March 9, 2010

The Dragon Day Dilemma

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The sudden and suspicious appearance of our estranged friend, the sun, has made for interesting fashion changes on our campus in the last couple of days. With the tease of spring break just around the corner and the relatively warm temperature to trick us Cornellians into believing spring is here to stay, life seems to be looking up these days. Despite the still 45 degree weather, my gait has become a bit lighter, having optimistically shed my winter coat and heavy snow boots in favor of thinner blazers, flirtier sundresses and bigger sunglasses. Yet despite the exciting potential of spring outfits, the real dilemma on my mind as of late is not resort wear 2010, but what costume I will debut for my last Dragon Day. A brief, yet illuminating analogy for Dragon Day virgins: Dragon Day is to aspiring upper classmen architects as Halloween is to aspiring harlots; that is, this century old tradition relies on wit and creativity to mask one’s body rather than reveal, through the extraction of orthogonal building elements and other architecture related paraphernalia. Think cube, not sex kitten; column, not bumblebee. My first Dragon Day as a second year, I misunderstood this crucial, unspoken difference between the two holidays; that is, I was supposed to cover my body and disguise all sense of my feminism, rather than look like a girl going to a sorority mixer. Assigned the role of “caution tape” in a haphazard construction zone complete with two human scale cones and a stop sign, I woke up that snowy morning three years back with the objective to bind my body as tightly as possible. Though I was successful in wrapping myself in layers of packing tape and furiously twirling into oblivion, I failed to think of how I would be able to traverse multi-level surfaces such as stairs. Boarding the bus to Collegetown was the first of many instances that reminded me to think before I act. As a line of students waited at the bus stop for their 8 a.m. classes, I paused in horror, only to realize that I had lost full range of my leg movement. Hoisting myself up the stairs with my weak chicken arms, it only got worse as I quickly figured out I could not sit down let alone make rapid movements. Suddenly even the simplest tasks became huge obstacles: the bathroom was a no-go for that day, dancing could only occur if I awkwardly wiggled my body, and I had to shuffle my feet instead of run. The next year, as a self-proclaimed “Ms. Dragon Day 2008” and the following year, as a teacup at a tea party, I did not consider door width relative to costume width. With visions of cavorting in graciously constructed cardboard vehicles and larger than life teacups, I realized too late that I could not fit through the doors leading to various Dragon Day parties. Having abandoned my costume before the actual parade, I felt like an abandoned crab without its shell. But however much I used the excuse that I wasn’t wearing my costume because it was too heavy and not because I, as an architecture student, did not consider the dimensions of a doorway, I jealously observed the others around me who dressed without fear of what message they conveyed to the average observer of this pseudo pagan ritual called Dragon Day — one of my dear friends, who will remain unnamed, decided to glue hair to his body to be a satyr complete with matching flute and man-goat ears. Another who I mistook as a cuddly gorilla, turned out to be a patch of pubic hair, while another group of students dressed as a gaggle of slender, doorway passing spoons. Despite the insularity of these costumes, trends and pop culture have an interesting way of filtering into Dragon Day — last year, the deceased Crocodile Dundee was reincarnated in the form of a human alligator and the husky hunter, clad in his tight khaki shorts and button up. Though many costumes operate off of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” group mentality, many inspirations for these outfits stem from delirious all-nighters and references to inside jokes that no one understands but you and the few who were surrounding you in your then misery. My own fifth year class is in a West Side Story-esque brawl over two main ideas (whose revelation will remain top secret) that is panning out through a lengthy, passive-aggressive e-mail chain, but like most pagan rituals that involve fire, spirits and parading the grounds in large congregations, and this being my absolute last, I aim this year to not impress or reference, but to simply take pleasure in the costumed chaos around me.

Original Author: Courtney Jiyun Song