Lazy Luddite Log

30.3.09

All For Fun

Some things need to change along with my plan to move interstate. One of those is a personal project of sorts that I have conducted for the last few years to share with friends the many things one can do in Melbourne. Because of my predilection for naming things I called this personal project One Fun Thing A Month (OFTAM) which I am now winding down. That name was simply a convenient banner for all manner of recreational gatherings and events I decided to organise for friends. It was also useful to have a name once I employed the yahoogroups facility to make sending invitations quick and convenient. As a result of having a name some got to thinking that OFTAM was a group rather than just my personal invitation list. The only thing everyone on that list had in common was that I considered them friends.

Identifying friends can be a difficult thing if ones life is dominated by friendship groups in which the distinction between acquaintance and friend is amorphous. It is also difficult if one is a uni student spending every day in the company of such a group. Once one graduates (as I did long ago) one comes to recognise over time who one actively wishes to keep in direct personal contact with. And as life circumstances such as work and relationships change it becomes more important to allocate scarce time to friendships. At the same time one can recognise that there is a huge number of worthwhile persons to spend time with and so one never entirely wants to close the doors to whom one considers a friend.

The preferred method of many of my friends is to simply use big contact lists that correspond to entire scenes. To some extent this may be because we adhere to Geek Social Fallacies (GSFs). A simpler explanation however is that sending one message to an existing list maintained by another person is quick and convenient. I opted for a different method first-and-foremost because I have always drawn friends from different settings and if I wanted to do things with them I would have to use more than one list. Or better yet make my own singular list.

This produced some awkward moments. I have on more than one instance stood in the caf on campus and had a rather oblivious friend loudly declare his intention to attend an event of mine in the presence of non-invitees. Those non-invitees are so accustomed to everyone getting invited to everything (see GSFs) that they would then ask why they had missed this bit of information. I would like to report that my response was to honestly and respectfully say it was a small thing for selected friends but in practice I was too wimpy and have done something sly like change the topic.

Is it right for me to be exclusionary like this? My feeling on this is that any method one chooses to use is automatically exclusionary simply because it has a finite circulation. Given that fact I may as well develop a method that gets at those I most want to include. It also allows me to keep my fun things free from those few acquaintances who persistently and flagrantly overlook the comfort and sensibility of those they interact with.

So I was somewhat choosy. Nonetheless the list of invitees got big over time. Partly because I was drawing on a few different scenes. Partly because moving in scenes allows one to make a number of friends all in one process of familiarisation. Partly also because I observed the convention of inviting partners (singular or plural) and in many instances they become friends as much as those who introduced them. And now that it is ending I am reflecting on whether this ‘project’ worked.

That depended on the event. Some were more successful than others. Also (success levels aside) some were more stressful for me than others. The mixing of friends was a challenge at times. Some may say that I am a practitioner of the fourth GSF and there definitely have been times in which I have wondered aloud “all my friends have so much in common they should get along more than they do”. In saying that I was focusing on some factors and overlooking others. Two friends can both love fantasy and science fiction but be vastly different in other ways. In the case of OFTAM however my thinking was more that I wanted to spend time with these friends in these pastimes. The resulting mixing demanded that I be the consummate host and I suspect that I regularly fell well short of this standard.

The extroverts and introverts within a particular scene develop ways of interacting. And the extroverts across different scenes will quickly find ways of interacting with one another. But what of mixing introverts across scenes? In events with small attendance (the majority of events) this tested my ability to make everyone feel they belonged. And if it was tricky for me then how was it for them?

I now wonder if it is better to do what others do and alter ones invitation list to fit the particular event (simplicity itself with things like Facebook). Who precisely will enjoy a particular activity? Whose presence will contribute to the overall success of an event? Which combination of friends will best work for all involved? What numbers fit different settings? These are all things I will consider now that I am ending OFTAM and will be interacting with different friends in two different hometowns.

OFTAM has been an interesting experience and given me a better sense of what works (the ‘fine art of correctly timing invitations for maximum attendance’ for instance is a topic that deserves its own blog post). More importantly it has allowed me to see much more of the life of Melbourne than if I had only done such things haphazardly. And most importantly I got to share some fun times with some awesome friends. Bucking perceived standards of my sub-cultures was a small bump in an otherwise rewarding journey.

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16.3.09

Sharing

I am considering some life changes that in turn have got me thinking on the topic of different models of household. I have only lived in two basic arrangements - as part of a nuclear family (which eventually experienced fission) and as part of share households.

As a uni student I became familiar with the practice of student share households in which an ordinary house is occupied by as many students as there are bedrooms (on average). The concept of sharing with friends and living independently of parents was very attractive. The way in which friends in such households opened them to friends to visit and sleep-over at was a part of what made the sharing attractive. Once I got the chance (in my case at the same time I graduated) I jumped at it. It can be a mixed experience. If one shares with friends it can test those friendships. If one advertises for housemates then it is very much a case of 'luck of the draw' (I have had both good and bad housemates drawn from wider society). Overall however I think it is a worthwhile experience. It has similar 'economy-of-scale' benefits as a family home (I have never owned white goods) while allowing for so much more freedom in personal life-decisions. Even if one has decent relations with ones family it can still be a worthwhile growth experience in terms of self-sufficiency skills and decision-making ability. And it can be fantastic fun.

I have noticed in the time since I have lived in share households that they have become more scarce among younger friends. It seems to take longer for a young person to move away from home and live independently. I am told that this is the result of rising costs of living (including property costs spilling over into rental costs) but I think there is more to it than that. Expectations of living standard have also changed. It feels more difficult now to be frugal. Discretional spending decisions are now made that focus more on possessing things than in having a life-enriching experience.

There are also cultural factors that limit how many of us will experience share households. It is deemed okay for uni students to do that kind of thing but is considered peculiar for older persons to do so. This is despite the fact that in past times the concept of (say) a family taking in adults to help cover costs was a common one. I think that the share household model may be a useful one for far more in society than currently utilise it. Even the elderly.

Consider the things that the elderly as a lobby lament most frequently - cost-of-living and loneliness. Understandably they resist getting put into nursing homes but in the process they live alone in huge homes they find difficult to manage. But an elderly share household provides company and minimises costs while staving off the need to be institutionalised. But assumptions of how one is supposed to behave at particular ages will make this a minority practice among the elderly.

There are other models I have never experienced such as living alone (except for as much as a month at a time while house-sitting) and living communally (except for as much as a week for the purpose of camps or conferences). And there is yet another - cohabiting with ones partner only - that will be a new one for me. And as I contemplate putting the share household practice behind me I think it a pity that many of my younger friends are missing out on something that has been very good for me.

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