.” She even began to mimick my posts on tumblr, which was honestly just more fucking weird than anything: if I posted a selfie with a peace sign, she’d do the same. If I posted about the process I used to make something, she’d follow suit with a similar post. We were supposed adults, not school children playing some awkward game of Simom Says in which I didn’t even want to be Simon.
Simon Says Fuck Off
It all got to be so irritating that I cancelled plans to attend another con with her; I explained that it wasn’t an end to our friendship, I just felt we needed a break. And Tisha said ok. And Tisha flipped shit. Two of our mutual friends messaged me, a bit puzzled and off-put by her behavior: at the con, she’d spent the entire time doing the things that I had planned to do (things she didn’t want to do until I told her I wouldn’t be going) and making a point to show how much of a “good time” she was having without me. She also posted pictures I’d taken of her from the other con accompanied by captions falsely stating that she couldn’t even remember who had taken the pictures, when it had only been a month or two before. It was the online equivalent of someone walking right up to you and loudly declaring that they’re ignoring you: dramatic and sad. I understood that she was trying to hurt me with these bizarre antics, acting out because I needed space. It was such a cringe-worthy thing to behold that I unfollowed her on Tumblr, which is where the garish display of childishness had been taking place.
I tried talking to her about it after she got back, but she pretended not to have done anything. After her denial, I decided I was done with her. I used to think that perhaps if she had owned up to all the strange and shitty behavior, we’d have been able to work it out, but as time went on, I realized that it probably had to end. She went on to make up ridiculous rumors about me within our relatively new shared social circle of local cosplayers. This, unfortunately, damaged some of my new friendships beyond repair, and caused people who I barely knew to think the worst of me. It didn’t feel good to be judged based on lies that were said when I wasn’t even around to defend myself, but I guess I’m better off without Tisha and people who would readily believe something negative about me without really knowing me or bothering to try.
Reflections and Shit
The entire ordeal was the biggest high school-level shit show that I’ve ever had to the misfortune to be dragged into. I can’t say that I’m totally over it and wish her the best; I’d be a goddamn liar if I did. Do I have any ill will? Not really. Sometimes I have a small urge to metaphorically crush her beneath my awesome feet, but I mostly just keep focusing on how much I like cosplaying. I’ve made new friends, I’ve had better experiences at cons with people who know how to be supportive friends, and we all lift each other up and just have fun. There’s no awkward competition. There’s no guilt. There’s no strange childish Internet antics. Just fun people and cool costumes. I think that’s how it should be; I don’t think cosplay is for weak friendships or people who have jealousy issues. I do miss Tisha sometimes, but when I think back on how something as simple as cosplay caused her to mutate into a completely unbearable person, I know I made the best decision when I cut her looney tunes ass loose 💁🏾
Do I really blame cosplay for our friendship dissolving? Of course not. It was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. Honestly, I’m glad something as awesome as cosplay helped me make new friends while removing an extremely toxic one from my life. If you’ve got your own tragic or crazy tales of cosplay and friendship, I’d love to read about them in the comments! Let’s swap horror stories 😉😆