Friday, September 25, 2020

I'm Embarrassed

     I was listening to Mares In Black episode #51 the other day and they did a really fantastic interview with Darynn Bednarczyk of DeeJayBe Studios. Darynn made a Youtube video entitled " I am embarrassed to collect breyers".  I watched the video and a lot of what Darynn said about her experience in the hobby have been true for a lot of us. For some reason, loving horses is often seen as childish. Whether it is real horses or plastic ones, we often get judged for our love. Sure, if you have real horses more people will think that is just fine, but collecting plastic horses is a little kid thing. Isn't it?

     I am not sure at what age collecting turns taboo but there does seem to be a time. Often it is somewhere between middle school and high school. So many horse crazy kids sort of grow out of it. And then there are the hobby people. We might put our collecting into the closet for a while, we might even step away for a while. Many of us feel shame about our love of little plastic horses. And it's not surprising, often people think it's weird. 


       When I was 13 years old I saved up all of my babysitting money for a few weeks or a month (hey, it was a long time ago, I don't remember how long I saved, just that I did) and I went to Toys R Us (remember that place?) and I bought a Breyer classic Arabian family. And I loved it (and still have it). I had almost no Breyers growing up because they were expensive. So getting those Breyers was a thrill. Earning them had me elated. My best friend at the time scoffed at me for spending $5 on plastic horses (she thought I spent a day's pay. She had no idea...) that was my first time thinking that collecting horses was something to be ashamed of. 

       I stopped collecting all together when my kids were small because I had nowhere to put the horses, still had no money, and had other things I needed to focus on. Like learning to cook because we could not afford take out or anything pre-made. But one day I was sitting on our ancient dial-up computer (which was a second hand luxury item) and I remembered my horses and figured I could find some on ebay. And I also found the hobby. 
     I started searching for horses that I liked and found photo shows to enter. Eventually I started altering doll clothes which quickly switched over to making original outfits. It was casual for maybe the first year or two but then I decided to see about turning doll making into a business. It was not easy or quick but it worked. I had a way to make some money to help out our family. And it was awesome. 
     But I was still embarrassed. Ethan and I ran into a friend of ours that we had not seen in years and he asked what I am doing for work now. I told him I make dolls and he turned up his nose at me and sneered "you make dolls???" As if it was the weirdest and worst thing he had ever heard. I wonder if the reaction would have been any better if I said I was a stay at home mom. Likely not.
     When I started my job at the school it was exciting for a lot of reasons. It was something very different from anything I had ever done for work. I got to help people, and not by bringing them food (I was a waitress before). I got paid regularly. These were really great things. But one of the most exciting things at the time was I had a more acceptable answer to the question "what do you do for work." Being a paraprofessional is not a highly respected job, and a lot of people have never heard of them, but no one ever acted like me being a para was weird. Once I explained what they are and what they do, most people will say that sounds like the perfect job for me. They are not wrong.

       I started collecting model horses when I was 5 years old. From the first Breyer horses I stole borrowed from my mom to the few I got as gifts and the ones I bought with my own money. I took a break for a while, as a lot of us do, and then came back into the hobby in probably 2004 or 2005. And I hid my collecting from almost everyone. Clearly my family knew. We have a small house and plastic horses that multiply is something that is noticed. But outside of hobby friends I didn't much talk about my horses or showing. 
     When I first started at the school I didn't really tell people about my collecting and showing. If I happened to say "I was at a horse show" they were usually quick to perk up and ask where I keep my horse. And I would sort of duck my head a bit and say it was a model horse show. And I would share photos of the dolls I make and the performance setups. Usually they were appreciated. But it was still embarrassing. 
     This year there was a shift. Everything is different. Everything is weird. So far, everything is virtual. We are performing on camera and trying to engage kids in learning when they are at home. It's hard. And for some reason, 2020 is the year that I am not embarrassed about my hobby. Sometimes I am embarrassed by the behavior of my fellow hobby members, but I am not embarrassed by my collection or my showing. And I am proud of what I have accomplished with the dolls. I did quite a few this-is-some-stuff-about-Mrs.-Field chats to all the new and new-to-me kids. What did I tell them? That I am married, have 2 grown kids, I know a lot about special needs because my son has autism so I have been studying autism and related disorders for year. I also told them that I am a doll maker in the model horse hobby and I show my horses and people use my dolls to show their horses all over the world. And I have tattoos. What did the kids focus on? Mostly nothing. Occasionally they ask me where I got my tattoos. They look bored about absolutely everything that anyone says. No one acted like my horses or my hobby is weird. And if they do think it's weird? So what. I enjoy it and I have skills in it. But I can also acknowledge that maybe it's easier for me to come out of hobby hiding because I am successful with it. I do well at performance and I can make a living as a doll maker (not get rich, but can get by, lol). Usually the benchmark for something to be considered OK is for it to be "normal" (you know, something most people like or are into) or if it can make you money. But just maybe, me being proud of my dolls and talking so openly (and excitedly, I was in a good mood!) about the hobby might have helped one person. One person who felt that what they like is weird. Or maybe I just helped me to not be embarrassed. And that is OK too.


Lynn Isenbarger said...

Well said, Anne. You are such a strong woman and I admire you for who you are and what you have accomplished.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Anne for posting what you said about being embarrassed about the hobby (it would seem that this could apply to anything in general!)

Thank you also for what you posted in your previous blog about etiquette as well (I'm surprised that you didn't get more comments from your readers agreeing with your sentiments! They ring so true!)

I also agree with Lynn! I've been a fan of yours for months (altho not a customer just yet! One day tho!)

Keep on being the wonderful "you" that you are! And NEVER let anyone make you feel embarrassed about anything!

Anonymous said...

Can I post a quick comment here? While I enjoyed reading your comments, it made me think back on my own journey.

As far as I know, I've always loved animals all of my life and once I discovered the hobby, I never remember being embarrassed for it! I've always drawn since I was a child and most anyone who knew me knew that my goal was to become a veterinarian! It didn't work out--but the only "weird" part of it was that I never went through the stage where I outgrew the hobby! My only "rough" time was dealing with my dad(who wasn't an animal lover) and definitely discouraged it -but by the time I was able to live on my own, I had quite the collection!

I'm older now and I still have the collection! I don't remember explaining to anyone about my hobby -but at some point, I must have, because everyone knows ( co workers, family, strangers, customers!) that that's my "thing"!

I don't want to make this overly long ---but I'm with you concerning the Model Horse Etiquette! I don't do Facebook but I've gotten to the point that I'm so sick of so-called "full grown women" showing their female "dog" personalities with what they don't agree with! To me, they're showing that they're worse than children in their maturity level--so is it any surprise then that when non-hobbyists or outsiders hear what we're involved in, that they have such a negative reaction to it??

At the moment, we have a social media outlet where the hobbiest gather to share the latest model horse news. Since this COVID-19 situation has occurred, I've notice less and less variation in the voices sharing their thoughts in something that was supposed to be fun and enjoyable and you got to visit with your friends (as well as make new ones)

It seems like many of the conversations are monopolized by only 2 people and talk about embarrassing if you don't see life from their perpective! It makes you wonder if it's worth belonging(paying to join) that community anymore--But where else can you go??

I'm hoping that 2020 is just a "glitch" because the world situations have blindsided us and caught us off guard! Let us hope we'll remember who we are and make our return back to civility! Maybe we can start by setting an example in the hobby that we all love!

Kathy Wood said...

When I saw the title of Mares in Black video (I haven't watched it yet) it felt good to know that I wasn't the only one who is embarrassed about my hobby. I'm very careful who I tell so that I get support and not weird looks. The ones I do tell have no idea that the model horse hobby goes way beyond collecting. They are blown away when they hear about Breyerfest and live shows. I'm going to try to be more open and less embarrassed about my hobby!

Braymere said...

I used to keep the hobby on the down low, but social media made that impossible. Hobby friends tag me in hobby posts on Facebook, and my blog is easy to find with google. It's made for a few awkward conversations over the years, but usually people are supportive. I do think that making money "legitimizes" it for a lot people. I feel bad for collectors trying to explain the whole thing without the money making angle. I suspect it's a lot harder.

Mini Hoofbeats Studio said...

I just recently had an opportunity to be an advocate for the model horse community. I was testing out a new location close to home for photographing my models, when a family walked by and the mom was overly intrigued by what I was doing. So, I went ahead and told her a little bit about the hobby, showing, and customizing. She probably would have stayed longer if it was just her. But, yeah, I've had to overcome my fears of what people would think of an adult woman taking photos of little plastic ponies in any public place. I have asked the cashier at some toy stores if there were other adult collectors buying Breyers - and they say,"Oh! Your won't believe how many adult collectors come in here!" Or explaining that you're sewing pony pouches at Joann's or Hobby Lobby. But the most embarrassing moments, are family members telling the cashier about your customizing work in the most gruesome way ever! Granted, it is a gruesome process, but that doesn't mean it's OK to say that I "cut them up and reposition them" - that sounds like I'm cutting up a real horse for meat! In this case, always have you phone ready with pictures of you work to soothe the stranger's nerves.