When I first heard of Hello Kitty Con, I was ecstatic. Just a year younger than me, Hello Kitty has been a constant presence in my life. Birthdays were marked by rainbow Sanrio bags adorned with tiny trinkets, like a stamp, bell or eraser. My Aunties would give me the best gifts: diaries, stationery kits, colored pens and pencil cases. For my first home, I bought a Hello Kitty Toaster Oven. (still cooking- 15 years later!) My family bought me a Hello Kitty beach cruiser as a bridal shower gift. She’s my homegirl. My mascot. And now, my spirit animal?
On the retreat, a serious, shy woman from Canada, who didn’t seem to have much in common with me, giggled like a little girl when we connected over our love for the flamenco dress-wearing Hello Kitty charm hanging off her phone case.
The next day, we took a boat trip down the river to a local village, meeting artisans from the Shipibo tribe. The tiny village had cinder block walls mixed with clapboard and dirt roads. There she was again, waving to me from a t-shirt hanging on a clothesline.
In the middle of the Amazon jungle, I’m contemplating my spiritual connection with the universe, when it occurs to me: What if my god, spiritual guide, higher power IS Hello Kitty? Let’s consider this: She is everywhere and represents pure, unconditional love. This made me smile. Ridiculous!!! I laughed out loud. But then I thought, why not? She crosses gender, age, and socio-economic barriers. Her message is: “You can never have too many friends.” She is universally recognized, adored and connects deeply with people, so much so that they tattoo her on their bodies. I never tire of seeing her or think, “She’s so overexposed.” Nope. I am always happy to see her in whatever form she takes.
Apparently, I’m not alone, and as I learned at the sold out first-ever Hello Kitty Con in downtown Los Angeles, and much to my chagrin, you CAN have too many friends. I anticipated the HKcon as a mecca of mega-cuteness and a chance to revel with like-minded people. I had no idea just how many like-minded people there were.
The lines were horrendous, wrapping around the block. Once inside, even worse. Wanna eat at the Hello Kitty Cafe truck? 1 hour wait minimum. Shop the Sanrio Supermarket? Try a FOUR hour wait. Wanna see the vendors selling exclusive HK collaborations? Another hour. Take a picture at one of the many photo op stations? Get in line. It was ridiculous. It was like Disneyland, but after waiting for hours in line, there were no rides, only more lines. How could Hello Kitty, amass her enthusiasts in such chaos?
She’s not a god, heck, she’s not even a cat! She’s a human, and the convention was run by humans. Poorly prepared, overwhelmed humans who tried to appease the crowd by handing out Hello Kitty swag. (Which did work part of the time.)
The positives amounted to this:
I met some fellow HK enthusiasts, like Kawaii Deco Den, who makes her own Hello Kitty accessories.
My heart swelled at sharing the world of Hello Kitty with my niece and my son. The fact that he wore those ears the whole time and rabidly collected buttons on his lanyard made my day.
The displays of vintage stuff I grew up on was pretty cool.
The Hello Kitty display house inspired me to strive for the same “understated luxury” in my home decor… 😉
I found my dream office. Surely this environment would enhance creativity, no?
By the end of the day, I waited in many lines, and felt like I had been stuffed in a huge Sanrio store with thousands of other people, forbidden from buying anything. It was frustrating and I was mad at Hello Kitty, I felt duped. But then I took a breath and realized: I signed up for this with inflated expectations. How many times does life not give you exactly what you are expecting? Plenty. She was teaching me a lesson. Testing me.
Now I know better. I hate crowds, I don’t do chaos and lines and fire marshals. I could have saved myself the stress and logistical nightmare by savoring my connection to Hello Kitty from the comfort of my own home. Firing up a mini-pizza in the HK toaster oven and riding my HK beach cruiser around the block. Maybe buying some new Hello Kitty slippers on line. That sounds just about my speed.
Taking the metaphor further, if she is a representation of pure love and friendship, my spirit guide… Did it take heading to the Amazon rainforest and a pilgrimage to Hello Kitty Con to discover that she’s been with me all along? That the spiritual connection I had been longing for was in my presence this whole time, but I didn’t recognize it?
It takes what it takes.
I’m coming to accept that, among many things, I may be a kooky woman who laughs at seeing God in Hello Kitty, but after surviving the inaugural Hello Kitty Con, I know for certain, that I am not alone.