When Mag-North got in touch and asked me for a meeting to discuss writing for them, I jumped at the opportunity.
I felt confident I could offer them some interesting content as 2022 has been quite the adventure, and so I have been honing my skills at storytelling whilst making lots of notes with the intention of writing a book. I’m excited to say that looking back over the last 12 months has completely reignited my passion for books and words.
Once we'd agreed I would put pen to paper, or at least finger to keyboard, (which doesn’t have quite the same ring to it), I set my mind to a first article. I only decided a few minutes ago whilst doing a lap around the block with my dog that I wanted to talk about where I am with Christmas and of course with Drag as they are both current, complicated, and as much as I appreciate, enjoy and take part in both; like any relationship they sometimes confuse and trouble me, which gives me plenty of scope for discussion.
I’m not afraid to be wrong or to admit I’m a hypocrite. I relish knowing that my opinions can evolve and be proven incorrect. Sadly, we don’t start our lives with all the answers, but working on the assumption that I’m roughly halfway through - gained insight makes ignoring my conscience and my experiences harder to do.
What I see around me more and more in life as I set off into my 40’s is a world full of repeats and routines. I’ve been 'round the block a few times and I can now confirm from experience that I have seen it all before. Very little surprises me these days, not fashion, not human behaviour and most definitely not Christmas. I should say I am by no means a ‘bar humbug’ Grinch, who wants to tear down the joy of the season, drag queens generally love glitter and twinkling lights. What troubles me is where all the packaging, waste, plastic and unwanted stuff goes when the party is over.
Of course, the irony isn’t lost on me that I’m currently involved in a culture that seems to require lots and lots of stuff. In some circles wearing the same wig or outfit twice would be frowned upon and so does not in any way lend itself to a simple or sustainable life, however I can’t deny that my nerves were still peaked this morning when I walked past a pop-up Christmas shop full to the brim with plastic candy canes and decorations, all in the pursuit of retail profit. All I could see was excess - and correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t it all look suspiciously like last years offering? This is the problem with any successful organised cultural event, be it Christmas or drag, the bigger it gets the more merchandise and mass industry it needs to feed it.
3 years ago, before I started doing drag, I saw a book on a friend’s coffee table, the cover was so powerful that it instantly made me reassess my views on ‘ownership and belongings'. It was a close-up of a simple white chair on a wooden floor in a room next to some empty shelves, with the title ‘Stuffocation.’ I borrowed the book but in truth I never read it, I took everything I needed to know from the cover. I don’t know about you, but I do find quite often with self-help books that they give you the answer on the cover or very early on, and then there’s 300 pages of waffle.
My enlightenment coincided with my moving to a new city for a new job and so I took the opportunity to strip down to a very simple living space by giving to charity shops or recycling a large proportion of my belongings. It most definitely improved my general anxiety, organisation, and state of mind. Yet even with that insight, midway through Covid 2020 little by little and with unthinking enthusiasm, I found myself in the middle of a drag nightmare, stacker boxes of stuff that I was excitedly collating, ready for when I was able to take part in shows. I was regularly unwrapping parcels of shiny new things as they arrived in the post, but there was a nagging voice asking me ‘will it be fun to be fierce in sequins when the Ozone layer gives up and we are all under water?’.
In a similar way to the stuffocation book, a few years earlier I was confronted by a magazine cover that has become forever etched in my minds eye. The cover depicted a huge, teeth-bearing Father Christmas with a whip, looming large over a factory full of workers at stations putting toys together. The suggestion of course was that Christmas is a monstrous and aggressive industry. The image has definitely helped shape the way that I feel about the holiday season.
The reflections between these two areas of my life and many other areas besides is clear - I am a consumer. The modern world has so much to offer, everything is available to buy, but in my excitement do I take enough time to consider the consequences of my consumption? What I have come to understand about both Christmas and Drag is that they themselves are not to blame, rather the industries that latch onto the commercial opportunities they offer which don’t have anything to do with the nucleolus of either. There must also be blame placed at the door of us the consumers, who all too often shrug responsibility sighting ‘the adverts made me do it’.
As a drag beginner shopping online in a pandemic, I had to learn about putting costumes together as I went - and of course got it wrong a few times. As time passed, I realised that one way to help with my mis-purchases was to pass things on to others who could make use of items I couldn’t. As a part of some of the recent drag events I have been involved in, I have set up Drag tables where fellow performers have been encouraged to contribute to and takeaway clothing, with anything left over given to charity shops: either way a new life for unwanted items has been possible. This makes me feel a little easier, but still doesn’t totally address the issue and this applies to the entire retail industry generally, if we are ever going to turn the tide, we need to be smarter about the amount of stuff we buy, and the reasons for buying it in the first place, does the desire to be stunning and entertaining on-stage sound like a good enough reason?
With Christmas I think I’ve got it nailed, I suggest experiences rather than gifts, meals out rather than socks or jumpers. My tree is decorated with ornaments I’ve collected and treasured over many years, with a few items my gran used on her tree years ago, and other pieces given to me over time. This means rather than creating a look, which is subject to trends and taste, it serves more as a collection of memories that I feel less inclined to want to replace.
With Drag I am not so savvy yet, but I am becoming more inventive and resourceful with the clothing I’ve purchased. I realise it’s my responsibility to play my part and to lead by example if I want to inspire and help to change a mindset, I wonder if anyone would really stop a show to protest “I’ve seen that outfit on you before” I imagine it’s very unlikely, so maybe this is silly self-created pressure we put on ourselves as performers to try and keep up with each other?
My final thought comes in the form of great advice my gran gave to me as I was growing up: ‘Enjoy life, but exercise thoughtful moderation’.
You can catch Ginger on jorvikradio.com on Sunday nights from 6 - 8pm (or catch up on the listen again tab).