The Twin Cities Doctor Who meetup as of today has 501 members. Since there’s some daily come and go in membership I’m not doing a loud heraldic announcement about it on the list. There was a lot of stuff I already knew, expected, and have dealt with in running this particular meetup because of the ten years of volunteer management experience I brought with me when Mike and I decided to start the meetup. One of the things I didn’t expect, because in all my other experiences there was an obvious big picture or goal to attain beyond “let’s get in a room and watch Doctor Who,” is the level and persistence of projection I have to deal with as the visible leader of the group.
I have a small list of the archetypes/stereotypes I face when working with this group. I can only assume my membership might be shocked at how much I’m not like what those who express themselves to me assume. Most of the time I leave the assumptions in place: it takes way too much time and explanation to get people to shift any assumption. As long as no injuries result, and no TARDIS shaped fruitcakes appear at my doorstep, I just leave them.
The Pusher/Pushy Broad
This projection has less to do with my actual behavior and more to do with my physical appearance. I’m a fat woman. I am also the most culturally shocking of fat women: I am a self-accepting fat woman. Thanks to my refusal to hide behind Mike wearing nothing but sweats and shame, a lot of people push me into this weird Mimi Bobeck/traveling salesperson role that has nothing to do with my actual behavior. It comes out the most with the people that assume I’m pushing the Doctor Who events. Actually, I don’t care who attends or doesn’t, and I don’t need apologies or explanations when someone declines an invitation. But I have to be insistent about commitments for the actual meetup because no matter where we meet, management cares who comes and doesn’t because there’s money involved. For me, it’s about Doctor Who and other people that enjoy it. Not all lovers of Doctor Who love meetup, and I’m fine with that. I’m not pushing Who – I’m just letting expressed Who fans know something is available to them that is distinct from other science fiction activities in the Twin Cities. That is the leadership job entrusted to me since the first meetup in April 2007 when I asked 37 people “So, what do you want to do with this group?” and every single one said, “Watch Doctor Who!”
Note: I did ask several of my friends who were not fans to go a few years ago, usually after I explained that we were getting too crowded and they persisted in recommending coffee shops smaller than where we were already meeting. It took years to get across that I wasn’t just running a cute little club of geeks, that TCDWM has become something of a sleeper Goliath.
As a subset of this stereotype, I also have The School Marm.
People keep apologizing for not attending the Doctor Who meetup. I’m not taking attendance, I’m just making sure that where we meet has its financial needs addressed and I have to do that through reasonably accurate numbers. I am only taking numbers, not names. I have to acknowledge that I contributed to this myself when I started insisting people RSVP and deleted every self-centered and asinine “maybe.” This is Minnesota. Maybe means no in any situation that involves more than two people. While I try to corral my ego, it just gets annoyed with “maybes” as something of an insult, because someone is too passive aggressive to say “this is not a priority, but my self-image needs are more important than the needs of the whole.”
Most of the time, I like to be easy come, easy go about what people do when it comes to shared interests, but that approach stopped working for TCDWM completely by the end of 2008 because of the crowding. I’m the person who has to roust out seats for the latecomers, and while the bar management may be thrilled to have a full house on a Saturday afternoon, the crowding itself is not so great for the group – and we are losing out on actually connecting with each other because of it. If there’s a major event I share with you, it’s because I think you’ll be interested, not because I’m demanding your presence. The apologies for absence from these events make me uncomfortable. I’d rather people apologize for things they do wrong, for genuinely hurtful behavior, not for things where their priorities are understandably elsewhere. That people feel the need to apologize to me for this leads me to the next projection, which is more of an assumption.
I’m a Doctor Who lifestyler.
People involved in BDSM will probably understand the parallel better than most. I love Doctor Who. It did influence me in childhood, and I do think I’m a better person for my exposure to the show. I am eager, not afraid, to wander the world in any way I can with any resources I can pull together because of the Doctor. But just because it’s important to me does not mean I truly expect it to be important to you. Many visitors to my home are often visibly disappointed that the geek den – the office Mike and I share – has more anime posters than anything else, and the rest of our place just bewilders people as to how we live together at all. (They usually don’t notice the TARDIS switchplate cover.) Doctor Who is not my only hobby or interest. I’m prone to multiple passions. This isn’t the Highlander. There can be more than one.
The Ice Queen
Because I’ve set down specific rules to prevent this organization from taking over my life, I’m often perceived as unreceptive to the outside science fiction community. I’m not. I’m firm in my stance that not all people enjoy fandom the same way, and I have worked hard to establish one method that is very, very different from the convention method of fandom celebration popular in the Twin Cities. Just like I’ve put my foot down to prevent Star Trek bleed (seriously, there is PLENTY for Trekkies around here. Aren’t the Borg villains?) and have gotten very annoyed at people approaching our group not out of cooperative interest but with the explicit intent of promoting their own stuff, sometimes with the openly expressed intent of disrupting our culture, rather than learning about it first and respecting that it serves a community or portion of the community that they don’t. Of course there’s crossover – some people enjoy a relaxing pub as much as a wild party – but there are plenty of people, women especially, who really like the pub more than the party. Also, I refuse to partake in forced socialization. I do think that our current setup isn’t great for socializing, not really, and a solution is forthcoming. But forcing it is cheesy, uncomfortable, and inauthentic. Also, refer back to my refusal to let this gig take over the rest of my life. If one of my group members wanted to start doing ice breakers, I’d say yes, and watch it play out – I’d only disrupt it if it resulted in violence or tears. I just refuse to do it for people, because there’s a lot of stuff in my life and I want all that I have. Will TCDWM ever run a con room? Not while I’m running it. But if people want to invite our members to a con, or ask them to volunteer for other science fiction organizations, awesome! My job is to protect this group and maintain it, and to do my best to ensure its continuity. That means specializing, since burnout from trying to do everything is the number one problem in every volunteer organization in this city, and not just the science fiction fandom orgs.
When it comes to TCDWM, I’m worried about
All else you might be imagining, so if you’re really worried, double check with me.