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LARP is life in microcosm - Her Most Regal Majesty, the Queen of Snark
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LARP is life in microcosm
This is not roleplaying wibble. It may look a lot like it, but it's actually about life. If you're interested in me, but not necessarily in roleplay I'd still say it was worth a read.

So last weekend was Bladelands, which for reasons of hideous transport complications and non of my local friends playing the same systems I do I haven't been able to make in a while. Bladelands is such a mixed experience for me. Many of the people there I love seeing and don't get to hang out with nearly often enough, but my in character experience is often characterised by boredom and frustration, despite the fact that I find the setting one of the more interesting that I've been involved with, having an internal coherence that knocks, say, Shards or White City into a cocked hat (probably as a consequence of being largely the brainchild of a single person, to be fair to those systems).

Anyway, the point is that not for the first time, by the time I reached the middle of the event I was in tears due to frustration. It's hard to say why these things affect me this strongly, and really this is a big part of what makes the system so hard for me. I'm totally failing to pin down what I'm doing "wrong" (in the sense of what's causing me not to have fun), and my complete inability to get any sort of handle on the problem is in itself highly upsetting. To be honest, the fact that it does bother me on such a deep level suggests to me that it's somehow a deep metaphor for my inability to "win" at life also.

At its core, Bladelands always leaves me feeling like an outsider. People are polite and distantly friendly, but they never ever take me into their confidence. Funnily enough, rightly or wrongly, I feel that way about my friends at the moment. While they are happy to spend time in my company if they haven't got something more interesting to do, they simply aren't willing to put in the extra effort required to maintain a close relationship with me. As a result, I'm everyone's passing acquaintance - if I were to emigrate to the moon tomorrow I don't feel as though there's anyone (markbanang excepted, for obvious reasons) who would particularly feel that there was anything missing from their life as a result. And I don't really understand why. I work very hard at being a good friend. I'm loyal, I care deeply, and will always make myself available for a friend in need. (But no-one ever does need - it's always someone else they turn to.)

It's important to say that the above paragraph is not a fair assessment of my friends. On an intellectual level I know it's not true. That's what makes it so hard to express. The problem is that emotionally I'm very controlled, and don't allow myself to express my emotions much, particularly when they contrast with what I know intellectually to be the case. So here you have my emotional response. I'm hurt. I'm hurt that my friends don't care more about me. No matter how much I can rationalise that feeling away as unjustified, it's not going to stop the fact that I'm fighting back tears as I write this because emotionally I feel as though no-one really even wants to know the real me. For someone with self-esteem issues as big as mine, that just has to be a total killer. I'm clever, I'm funny, I'm caring, and still it isn't enough. Still it feels like everyone would rather be friends with someone else. I honestly don't know whether people just feel I don't need them or what, all I know is how I feel.

Part of the reason I don't say these things is because it's very easy for them to come across as accusatory and passive-aggressive. The problem is that not saying them doesn't stop me feeling them. Maybe I don't come across as all that vulnerable. All I know is that I feel vulnerable as hell.

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13 comments or Leave a comment
queenortart From: queenortart Date: July 31st, 2007 12:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree that you are clever and funny and caring, and I wish we could get to know each other much better, stoopid geography in the way, but Oxford is not that far from the smoke, and we should do stuff. I'd really like to! Let's work on it dear girl :)

I've got a good idea about how to is to feel isolated, both in and out of game, and there are times when I could just curl up in a ball and howl. Shall we have a good howl together?

Have a big cuddle, and demand that your boy gives you a big cuddle from me. He's had enough hugs from me in the past to pass one in your direction.

Now let's think about dates, you fancy a trip up here, or shall we have a day out with you? We're away next week, all week in the wilds of Shropshire, but the following weekend the 19th is free?
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: August 1st, 2007 03:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
The 19th seems to be doable, but my schedule is confusing, so there exists the possibility that I am just being rubbish. Argh, argh, what should we do? I'm all in a tizz now. You're very welcome to drive up to Oxford, and there's plenty of museums and other cool things to do up here, but I'm also willing to come down to you (and congenitally incapable of making decisions. Does it show?)
From: vyvyan Date: July 31st, 2007 12:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
I would love to interact with you more, but you don't live in Cambridge any more, so it's difficult!
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: August 1st, 2007 03:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Indeed. It was a great pity to miss you at raggedyman's BBQ. Hope the OU course went well though.
From: vyvyan Date: August 2nd, 2007 03:12 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm sorry I wasn't there. The OU course was great, though I was besieged by unwanted male physicist attention! Might I see you at Recombination?

sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: August 7th, 2007 06:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
It isn't seeming very likely at the moment, sorry.
1ngi From: 1ngi Date: July 31st, 2007 01:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh you poor thing, I'm so sorry you are feeling so hurt. I don't know you very well, I think we've only met once or twice, so I hope you don't mind me commenting.

Two thoughts jumped out at me when I was reading your blog:

"The problem is that emotionally I'm very controlled, and don't allow myself to express my emotions much, particularly when they contrast with what I know intellectually to be the case."

"Maybe I don't come across as all that vulnerable. All I know is that I feel vulnerable as hell."

If you are not letting out your emotions, then you won't be coming across as vulnerable.

Perhaps you won't mind me sharing a bit of my recent experiences with you?

I've been wibbling for ages about how there was no 'special' friendships in Cambridge because all the friends I loved and who I knew loved me were back in Oxford. Then I hit a really rough patch and felt utterly isolated and that no one cared. And of course they didn't because no one knew. So I plucked up whatever courage I had remaining and confided in three people, who I liked very much, at different times in dif ways. I got a lovely response, they listened and showed concern. But each one told me that is was so unexpected to see me so upset, because I seemed such a confident sorted person, and of course, quoth they, you're not are you, you're just like the rest of us.

That was about 2 months ago.

I meet up regularly with each of them still and they have all started to confide in me at different times too. The moment I got any sign that they might want to confide, I asked 'welcoming' interested questions and then did my best to really actively listen and let them feel listened to. I'm convinced it was because I let myself be vulnerable in front of them. It feels like I've made my first 'proper' friends

Sometimes I think being the friend in need actually allows for a future opportunity to reciprocate.

Obviously, I'm not an observer of your friendships but all I can suggest is that you allow yourself to be emotional with the people you love and trust, reveal your vulnerability, confide in a well-chosen one or two. And maybe they will be inspired to share more of themselves with you.

If I have got all this shockingly wrong, please forgive me, and I hope you feel better soon.

Have a *hug*.
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: August 1st, 2007 03:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the thoughts. Definitely some things for me to think about there. Add to that the fact that deep friendships do seem to take a while to develop and the older we get, the more people are entrenched into existing relationships.
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sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: August 1st, 2007 03:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was in a group as Isabella (remember her?) but while we seemed to do OK despite being essentially thrown together by the accident of dying at roughly the same time, and all the others in the group were nice people, I still somehow ended up the outsider. I do think it's a sound idea though, and one of the options I'm looking at.
secretrebel From: secretrebel Date: July 31st, 2007 03:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is an interesting post and one that poses a significant challenge for any friend to respond to. I'm going to have a go, and I hope that you can take it as an honest reply to an honest post and forgive any ineptitude of expression.

Before I say anything else, I have always found live-action roleplaying frustrating for the same reasons you mention. The very first game I played in I felt dislocated and disassociated from people I thought were my friends and that feeling has never left me. And I'm generally pretty happy with my social interactions. It may be that LARPing is more prone to creating these sorts of doubts about our friendships.

To continue, it's interesting that you describe yourself as emotionally controlled and unexpressive. I've never seen you that way. You will have to assess yourself whether this is because I've seen a more private side of you or not.

I've struggled to express this next bit diplomatically, I hope it comes across that way... I think that self-doubt is the biggest barrier anyone faces in making friends. People by and large don't pick their friends on the basis of who *needs* their friendship - barring a few saintly characters who want to be of help to others. In fact I'd say people are more likely to want to be friends with those who DON'T need their friendship. In fact 'neediness' is one of the biggest friendship turn-offs.

Speaking for myself, I don't require a lot of support from my friends although it's lovely how many of them are willing to provide it. What I really want most of all is light-hearted times with friendly clever witty people who have snatched a few moments from their busy life to have fun with me. I also don't like to feel that someone is sitting by the phone hoping I'll call - it's too much of a burden.

In fact, most of the time I want my friends to be able to take-or-leave me. I may be busy, they may be busy, we all might be busy. Sooner or later we'll meet up and that'll be cool. Of course, I'm speaking as a fortunate person blessed with more friends than I can easily make time for - but I wasn't always this way. As with so much in life I suspect the secret is 'fake it till you make it'.

I'll end with a story. Once upon a time I used to know someone who I'd invite round about once a fortnight. Everytime they came over they'd ask why I didn't invite them more often. Finally I stopped calling. People give what they have to give, being asked for more can make you feel as if what you gave wasn't appreciated. There's a danger that people will choose to be no friend at all rather than be labelled as a 'bad friend'.

I hope you find some of this helpful. I think there are probably a lot of people who have similar issues around friendship. It's a tricky business, so it is, and it never ends! Little old ladies of eighty have the same sort of worries as 6-year-old kids. I don't know if that's disturbing or consoling...
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: July 31st, 2007 08:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
A lot of good thoughts there, and many of the reasons why I try not to wibble at people about this are summed up there quite well. There are many different types of friendship, and I'd guess that as an ex-housemate you've seen more of that side of me than most.

Part of the problem with expressing these thoughts is that they're likely to rub sore the most on the people who're least deserving of that. The problem was by not expressing them to other friends they remained stuck in my head and larger than life. This exorcises them and prevents irrational and unreasonable expectations building up.

To make it clear, my friends are great. In many ways how I feel has very little to do with the way things are. I don't want pity, I want people to enjoy my company. I put a lot of effort into being fun to be around because of that, but obviously I worry it isn't working. I sincerely hope that I'm not pushing anyone away by doing so publicly like this. I hope people can forgive me the occasional wibble.
bopeepsheep From: bopeepsheep Date: July 31st, 2007 05:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
At the risk of being trite, *hugs*. I know exactly how you feel and particularly lately have been very grateful for people picking up the phone or sending email and prodding me into being sociable (almost literally dragging me to things, even). I am not currently the person who will phone others up to make arrangements [used to be; am not at present for lots of reasons], and I do often need prodding, which unfortunately means if several people are in the same boat nothing ever gets done. I wish I knew the answers to sort it all out. :(
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: August 1st, 2007 03:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Part of what makes it such a difficult problem is the sheer intangibility of it all. I know that on some level the answer is to organs stuff myself and to make the first move myself wrt phone calls, emails, etc. Somehow that often seems like it's just too difficult, and I lack the energy to do so though.
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