So here I was a few days ago, watching the National Geographic Channel with my puppy (or puppies this week, as I am also puppy-sitting and in absolute heaven) and caught a little section, completely unrelated to the show itself, about one of the last existing "Freak Shows" in North America. I assumed a few still existed, but it was the first time I'd ever been confronted with the reality of one. It spurred me to wonder, with complete sobriety, what if I grew out my beard and did join a circus?
Let's leave the connotations behind the word "Freak" aside. I'd be around people with genetic quirks that made them totally unique and intriguing. I wouldn't have to shave my face at all, or worry about feeling ashamed because I'd be in a context where I would be expected to be exactly the way I was born. Would I feel different? So vacated from my normal life that it would feel like a vacation? Would it in any way help me accept the way I am? I think the most attractive part of the idea is that I'd be opening peoples' eyes and showing them that we bearded ladies do exist, and aren't too hard to find, and are real, living, breathing, feeling human beings.
But there's where the fantasy falters. They'd be meeting a bearded lady in a fantastic, theatrical setting. Would that seem really human at all? Or would it just perpetuate the myth? Some people are truly fascinated by unusual animals, people, and talents, and find them wonderful and magical. But some go to be creeped out.
Let's bring the word "Freak" back into the equation. I hate hearing that word used in connection with a person. I wrote a very emotional blog post about the use of that word once, but found it just too upsetting to post. As I did a little research into some of these sideshows, I saw a lot of promotional material using words like "monstrous" and "horrifying." I don't think I'd want to stand beside a banner like that.
But maybe it depends on how you look at it. The people who join sideshows must find it rewarding, must enjoy the camaraderie with others with appearances or talents that set them apart. And I think therein lies the mystique. It's always portrayed as a close-knit fraternity of amazing people.
Maybe I just don't have the personality for it. Maybe I'm the kind of person who will always feel better just fitting in.