Remembering Mel: One Awesome Lady Geek

Mel - Til the Eagle Comes. Photo by ZLong, SeventhKingdomIGE.com

I’ll start by saying I miss her.

I first met Melissa five or six years ago at a meeting preparing for a LARP (live action role play) event. She was new to the group but the most natural and enthusiastic LARPer there. She helped build the reputation of a new game and was creative and sympathetic.

This website is all about a female-positive view on geek culture, and Mel was someone who embodied, embraced, and supported those values. When I think about the quintessential lady geek, she’s one of the first that comes to mind.

Following an accident, Mel suffered from CRPS. Life got different for her and in many ways more difficult, but this past summer she was smiling all day because it was her (very geeky, very appropriate, very Whedon) wedding. It’s still hard to even wake up every day and remember that she’s gone, but I’ve been able to think about all the wonderful things that she taught me and others around her.

Embrace creativity. Mel always trusted her creative instincts. Sometimes she’d head into a craft store with a general idea for a project (or with no idea at all) and she’d leave with a complete character concept or story. Every artist works differently, and now I like to ensure that each detail on my costuming involves a little story.

Take risks. I’m a creative person at heart and I’ve taken multiple risks to do jobs that I love. I know some people thought I was absolutely insane when I headed into a career as a full-time freelancer following a car accident, but Mel was always super supportive.

When she had the chance to go on vacation, she’d take it. When I asked what it was like to try absinthe, she decided to make her birthday bash absinthe-themed. This kind of inspirational reactionism permeated her life and made the rest of us better people, more able to examine and grow.

Pain changes you. Emotional, physical, and mental pain changes you. Instead of ignoring this, Mel incorporated this into her RP. Although it was always pretty easy for us to have an honest conversation with each other, we recently had a really poignant scene completely in character.

Although we were both portraying characters who had undergone change, there was a bit of meta-communication going on there: she understood and accepted my experience in a way that a lot of other people can’t or don’t know how to do because they haven’t been through the same thing.

Live openly. The most important thing I learned from Mel is to live life as I am and make more of an effort to accept people for who they are. Mel did not hide her affinity for creativity and LARPing, her never-ending love for Trader Joe’s, or the knowledge that her husband was doing everything he could to support her.

She didn’t hide that she was in pain sometimes, and I’ll miss having her understand my own struggles with chronic pain when everything looks okay but feels like it’s shutting down. Whether she was being honest about her bucket full of medications or wearing her favorite colors in her hair, Mel was brave because she was herself – and we were lucky because she showed us.

After the funeral, a friend lamented that he couldn’t simply browse through CareerBuilder to find a job like ‘warrior.’ Losing Mel has made me realize that sometimes there isn’t a place in the world for the people we want to be. Although my job title contains the word ‘writer,’ I’m hardly permitted to be the bard I play in our fantasy world when I’m making a living in the real world.

We just have to do the best we can with what’s available and trust our LARP family to fill in the gaps.

If you have been touched by the story of my friend and her positive impact on the lives of so many, please take the time to donate to this fund. The money will go to helping Mel’s husband Scott with various expenses including hospital and funeral bills.

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About Tara M. Clapper 274 Articles
Tara is a lifelong geek and the founder and publisher of The Geek Initiative. Her interests were forged in an early appreciation for "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Jurassic Park," and many historical fiction and fantasy novels. Tara is a game designer, LARPer, and frequent convention attendee. The author of over 1,000 individual blogs, her content has been featured on HelloGiggles, nordiclarp.org, LARPing.org, and The Billfold. She holds a B.A. in English from McDaniel College and has attended many events as press (including New York Comic Con). Tara has a professional background in marketing and publishing. She lives in the Philadelphia area. A Marvel fan, her favorite superhero is undoubtedly Thor. View her portfolio at: tmc.pressfolios.com.

4 Comments

  1. Mel was one of the few in high school who embraced and accepted me. In a world of bullying she was a safe non judgmental person. I thank her daily for being who she was and what she did. The world lost a pure at heart soul and no one can replace that. We can only rejoice in her memories and her way of life.

  2. Rising to the challenge, living the wild side of life, being something more than conservative, and keeping her guessing about you – and her – it’s an explosive combination. One of the ways to get people to keep coming back to your blog is to create great content.

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