What Did You Learn?

This is the post I spoke of putting up on my last blog post, don’t know why it took me so long to get around to posting. I finished writing it a while ago! Anyway, as promised, here are those “things I learned from opencon”:

At Opencon I kept hearing that some people’s experiences of it had been “life changing”. In a way, I suppose I could say the same. It has got me thinking a lot about things in my everyday life and how I interact with people in a way that I’m sure will, in a quite literal sense, change my life. But the funny thing is, I don’t think it was necessarily the workshops that I went to that made the difference. Yeah they were interesting, and it was a lot of fun, and maybe I did learn a thing or two from the content of the discussions. In the end it was the experience, in and of itself, that taught me the most.

The fact that I was surrounded by so many people I respected, and wanted to respect me, meant that I felt quite under pressure from myself to be impeccable and not put my foot in it like I often do. Usually I give myself the excuse that “I don’t really care about these people, so if they judge me who gives?”, but I couldn’t do that here. I’ve been realising how big of an issue this can be for me in various situations, and this weekend it even brought up something between me and Night that we’ve never managed to resolve in the past. It seems like I have two conflicting complexes that mean sometimes I end up hating myself just a little. The first is connected to missed opportunities. I think this might have come from the way my dad has always pushed me into doing stuff right-now-or-you’ll-miss-your-chance. And upon reflection I’m seeing how some of those things weren’t very good ideas at all, and in fact might have been quite rude or awkward. And it seems like I still have that complex about missed opportunities that makes me do or say things that I shouldn’t on impulse. Over the years I’ve become more aware of when I do that, but it hasn’t stopped me from acting this way it’s just made me increasingly embarrassed of myself. And it’s got to the point where I don’t trust myself, and I don’t trust other people not to judge me as being as lacking in self awareness as my father is, just because of the impulsive bad judgement I express on occasion.

All this is just exacerbated by the fact that when I get insecure I overcompensate and act over-secure. So when people see me active over-secure they tend to try and take me down a notch – rather than giving me what I need which is to be reassured that it’s not as big of a deal as I make it out to be in my head. But every time I’m “taken down a notch” the issue gets bigger in my head. To the point where I need to hide away from everyone for half an hour after every time I say something even slightly inappropriate to someone I really like on a silly impulse.

So I guess this weekend I learned that 1) A lot of it is all in my head, 2) I can trust people, especially these people, to see past my blurting and not judge me on that alone, and 3) I can communicate this to other people because I’m definitely not the only one who worries about such things. I wonder how things might change, knowing all this. Definitely putting it in the User Manual. That’s for sure.

Ok what’s next? [checks list]

Ah yes. I’ve noticed that I can be quite impatient sometimes when it comes to flirting. And, though I wasn’t particularly flirting with anyone at opencon, I learned a lot about other people’s boundaries – other women’s in particular. And it hadn’t really occurred to me that being impatient and wanting to flirt with women I fancied straight away might be encroaching on their boundaries. It doesn’t always just mean that they’re not interested. It might just feel like a pressured scenario for them, or remind them of things from the past. I might not be directly pressuring them, but they might feel pressured because of my directness. So keeping an eye on their reaction is important. I’ve also noticed how I’m different in that regard – and how in a way I feel more comfortable flirting or in a cruising space. I haven’t quite deconstructed *why* that is yet… but we’ll see*. Acknowledging that most people are probably the opposite is something that I think is important for me to do.

Another thing I noticed was friendships. It’s no surprise really that the people at opencon form unconventional friendships, that look, from an observer’s perspective, quite a lot like romantic relationships. As someone who’s not used to seeing this, I had to re-assess my assumptions on a few occasions! And this got me thinking about my own attitude to friendships. Something I’ve realised recently is that I tend to have quite a lot of acquaintances, who I don’t know very well, and would like to have a deeper platonic relationship with but never manage to. And then I have my romantic relationships, and that’s where I get all my fulfilment of human interactions from. And perhaps that is one of the bigger reasons to why I’m polyamorous. It’s really easy to go along in life, forgetting that it’s not just romantic relationships that have all these unwritten rules that are implied to follow. Friendships have them as well! I think in a sense I try to escape the implicit rules in romantic relationships by dating women, that seems to have more of a feeling that the rules don’t apply… but with friendships I can’t do that! There’s no easy escape. So I guess you just have to talk about everything! In particular I’ve been thinking about how friends are supposed to show affection, and how a certain level of affection seems to be on a very blurry line between platonic and romantic - things like greeting each other with long hugs, holding hands, stroking hair all that kind of stuff. And what’s the problem in doing that with your friend? The only thing I can think of would be if you weren’t sure where you stood with that person. It seems likely the only reason we might avoid being so affectionate is in order to make sure we’re not giving off the wrong kind of signals. Surely we can just talk about that though? Maybe I should be asking people who have these fabulously close friendships, how do you get to that point? I really suck at friendships, but I think it’s something I need much, much more of in my life.

*I’ve since worked out why: It’s largely to do with my comfort levels with casual or group interactions in comparison to one on one conversations. I feel like I can be more open, and more myself if I’m talking to someone one on one… and perhaps it’s the most validating when that involves flirting as it is validating my openness when otherwise that might be an aspect of me that is considered inappropriate.

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4 thoughts on “What Did You Learn?

  1. That’s a good point about friendships. I can see how you could find it easier to form relationships through flirting and the ‘romantic’ route, if you get comfortable, and hopefully successful, with that approach.

    We’re used to the idea that there are rules for romantic relationships, that guide us in creating and developing them. We’re not so used to the idea that there are similar rules for friendships. (At least beyond crude “bro codes” and things like that.) That doesn’t mean that the rules don’t apply, but that they don’t get critiqued or reinvented like with romantic relationships.
    One of the rules is that you actively drive romantic relationships forwards. Friendships tend to develop in a less directed manner, around shared interests or activities. In a friendship it’s harder to say “we should hang out because I am interested in you”.

    I read an article a little while back – I think it was in the New York Times – about the difficulties people have in forming new friendships after their early-mid twenties (by which I think it implicitly meant “post-university”). The main problem, I think, was that friendships tend to form when you have repeated, unstructured interactions with a similar group of people. So, school is a great example. You’re thrown together with roughly the same group of people, over a long period of time. You’re both pushed together in lessons, but also left to yourselves at breaks. Maybe you also live within walking or cycling distance of most of the other pupils.
    Although this article was promptly followed by a load of comments from people talking about how many great friends they have made at later stages of their lives.

    • Yeah, that’s really interesting. I’ve been struggling with the bit about driving relationships forward. I think that may well be the one thing that holds me back with anyone who doesn’t explicitly want a romantic relationship with me. I’m really just not sure how to go about it without it *always*, *explicitly* being a romantic thing. I think getting an online conversation going over email or okcupid can often be a good way of doing that, but again – if that’s not already happening with someone you can’t just go “hey, lets write extensive emails to each other so we get to know one another” lol. I think it’s also that thing about feeling like I’m demanding people’s time. But yeah, I think it is really hard if you don’t have those kinds of social spaces to fall back on… or if (like in my case) those circles only meet up once in a blue moon.

      Agh, it’s a tricky one.

  2. I’m talking relatively conventional gender here, but sometimes I think that men have it easier than women. Someone I work with moved to Bath to be with his girlfriend, and started getting to know the boyfriends of her friends. Now they play golf together, football together, and see each other a lot. More than his girlfriend and her friends, in fact.

    Men are more likely to have the sort of interests and hobbies that give them a reason to talk to and meet with people regularly. Women are supposed to be more open, etc., but is it easier to invite someone to get together and talk about your lives and your feelings or to get together down the pub to watch the football, or whatever. (Is that a remnant of the public space being male space?)

    So, for example, I basically have six friends in Bristol. One is busy with a baby, so we’ll leave him aside. Two I hardly ever see and rarely talk to because there’s nothing other than ourselves to come together around. The other three I see every week because we all like board and card games, so we set up a weekly games night.

    I know what you mean about feeling like you’re demanding people’s time. I’ve always hated phoning people up, and one of the reasons is that it always feels like I’m cutting into whatever they’re doing and demanding their time, and then if they say it’s not convenient or whatever, they’re the one that feels rude or uncomfortable.

  3. Ive always had the problem where I want to kiss my friends to show love and affection despite it not being romantic, and because I don’t know how to not be that way I instead am TOO distanced,
    Part of its the english language, Its so hard to say “I love you” and kiss someone without them thinking its romantic,even more difficult if their romanticly interested in you. And it can cause a lot of pain. Its not even for lack of communication, but people hear what they want to hear, or make assumptions about what you mean, and of course english language is limited. It all comes down to communication in the end.

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