group blogging – crowd of strangers

i was with dinner with friends and we all happened to discuss moments in life where we all shared similarly-themed experiences, and the light bulb (semi-inspired by nana’s group blog about dating) went off!  a group blog experiment where we would all talk about the same type of experience!  and off we go:

PROMPT: Share an experience when you were alone in a crowd of strangers. 

ANGELES G – FLOSSING: THE UNIVERSAL CONVERSATION TOPIC

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i suppose i went for a variety of reasons. the first, initial reason was to learn more about a key part of our business: how we manage volatility in our clients’ investment portfolios. we run a particular options strategy that does a great job at reducing volatility, and even though it’s been explained to me in several occasions, by different people, and in different words, i still feel like i need to understand more. to my credit, i feel like if i can’t do something – and i mean really do something – then i don’t understand it. i.e. if i  can’t actually be a butcher, then i don’t feel like i don’t know anything about different cuts of meat. this probably not fair. by some standards, i know quite a bit. in typical argentine fashion, you can show me a piece of meat and i’ll point, on my own body, where that cut is located on the cow. this can be a problem as a professional, because it makes me come off as uninformed, uninterested, and naive. 

so i went to a symposium on volatility one tuesday afternoon. by myself. with all men. i sat towards the back of the room, trying my best to listen intently, but finding it difficult to become engaged when i couldn’t relate any of the lecture to anything that i do on a day-to-day basis. thankfully there was a portion of the symposium that was actually practically helpful for work, so i manage to get through the rest of the symposium with a bit of self-confidence at having found something productive in the whole thing.

then comes the cocktail hour. do i go? recap: i’m by myself. at a hyatt. with a bunch of men. who work with and know a hell of a lot more about options than i do. i can carry MAYBE a 3-minute conversation about volatility and options…if i don’t find another inroad to the conversation by then, i’m screwed, and must endure awkward silence or just walk away, obviously pretending i need to grab another drink (hurry, finish your drink so you have an excuse!). despite being considered by some of my friends as a very extroverted person who constantly approaches new people and experiences (this is my goal! yey for mutually-reinforcing dynamics!), i stood in the hallway outside the cocktail room for a while, checking my phone. except, can you call it “checking” when you know you have no new messages and you’re just clicking on random apps and then going back to the home screen expecting that you might have gotten a message during the millisecond that it took you to click on camera before realizing you have zero intention of taking a picture? i don’t think so. regardless, i realize the absurdity of my situation and man the fuck up.

i walk into the cocktail room, go to the bar, and feel instant relief when an older man makes small talk. thank goodness, these people might actually just be nice to me because i’m a young, cute girl amidst a bunch of men, relieving me of the awkwardness of being invisible. i’ll take it! or, maybe they’re just nice people that would talk to anyone who looks uncomfortable?

drink in hand, i’m ready for the big one – actually approaching a group of relatively young men, one of whom could be my future husband! okay, i guess i don’t go directly there…consciously. but subconsciously, you bet i am always on the prowl. i mean, aren’t we all? aren’t we built to be that way? why do we try to fight it? SEX! EVOLUTION!

then there’s that moment where all the mystery and fear and anxiety and guilt (yes, there is guilt there… for some reason) just melt away, and you walk over, and you say hi.

the rest is history. they are nice guys who actually indulge my tactics to steer the conversation away from options strategies once they realize i don’t know what i’m talking about, or at least that i don’t believe i know what i’m talking about, and once i run out of prying questions to try to educate myself through them. dental floss! that was where i took the conversation.

“have you guys tried that dental floss that comes on a plastic stick? it’s fantastic! it’s what made me start flossing once a day! …the only problem is that i feel guilty using all of that plastic when i could just use the normal dental floss. i suppose it’s a good way to build a habit, and then once you floss regularly, you can leave the evil plastic things behind and floss the old-fashioned way!”

needless to say that thread was short-lived. most of the men were actually married or in relationships, but i have to say i appreciated their level of friendliness. friendly and engaging, without (please excuse any perceived presumption on my part here) being inappropriately flirtatious. solid dudes.

i did exchange cards with one guy (last name: Banks…so appropriate) who actually works on a similar strategy as we do, but i would consider the bigger success to be twofold:

1) going there in the first place. realizing that i’d like to be more educated about something and then doing something about it, as daunting as this small volatility symposium may have been in my eyes.

2) staying for the cocktail hour. 

i left feeling like a million bucks. it’s a feeling of pure satisfaction to stare your fear, however small or big, straight in the face, and squash it. plus, i’m reading a book that says overcoming your fear is 1/3 of the challenge to becoming an iconoclast. and who doesn’t want to be an iconoclast?!

JAMES C – WHY WORK OUT WITH STRAIGHT PEOPLE WHEN YOU CAN WORK OUT WITH GAY PEOPLE

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for whatever reason (becoming a devoted member of mission cliffs and going on some dates with a gay climber and meeting members of another group at a bar), got an invite to a flame and flash (gay rock climbing) meetup and a frontrunners (gay run club) run.  both of which i decided to go to in a 24-hour period.  hah.  describing the weekend was sort of ridiculous.  “yeah, just thought i’d knock out all the gay athletic groups in one go”.  (apparently there are several gay sports everythings.) (side note, but i do think there are a lot of gay people who climb)

goals:

  • baseline: have a productive time, not wanting to kill myself from social anxiety, meet one person, develop a strong enough relationship/familiarity that returning to the group would not be awkward 
  • nice to haves: finding friends to pursue in the future, finding activity partners, finding people to date, finding a community to come back to, having fun

what happened:

  • flame and flash: i run the 4 miles to planet granite and am fully prepared to pay $20 DESPITE HAVING A PERFECTLY GOOD ROCK CLIMBING GYM MEMBESHIP AT MISSION CLIFFS(pleasant surprise to find out that it’s half off for fnf meetup, yay).  i go boulder because i’m there by myself.  i see a group that i’m fairly sure is part of fnf, but definitely way too scared to talk to them.  i decide to boulder by myself and give up and not talk to anyone new for the night (NICE JAMES).  sort of looking for todd, who technically invited me, but he’s not around.  half an hour in, he waltzes by and is like “oh, hey, you made it” (in a nice way) and gives me an intro to the climbers, including an exceptionally friendly couple.  they coached me through a V2 (which i, to be fair, after trying at least 10 times and getting my first rock climbing blister, still could not complete it, ughh), and we went to fun dinner together with the group at large at herbivore.  friended both of them, and am pursuing one of them on a once/week basis.  verdict: 8/10, good climbing, good time/group, potential leads for gay friends.
  • frontrunners: i woke up at 7AM and jogged 5 miles (ughhh) to golden gate park.  i saw a crowd around a car and, armed with my confidence from the night before, approached them and introduced myself.  they were nice!  hit it off with a guy from the UK.  did another 5 mile jog (double ughhh) and they had a bagel brunch, where i mostly talked to oliver.  met some other people.  everyone was quite friendly.  verdict: 6/10, sort of got in a “long run”, met a potential lead for a friend.  but proud of myself for fending for myself in a group of strangers and “making it happen”. 

overall, satisfied/proud with how i did in both situations, though i was definitely assisted by todd at climbing and the situation would have ended very differently/i would have been very disappointed in myself if he hadn’t saved the day. james: 1, crippling social anxiety: 0.  okay, CSA probably has closer to 483 points. 

things to remember going forward:

  • DECIDE to be socially adjusted: there was this one time when i was talking to a stranger, and i just could not keep myself from uttering “this is weird.” haha, DECIDE to be confident, DECIDE to be suave, DECIDE to be normal and not desperate and not awkward. 
  • seek the friendly: normally i do not particularly care for nice, but i have never been so desperate to meet nice people.  it’s weird being totally at the mercy of the group.  matt (the guy pictured above) drove me to herbivore.  bob drove me from the park to castro stop.  todd introduced me to people. 
  • be bold: it’s like that scene in hitch, where kevin james NEEDS TO MAKE AN IMPRESSION.  so be ridiculous, take risks, have a personality! 

why i believe it is important:

  • because we all have to do it sometime: so not EVERYONE has to do this (see: people with strong networks throughout their life, people who choose not to do so), just like not EVERYONE has to experience a broken heart or not EVERYONE has to learn what it’s like to live on a median income.  but i would argue, we are often put in this type of situation and we should learn how do act in these situations, be it first day at a school, being in a club and trying to meet (hot) people, being at a networking event, etc. 
  • because we all need exposure to new things: this past year has been incredible in the sense that i have done and tried and learned and experienced so much that has without a doubt been lifechanging.  and for each of the experiences, i can think of the exact person who has led me to that experience.  the two big ones: if i hadn’t met mark on a street corner, i would still just be fucking around in the gym and i would still never have run more than 3 miles in one go.  if i hadn’t met christof at a club, the castro would still be a black box, i would have had no gay friends/learned about “gay things”, i would never have met sean h. 

    as we all know, i hate traveling, one of the reasons being that there is so much diversity everywhere; we don’t have to travel anywhere to find it.  just go meet new people around you and see how they change your life (hopefully for the better).  there was this large asian group in college, and i was always frustrated by how insular they were.  and, yes, i have a total outsiders perspective, but UGH they just always did the same thing over and over again and rarely pushed the boundaries of life.  which i just found so unfortunate.  (yes, that is judgment with a capital j; i’m sure they think my life is unfortunate as well if it’s any consolation)

  • because that is how you level up: we owe it to ourselves and to make the most of the gift that is life to make the most of it.  life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.  let’s challenge ourselves.  be uncomfortable.  learn skills.  follow the white rabbit, say yes, and be uncomfortable (blog via dave, the ideas are straight out of this blog)

some things don’t change:

Come join Flame and Flash, a non-affiliated with Meetup LGBTQ Rock Climbers group. We’ll be getting together at Mission Cliffs on March 25th at 2pm. Join us and be merry! Food and drinks after. Come sport climb, come boulder, come top-rope, come make out in the sauna with Leo or have a group orgy in the open stall showers! Pysched.

so both groups are gay oriented, but… i would say neither are set up for cruising/meeting people/hooking up.  fnf is totally, without a doubt about climbing (i think) and frontrunners strikes me as a social club (they have runs 3x/week and the first two weeks had an oscar party, a movie night, and a board games night.  last saturday a couple celebrated their 25th anniversary and brought champagne for everyone).  but both riff on gay stereotypes, gay sex, gay things.  i … overall do feel a little bit like i “算便宜” (loosely translated meaning “merchants will give you cheaper prices” aka you get advantages/bonuses for whatever reason) because of my relative youth/not total ugliness. esp at frontrunners.  fnf skews extremely young and extremely beautiful.

last fun fact: the national LGBT climbing group is called HOMO CLIMBTASTIC.  which was initially offputting, but i am in love with the name now.  hilarious, well-done faq.  strikes a perfect balance between (what i feel are) good, practical answers with incredible wit. 

Why separate gay people, or rather “queer” people, from everyone else?

We, and more importantly, you, are not born to this earth with the sole mission of undoing every stereotype about us or proving to the world that we can be just like everybody else.  Whoever that is.  Take a load off your shoulders and go live your goddamn life.  It’s short.  Homo Climbtastic just makes it shorter by exposing you to the horrific dangers of rock climbing and chocotinis.

You totally want in on this.  C’mon.  Take a puff.  Once you’re riding the HC rainbow, you’ll forget about everything else, including that desire to live an example that nobody else is actually paying much attention to.  We feel bad for the gay dudes who say things about us like, “look, gay guys proving we don’t all just prance around to techno music!”  For one, we still do that, and two, well there is no two.  Just the techno.  And the prancing.

Why can’t queer people just climb with everyone else?

Straight people stop wanting to hang out with us when we crush their problems.  And there’s lots of straight people on our trips.

If this is just a rhetorical question meant to debate the ideological necessity of a separate queer space… well, even people who really wanted to hate the idea have become converts when they discovered that Homo Climbtastic was bizarrely capable of resolving their existential crises and igniting new ones.  So try it out!  It’s like meth.  Once you’ve done it, there’s no going back.  Except instead of having sex with ugly strangers for money, you’ll do it for free, just so they’ll belay you.

(not entirely sure why they have two basically identical questions on their FAQ)

two notes from the internet:

via kottke.  isn’t this exactly what everything scary is like!?  extremely daunting, and you just JUMP (literally in this case), and it is just FREAKING AWESOME.  i want to be that kid.  raise my arms victoriously. 

TC – 104 Ways to Break The Ice (repost)

That love is not this impossible thing reserved for the clever — it’s the for the awkward and embarrassed and the lonely and the unimaginative and the nervous and the self-conscious and anyone who can bring themselves for a single moment to say something. Say anything.

i cannot emphasize how much i love that essay.

NANA X – WANTED: RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE, MUST HAVE GOSPEL

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I wasn’t raised as a church goer, never grew up with an organized religion, and although I was exposed to church at various times growing up (only casually/socially as my parents would sometimes go to church to meet new people) – never really found it to be particularly additive to my life.  After moving to San Francisco however, gradually, the idea of going to church has become more appealing to me.  The fact that it’s a public space.  The fact that anyone, of any background/profession/etc can choose to go.  The idea of dedicating 1/2 day per week for inspiration and community.  All of those things are extremely appealing – and whenever I go to church, it makes me feel like it’s the way humans were meant to live.

That being said, I still have a lot of unanswered questions about organized religion.  So, this week, I went to church with a “stranger” that an old co-worker introduced me to.  I had never met Kris before, but she seemed nice enough and offered to pick me up on Sunday morning.  I felt a little apprehensive going into this, but given some of my past experiences going to more intimidating church environments, I felt much better prepared to handle the situation.  Summary of experience:

  • Venue of the church was cool – great architecture.  In the mission where there’s lots of good food
  • Looked around and there seemed to be a decent number of young people
  • Music was rock-bandish.  Lyrics were relaxing but I still like gospel better
  • Sermon was timely  – about the role of fear.  Very “Jesus” centric.  Hmmm.
  • Grabbed lunch at Fritz afterwards – excellent sweet potato fries

Afterwards, I tried to ask Kris a bunch of provocative questions about Christianity but she didn’t seem offended.

Overall assessment:

  • Experience was successful – measurement of success based on positive/negative feelings afterwards.  Feelings were positive. 
  • I didn’t talk to very many people.  Experience would have been more successful had I got the opportunity to talk to more people
  • Others did not really notice me though seemed friendly.  Ability to wear jeans in church a plus.
  • Would not have done anything differently
  • Takeaway is that I still feel strongly about the reasons I like church, though not sure how well I would actually interact with others given my doubts/questions.  I will go if I have time but may try a smaller group.  Generally I think it’s important to do things like this to 1) meet people outside of the people in your immediate social sphere 2) attempt to enrich your life in ways you would not have access to otherwise 3) Find new avenues of inspiration – I love being inspired and am always looking for more avenues of inspiration.
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