That is easily the best word that can describe my weekend at ‘Mad About the Boy’. While there were slow moments, overall it was an emotional rollercoaster that left me feeling more alive and like a woman then I have felt for sometime. I would, without hesitation, do this LARP again or any other LARP that explored the issues and themes of gender.
‘Mad About the Boy’ is from the Nordic style of LARP known as JeepForm. Instead of focusing on long campaign style LARPS such as NERO or Knight Realms or Doomsday, Jeepform does short one-shot stories with workshops intended to not only crawl inside your character’s headspace but to step back from the role after the weekend is over. Instead of focusing on the violence of most LARPS, Jeepform games tend to tackle broader and more emotional themes. Love, loss, fear and many other complex emotions. They even have a system for sex called ‘Ars Armani’ (literally the Art of Love) which involves physical contact of the hands, arms and upper back of the partners involved (more on this in a latter post as I have a lot of good things to say).
‘Mad About the Boy’ is loosely based off of the graphic novel ‘Y: The Last Man’. It is set in a world where three years prior (thus 2009) all the men suddenly died after a violent and bloody coughing fit. Millions of people died leaving women the sole inheritors of the earth. Now they are starting to build and have gathered in one spot for two reasons. A memorial for the dead and a chance for new life. The government has finally opened one of many sperm banks which have been guarding a now precious resource. The government feels it is time to rebuild the species and if America’s program works, the rest of the world can follow. There is a lot of fear though as no one knows if a male child will even be able to be born or survive childhood. Plus, if a male child is born, many other factions and groups will be focussed on this child and not all have the best intentions.
The family dynamic has changed largely in this not so distant future. Now the family unit is known as a triad in which three women form a family unit (not necessarily for romantic or sexual reasons). Lesbianism is less stigmatized (even the conservative group was grudgingly accepting of it) as many women (some formerly heterosexual) seek some sort of intimacy or romantic attachment. Sadly transwomen died in the Disaster, something that was particularly devastating to me in one of the early workshops. Transmen and drag kings have become even more socially acceptable as they fill a void for many left by the mass deaths of three years prior.
This is the world that we stepped into from Friday to Sunday and oddly enough it is a world that I find myself missing. Jeepform games bring up a lot of deep emotions and sometimes they teach us a bit about ourselves. My own fears were brought up in a workshop on Friday night and I am still surprised that I didn’t break down into tears and was able to pull myself together. I only shared this with a few people but now it will be public knowledge as I am sure that many from the LARP will be reading this (or so I hope).
One of the workshops on Friday night was a meditating session in which we were asked to imagine where we would be during the Disaster. Who would we lose? What would we do? How would we go on? At first I was imagining myself as a biological woman and it did not upset me. Then it hit me! I had a Y chromosome and I would be dead! It was not death that scared me though. It was the thought that as a transwoman, I would be lumped in with all of the dead men. I would be, by the definition of those who survived, a man!
This shook me up a bit and I was all to happy to sit up when the session ended. The entire weekend though helped to reaffirm that I was a woman and that I was accepted amongst this wildly diverse group. We were bisexual, pansexual, lesbian, straight, trans and a million other combinations that only we may personally know about. Never have I seen so many differing women come together for a similar idea. It is a powerful feeling and I can see why so many place importance on things like women festivals.
I was part of the wealthy women triad, a group of three women who managed to continue their business practices after the Disaster by helping to rebuild Philadelphia’s infrastructure. There was our matriarch and leader Katrina who use to own a construction company. She continued doing this though the business had largely shifted to teaching women how to fill these roles. There was Elizabeth who was Katrina’s sister-in-law. She had loss a loving husband and two sons in the Disaster and she was an emotionally fragile woman who still had a long way to go. She enjoyed watching romantic comedies and my character would often watch them with her (though she thought they were trite). I played Ellen who had only male friends before the Disaster. She enjoyed playing paintball and use to run a small IT business. She now ran a shipping business independently of Katrina though they often worked together on projects (they both felt it was safer to run them separately in case one went under).
Originally Ellen was suppose to miss men but me and Emily (who plated Katrina) got into talking about their relationship after the Disaster. It was at that point that I threw out that portion of my character and realized what it was I really wanted to explore. A post-apocalyptic romance story for the ages. A beacon of light in a bleak future. Thus began the most romantic story I have ever explored at a LARP.
More on this next time.
I would like to make a correction to my above post. It has been pointed out to me that both Jeepform and Nordic LARP are actually two separate things. Mad About the Boy was Nordic LARP however it was not Jeepform. Jeepform games are shorter, often a matter of hours, and have a much tighter structure then a weekend long game. I would highly recommend the following posts on Jeepform and Nordic LARP.
Jeepform for Noobs
Nordic LARP for Noobs
I would like to say thank you to both Lizzie Stark and Sarah Lynne Bowman for pointing out my mistake.