I have a few Burning Men under my belt at this point. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself an “old timer,” no way would I dare. But now that I’ve gone six in a row, I would venture to call myself a “middle-timer,” no longer a newbie, perhaps even a wee bit jaded. I think it was as early as my second year when I first began to notice people saying “Welcome home” when I enter Burning Man. What is it with the Greeters saying this in the first place? Who started this?
How many of them have even been more than a year? None of the tadpoles who’ve “greeted” me.
I don’t quite know how I feel about a fresh, yippy skippy, eager perky young newbie volunteering to be a Greeter and then welcoming me home. Welcome home? How about the other way around kiddo? Welcome to my familiar stomping ground (you’ve already made yourself comfortable I see) and can you vote yet? (Is this just me getting old and angry?) I was into the whole welcome home thing for a few years but while I smiled and received the greeting with the joy of just finally being there, I certainly didn’t ever really get into saying it. It sounded so … organized … boring … and more than just a bit forced and faked. Sure I want everyone to feel welcome. The great thing about the playa is the openness people exhibit, the friendliness. But sometimes when some ten-year-old welcomes me home I just want to shove her boingy-star-headband-ass off her streamer-glittered bike and …
Well I’ll stop there.
Maybe it’s that I don’t want this to be home. It isn’t. Home is a refuge, a place of comfort. It’s relaxing and controlled. Burning Man is a place where I meet my demons, and battle my fears. I don’t get naked in my “real” life and here I struggle the first few days with relaxing those issues and just changing my fucking clothes and taking a damn shower (or not!). The first few days are me fighting my cocoon, breaking through and working my wings out and drying in the sun. Burning Man is about dust, dirt, becoming one with un-cleanliness. My friends always quote my famous remark the second year we were there: “Standards of cleanliness have plummeted!”
And this was a happy thing.
I wasn’t checking my face in a mirror every second or worrying about my hair. At “home” I don’t have to deal with NOT looking in the depths of the porta potty before I squat above it … at home there is always toilet paper and damn it, there should be. Burning Man is about rethinking comfort both emotionally and physically. I hate the heat and I hate the sun. I am a white skinned – translucent almost – person who turns into a lobster within a mere few seconds of exposure. The first day I am always sure I am going to die. I lay there inert – perplexing my sun loving buddies – waving my fan, misting with my misty mate, sucking continuously on a camelback, gasping like a beached guppy and practicing my southern drawl. “Mah word it is hot to-day!” This is not home. This is war. This is my city-self dying and my Burning Babe emerging from the ashes.
Home had cable, damn it. I’m here for something else.
I would not explain Burning Man as like a home away from home. In fact it isn’t at all. It is more like your first day in pre-school. Everything is strange. You probably want to go home, you don’t get the rules, you’re confused by the people, and you most likely have bathroom issues. But then you relax and forget that and play and do crafts and run around. You approach people without fear and talk, you meet new people and you try new things. You manage finally to poop in the potty like a big girl. Nothing will likely ever be as unfamiliar or scary or strange again in your life. Nothing except kindergarten and Burning Man. And it’s wonderful that way.
Burning man is about leaving the nest, kicking yourself out of your comfort zone, shaking your head clear and seeing things with new eyes. Home has nothing to do with that. Burning Man is more to me, makes me more me than the comfort of home ever could, and it’s in no way comparable.
So when you say, “welcome home,” and someone says, “shut the fuck up,” you may have said it to me.
See you on the playa my darlings.
by Megan Dixon