I started to write this as a repost of an “in defense of Valentine’s Day, single or taken” essay, but then I found this entry, announcing that I started Fat Chic blog and that I was “thinking about” starting a Doctor Who meetup. Damn. From around 100 readers a week on Fat Chic to now 10,000 a month since then, and there’s still lots of room for more visitors. Doctor Who is up to 288 members, even with a reasonable add/drop rate, and it seems to continue to be growing. The growth is leading to some stress for me, not just because of crowding, but making sure we do all we can to stay on the up-and-up.
I have a recurring community problem in the form of cons. Twin Cities is remarkable for its creative culture, which has led to a network of conventions, most of them science fiction based. Conventions are essentially the Catholic church of how you adore what you’re a fan of in this area. If I’m assessing what I’m encountering correctly, there really hasn’t been any other way of publicly appreciating something you’re a fan of in a face-to-face setting. Now I’ve come along with a different approach – one requested at the very first Doctor Who meetup by the attendees – and the Hierophants of fandom are having some trouble with this, and are thinking they’re being kindly to the barbarians when they’re really just being obnoxious.
After 30 + months of this argument, I have every reason to be angry, as my voice and decision is not being respected and I am getting really tired of politely repeating myself in a politic manner. To wit:
The Doctor Who meetup’s first meeting in April that same year started with around 30 people, and now has around 288 members. We can only host 50 at a time, and I’ve tabled relocating for now, but still – that’s significant. I know we’re getting successful because we’re now triggering the Borg-like behaviors of the Con-verts and I’m starting to run out of courtesy while putting my foot down. I shouldn’t have to protect this group from those devoted to cons. Nor should anyone feel that the meetup is obligated to a “con presence.” We have members of the meetup go to cons, organize cons, and who support the well-established Doctor Who stuff already at the cons. Voila, you have a con presence from the Doctor Who meetup.
Given that a)we’re always at capacity b)I’ve scouted what locations are available and found them lacking and c)if you find it offensive when I say attending women have expressed to me that they feel safer at our meetup than at other sci-fi events you are a misogynist and you need to factor that in to why all the pressure when this woman has said, repeatedly, no – well, we don’t need more. More is not better. More is just more, and more = more stress for Mike and myself, especially.
Do I dislike cons? Actually, yes, most of the time I do. I find most of the social behaviors I encounter there appalling, and since I’m a lifelong geek myself (not to mention neopagan, where people consciously break with society and social behaviors a good chunk of the time) that’s saying something. That has nothing to do with why I insist upon the separation. I have maintained decades-long respectful relationships with hardcore conservatives because I can find the value in the values, even sometimes the ones I object to, after all.
Here is my reason beyond personal distaste:
Cons take massive preparation from everyone involved – planning boards, workshop providers, panel participants and even the attendees. Yes, they’re fun – but they’re work. They’re stress. I’ve never heard of someone describe attending a convention as “relaxing.”
A pub meetup is the inverse of a con. It is not in any way the natural enemy of the con, and if respected appropriately, cons and casual meetups can be quite symbiotic with cons just because of the networking opportunities they provide. Yes! Ask for volunteers for cons at the meetup! Post to the meetup message board about the events! Promote at announcement moments! Just quit asking for the entire meetup to wrap itself up and hand itself to a con. Even if we had the funding for a table, it’s unnecessary stress on a group that needs no promotion whatsoever. Bigger is not better. I’m well aware some people have made grumbling statements that they “didn’t know about a Doctor Who meetup and would have liked to.” This is not my problem, nor is it the meetup’s problem. If that person really wanted to find us, we can be found. We’re not obligated to announce our presence to the world after the first year of announcing it.
The only people who should experience any meetup-related stress are Mike and myself, as we’re the ones making sure that shit happens. Yes, we have assistant organizers that are awesome, but they have lives and occasional issues with being human (as do we), and that means that a simple low-stress pub meetup can easily be secondary to these people. For the most part, people can come once a month, and the hardest thing about the process is reserving a seat (although on some occasions getting the drink you ordered may also prove a challenge.) Nothing falls apart if an organizer needs a break from a casual meetup; we have backup, it’s a minor event and it’s generally relaxing. It’s the simplicity that has allowed the monthly event to grow as it has. The only reason I usually seem stressed out at these events is a)Mike likes to do stuff much more last minute than I care for and it leads to bickering before we come to the meetup – and I do get increasingly angry about it as it happens almost every month when simply preparing stuff by Wednesday prior would allow lots of space for troubleshooting to have stuff fixed by Saturday afternoon ((he also expects/demands I nag, and I don’t like how I feel about myself when I nag, not to mention he snaps at me when I do, and I don’t like that, either because it means he’s not really listening to me anyway)) – and b)I have a pronounced and severe fear of crowds, and every month the pub gets more crowded. My personal stress is due to byproducts of the event, not because of anything to do with the event itself. It’s enough that I’m considering taking up a once-a-month smoking habit just so I can legitimize my constant ducking outside even at below zero temperatures.
This whole con-presence thing actually annoys me more than the person who attempted to badger me into showing Star Trek stuff at a Doctor Who meetup. Even if I didn’t hate Star Trek, that would have pissed me off. How would these folks like it if I made them all watch Buffy? Sure, some fans may be in the room, but there are some definite not fans present as well. The same is true of the con thing – I am far from the only person who is there because I DON’T WANT TO BE AT A CON, OR AT A CON EXTENSION. If you want to get meetup members to your con, invite them. Some will say yes. Others will say no. I realize from the perspective of the Con-verts that they’re just trying to bring the group into what they perceive as some sort of “proper social order.” It’s a cultural gap, and not the kind of thing where I can nail 99 Theses to anybody’s wall, or run at someone with a spirit mask on. ((This would, after all, end up being someone’s costume for Convergence.))
I actually feel like this is yet another Christian missionaries in Africa situation. The idea of a relaxing meetup is so foreign, bizarre and barbaric to some people that they can’t just leave it alone – they have to make it “like them” or they can’t understand it.
So I’m saying this now:
When it comes to pleasure, there is no one true way.
Apparently this bothers me far more than I thought.
In any case, happy Valentine’s Day. Perhaps I’ll find where on earth I stashed my essays in defense of it. Synopsis: it’s only about romantic love if you make it that way. I totally rocked the Valentine’s in high school when I didn’t have a boyfriend – cookies and valentines for all my peeps.