Growing up as a kid I always wanted a nickname. Today I officially have one. Call me Wrangler.
Wrangler of Virgins. Wrangler of kkostumes. Wrangler of subjects for part of a 10 year photo project. Wrangler of volunteers…
Ever have a group of friends, like my son’s fraternity, where everyone gets or earns a nickname? Burning Man has that too. Often there are great stories behind those playa names. Here’s mine.
Let’s start off that I did not receive my nickname at Burning Man itself, but rather after my first burn from someone in the NYC community.
My friend Bobby has several nicknames. Pooh Bear, Ranger Frodo and…Bobby THE Virgin. To step back a moment, the term “virgin” here is applied to someone who has never been to this event. Some also refer it more specifically as “burgin” (Burning Man Virgin). He received the last one just before going to his first week at Burning Man. He didn’t know much about camping in the desert, and had “a million questions.” Showing up at the place to ship containers out to Nevada, the women in charge screamed out “hey! It’s Bobby THE Virgin!!”
After his first time at the amazing, multi-level, more-than-a-festival, experience, he decided to give back to the local New York area community by having “Virgin Outings”. As a newbie exploring if I wanted to attend Burning Man, I met him at one of his early get-togethers where a bunch of us “virgins” met over brunch. He had them regularly and I went to as many as I could. I learned so much, and through his suggestions, found a group of super creative people and joined their camp. After my first burn, Bobby asked me to help him with his events. I enjoyed helping him- promoting it, finding places and meeting all sorts of wonderful people.
Bobby liked his playa name, and kept trying to create one for me. I could never quite remember what he used. Stacey the not-quite Virgin, or maybe Almost Virgin. Stacey the Virgin Herder. Stacey Wasa Virgin. Although fun, it was a mouthful. Then at one of my camp meetings, a camp mate yelled “hey Virgin Wrangler!” Hmmm. VW? and then I shortened it to Wrangler. Sounded kind of sexy.
The group I camp with and the creative community in NYC is called Kostume Kult. They are, for the most part, very creative artists (many are not artists by profession, yet many are in the creative fields in one aspect or another) who enjoy making and wearing costumes. Kostume Kult holds several big parties throughout the year just for an excuse to wear fun outfits. I enjoy this group of friends as they inspire and push the limits of my creativity. I’ve learned and tried creating my own costumes or funky outfits. At Burning Man they gift costumes. Like, those massive container truck loads of costumes. It’s a year-round effort to get donations of costumes for us to give away. I’ve stepped up helping get donations from individuals. Hence, I’m now a Wrangler of Costumes. Or KKostume Wrangler.
Wrangler of Models
At last summer’s event I connected with Eric Schwabel, aka The Human Lightsuit (www.schwabelstudio.com) to help him with his 10 year long photography project. (That was another adventure!). I ended up choosing subjects on the playa, asking them if they’d pose and having them sign model releases. So, instead of being called a Photographer’s Assistant, I was Wrangler of models.
Wrangler of Volunteers
Since I received my nickname, I’ve been slowly adapting to it. I started signing some emails as “Wrangler (aka Stacey)”. I even created an email address for the Virgin Outing rsvps. And on a recent Wednesday, in response to my stepping up to help rope in volunteers for art projects at parties my camp does in NYC, I was asked to check my contact info before it was published.
I saw the first draft had my first name and then my maiden name. Something hit me about this. Like an existential moment. I am no longer that person. When I married I added another last name. And while being a mom of boys, that part of me still is present. But -pardon the patriarchal thinking- I no longer “belong” to the man whose name I was given at birth, nor the one whose name I took on. Although I no longer truly identify with my last names, I’m not ready to give those labels up. However, it is pretty fun to have a nickname bestowed on me, and one I choose to be known as in this Adventuresome world. Call me Wrangler.