still worried about lunchroom hierarchies after all these years

“You always feel like you are in the wrong place at Davos,
like there is some better meeting going on somewhere
in one of the hotels that you really ought to be at.
Like the real Davos is happening in secret somewhere.”

– Steve Case, founder of AOL

It’s World Economic Forum time again, which means it’s time for the above quote from Steve Case, which I love oh so much. I’ve seen the quote mentioned a lot this year (although it’s from last year, if not earlier) in criticisms of the Davos event, but even without having ever been to Davos, I’ve never really felt like that was the point. Case isn’t complaining about the WEF event. Case is talking about the absurdity of human nature.

I’ve written about this before, in the context of telling you there really is no secret awesome party that you’re missing. I mean, there may be something you’re not invited to or don’t know about that’s all A-list and aspirational in your head, but really, it’s probably just the same as the party you’re at. Same social behaviors, same insecurities, same level of joy and fun and not.

The other thing Case’s quote tells us, though, isn’t just that this feeling never goes away – we are all in junior high forever – but that this feeling may actually get more intense the more successful, the more near the epicenter of supposed cool, we are.

It’s like how you can halve something infinitely, but it will never really be gone. Success is like that in one direction — how sure is anyone of where the top of the mountain is? And insecurity is like that in the other — none of us ever get to be free from all shreds of it all the time.

Currently, I’m in the place I’m often in, in the month before Gallifrey One, a Doctor Who convention in Los Angeles. I’m excited, and I’m full of dread. The Whedonistas launch is rad, and I’ll get to see some friends I only get to see out there, and I have some business to attend to in LA proper (and some non-business, in the form of ElecTRONica, because I am a big screaming nerd).

But I’m also worried I won’t be cool because I’m probably not cosplaying much if at all this year (although Christian’s been informed he can bribe me into my Captain Jack duds with a pin he’s threatening to make up that’s both snarky and zen on the subject of our dear, departed Ianto Jones), am not really doing panels this go ’round, and will be away from the hotel during the event far more than I usually am (it’s not just about In-and-Out Burger anymore!). I’m also worried that — well, I could enumerate it further, but why, when it’s actually so simple? I’m worried I won’t be invited to sit at the cool kids table.

Which gets us back to Steve Case and his comments about Davos. At an event teaming with celebrities, world leaders, and the best of the best in business all in easy arms reach, Steve Case worries about not being cool enough to mingle with the people he’s already mingling with. In regard to a con that’s largely about not creating hierarchy between guests and fans, in a fandom that is known for very significant levels of fan/creator overlap (guess how many current DW writers wrote for DW fanzines in the ’80s) and genuine friendships developing over these supposed lines of demarcation and reverence, I am, apparently, worried about the con not being exactly what it is? I’m worried about me not doing what I’ve always gone there and experienced? I’m worried about not networking with people I want to chat and network with precisely because I’m chatting and networking with those people? What? Time for me to stop being Steve Case.

Because seriously, being Steve Case — normally a pretty good, if slightly weird, aspirational blueprint. Not the guy I would choose as a role model, but I get it certainly. But Steve Case re: Davos? Maybe not so much, although I’m certainly feeling his pain on this one.

Look, the cool party generally isn’t that interesting (or at least not any more interesting than where you are instead). It’s probably happening right where you are, and that’s not just feel good rhetoric. But even if I’m wrong, whatever you do, don’t use the fact that you are having an experience to suddenly become fearful that, that somehow means you’re not having that experience. Because that? Doesn’t make a lot of sense. It also tends to lead to highly tortured sentences.

Meanwhile, I? Cannot wait to get to L.A. It’s snowing here. Again.

14 thoughts on “still worried about lunchroom hierarchies after all these years”

  1. I had that feeling about the first Torchwood con I went to. To this day, I’m not sure where the cool kids party was, but we were sitting in the corner talking about fisting, BDSM and who was shagging or wanted to be shagging whom, so we were at least a pretty good second.

  2. Well, I don’t know if it’s the *cool* party, but at least we can claim the T4 Friday party is the *only* party (that isn’t an official Gallifrey con function).

    In addition, I hope you know you’re one of the guests I always hope to see there!

    1. Your party is always the cool party. Although really, I’m not sure anything could top that John Hart absurdity that went down that first year I was at your shindig. Somewhere there is video, that’s all I know.

      1. Wait until you see what Andy is wearing this year. I’m still not sure (finishing a masquerade costume first). Although I did toy with the idea of pulling one of our police shirts and a pair of hot pants (or my minikilt) 🙂

        1. I don’t know what I’m doing, if anything. I did promise Radar I’d cosplay Arthur from Inception which probably means I’m going to spend a lot of time hollering about not being Ianto.

  3. I half-remember a quote from a British rock star about the VIP room madness that seems to fit with this idea. “You go into the party, but then you go to the VIP suite. And then there’s another room, and another, until finally you’re sitting in a closet watching Simon LeBon eat shrimp cocktail.”

    Or something like that. At any rate, the VIP/kid’s table thing seems to be pretty amusing from my end. Since one of my favorite things to do at a big event where I don’t know people is to just watch them, I’d rather watch people try to get into VIP than get into it myself!

    1. I’ve heard that story too, and also can’t remember it well; although whether you recalled or made up the part about Simon LeBon and the prawns — kudos, because that’s hilarious!

  4. I finally broke that feeling of not being at the Cool Kids Party in 1997, at a pretty small con, that I went to specifically because one of my favorite authors was the GOH. And, about halfway through, I realized, “Here I am sitting with Favorite Author, and we’re talking about gaming groups and a MUTUALLY favorite author and swordfighting and he’s cheerfully admiring my ass without being a jerk about it. I am AT the Cool Kids Party. Damn!”

    Ever since then, I have figured that any party where I’m having a good time is automatically the Cool Kids Party, or, if it’s not, the Cool Kids probably aren’t having any better a time than I am, so they might as well envy me.

    And, well, I notice people coming into parties where I am saying “I heard this was where the good music is,” or looking at me & my friends and saying “so this is where the good-looking women are,” or even just “hey, I found the Rocket Fuel!” I have even been told by people throwing promo parties that it’s specifically my task to show up and just have fun talking to people, because that livens it up.

    So, even if I’m entirely deluded, I remain convinced that whatever party I’m at is the Cool Kids Party now, and living in this concept is incredibly freeing and contributes to my happiness, so I don’t go looking elsewhere.

  5. I just bought Breathe Easy strips and a more portable sinus irrigation situation than my super-breakable neti pot. And allergy tabs. Because OH SHIT GALLY.

    But yeah, that Steve Case quote is fantastic, and speaks so much to the kinds of anxiety everyone I know (including myself) seems to have at least some of the time. Plus, who wants to sit in a closet and watch Simon LeBon eat prawns for more than five minutes when there are amusing drunken people in funny outfits elsewhere?

    1. I ordered a feather-free room this year! Also, I would totally sit in a closet and watch Simon Le Bon eat shrimp, but only because I suspect he makes them dance around and does little singing voices for them.

      1. I read that as “leather-free” room.

        This means I should probably go to sleep, or bump up my browser font by a few points.

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