Tom (my bloke, for anyone new here…) has been a big fan of Serenity Rose for a long time. It’s a comic about a troubled, diminutive, youthful witch, and mixes the cute and the gothic, so there’s a lot to like. Over the last few days I’ve been reading the mighty hardcover of the collected ten years of Serenity, by Aaron Alexovich. It’s been a good journey and I am entirely in love with the setting and decidedly taken with the main character. I wish I’d met her as a teen, because while I tried to fake social capability, that totally confused, don’t know the rules, last child to be picked for anything oh god please let me go to the back and disappear entirely sort of feeling… that I recognise. I still have that body posture most of the time; almost ducking.
This is a story about how to live, how to deal with your personal power (whatever it is you’ve got) and the anxiety of not knowing when to act. It’s also a story about the state of the world, our collective values and our ways of living. It’s about being a genuine witch in a small town marketing itself on dodgy fake magic replicas. How on earth do you even start to be real, when everything around you is a dubious fake? It’s there in the goth side, too – the effort and over the top, bought it in a pricey store goth, verses the gothic sensibility, the soul that goes wandering the empty streets in the dark. So while the magic is fantastical, I think there are a lot of things here Pagan readers will find resonant.
This is a book that pushed a lot of buttons for me, in a more personal way. There was so much I recognised. The person who spends most of their time moving to avoid attention, standing small, folding away, whose every gesture contains a bit of an apology for taking up space. Serenity would be cute, if her awkward self-consciousness didn’t create a big sphere of prickles around her. It’s hard to come over as attractive when you’re that ill at ease in your own skin. Seeing it drawn out like that made me realise that to a very large degree, attractiveness is about attitude. It’s an expression of confidence. The person who feels good in themselves comes across better than the person who doesn’t.
When you are by nature a painfully shy and awkward sort of introvert, feeling like you are made almost entirely of elbows, there’s not much comfort to be had from thinking that if only you were someone else entirely, you’d be passably pretty. But it does help to make sense of some things.
In social situations, I’m often more comfortable as ritual leader, organiser, performer than I am trying to just chat to people. For a start, the rules of engagement are clearer when you’re at the front. I know who I’m supposed to be, and it’s also fine to be what would, in other contexts, seem excessive and overblown. The intensity that makes me hard work in person, is diluted a bit by a stage. It occurs to me that when I’m performing, I’m not faking anything. That’s me. What’s hard is getting that down to a sensible size for normal human interactions. So I look at Serenity Rose with her magic and her people issues, and something chimes for me. Clearly it’s not just me, then. This is a lot of what it’s like if you’re trying to live with a mute button on most of the time. As though we are all living in one of those TV sitcoms where the setup isn’t allowed to change and nothing important is allowed to happen.