This is my submission for the October Carnival of Aces, the subject being “reaching out, reaching in”.
If you told me even twelve months ago what I was embarking to do last Sunday at 1p.m., I would have raised my eyebrows and stared in awed, polite unbelief.
I hosted an ace meetup.
Well, I tried to. I moved the location to a Starbucks across the street at the last minute due to the previous venue being unbelievably, claustrophobically crowded and unexpectedly pricy, and no one showed.
I doubt it was due to the venue change. I had been trying to enthuse members of the Facebook ace group I started late last year to meet in person for at least a month, querying for the best times for people, and three comments on my posts was outstanding engagement.
The only ace meetup listed for all of Northern California on meetup.com went AWOL last year and, utterly disappointed, I did what I could. I first tried to subtly guilt the members into sharing the annual fees with me so we could keep the meetup going (uncharacteristic, but I was broke and the thought of the only ace meetup in my region dying was unbearable) and when that failed, I created a Facebook group and captured as many members from the meetup group as I could. Several friended me on Facebook, and it’s amazing how encouraging it is to see posts from people (even ones unrelated to ace issues) who share this small part of me. Just the hope of future in person connection was uplifting.
I was predictably nervous as I drove to a mostly unfamiliar city to meet mostly unfamiliar people and do something that is completely unfamiliar to me – lead a social event. Well, that’s not completely true. I was the president of high school’s poetry club – and it was under my leadership that it fizzled out and died. Yeah. Not real confidant in my leadership abilities.
Getting out of bed Sunday morning, I prayed profusely and repeated what is becoming my motto – don’t regret not doing it later, do it scared now. I donned cat ears that I found in a costume store that, miraculously, were ace pride colors, posted and identifying picture to the Facebook group and said that if anyone were to come to the venue of the meetup and see a weirdo in cat ears to please come keep her company.
The thirty minute drive, I repeated my positive attributes over and over, and reminded myself that I am capable and a likeable person – something I learned from a self-help book for social anxiety that is proving to be more effective than years of talking to a counselor.
Even after struggling to find the first venue and quickly discerning that it wasn’t as nearly the spacious, casual place that Google had led me to belief and moving the meetup to across the street ten minutes before it was scheduled to begin, I was hopeful. But as three stretched to three thirty and finally four, I had to face the music. No one was coming.
I had had a gut feeling all morning that the meetup was going to be an epic failure, something I dismissed as my standard state of perpetual anxiety, but it had turned out that my constant inner critic had judged correctly. As I departed the Starbucks, unable to sit alone any longer and made to find another café to settle down in and study, the dejection really started to set in. I had put myself waaaaaaay out there, and no one had put in the effort to show. Logically, I knew that wasn’t the case for everyone. Two people had said they were going to be out of town, several others had to work or had previous engagements with family, etc. I had known this first meet up was going to be small, perhaps one or two people, and I was totally prepared for that.
And of course I had considered the possibility that no one would show – but I wasn’t prepared for the reality of sitting alone at a table, watching as Starbucks filled with midafternoon students and socializers, making cheerful, awkward eye contact with every stranger who walked in the door and hoping that they would see the purple dragon badge on my backpack, smile as they remembered the posts saying to look for a dragon badge and cat ears on the Facebook page they had joined for a sense of belonging when the world made them feel constantly alienated, and come sit by me. I was not prepared for the disappointment of loneliness not being filled, but that loneliness, that sitting in a crowded space where I was 99 percent sure that I was the only asexual present (possibly the only queer person period) reminded me why I had set out that day in the first place.
As I drove around the city, determined to find an interesting café or restaurant so as not to have wasted a trip, the thought why the hell did you think you could do it? crept in. People aren’t your thing, of course you were going to miserably f up at this. I immediately recognized the voice as anxiety and not my rational mind, and I told it that I did not fail. I did exactly as I had set out to do that day – I had done my best to find a time that worked for as many people, told them a location, and I went there. Yes, I should have checked out the location before hand, but it wasn’t exactly in my backyard, and the new location was very accessible – nothing that would be burdensome if anyone was already at the previous venue. I had alerted the group as to my reasoning for changing, apologized profusely, and waited patiently. I had tried. I had done everything in my power to make the day a success. I had done what I had set out to do, even though I had been scared to do it, and several people had posted saying that they regretted not being able to come that day and to have fun. They had put in the effort that they could to make a connection, and that effort could very likely translate to the physical world in the future. I had done all I could, and hopefully I had made some online strangers excited about the future – maybe even someone at Starbucks recognized the colors on my badge for what they are.
Something I’ve come to realize in the past couple years is that I crave connection, truly, truly crave it, but connection takes effort – effort that I wasn’t mentally healthy enough to put in until very recently. My recent efforts to make connections with people I encounter in my day-to-day life have proved surprisingly successful, and I refuse to let this minor setback detour me – I’m sure there are people who need this support system for asexuality way more than I do, and I refuse to let them down. I will continue to do it scared.
Happy Ace Week!
Until next time,
Keep oooooon Aceing It!