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[personal profile] luciab
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about roles, and the responsibilities and privileges that come with them. The most extreme example of it hit me on election night when I looked at the Obama family and thought, “Oh, your lives are never going to be the same.” I know that the evolution began as soon as he started winning primaries, but the change in January will be unimaginable.

I thought about it again on a more personal level when I heard that there will be a Baronial polling here soon. I hear that ‘snerk’ of derision; it’s okay. I have enough sense to know that those two things are so different as to be essentially unworthy of being on the same page, but even such a small thing as playing at being a Baroness in a game of medieval re-enactment has rewards and responsibilities that are trickier than you might first imagine. Because it is important to the players of the game, isn’t it?

The Baronage is, after all, the local representative of Their Majesties—kind of a middle management level position. If you, as Baron/ess, were to spend all your time with Royalty and Peerage, acting snooty, the populace would be reluctant or even afraid to approach you. On the other hand, the American public was appalled when President Jimmy Carter carried his own luggage—that sort of thing just IS NOT DONE. Appearances must be maintained.

Thus, the first thing that kept tripping me up when I was Baroness was figuring out how much to do for myself. I was a tomboy and then a feminist and had always toted my own stuff, pretty much. All of a sudden, people were carrying things for me and bringing me things and I felt silly. Finally somebody sat me down and explained, “People want to help you. This is how they want to play their game. Let them.” Plus, I suddenly was not allowed to go anywhere at an event unescorted; that would be most unseemly! Weird-- I had never wanted to be a girl, fergodssake. I really don’t know how many of these rules were from the particular people who were my ladies in waiting, and how much is historically accurate. Like everything else, it probably varies wildly according to time and place.

What I came to realize about the working/toting thing is that during an event, people are playing the roles, and then it IS important to let them bring things and fix plates of treats and such. After the event? Then it’s appreciated if you get busy and help take down the tent and pack up the dishes. Big difference.

I was always aware, however, of being The Baroness. Doors were always opened, for example, and people called me “Your Excellency,” sometimes even when we were in modern clothes, in restaurants and such. The most surreal moment was one day when I was getting my hair cut, and the stylist said, “There’s someone else here today who plays SCA. Is it okay if she comes and says ‘Hi’?” Of course I said yes, and a young woman came over and talked to me a few minutes. There we both were with wet hair, with plastic capes draped around our shoulders—and she sketched me a tiny curtsy when she left. I was rather astonished.

And when you are The Baroness at an event, you are always On. People are always looking for you to ask for an opinion (which must be rendered tactfully), to offer you a taste of something (careful with the booze! Remember the opinions need to stay tactful), to request that you judge some competition (whether you know anything about the subject or not), or to remind you it’s time to be at Tea. If you have an off day, if you feel ill, if you are cross it could be taken personally and get blown completely out of proportion. I am not a naturally “sweet” sort of person, so I had to really watch my tongue and not get all snarky. Snarky can be verrrrrry bad.

In some ways—in terms of politics, mediation, soothing ruffled feelings and such-- I feel as though I got off rather lightly, compared to some of the stories I heard from other Baronesses (in the most general terms, of course.) One said that people would call her at 5 AM whining about “[So-and-so] called me a name” and expecting some sort of…. lord-knows-what kind of solution or smiting or something. I don’t know if people heard what a bear I am when I first wake up and knew whose ass would get smited, but nobody was dumb enough to call me with such a complaint at that hour, or any other, for that matter. Maybe they thought the other Baroness was nicer or something. Maybe they could see the snarky lurking behind my eyes? I know there were some rough moments during our tenure but thank god my memory has taken care of them for me. Getting old has its advantages after all.

Sometimes when I’m sitting in court watching TRMs and the Baronage giving out awards, I get kinda wistful, thinking about how much fun it was sitting up front, getting to see the faces of the recipients. I was never that comfortable doing the talking, but I loved being up there seeing their faces and having the power to give out the awards. Anybody who’s been there will tell you, that is absolutely the BEST part of the job. Nothing can touch it.

Anyway. That taste of being Somebody—even in a game-- gave me a huge amount of sympathy for actors, Presidents, anyone who can’t just get up and go out whenever and wherever they need to. Yes, there are a lot of nice things about it, but man. I can’t imagine not ever being able to be off duty.

Herewith ends my ruminations on the joys and perils of being Baroness. Go forth and ponder as you will.

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Susan Arthur

February 2011

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