What do I like/dislike about being a Laurel

Michiele l’encriere of Left Coast Dyer asked what I liked/disliked about being a Laurel in the SCA. It turns out in thinking about this, that all of my likes are also dislikes. :/

Tchotchke equal instant recognition
What’s to like: I don’t have to prove myself to an unknown person. Wearing the medallion instantly qualifies my words/actions as “worthy of attention”

About three months before I was offered the Laurel I attended Uprising, an large-ish event in Artemisia (Utah, Montana, southern Idaho and the parts of Colorado and Wyoming that are west of the Continental Divide). I really didn’t know many people there. While there we attended a vigil for a friend who was becoming a knight.*

While standing in line to get into this vigil with my husband, who was newly knighted, someone who had jumped line to get in front of us** turned around and started chatting with us. This person glanced at me, looked me up and down and then turned so that she practically had her back to me and started chatting up my husband. Now it’s possible that she was just rude.. and chatting up any man was her goal.. but I very much got the feeling that as a non-peer, non-pointy-hat I wasn’t worth her time. Even though I had all the same knowledge as I would have 3 months later when I received my offer.. without the medallion it was not instantly obvious that I was “worth her time”.

What’s to dislike: At all times, especially when I wear the medallion, I represent “all Laurels” and even sometimes “all peers”.

If I have a bad day, if my son is especially whiny, if I have a migraine, if I’m preoccupied then I become that story about “all peers are mean because a peer once frowned at me and marched off without acknowledging my presence” or whatever basic “I’m having a bad day and you are not my priority” thing happened.

This also manifests in that I have to be careful to point out when I actually don’t know what I’m talking about on a subject lest someone assume that “of course she knows, she’s a Laurel”. Despite tales to the contrary, receiving the medallion does not actually give me instant access to ALL THE KNOWLEDGE IN THE KNOWN WORLD (not even when I hold it up to my third eye).

“Of course you can do XYZ, Sylvie did it and she’s a Laurel”. I AM NOT DOCUMENTATION. I do things that I know are wrong. Even though I try to carefully call out any places where I’ve strayed away from the perfect impression it’s not possible for me to start every conversation with a pile of disclaimers.

There are folks who will give me more respect/deferential treatment now after I have the medallion than they did before I had the medallion. I am no more or less worthy for having received the medallion. I believe everyone should be treated with respect.. and treating someone with MORE respect because they have a peerage means that they are treating people who don’t have a peerage with less respect. Frankly I see it as a failing on their part.

There is another set of folks, these folks specifically are folks who don’t have the medallion who I feel are hunting the medallion. Those folks now go out of their way to seek me out to show me their new project. This is good in that as I wrote in my post about “Becoming a Laurel” they should be the PR agent for their projects.. but it’s bad because they should be PRing to EVERYONE. PRing to only folks on the Laurel counsel looks very self-serving. As in “I am showing you my project so you can mention me and I can get that medallion” not “I am showing you my project because I’m genuinely excited about it and you happened to be sitting still and I am too excited about it to not talk about it”. To me this again is an example of the medallion giving instant recognition.

My vigil advice to all new peer has been “this medallion/ceremony does not MAKE you anything. This just acknowledges that the Crown and counsel have finally noticed that you embody this ideal and They are finally giving you the Tchotchke to recognize this”.

*A little bit of interkingdom anthropology, in the West at a vigil there will usually be a book where you sign onto the list to get in line to go visit the person on vigil. Once you’re signed onto the list you wander around in the vigil hang out area, eat the provided munchies, drink the provided drinks and socialize with everyone else until the holder of the book calls your name. In Artemsia you get into an ACTUAL line which forms outside the vigil tent and stand there until you either get in or give up and leave. You then socialize with the people 1-2 people in front of or behind you.

**While standing in line people who are higher rank will jump line and get in front of lower ranked people. The same thing happens with the list on paper.. but at least then you’re mostly unaware of it since the list is over there (vague wave) on paper and not a literal queue of people where someone who is very impressed with themselves jumps into line in front of you and loudly announces they outrank you and get to go first.

In my opinion, one of the requirements of the job is that I get to/have to attend the Laurel meeting. It’s totally true that you can receive the accolade and then skip all the meetings, but to me that would be wrong.

What’s to like: I get to attend the super secret meeting and speak with an equal voice and suggest people who should join our very select club and offer my opinion about candidates. I also get a heads up of names of artists I should watch and I get to help them grow in their art.

What’s to dislike: The meeting is the one more thing. I need to pack up my encampment after a long hot/dusty/wet/cold camping event and I still have to drive home and instead of doing that I’m attending a meeting. I have homework for every Crown and Coronation, I have to log into the electronic classrooms, familiarize myself with the candidates and always be on the alert to spot folks that may have been missed or overlooked.

I will teach anyone and call them my student.
A man-at-arts is “feeling out how this relationship works to see if we want to enter the bonds of fealty”. This extends until both parties wish to change the relationship by either ending it or entering a fealty relationship.
My apprentices are persons with whom I share fealty (and a contract). This fealty includes me publicly declaring that they are “mine” and that all words about them good or bad should come to me. I agree to speak on their behalf should questions come up about them or their art. I agree to teach them anything that I know and I will make time to teach them and re-arrange other events to help them where I can. They promise that they will behave with honor, strive to learn from everyone around them and come to me for guidance.

What’s to like: I get to have people. This is MY Apprentice/Man-at-arts. THEY’RE MINE!! Aren’t they great! They’re fabulous. I get to foster a close relationship with someone I really admire and I get to help them to develop and guide them along the peerage path.

What’s to dislike: I am responsible for people. If my life blows up and I have “a case of life” then I’m letting them down. It’s a huge responsibility. If their life blows up then I have to tread that careful line between “You do you until you’re ready to do otherwise” and “my peer hasn’t spoken to me in 4 months”.

I need to be careful that I don’t over-commit myself so that I can give attention to all of my man-at-arts/apprentices so I can’t take “too many”. It also means that I need to be prepared to say a gentle “no” to someone who asks to become my man-at-arts/apprentice when I either don’t have the bandwidth or feel that the fit is not right. I am exceedingly bad at confrontations and that really feels like a confrontation.

The medallion in the feature image ia mine. It was made by Mistress Diane de Winchester and Master Mark von dem Falkensfenn.

1 thought on “What do I like/dislike about being a Laurel

  1. Answers: People come to you for answers about things, or about where they should look for answers about things.
    Like: “I don’t know, let me check my sources…oooh, new rabbit hole!”
    Dislike: see Like, above.

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