Jun. 24th, 2014

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Here are two good writeups of this panel:

http://www.bladeandcrown.com/blog/2014/05/30/wiscon-part-1-social-isolation/

http://firecat.dreamwidth.org/843353.html

This was a good panel, well-prepared and well-run, yet still frustrating in all the topics it opened up but didn't have time to explore. [personal profile] firecat wanted more analysis of the politics of what makes people more likely to be socially isolated. I wanted more brainstorming of strategies and tactics to break out of isolation. There we were, a room full of people, most of whom had experience with social isolation and attempts to break out of it. I wanted to know, what techniques have you tried? How did that work for you? How did it fail?

--Volunteering is a common suggestion. What if your social isolation is exacerbated by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Have you found a way to volunteer that works with unpredictable energy levels? What about if volunteering triggers your Imposter Syndrome? What about if you have already spent enough of your one wild and precious life among people who are only willing to tolerate you as long as you provide a service and don't ask for anything in return?

--Gaming works very well for some people as a low-stakes social activity with explicit rules and roles. What if competition gives you intolerable levels of anxiety? Are there cooperative games that work in this context?

--First Wiscon Dinner works for some people. What if you have to work around food allergies or difficulties with communication or mobility? What if you would really like to share a meal with up to four people, but more than that is kind of terrible? Have you found a way to say, I like you all, but could we split into two smaller groups?

And so on.


I'm pretty sure the story I told at that panel (went to another con that was billed as small and inclusive, could not persuade anyone to share a meal with me, even when I was armed with restaurant reviews and bus schedules; on the last night of the con, I gave up and went down to the hotel restaurant. After I had been seated but before my food was served, all the other people who hadn't found a better option came down as a group, and were seated as a group, and ate as a group. Next to my table. I have often wondered whether it is possible to literally die of embarrassment) managed to convey how terrible that felt, but I don't remember whether I ever got to the point of telling that story, which was: if you ever feel that terrible, you can talk to me.


Someone in the audience at this panel (who also attended the con that was terrible for me) offered to share a meal with me when I was lonely. And then she followed up and checked in with me from time to time for the rest of the con. That felt so good. I don't know how to solve the problem of how to get enough social credit in the first place, so you can tell your story and have people respond with kindness, but if you can find someone to do mutual checking-in with, it is a great comfort.
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One of our horses died this spring. The other one, her son, is living alone for the first time in his life. Horses are happier with a companion, so Neal advertised for a horse boarder, and found some nice people who are saving up to buy a house and expect to need to board their horse for three years or so. They don't have a trailer, so Neal said they could use his, except that we didn't take the horses anywhere for years and let the registration lapse. The boarders offered to pay to renew it.

So, Neal went to the DMV today to renew the horse-trailer registration, which will be $65. Except that there is a new policy that if you have let your registration lapse, you will be fined $25 per month, up to four months. So if Neal registers the trailer, it will be $165.

Neal asked if he could sell the trailer to his wife and avoid the fine. Yes, said the DMV employee. You'll have to pay sales tax and you'll get a new plate. That is stupid, said Neal. I know, said the DMV employee.

So he got the title out of the safe deposit box and signed it over to me for the price of $1, and tomorrow I have to go to the DMV and register the sale and get a new plate. Hope this works.

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