A while ago on a lolita forum I saw a troubling topic: among the usual sales and meetup shout-outs, someone had blithely typed, “Snotty lolitas in real life! Share your stories!” with a big smiley face. What was going on here? A few dozen comments later, the general consensus came to light – the ‘snotty IRL lolita’ seemed more urban legend than local convention and meetup denizen. Few had stories to share of their own; more had the ‘my cousin’s-best-friend-knew-this-Swedish-lolita’s-sister’ genre. For the rare girl who did have a story, which seemed to mostly amount to ‘I smiled at her and she walked away!’ there was an underlying bitterness: why didn’t that girl seem friendly? Weren’t lolitas supposed to have an unspoken kinship, like members of a species? Why wouldn’t that girl be my friend [rising wail, stage right]?
So, what’s the deal? Why is Lolita such a hotbed of friendship drama even in real life, whether you’re looking to make friends or fit into the clique you’ve got? Are we lolitas socially awkward lepers, or something?! Why do we seem to have such a hard time building friendships?
In my years in the lolita community, both online and in real life, I’ve honed my own personal ‘friendship’ style. While I admit that I can be pretty shy and withdrawn, I’ve managed to find plenty of lolita friends to chat with – online and offline. I’ve learned how to do this mostly be the ever-popular trial and error. So, if you do happen do be from the Island of Misfit Toys like myself, keep reading!
Meetups and conventions are your best chance to interact with lolitas in person. In meetups, you’ll be thrown into direct social situations, often with strangers. Even old hands in their local communities don’t know everyone at a meet! At conventions, you’ll see lots of lolitas floating around with their respective friends or groups, or working at Artist Alley and Dealers’ booths. While they’re different settings, both can end up being places to meet lolitas and form friendships.
Meetups, especially for shy people like me, are like social exercises. Meeting a bunch of strangers that you have something in common with is actually a pretty good formula for this. It will behoove you to learn the art of small talk, for example, and don’t worry if you can’t yet – practice makes perfect. Although we’ve heard all the usual tips before, it takes practice to become comfortable with using them.
Ask people about themselves. In lolita, asking about a unique accessory or a simple compliment can get the ball rolling. Her ring is from an antique shop in France? When did she visit? Does she have family there?
Conversation is also about keeping a steady rhythm or flow to conversation. Again this unfortunately something you have to practice if you’re not already good at it. Case in point: in my family, we talk over each other all the time without batting an eye, but other people find this really rude. When in doubt, say less, not more. Take it slow, and you’ll get there.
The other trick to meetups is to learn your ‘friendship style’. How do you best connect to people? I’m not a life-of-the-party group-chatter myself – I do better in one-on-one situations. So make yourself some openings! When I want to get to know someone better, I make an effort to do something one-on-one. In one case, I accompanied a new friend to find a nearby cupcake shop; in another, I helped out a girl who’d slid on her brand dress at an ice skating meet. If you can’t find a time during the meetup, consider arranging to meet at another time for shopping, coffee, or something you both like to do.
In fact, there is a final part to meetups often not mentioned: online. Once you meet girls in real life, it’s customary to friend them on a social networking site such as Livejournal, Facebook, or Tumblr (whatever your pleasure is – mine tends to be Facebook.) Then you can chat and get to know each other in between meets. By the next time you see each other, you’ll have a repertoire or at least a few conversation topics!
If you’re a convention fan, you’ll have lots of opportunities to meet lolitas. If you stay the whole weekend, you’ll probably find at least one lolita meetup on the menu you can attend, even if it’s just a tea, lunch, or swap meets (which are fairly informal). If you can’t go or one isn’t being hosted, you’ll mostly just spot lolitas walking the floor as regular congoers. The easiest way to approach them is to ask for a photograph! Then introduce yourself. This is also where the lolita calling card comes in. Lolitas at convention don’t want to have long-winded conversations – they’re off to see the Sailor Moon panel, or to meet their friends for coffee, or snatch up that dress in the Dealers’ Room… you get the picture. Giving out your calling card is an easy way to make a connection. Even better if they have one too!
And if you don’t hear from them again, online or in real life? Don’t despair. It does not mean you are an unlovable ita, doomed to be alone forever. It just means this person isn’t for you. There are plenty of lolitas on this planet, and you’ll make plenty of other friends if you keep putting yourself out there.
Things to keep in mind when making lolita friends: lolitas are people. As much as we love to think of them as glittery, pink dollies come to life, they’re not. They have good days and bad days. Some are sweet, some are funny, some are shy, some are rude. That’s just the way it is. One of the lessons I have learned in life is to give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe somebody you happily introduced yourself to was rude to you. I knew a girl in high school who was rude to me every day for four years. At first I thought she was having a bad day; then I realized she was just like that to everyone.
Don’t waste your energy building a big shit list of people you despise. If you don’t like them, don’t spend time with them. If you do have to run into them frequently, just try to be civil. There’s no reason to be buddy-buddy if you don’t like someone. On the flipside, there are people in this world who simply will not like you. Although it may be tempting to shout at them, “Why don’t you like me?!” and then convince them how sparkly and sugary sweet you are, it’s not worth it, and you probably won’t change anybody’s minds anyway. The best way to convince people of the good parts of your personality is to be yourself. No one is perfect, but everyone has something positive they can offer.
(Now, if you’re being bullied, online or offline, or you find yourself in the sticky goop of a toxic friendship, that’s another story all together. I’m not going to discuss that in this post, but if you’re interested in an article on toxic friendships or how to handle bullying, let me know!)
Keep an open mind about the people you meet. Maybe you’ve got a big don’t category for people who seem overly into anime, or are freaked out by people with piercings, or someone in x field of work or study. Try to look past these things. Some great friends I’ve met are nothing like me, or like people I’ve previously met. My mom, for example, gets a little squicked out when she sees people with facial piercings or tattoos (we’re from a pretty conservative, rural area). But nothing has been better for her, when she makes a remark about someone’s angel bites or gauges, to be reminded that her own daughter might be unfairly judged for her alternative hair color. People’s appearances, or their hobbies, or whatever else you dislike about them, doesn’t preclude them from being a good person. As I said, I believe everyone offers something positive.
Okay, so you’ve met a girl you like, and you’ve hit it off. What next? Well, you could simply wait for the next meetup to come around, make sure she’s attending, and then go. But meetups are best for making new friends, as much as we love seeing our friends from previous events. Besides, who wants to see a friend once every month or two? If you’re lucky, your new friend lives close by. From here, you can meet for tea or coffee, explore local vintage stores, take photos in the park… anything really. Swap numbers so you can text and call. Chat online in the evenings. Congratulations, you have a real life lolita friend!
If you’ve met a girl you like who doesn’t live near you, consider becoming penpals or online friends. Penpals are especially fun for lolitas – since it involves the old fashioned letter, stickers, and probably glitter gel pens. Take photos for each other, or send small trinkets in the mail. You can also be online friends, which means chatting and reading each other’s blogs or Livejournals. Even though all you do is talk, these friends are just as valuable as real friends. I have a previously-online-only friend who is coming to visit me from Chicago soon – I am so excited to see her for a weekend!
If you can’t possibly get out to meet real lolitas (like if you’re from the Antarctic or something) consider making friends online just by chatting them up on forums or on social networking sites. Send messages to girls you find interesting, and sparks up conversations. You don’t need to be geographically located to make friends!
The other thing to know about building a strong friendship with a lolita… is to get past lolita. Lolita is a fun topic we love to talk about – shoes, sales, models, the community – but it can only take you so far. After you’ve met a lolita and want to really get to the gold of friendship, you need to move past it. You might find you have other things in common, or a shared sense of humor, or you just enjoy spending time together, even if it doesn’t involve buckets of frills. Some of my lolita friends share my love of dolls, or politics, or Disney movies. My darling friend Dalin of La Vida Frills and I, for example, went to a My Little Pony convention in our shared love of 80s toys! I was as excited as a schoolgirl with a crush for that trip because I knew we’d be much closer friends after that ♥
I hope this helped all you girls who pine for lolita friends! Tell me about some of your best friendship-making stories. How did you meet your best lolita gal pals?
(By the way – I’m toying with using the ‘jump cut’ for longer posts. Do you like them, hate them, find them annoying, are you indifferent? Let me know!)