Living for the Revel (catvalente) wrote,
Living for the Revel
catvalente

Chymical Reactions

I met a lot of new people in Melbourne. In fact, I can safely say after this trip OMG I HEART MELBOURNE. And as I met so many fine folks in the social pressure cooker that is a con (seriously, cons are like two years of socialization in one weekend. Friendships are made and broken and made again. Hearts are broken, tempers tested, cats and dogs, mass hysteria) that I started thinking about what exactly friendly attraction is and how often I do or do not feel it, and whether there is any rhyme or reason to my instinctive response to other humans.

Sexual attraction is easier to quantify. That person is hot/super smart/a charisma superhero. I would like to do x, y, or z with that person. You can dress it up in many ways, but it's easier for me to understand why and how physical attraction goes down. But when you meet someone and it's not about hotness even if they are hot, but about OMGBFF, it's murkier, to me at least.

Certainly at a con, a high stress environment, I gravitate toward people I find it easy to be around. Where conversation flows, topics are quick to hand, and awkward silences are infrequent guests. A friend of mine talks about that feeling of ease in terms of how many "extrovert points" certain folk cost. I feel that hardcore--how much I will be expected to carry the conversation, how much my goofball, sarcastic self I can be, (not just geeky but dorky, if you get me--I've always said I could never date anyone who couldn't be a dork with me) how much I will be expected to represent my books and be all elegant instead of like KANGAROOS HOLY SHIT THEY ARE MY NEW MORAL ADVISORS. How much, if I snark, people will snark with or look at me like I've disappointed them. How much, I suppose, I feel like I am being judged by the interaction at hand. As you can imagine, this is a lot, at conventions. I usually have a certain number of people I know--people I think of as safe, safe to be myself, safe to have a drink or two around, safe to be Cat and not Catherynne M. Valente.

Not so in Melbourne. It's just so far. I knew there would be a few friends there, most particularly seanan_mcguire , but I knew that I had a lot of alone time in the bar coming--except I didn't. I stuck my courage to the sticking place and opened myself up via twitter--first on my layover in LA and then in Melbourne--to having lunch or meeting up with anyone who could find me in the hotel, and thus I met joemorf , mondyboy , robshearman , and several non-LJ darlings. And I felt instantly at ease with them, even though they were essentially strangers. Why? Why them and not others I met? Why do I feel guarded, why do I feel free? There are people in my life whom I love deeply, and still find that it costs a lot of extrovert points to hang out with them. The conversation gears slip, we don't find a groove. I love them no less, but I never quite relax. These days, I prize those who give good conversation above rubies.

I guess a lot of it comes down to instinct--sometimes you just know you'll be friends with this person. And sometimes you know they're nice and wonderful and you can't ever make a dirty joke around them. With me, I usually find I can tell quickly--though with a very few it has been a slow burn and one day I woke up and we were friends. But sometimes I know within five minutes.  Of course, knowing each other online helps--it does a lot of the work of being comfortable together and testing compatibility before you ever meet. I do think a lot of it is shared culture--even in the SFF world there is a wide divergence of interest. justbeast  once postulated that even at a con, you'd be lucky to list ten books everyone had read in common, and this is why we talk a lot more about movies and TV, which provide more common ground. But among geeks, the great mating call is referencing some obscure thing and waiting for someone to understand you. I find it frustrating to spend long periods of time around, well, non-geeks, for lack of a better term. People who don't read fiction or care about the internet, people who sniff and say they don't watch movies. I just don't feel like I can add anything to their lives, and they don't want to know about mine. But it's humor, too--I feel very uncomfortable when I cannot make light of anything or embrace my mother sarcasm. I fear to say the wrong thing and clam up. Enthusiasm, too--my favorite sort of people are boisterous and loud, who interrupt but don't mind being interrupted, with whom conversation is like friendly lions wrestling.

And of course, I hope to be someone it is fun to converse with, with whom others can be themselves. But I don't think there is any better way to gauge one's own measure in that than to predict others'. Every person reacts differently to the social chemicals around them, to the signals others put off. What one person finds rude, another finds brazen and awesome. There is no one social behavior to fit all situations. Geek circles I find very hard to navigate, because there are invisible social orbits and systems going on and they are all pretty inviolate because we all got our shit knocked about as kids--mess up once and you're frozen out forever. So I am always afraid of tripping up. But I am also a giant labrador puppy dog and go flouncing into people and lick their faces and jump up on their chests and this sentence is weird now.

So I guess maybe it's people who accept puppy-me and respond in kind. Maybe that's the thing I'm always looking for.

I found a few in Melbourne. I'm grateful like Christmas.
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