Inclusion: Practical Strategies

This is a followup to Responsible Friendshipping: Inclusion v. Exclusion.

What does inclusion look like, practically applied?

Strategy: Opacity in Invitation

For the past three kickbacks I’ve hosted, I’ve skipped creating a Facebook event and instead invited friends individually via text, private message, or in person. Alternatively, I could have created a Facebook event and unchecked “show guest list.”

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There was something organic about sending the invite via text. If I created the Facebook event, the set guest list does still exist, even if invisibly — and there is the issue of visible comments in the event page. If I use text, it is unclear about how people ended up at the party, and I found that it was easier to communicate to friends or even allow them to assume that they could bring others.

Either way, obscuring the list seemed to have an added side effect of reducing my stress. If my friends did communicate with one another about whether or not they would go, I did not see it (well, one friend asked who was coming and I told him “people I like” stop asking). I enjoyed spending less time organizing an event (Facebook makes me feel like I have to write a description, set a start time, add a cover photo….) and more communicating with friends directly to answer their questions.

What time are people coming?

IDK after 8, staying late. I’m here now.

I invited people first who I had recently chatted with, and then did my best to remember anyone else I may have missed. I enthusiastically responded yes to anyone who wanted to bring a friend, and I did my best to be welcoming to friends who heard of the gathering by word of mouth but who I had forgotten to invite. One thing I might do differently next time is reach out to close friends to help me spread the word, so I am not just relying on my own memory.

Strategy: Time Pressure

In all cases, I sent the invites the afternoon or night of the event. This reduced one of the major disadvantages of inclusion, and that is that events and hosting locations have limited capacities. Many people already had plans or otherwise couldn’t come, and so I avoided accidentally causing a rager.

If I had a particular friend who I knew had higher-than-average difficulty making last-minute plans, I might give them the curtesy of advance notice at least for a couple of parties, in order to be more inclusive to them. I’d have to, of course, let them know that’s exactly what I’m doing and others will not have heard of this “party” yet.

Alternate Strategy: Revolving Lists

Another strategy I’m considering experimenting with is masterminding a small groups rotation pattern. I will make it clear to friends that, to limit the size of the party, I will invite smaller portions of my larger friend base. If they are not invited to the current party, rest assured they will be invited to the next. This strategy will only be helpful if I have frequent parties, and if no event gets so much acclaim that missing it would be upsetting. I could see using this strategy for weekday hangouts. It will probably require spreadsheets.

Conclusions

These are by no means the best models of inclusion. I have seen better ones with semi-public Reddit events or smaller communities that utilize public Facebook pages to advertise their events. These strategies are instead a middle ground I am reaching after a habit of overly-curating events, as I have done and witnessed in 2014.

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Responsible Friendshipping: Inclusion v. Exclusion

There are a lot of words in this post, so I will break them up with pictures of cats.

There are a lot of words in this post, so I will break them up with pictures of  my roommate’s cats.

I have the great fortune to have some influence on my social space(s). By blogging and participating in a lot of group conversations, I think I’ve tricked my friends into thinking I have a good moral compass. My primary externally-assigned adjective is migrating from “redhead” to “thoughtful.” Well, let me invite you into more of my thoughts, because I’m loving this.

This year, especially, I am deciding what to do with my influence. I’ve always liked to think of myself as an enabler, but perhaps now I’m really interested in “directed enabling.” Or, you know, leading.

Recently I’ve gotten myself into a situation where I have a space and the agency to throw my own parties, so that’s added immediacy to my Responsible Friendshipping goals. I get to say who comes to the party and what the theme is! I’m also interested, however, in the bigger picture. Am I helping my friends move in a healthy direction in their communities?

IMAG0276(1)My main issue right now: Inclusion v. Exclusion. Practically speaking, this is a result of figuring out how to maximize needs fulfillment. For parties, that need is primarily “fun.” For friendshipping, that need is feeling like you’re not all alone in the universe (sad face). On the inclusion axis are motivations to demonstrate to community members why they are included and why their inclusion is guaranteed. On the exclusion axis are motivations to just be damn efficient and not waste time supporting members who are really just going to bollocks up everything for everyone (or just be really boring).

The failure I’m seeing in my friend group right now is buying into the idea that gatekeeping (exclusion) also successfully supports safety. I get why they’re doing it, and it took me a long time before I stopped thinking this was the best idea. Keep the baddies out, welcome the goodies in, right? Anecdotally, it’s actually true that this strategy didn’t work (a long time friend hurt a lot of people, not some stranger), and yet we kept using it.

Kitteh says: don't exclude me I luffs youThe converse is not easy, either. Opposite of gatekeeping, you can promote safety with behavior policing. I mean, that’s how mainstream society does it — you know you can’t hurt people because the law will hurt you back, harder. Unfortunately, this strategy requires a lot of difficult things that we’re ideologically opposed to doing. We don’t want to dial-down a list of accepted behaviors, we don’t want to be tasked with enforcing these behaviors, we don’t want to create laws. Sure, if we could do those things, then we could know we are technically safe despite any member who might come or go. But we’re rebels! We’re lawless!

Behavior policing doesn’t have to be done with laws; it can be done with culture. Case-study: my dirtpunk/goth friends manage an open-door policy, for their parties at least, by cultivating a particular vibe. Their hard edge intimidates away the people who really probably shouldn’t roll with them, while reminding members there is a real threat for people who misbehave. (Misbehave is a relative term, as a fair amount of trainwrecking is tolerated. I mean, there’s a reason the sink is always stacked with dishes.) The benefit is that no one is sweating over if they got the invite (besides people who are intentionally banned) — they instead make the decision based on their own evaluation of whether or not they really belong. Of course, self-reliance is heavily required to survive in this kind of environment.

IMAG0271My core friends have been instead operating their friendship collective as a sort of “romantic relationship.” You choose the right person, you trust them to benefit you and you return the favor. And you do NOT need to invite the public into your private relationship space.

I’ve seen some good moves towards developing a healthy micro-culture in this context, but a lot of these efforts have been co-opted by the “relationship insecurities” in such an exclusive group. People are worried the friend-blob doesn’t find them sexy anymore, instead of knowing the friend-blob treats all people equally (doling out rewards and punishments for behaviors as needed).

There’s a loss of autonomy in this arrangement. I think we’re exceptionally inter-dependent. Decisions become bogged down by the requirement of having consensus with the rest of our relationship-organism. Some of this is exciting and good, but I think it stops recognizing the discrete individuals who make up our membership body (beyond their worthiness as members). Sometimes it feels like I’m in a cult, you know?

So, I think what I want to do is help my friends know there are more ways to curate the direction their friendships are headed than just maintaining a really sweet guest list. I want them to understand that they can grow a core group of friends and behaviors that will prepare us for multiple environments, and carry us through multiple adventures. Let’s let down the walls a little, and let people and new ideas pass through our kingdoms.

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Guide to San Diego Catcalls

La Jolla

Someone will yell “Hey sexy lady” at you in the parking lot outside of Ross, but you won’t be sure if it’s maybe someone you know.

PB (Pacific Beach)

Walking from one house to another, you’ll get an assortment of whistles and a “Yeah party!” You kind of like the “yeah party!” It’s fun.

Old Town

You hear “How’s your day, pretty girl?” from what you thought were a pile of clothes behind the Wells Fargo History Museum. Eh….please don’t.

Midway

The catcalls are louder and more frequent when you’re with other women. You don’t know if you feel comforted because it seems like they know it’s extra creepy to catcall a woman by herself or annoyed because they know it’s extra creepy to catcall a woman by herself.

Downtown

Surprisingly few calls. You are sad that you’re surprised.

North Park

Some guy will yell “How much?” at you from his car when you’re walking with your girlfriend to your car. It kind of ruins your night.

Normal Heights

Alone on El Cajon Boulevard, a guy will whistle at you from his car. You flip him off. You wonder later why you didn’t pound on his window. It was right there. Fuck him.

catcall-im-a-person-not-a-parrot(True stories.)

 

How to go to the Creationism Museum in Santee

Wait until it is Tuesday (admission is free on Tuesdays). Obtain a beverage. A horchata is nice. I definitely did not do this, and neither should you put whiskey in your horchata, but it is surely something to think about…

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Drive to the very end of Mission Gorge in Santee, where if you go much further you will be headed out to Lakeside (and there is never any reason to go there). Find the building fronted with authoritative, reflective black letters: “CREATION AND EARTH HISTORY MUSEUM.” You will also see a statue of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Walk inside. Bring your horchata. It’s totally chill.

creationist-museum-santee-san-diego-dinosaur Walk briskly through the gift shop and avoid eye contact with the cashier. Snort loudly, then cover your mouth, when the first thing you see is a cheesy light toy paired with solemn Psalms 22:1. Use the change from your horchata to amuse yourself with the coin funnel that is decorated with stickers of planets. Donate a total of 31 cents.

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Proceed through the days of creation. Find animals. Exclaim, “Oh my god there is animals here!” Wonder if the docents have heard you take the lord’s name in vain. Decide the turtle is secretly atheist, like you, but he’s not trying to make a big deal about it.

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Don’t forget, also, to stare for a long time at the mural of dead animals and dead animal parts. It is a work of art.

IMAG0199IMAG0201Listen to your friend make loud monkey noises in the other room. It is like Disneyland here. Although…a docent does emerge from a hidden hallway, after the shouting. Sip your horchata while your friends discuss topics ranging from skin color to the Tower of Babel with the docent. He will call you “secularists.”

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Don’t forget to try to put the round peg in the square hole.

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Wish you had a T-shirt of the sign that says NO RUNNING IN THE MUSEUM. It is so punk rock.

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Sit down a spell on the nice couch and listen to the man on the TV. He is in a very busy-looking room. Where is he? In front of a green screen? Chortle at a bad jump cut. You are almost done with your horchata. You are keeping it together. You are doing just fine.

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This is the part where the docent comes back and hands your friends brochures. He will give you the last one, and say, “You probably like dogs.” He is not wrong. Maybe God helps him to see these things.

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Consult your smartphone to check the spelling of “efficacy.” Wait. LOL “tratement.”

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Oh god. Oh god no…. Drop your horchata taking a picture of the fertilization sign. It will seem like it is ok at first, because it landed upright, but actually the bottom will bust open, spilling your remaining beverage in a sticky puddle. Take the horchata to the bathroom. Try to drink the rest of it over the sink, then chuck it in the trash. Wash your face. Use the toilet (it is very fancy). Look at the horchata in the trash and stomp it down with your boot. Maybe that helps? Come back to your spill with paper towels. Hear a little girl say, “Mommy, why does it smell like beer?” Oh god. God no. They know. Everyone totally knows.

IMAG0239Leave immediately. Go straight to the brewery across the street. Wish you could order something stiffer than beer (but the beer is pretty good anyway).

BNS Brewing and Distilling Co