Meeting New People

Hello Faithful Readers, and welcome to another month of etiquette fun at Gothic Charm School. Now, what was it the Lady of the Manners was going to natter on about this time? That’s right, surviving the holiday season. Oh well, so much for that! Instead, the Lady of the Manners is going to answer a heartfelt plea from a reader, one asking for advice on a very important subject.

Dear Gothic Charm School,

I’ve recently moved into the San Diego area and I don’t know anyone here. How does one go about meeting new gothy-types? I realize the most obvious answer is clubs, but really, I wouldn’t know the best or most polite way to start a conversation there. Is there a “best” way? I figure if anyone would know, it would be you.

Would posting on the local Mailing List be a good idea? I’m a little apprehensive about doing that because everyone on the list here seems to be ranting and in-fighting, I really don’t want to get involved in all of that. It would just be nice to hang out with someone with similar interests here. I don’t go to school and I don’t work in an environment where I meet new people. I just feel kind of stuck.

Thank you in advance for any help/advice/ideas you can offer me. And again, I love reading your columns, they’re really great.

Sincerely,
Joseph

Goodness, the dilemma of meeting new folks. For starters, yes, going to the clubs IS the most obvious answer. Unfortunately, even the Lady of the Manners hasn’t figured out a really good way to strike up conversations with complete strangers at clubs without it seeming like a pick-up line. Sure, you could see someone interesting, compliment them on something (their clothes, their makeup, their hair), and hope that evolves into something more than both of you spouting stock social phrases, but what is polite, friendly interest to one person can come across as the beginnings of a romantic overture to another. (Mind you, it’s a sure-fire way to start a conversation with the Lady of the Manners; partially because she’s always happy to burble away at new folks about clothes, and partially because she just never thinks anyone would be hitting on her.)

As to posting on the local mailing list.that probably is your best avenue to meet like-minded gothy folk. Even if the list is filled with ranting and infighting. The Lady of the Manners hates to be the one to break the news to you, but every goth mailing list (local, regional, country- or world-wide) is filled with ranting and infighting. Every one. Don’t let that dissuade you from posting, but let it be a warning to you; don’t post right away. Lurk for a while to get a sense of who’s who and what’s what. Lurking will allow you to see which people have knee-jerk reactions to things said by specific other people, which people do nothing but flame new people, what some of the common terms and in-jokes are, that sort of thing.

When you DO finally de-lurk, be very careful with what you post. Don’t make big sweeping opinionated pronouncements about things, don’t say obviously inflammatory things, and for heaven’s sake, mind your spelling and punctuation! (A slight tangent.on the local list in the Lady of the Manners’ area, there are a couple people who consistently ignore punctuation, capitalization, and either can’t spell or are determined to use “kewl” internet spellings. The Lady of the Manners never, ever wants to meet them. They may be perfectly charming people in Real Life away from the keyboard, but their inability to communicate clearly and coherently in the text-only world makes the Lady of the Manners grit her teeth and roll her eyes at the monitor. People will make snap judgments based on your writing and posting style; make sure they’re NICE snap judgments.)

Lurking on the local list will also let you know what sort of events are coming up that you might be able to meet people at. Perhaps the list holds some sort of weekly get-together for coffee or drinks. Attending that sort of thing (even if you haven’t yet de-lurked) would be a better way of meeting people than at a dark and noisy club. De-lurking by posting something like “I’m new to the area and will be at X event this week. If you feel like saying hi, I’ll be the guy in black” (and of course you WILL use a better description of yourself, yes you will) is a good strategy that shouldn’t result in flames or being ostracized.

It IS entirely possible to be part of a local mailing list and not get caught up in the flames and infighting. No, really, it is. It’s very simple. You just don’t get caught up in any arguments. Of course, this means that there will be chunks of time that you would be posting very little, and you wouldn’t get to take part in some of the debates, but is that really so bad? The Lady of the Manners has noticed one thing about the many flame wars, debates, and arguments she’s witnessed on-line over the years: no one really changes anyone else’s mind. If two people hold completely opposite viewpoints about a subject, eight gazillion angry posts later they’ll STILL hold completely opposite viewpoints. All that the back-and-forth posting will have done is convince each that the person they’re arguing with is a clueless idiot and wrong, wrong, wrong. The Lady of the Manners doesn’t really see the point of the endless grandstanding arguments, and tries not to participate in them herself. The Lady of the Manners also realizes that this viewpoint isn’t going to become a popular one anytime soon, so just skims or outright ignores a lot of threads on the local list.

Of course, following that advice means that you won’t become rapidly known (for good or bad) in the local on-line community. That you’ll probably end up saying, “I’m so-and-so on the board” to people you meet at events over and over, instead of them immediately going “Oh, that’s ‘blank’ — you know, the one who posted about ‘random gothy argument’.” But that’s not such a bad thing; especially if you’re looking for people to hang out with, not start arguments with.

The Lady of the Manners wishes you (all of you) luck in meeting new people and making new friends.hopefully her advice didn’t come across too much as the standard parental “play nice and treat others how you want to be treated” platitudes.

Be sure to scamper back next month, where the Lady of the Manners will talk about — oh goodness, who knows — something. In the meantime, send any questions (or fan mail, the Lady of the Manners loves fan mail) to headmistress@gothic-charm-school.com.

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