by Alan Gentry (with help from his flag Daddy, Phillip Bryan)
Written for Flagger Weekend 5, July 2008
It is important to learn the conventions, language, and appropriate behavior of my new community. After asking questions, reading posts in forums, and observing flaggers at parties, I have a brand new vocabulary (see the Flagging Dictionary).
I also have learned some valuable lessons:
Don’t be a Flag Moth
The motion, color, patterns, and rhythm is hypnotic. Because of my state of inebriation, I am drawn to it, and want to get closer. It’s beautiful. It’s amazing. It takes my breath away.
And damn it hurts when a lead weight hits you at 60 miles an hour. My introduction to flagging was my first lesson in flagging etiquette. I was a Flag Moth.
Ask To Borrow
My two-year-old niece has learned the concept of “Mine!” If she sees it, it’s hers. If she touches it, it’s hers. I have heard horror stories about people going through flag bags without permission, just because they are a fellow flow artist. Ask for permission.
It’s Okay to Say “No”
Your flags are precious (and expensive!). Treat them with care. It’s nice to share your flags with others and see the magic they bring (for example, with a poiboi), but it’s also okay to say, “NO” if you’re not comfortable just yet with sharing (like with a Roper).
Know Your Space
Flagging can be a math problem: A six foot man buys a set of 36” inch flags from FlaggerCentral. Given his height, the length of the flags, and their average speed, how many times will he have to replace the lamps in his living room? (The answer is: 2)
This is true in clubs. Check the space before you spin. Hot lights can be explosive when hit (so can flag moths).
Share Your Space
I watched a group of flaggers at a party wait their turn in a small area designated for their expression. When I asked about it, I was told that isn’t always the case. My friend pointed to someone, a washabee, who had taken up residence on a set of risers and was not sharing the space with anyone. The behaviour of the other flaggers was much more appealing – sharing means caring!
Start Slow and Simple
The masters make it look easy. It’s not. This is true of spinning, where going too fast means hitting yourself in the head – a lot. It’s also true of flag creation, where it’s smart to start with basic designs before trying something really complicated. You don’t want a Frog in a Blender.
Practice to Improve, Play to Celebrate
There are all sorts of environments for flagging. At home, in the gym, or with friends can be the perfect time to try new moves, experiment, and learn. On a box or small stage at an event is when you offer something beautiful and special to those watching. If you’re blessed with a large space filled with blacklight, music, and new flagging friends, dance until your inner child is pooped.
Represent the Community
Your flags connect you to the community, and you represent it. When I was a Flag Moth, the dancer who hit me had a hissy-fit because I interrupted his flow. To me, he represented all flaggers, and I lost interest in flagging until years later. Because of his tantrum, I knew instintively what a flaggot was.
Attitude is Contagious – Make Yours Worth Catching
One of the wonderful things about the flagging community is how welcoming, supportive, and positive the majority of people are. It is contagious.
Spinning flags broadcasts your mood
Feeling fabulous and full of love? Share it with the world! Feeling angry at the world? Spin it out – at home. This was a hard one for me to swallow, until I faced a whackjob in the forums who epitomized it. Bitter during a party means a party of one.
Contribute to your Community. Giving to the community makes it stronger and more alive. It also makes you a part of a greater whole, even if you are just starting out. The talents we bring from our non-flagging existence lend themselves to the good of all.
Learn From the Community
Listen and learn. Learn to take the criticism too. The people who are teaching are passing down a gift to you. Accept it with grace.
If you have fun, and find joy in the art, it shows. Much like attitude, fun is contagious.
When you watch a fabulous performance, shout dance and cheer! Applaud and lift up your fellow flaggers. You know what guts and gumption it takes to get on stage and put on a real show, so show your appreciation.
When you see a move you must learn, go up and ask to learn it. The real members of this community want to teach it to you! They want you to learn it, improve upon it, and then teach them.
Enjoy yourself, and find light in the music, flags, color, and spectacle. Who knows… a one-time Flag Moth might evolve into a beautiful and amazing psychedelic butterfly.