Photo by Saoirse Clohessy
I've hosted several lolita meetups in the past. Generally, I've found there are very few places for a big group of lolitas to go, and I always find it a shame there aren't cheaper crafting workshops, good venues, and other fun activity sessions which aren't in the middle of nowhere!
In an attempt to make up for this, I decided one day that every meet I hosted needed to include an activity of some sort, even if the only indoor place we could find to sit down and hang out in would be the restaurant we'd have our main meal in. Needless to say, I always work hard to come up with meetup ideas, and even if we struggle to find places to go, I do my best to make sure everyone is content.
A recent unfortunate experience made me feel compelled to write this post. Without the security of lots of people I already knew, it was in fact a very dire experience. One point I would like to emphasise (and summarises this post quite well) before I go any further is that hosting a meetup is so much more than just booking a restaurant. With that said, on we go.
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If you have no interest in the welfare of others, do everyone a favour and never host a meet. If you cannot be bothered to do anything more than choosing a restaurant, don't waste everybody's time. If you find tracking down guests who are meant to be there but have gotten lost to be too much effort and would rather start the meet without them, then I really wonder why you want to be part of a community in the first place.
These are all things I witnessed firsthand. In the past I have often felt as if I cared a bit too much about things, but maybe some people have to be like that to counteract the people who don't care about anything. I found myself taking over this meetup, in an attempt to make sure the lost person made it to the meet (luckily they were stalking their facebook frantically and I was able to message them from my phone), and to make sure we even got to the meetup destination, which the "host" didn't know the exact location of. I had looked it up on Google street view a few days earlier, and led the way, essentially making up for the fact they were in no way fulfilling the role they had taken upon themselves.
I suppose this all sounds rather like I enjoy "backseat driving" or taking over, but I don't. I don't like feeling responsible for other people's messes. I don't enjoy being around "hosts" who are content to allow people to travel to a meet they've put absolutely no effort into, and then not care if they even make it there or not. I wouldn't be surprised if the rest of the attendees (who were, incidentally, very new to lolita and meets in general) never came to a meetup again after such a disappointing, lacklustre experience. I've seen people write of their own bad experiences within their local communities online, in which they talk about their inability to form any real friendships with people as everyone is very cold with nothing in common with them. I wonder if they simply stumbled upon an unfortunate situation consisting of people with no real sense of consideration or genuine interest in others.
I really do believe you can make real friends via lolita. I've done it myself, to the point that I don't really need to attend official lolita meetups any more as I have a solid group of friends I love. But this sort of thing is not going to happen for a lot of people unless as a whole, the lolita community redevelops its sense of being an actual community. Meetups are not for standing around with other lolitas for the novelty factor. Lolitas are real people, not props. Meetups are a social event, not just a photo op. The idea is to meet new people and to interact with them, in the hopes of making new friends-- something you will never do unless you care about others.
My point is, you need to care if you are going to host a meetup.
Here's a straightforward list of some meetup basics for both hosts and attendees to keep in mind:
- Make a sensible meeting point. For every meet I've ever been to, we've used the train station as a gathering spot.
- Come up with a meeting time and stick to it. Make it clear well in advance.
- If you realise on the day you can't attend, let someone know so that everyone else isn't stuck wondering if you're coming or not.
- If you're eating out, book the restaurant so you are guaranteed a spot, and book a time that's late enough to account for any latecomers, and to get everyone to the restaurant from the meeting point.
- Make sure the restaurant/meet caters to everybody's needs with regards to their diet, and physical accessibility i.e. vegan food, Halal meat, wheelchair access, etc.
- Plan an activity. You could come up with one of your own to be done during the meal. Previously I've made silly lolita themed quizzes with a prize at the end. If the weather is good, have a picnic and play fun active games, though make sure they are accessible to everyone.
- If someone needs help with something, help them! This might be as simple as showing them to the toilets, helping them carry something if they're struggling, or suggesting the best dishes on the restaurant menu. A little consideration goes a long way.
- If you need to leave the group for whatever reason, explain where you're going and when you'll be back.
- Don't whinge.
- If you have a serious physical or mental health problem which could arise during the meet, let someone else know beforehand so that if anything happens, it can be dealt with appropriately and efficiently.
- Make it clear when the meetup is over, preferably before energy levels have completely plummeted.
- Overall, be considerate!!!
Apologies for the ranty nature of this post. But I find lack of consideration for others appalling. Even if you are meeting for the very first time, I think you should still do your best to think of other people's feelings. Every friendship has to start somewhere, and if your first interaction with someone is a positive one, there's no doubt a friendship will have a chance to form.
Have you ever had any negative meetup experiences? Any other suggestions to add? Let me know in the comments and I will see you next time with a more positive post ❤